Data Packets

2009 LandWarNet roundup

This story has been amended to correct a reference by Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. During his remarks, he was referring to the U.S. armed forces’, not the Army’s, reliance on technology and computer networks (as originally reported)."

Command and control advances to new stage

As the military and its culture evolve in an era of instantaneous information sharing and joint decision-making with coalition forces, the notion of command and control (C2) must also evolve, said Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

“The C2 of the future is command and feedback,” Mattis said in a keynote address at the LandWarNet 2009 conference, referring to the need to fully incorporate the intelligence of soldiers on the battlefield.

Although command and control practices are the “the glue that puts together the joint force,” C2 must be malleable enough to meet modern demands while considering the human factor, Mattis said.

Mattis said that human factor is the ability to make fast, on-the-spot, intuitive and, at times, independent decisions that evolves from experience and often depends on a decentralized command that can bypass a lot of red tape, he said.

“A leader-centric, network-enabled approach creates unity of effort if done right and creates harmony in the fog and friction of war,” he said.

Mattis emphasized the need for a sea change that values reward and initiative.

Although developing technologies contribute greatly in modern operations, members of the military need to avoid becoming dependent on the real-time information sharing that defines the lives of the military forces’ youngest generation, Mattis said. “We shouldn’t have to fight based on the limitations of the networks.”

“The military force that is most reliant on technology and network systems is also the most vulnerable — and we know what force that is,” Mattis said, referring to the U.S. armed forces. “We need to be able to act fast in a complex, chaotic and degraded environment."

Mattis said headquarters have become so large that they are suffocating the initiative of the best field officers. “We must not proceduralize what is best left to an artful mode,” he said.

Mattis stressed the importance of training and education to help maximize the human factor in battlefield decision-making. He also emphasized the importance of retaining the unique philosophies and strengths inherent in each military service. 

“There’s no value in a joint ethos that subverts force culture," he said. "Each force culture has value because the different ways of approaching problem-solving confounds the enemy.”

In today’s warfare, coalition efforts are no longer an option but a requirement, and not having a joint strategy is obsolete, Mattis said. “No nation on its own can keep its people safe. We need to learn to work together.”

--Barry Rosenberg

Cyber Command success rests on collaboration

The establishment of the Cyber Command is a historic moment in the history of the Signal Corps, Gen. Carter Ham, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army, said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference.  At the same time, the Defense Department's information technology managers have an opportunity to craft an organization that can benefit from lessons of history and avoid mistakes that doomed past initiatives.

“As you contemplate the structure of Cyber Command, consider the strategies of our Cold War adversary," Ham said. "The USSR controlled and firewalled everything so people couldn’t connect and compartmentalized everything so they could be controlled. [By contrast], the U.S. had a comprehensive approach to information sharing. The Berlin Wall fell because of a systematic collapsing of firewalls that couldn’t be contained and by people’s natural desire to share information." 

“We are at a crossroads," he said. "Do we want to build and sustain firewalls between our organizations? Or can we look for an approach that constructs an infrastructure that mirrors the environment in which we find ourselves, which is much more collaborative.” 

Ham said the numerous firewalls on networks exist “because of a lack of trust.” Joint task force commanders must understand that they don’t need to own the network to take advantage of its capabilities.

"That’s not a universally accepted notion across services," he said. "As we stand up Cyber Command we should take the opportunity to build a new paradigm and develop a joint vision. We have an opportunity with Cyber Command to get it right. But if we perpetuate the firewalls, we’ll miss by a generation the opportunities that our adversaries won’t miss.”

--Amber Corrin

Cookie-cutter security hinders warfighters

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli challenged some of the Army's technology rules that hinder or complicate Army soldiers' ability to communicate with one another.

Why is it that every six months, his BlackBerry device denies him access until he changes his passcode? Chiarelli asked. If it is so important to do that, why not reset it every month or every day? And why can’t he use the camera on his BlackBerry to take photos of soldiers when he is traveling? Because of security reasons, the BlackBerry camera is physically disabled to prevent him from doing so. But there's no problem taking a picture with his iPhone, he noted.

Those questions were symptoms of a larger set of issues, he said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference. Although he praised the efforts of the Army's Signal Corps and the work of the chief information officers' office, he also challenged some of the technology limitations imposed on soldiers, including security rules established by the National Security Agency.

“My intent isn’t to ruffle feathers or point fingers,” he said during a live video teleconference from the Pentagon. “I realize the signal community doesn’t often get a lot of credit. When things don’t work right, we blame the IT guy or gal in the room. [But these types of situations] have a chilling effect when we let them permeate everything we do.”

He accused communicators of “becoming more adverse to change” and building a “cookie-cutter approach to security environments.” The result is that soldiers most in need of the information that the network can provide are hindered in getting the actionable intelligence needed to perform missions and think on the fly based on a commander’s intent, Chiarelli said.

“One of the most significant lessons learned is that most game-changing decisions are made by individual soldiers on the ground,” he said. “The soldiers at the edge are also the source of most intelligence gathered, and that information has to be made accessible to many more people, including individual soldiers operating at the unit level.”

Chiarelli also criticized other aspects of the way communications and the networks are run. They include requiring soldiers to use Type 1 security communication products, which meet NSA cryptograpic requirements for handling classified and sensitive data.

“The requirement for encryption requires more expensive power-eating radios and doesn’t make sense for fleeting information that has no value five minutes later,” he said. That requirement also means loading soldiers with heavier equipment and batteries, he added. “Access to that information can mean the difference between living and dying. It is the soldier on the ground who suffers.”

