DCA’s first major tasks were to identify the DCS elements and develop an implementation and management plan. The DCS was essentially a collection of communications systems turned over by the military departments with considerable restrictions. Nonetheless, the responsibilities of DCA were substantial.
Key among these responsibilities was the establishment of three common-user, defense-wide networks that would be known as the Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON), the Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN), and the Automatic Secure Voice Communications Network (AUTOVOSECOM). For each, DCA sought to determine its overall system configuration and prepare the technical specifications necessary for the equipment for switching centers, interconnecting transmission media, and subscriber terminals.
President John F. Kennedy
With the arrival of the space-age, DCA was designated as the “strong focal point” for development, integration, and operation of the space and ground elements of a number of satellite-based communications initiatives. The most important of these would be the DCA-managed Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS).
LTG Alfred D. Starbird,
DCA Director, March 1962 to Nov. 1967
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 showed that the need for direct, timely, and private communications between the leaders of the world’s two superpowers. So, in June 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement to set up a duplex cable circuit (later augmented by a satellite hookup) between the two capitals. This circuit, known as the “Hotline,” became operational August 30, 1963. Program management and engineering for the “Hotline” was assigned to DCA. The system continues intact today with direct links to more than 40 foreign leaders.
Cuban Missile Crisis Meeting
Another direct result of the Cuban Missile Crisis was the creation of the Worldwide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) to enable national command authorities to exercise effective command and control of their widely dispersed forces. The military services’ approach to WWMCCS depended upon the availability of both technology and funding to meet individual requirements; so, no truly integrated system emerged.
During the 1960s, WWMCCS consisted of a loosely knit federation of nearly 160 different computer systems, using 30 different general purpose software systems, at 81 locations. It was more of a federation of self-contained subsystems than an integrated set of capabilities.
The problems created by these diverse subsystems were responsible for several well-publicized failures of command and control during the latter part of the 1960s. These failures included international incidents involving the USS Liberty, the USS Pueblo, and an EC-121 reconnaissance plane. The three failures would result in a formal effort to transform WWMCCS into a more coherent and coordinated system.
Lt. Gen. Richard P. Klocko,
DCA Director, Nov. 1967 to Aug. 1971
Lt. Gen. Gordon T. Gould,
DCA Director, Sept. 1971 to July 1974
While DCA dealt with the communication crises of the Cold War, a “hot war” was waging in Southeast Asia. America’s commitment to South Vietnam led to the creation of a DCA Southeast Asia Region unit in 1964. DCA developed a plan to integrate the region’s communication systems into a single modern network. The system would extend the commercial-quality communications provided by satellites and cables to the battlefield.
DCA developed a manually switched communications network called TALK QUICK that had 38 subscribers by 1966 and had trunk lines over the undersea cable system. It had switchboards in Southeast Asia and Hawaii. By 1969, DCA had connected 216 subscribers in South Vietnam using TALK QUICK to the larger worldwide secure network, the Automatic Secure Voice Communications (AUTOSEVOCOM) System. DCA’s authority was extended to include all long-lines systems and the size of DCA’s presence in theater was increased to include coordination centers in South Vietnam and Thailand.
Vietnam communications dish/terminal
Soldier in Vietnam using
portable field telephone
Soldier using hand-held radio
during combat operation in Vietnam