Sorenson on right track

Take one look at the federal government’s $72 billion portfolio of annual information technology projects, and it doesn’t take long to sense that the government is in the middle a wholesale consolidation of data centers.

The reasons aren’t surprising. The evolution of server virtualization, increased bandwidth availability, and declining storage and processing costs creates a compelling case for replacing dozens of aging data centers with a few new, high-capacity, energy-efficient facilities.

But as is often the case, it’s not that simple for the military. Supporting the ultimate mobile workforce makes the task of upgrading the military’s data centers more complicated. Data centers have been a ball and chain particularly for command and control units and command posts.

That’s one of many reasons why a lot is riding on developing the Command Post of the Future and the Global Network Enterprise Construct. GNEC is the Army’s plan for a single enterprise system in which battle command applications follow the brigade from the continental United States to wherever they are needed around the world.

Much of that challenge falls on Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson. Sorenson and others have been pushing hard to provide Army forces a capability that the commercial world generally takes for granted in the commercial world: the ability to access specific software applications, data files and other information from virtually anywhere at anytime. For all the advances in the Global Information Grid, brigades deploying from one base to another still must essentially set up new accounts and re-establish much of the prior work.

That’s why the recent Operation Evaluation experiment, which tested replicating U.S.-based battle command applications at a new Army network service center in Germany, represented a significant step forward, even as it revealed how far the Army still has to go.

Sorenson, who spoke with Defense Systems about that and other initiatives also talks about some of the challenges the Army faces in improving battlefield command posts.

In recent years, command posts have become increasingly tethered to forward-based data centers. What’s been needed is a more of a commander-centric, executive support software environment that works with distributed data and supports collaborative operations, permitting the commander to command virtually anywhere on the battlefield.

As this issue’s cover story suggests, the command post of the future is still a work in progress. But there’s no question, it’s the right vision. It’s also a good example of why Congress needs to curb its tendency to fund outdated weapons systems and provide greater support for what commanders really need to fight today’s wars.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of Defense Systems from January 2009 to August 2010. He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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