I was rummaging through a box of documents I hadn’t looked at in many years and discovered a press release about my and several co-workers efforts to set up a secure network to support the 1983 World Economic Summit. 🙂
For Immediate Release
For further Information Contact
Tom Eifler, Ext. 5126
Edward J. Powers, Ext. 5383
WANG CUSTOMER ENGINEERS COME TO RESCUE OF
ECONOMIC SUMMIT TALKS
Lowell, MA (June3, 1983) — At the recently concluded economic summit in Williamsburg, Virginia, Margaret Thatcher never consulted with Bob Steele. Neither did Francois Mitterand and Claire Morgan exchange pleasantries, nor Yasuhiro Nakasone rub elbows with Chuck Pascoe during any of the summit’s working sessions. Yet just as the British, French, and Japanese leaders occupied a visibly important position at the summit, Steele, Morgan, and Pascoe assumed a similar role behind the scenes.
The three are not government officials or economists. Rather, they are customer engineers for Wang Laboratories, Inc., who service the office automation leader’s government accounts, among the largest of which is the State Department.
Steele, Morgan, and Pascoe’s involvement with the summit actually began a full month before the event got underway. In order to be able to transmit documents and perform other critical communications functions, the State Department made special arrangements for the installation of three Wang Tempest 20 word processing systems with telecommunications capabilities. The sites for the systems were Washington, Williamsburg, and Paris.
“State,” as this branch of the federal government is often called, selected the Tempest 20 word processors for the protection afforded against the interception and decoding of computer emissions. Without the shielding the Tempest 20 provides against the regular emanation of radio waves common to all computers, and without its encrypted coding, classified or confidential information State entered onto the systems could be stolen in a fashion similar to the theft of a written document. Just as critical as the safeguarding of the information being processed, for State’s purposes, was the assurance of a quick and accurate two-way communications link between Washington and the meeting site.
During the last week in April, Morgan, a CE who works solely on the State Department account, was doing some routine servicing and debugging prior to the initial activation of the telecommunications network. That Friday, April 29, service operations had to be escalated so the Paris link of the network would be functioning by Sunday morning, May 1. The reason for the hurried timetable was that Secretary of State George Schultz, in Bierut at the time discussing the sensitive Middle East situation, was expected in Paris the following day.
During the final stages of troubleshooting, however, a problem that made it impossible to establish a communications link between the three systems surfaced. Steele, a telecommunications specialist who previously worked on the State account but who is now assigned to service Wang’s equipment at the Pentagon, was called to the scene to lend his expertise. The problem, says Steele, was that there was “no hand-shaking” between the systems, with the shortcoming originating in either one of the Tempest 20s or in State’s own communications lines.
Finding the problem turned out to be more difficult than actually correcting it, which simply required the replacement of some faulty circuitry. Complicating the situation, however, were a number of factors which arose as a result of the need to rectify the situation quickly.
One, for example, was the logistical difficulty of having the Wang systems located in three separate locations, particularly one as distant as Paris. In fact, hypothesizes Steele, the problem which surfaced might have been introduced during transportation from State’s main facility, where the three systems were originally located. Prior to transportation, all three systems had been tested and no flaws showed up, he reports.
Wang’s Federal Systems Division (FSD), which has responsibility for all contracts with agencies of the federal government, has set up its Customer Engineering Department to provide prompt and efficient service when necessary. As a result, State’s main facility, the central link in the network, was the logical place to focus servicing efforts.
Routine troubleshooting had failed to uncover the obstruction to implementing a telecommunications network among the three systems. It became necessary, therefore, for Wang’s customer engineers to start from scratch. Simultaneously, State’s own technicians were testing the communications lines being used to make sure the problem did not lie there.
Due to the urgency of the situation, the need existed to keep all parties, both State officials and Wang FSD executives, up-to-date on what was taking place. “I was on the phone for over two hours straight at one point making sure all parties concerned were aware of what was going on,” says Steele. “My main message was that we were confident the network would be operational in time to meet State’s needs.”
It soon became apparent time was going to be the greatest obstacle the Wang customer engineers faced. Cuck Pascoe and Larry Keohnen, telecommunications consultants for FSD, and Jerry Leisyee, an FSD support analyst, joined Morgan and Steele to lend a hand with the testing. A State technician pitched in at Williamsburg, although being unfamiliar with the Wang equipment in use, he had to be walked through the operations via phone.
Late Friday night the problem was identified, and by early the next morning the faulty circuit boards had been replaced. Before bringing up the telecommunications network, however, Pascoe journeyed to Williamsburg to run some additional tests on the Tempest 20 at that site. Shortly before noon on Saturday, the telecommunications link between the State Department and Williamsburg was brought up; a short time later, a similar link between Washington and Paris was put in place.
“We are very pleased we were able to accommodate Secretary of State Schultz during his travel abroad,” say Kirk Swan, FSC manager of the State Department account. “Although we were placed under a very strict deadline, our service people were able to locate and replace the abnormal communications circuit in time to prevent a gap in communications between Washington and Secretary Schultz. And while the work we were doing during the last weekend in April was simply a test for the summit, those same service operations were critical to Secretary Schultz in order that he might not be left in a communications void as he left the Middle East upon completion of his diplomatic mission there.”
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