White House shifting to Internet-based communications

The White House appears ready to join businesses large and small in shifting its communications, including its phone calls, to an Internet-based system, according to a contract notice issued Tuesday by the procurement arm of the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization said it intends to acquire a range of satellite equipment and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones and supporting hardware and software for the White House Communications Agency under a contact it called "Everything Over the Internet Protocol Phase I."

DISA declined to provide any details on the White House procurement, but based on the equipment list, it appears that the first phase of the switch to the IP standard is for a mobile package to support the president during his travels.

John Pike, a defense analyst and director of GlobalSecurity.org, said it makes sense to use the IP standard to support the traveling White House because it will require one set, rather than multiple sets, of equipment to support voice, data and video communications.

The White House's intention to switch to the IP standard makes sense "because everything you need to do today, you can do over IP," said Craig Mathias, an analyst with the FarPoint Group.

Many federal agencies have begun to install IP-based communications to share information, said Janis Langley, a Cisco spokeswoman. The procurement indicates that the White House values the power of IP-based communications and the need for a connected government using a seamless delivery of voice, video, data and mobile communications, she said.

Langley said the Phase I equipment acquisition is a tactical mobile solution, which will be used for command and control communications within the White House Communications Agency and will be combined with other mobile communications equipment to allow for mobile secure VoIP communications.

The equipment list calls for a mobile broadband satellite system with a 0.75-meter dish capable of operating in the Ka-band from AVL Technologies, based in Ashville, N.C., and a fly-away suitcase satellite system from the SWE-DISH subsidiary of DataPath, based in Duluth, Ga.

These satellite terminals will feed into a satellite hub router from iDirect Technologies, based in Herndon, Va., with Cisco tapped to provide the bulk of the networking gear and user devices. DITCO has asked bidders to provide a wide range of Cisco gear including series 3750 switches, Wide Area Application Services hardware and software, Call Manager hardware and software and 118 VoIP phones.

Security is a necessity for all White House communications, Mathias said. DITCO has asked bidders to provide high-level encryption through the AltaSec KG-250 manufactured by ViaSat, based in San Diego.

DITCO has fast-tracked the White House Phase IP procurement, requiring bids by Sept. 18.

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