Information & Communication

Network and System Software

Technical Applications


Network software controls routing and allocation of network nodes, lines and information packets that increasingly carry the transactions of our society. As more of our economy moves into "cyberspace," the network software that allows the smooth operation of these networks becomes critical to our nation. Network software exists in a variety of data networks tying computers together: local area networks (LANs), metropolitan area networks (MANs), wide area networks (WANs)--as well as many other specialized applications, such as nationwide and international telephone switching systems.


System software controls the operation of computers. It ranges from rather simple operating systems such as DOS (Disk Operating System) on personal computers, to software that allocates tasks among various computing units accessible via network, and perhaps allocates computer resources in real time to keep up with data flows emanating from processes occurring in the external world. Among the many important services provided by system software are ones dedicated to securing the system from unauthorized access, or modification or destruction of information. System software is the essential underpinning to our nation's information systems. The availability and security of these systems are only as good as the system software on which they are based.


National security is equally dependent on effective and trustworthy system software. DOD will increasingly use commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) system software for its needs, rather than developing and maintaining specialized systems. Our defense systems are therefore dependent on an economically healthy and advanced system software development industry within the U.S. It is vital that the U.S. retain control of its voice, cable, satellite, and other networks, since the transactions upon which our economy and national defense depend are increasingly carried on these nets. We must not become dependent on network software created by others, that may contain flaws (unintentional or deliberate) that we might have avoided. The security of these systems from attacks by hackers, terrorists, foreign commercial enterprises, or even other nations, will be of increasing concern as our economy depends increasingly on transactions carried out in this "cyberspace."


The U.S. has traditionally led the world in operating system software (DOS, Macintosh Operating System, Multics, Unix, IBM mainframe operating systems, etc.). By controlling this fundamental software component, we have been well positioned to create application software, such as word processors, spreadsheets, database transaction systems, etc., capitalizing on the operating system's features and facilities. Continued U.S. strength in this area is vital to maintaining that critical advantage, and thereby supporting the U.S. export advantage in software systems.