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Rebuilding plans for postwar Iraq depend on IT

By Dan Verton and Matt Hamblen
March 21, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- The State Department and the Pentagon are already working with the private sector to plan for the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure, including IT and telecommunications systems.
Under a State Department program known as the Future of Iraq Project, Iraqi exiles with expertise in IT and other disciplines have delivered to the Bush administration studies and recommendations on reconstructing postwar Iraq.
David Staples, a spokesman for the Future of Iraq Project, which was initiated in October, said 17 working groups have been established, including an economics and infrastructure group focused on IT infrastructure and telecommunications requirements.
Rubar Sandi, a member of the infrastructure working group, fought in the Kurdish revolution in 1974 and now owns an investment bank in Washington. Based on information provided by people inside Iraq, Sandi estimated that the cost of modernizing Iraq's data and voice networks would be $1 billion to $1.5 billion and that it would take six to eight years to complete.
"It could definitely go much faster," said Sandi. "But nobody really knows exactly how to assess the infrastructure without knowing what the damage will be. So we analyzed everything as is."
Ahmed Al-Hayderi, a member of the infrastructure working group who defected from Iraq in 1980, works for a global telecommunications firm in the U.S. According to Al-Hayderi, the community of 4 million Iraqi exiles includes many senior corporate executives from technology companies that are eager to invest in Iraq and assist in the rebuilding.
"There is significant infrastructure available in the military sector," said Al-Hayderi, adding that the working group is concentrating on how to leverage that infrastructure to "leapfrog to a cost-effective deployment of a fully ubiquitous telecommunications infrastructure throughout Iraq."
Similarly, the U.S. Department of Defense is engaged in planning for the IT and telecommunications requirements of occupation forces that can serve as a framework for a more permanent infrastructure for postwar Iraq.
A spokesman for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the Pentagon's central network systems provider, said the agency has already contracted for significant commercial information systems support.
Although the spokesman declined to name companies that will be involved in the work, he said some of the contracts are focused on providing OC3 terrestrial connections throughout the region. DISA plans to rely on commercial contractors "to the maximum extent possible" and will bring them in once planning for a postwar communications infrastructure is complete, the spokesman said.
The Pentagon has a history of using commercial firms to provide critical telecommunications and IT support during and after military operations.
For example, Sprint Corp. was the principal U.S. contractor

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