Saturday, November 10, 2007

Defense Switched Network Sucks.

With both the United States Department of Defense, NATO, and other coalition militaries on the ground here in Afghanistan, one can assume that huge sums of money are spent on communications. I don’t know the exact amount but we have NATO classified phones, NATO unclassified phones, DSN, DOD Secret Voice Over IP phones, two separate NATO classified computer networks, regular internet that one must use his or her chipped military ID to access since we wouldn’t want the Taliban to get on base and use our internet, US DOD SIPRNET, and the multitude of radio circuits.

What system do you thing two infantry officers directly fighting the Taliban and foreign fighters in the South use to communicate most of the time? None of the above. They use the main local mobile network, Roshan. Of course for classified discussion, usually involving only such things as specifics of convoys and the such, a more cumbersome method must be used but for 90% plus of communications, Roshan is the best option.

I can attest to how cumbersome they other systems are when it took me over an hour to even find DSN contact information for another officer in the East of Afghanistan, in Kunar Province. My DSN phone could not call his DSN phone. Why? I don’t know and I couldn’t find a number for an operator either. Eventually I figure that someone I knew at Bagram could call him and I could call my fellow service member at Bagram. I called Bagram. Then Bagram called Kunar and told that officer to call me. Then the officer in Kunar called me. Why could he call me but I couldn’t call him? I don’t know and there’s no one to ask.

I also have a DSN cell phone. It drops about 50% of my calls before I can even speak to the person on the other end. Much of the time the interface between DSN landlines and DSN mobiles doesn’t work. I also had to do paperwork to sign for custody of a years old phone worth about two dollars on the open market. Also, DSN mobile and fixed phones don’t have voicemail or call-waiting. They do have caller ID but it only works about 30% of the time.

I have not priced a Roshan but my understanding is that they are very affordable. So on one hand we have one of the most destroyed countries on earth that has been through nearly thirty years of constant war and on the other hand we have the most powerful and potent military force ever assembled.