He also questioned the inability to adapt applications similar to those developed for the Apple iPhone for Army-approved handheld devices. Chiarelli praised the type of capabilities available on the iPhone as an example of what technology could look like for the Army. “As of July, there were 65,000 apps available to download [on an iPhone]. Why can’t the Army develop a similar capability that would let the soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan download an app to view a video feed from a Predator flying over the battlefield?"

“If we want to stay relevant, we can’t allow ourselves to be constrained by outdated policies," he said. "I share these concerns with you because we are at a crucial point. If we are to succeed we must all work together to find solutions to these challenges. The communications and knowledge management communities can have an important role to play on our Army team."  

“Be, as you have in the past, part of the solution.”

— Barry Rosenberg

GNEC is path to joint interoperability

All warfighters are talking about the same thing, the need for joint interoperability, said Lt. Gen Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army’s chief information officer — and the Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC) will get the Army to that goal.

“We are spending a lot of money building out because we have lots of duplicative systems,” Sorenson said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference. “Now we have to build a single enterprise. LandWarNet, [the Army’s part of the Global Information Grid], is fragmented, not standardized and not secure.”   

The Army G6 unit, which provides architecture, governance, portfolio management, strategy, IT acquisition oversight and operational capabilities for the Army's joint expeditionary forces, is focused on four operating principles to move forward in fulling the GNEC vision, Sorenson said. They are: aggregation, consolidation of equipment, systems standardization and modernization.

“With all the firewalls, we couldn’t see what’s there,” Sorenson said, referring to the challenges of working with an array of existing systems.

The interim goal on the way to GNEC is to get Army systems to a federated state, he said, adding that “they might not be joined together, but they’re pointing in the right direction.” 

The final goal is ultimately an enterprise in which LandWarNet is global, standardized and secure.

“The GNEC is what will do all that,” he said. “To be an expeditionary force, you have to be relevant, and to be relevant, you have to have a network.”

Meanwhile, several objectives are associated with establishing GNEC, and the first is to “operationalize LandWarNet to enable global warfighting capability,” he said. “Our standard mantra is that information shapes the operational environment.” As a result, the Army “must improve its ability to connect to make sure digits can be passed,” he said.

The Army’s Fixed Regional Hub Nodes are key to connectivity and can be scaled to service three divisions, he said, adding that the second objective is to have data and battle command applications prestaged to give soldiers global access to data. The third objective is to establish end-to-end network operations.

Those objectives were tested during the recent Network Service Center (NSC) Operational Evaluation in Germany. The Army plans to establish five NSCs: two in the continental United States, one in Southwest Asia, one in Europe and one in the Pacific.

In addition, Sorenson provided an update on the three-year plan for the NSC deployment.

  • Phase 1 is establishing the first NSC in Germany, which is happening now.

  • Phase 2 is scheduled for fiscal 2010, and includes two NSCs in the United States and one in Southwest Asia.
  • The fifth NSC, in the Pacific, is planned for Phase 3 in fiscal 2011.

Sorenson said the key to the NSC program is building area processing centers where data and applications are stored and prestaged. An industry day on the APCs is scheduled for Sept. 23 at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Ga. A request for proposals will follow the industry day, and the Army will award a contract in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.

Meanwhile, the Army is also consolidating its active e-mail directories, spread across hundreds of Army installations, down to two. One will be for applications, and another will be for e-mail services. “We have proliferated all these active directories," Sorenson said. "They are isolated, unsecure, redundant and segregated.”

Sorenson said he expected it to take about 18 months to get down to two active directories. A request for Information on an enterprise e-mail strategy was issued recently, and a contract award is expected in the second quarter of fiscal 2010.

— Barry Rosenberg

Challenges remain with VOIP in secure setting

The Army's voice communications are on the threshold of a transformational change, Steven Schliesman, chief of the Technical Management Division under the project manager for Network Service Centers, said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference. That change involves the evolution of voice over IP to VOIP for secure networks, known as VoSIP.

There are 50,000 users in the Defense Department's VoSIP environment, but the vast majority are at the tactical level in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. In the continental United States, the VoSIP disappears, leading to a breakdown in secure voice communications between the continental United States and operational theaters.

“Presently, the Army lacks an enterprise-level view for VoSIP that provides centralized management, and appropriate planning, implementation, operation, maintenance and funding that is also aligned with the Global Network Enterprise Construct,” Schliesman said. 

He added that “VoSIP deployment is dependent on the availability of the [Secret IP Router] infrastructure, which in [the continental United States] may not be as far along as it is elsewhere. In addition, VoSIP usage is expanding, and there is a desire to use a single desk phone that would accommodate connectivity to both classified and wireless networks and would support secure and nonsecure communications.”  

— Barry Rosenberg

Cyber Space Ops face internal hurdle

The director of the Army Global Network Operations and Security Center (A-GNOSC) said recently that he envisions a single Army information technology service provider, a command that is a joint, interagency, multinational enterprise that encompasses U.S. cyber operations.

In contrast, Col. Barry Hensley said he now manages a redundant, complex Army command on the verge of a revolution that would bring the military into this century.

“We’ve got to figure out the lanes between the combatant command and [the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom)]. We’ve got to deconflict the different authorities and synchronize efforts,” Hensley said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference.

Hensley said the multiple layers of authority slow the defense of military cyber networks and also could cause security threats during struggles to identify server and hardware locations, respond to incident reports and trace the origins of potential threats. Those activities are also complicated by the complexity of the divisions in military and government network architecture, he said.

“I’m embarrassed to say it, but sometimes problems go unresolved because we just can’t find the box,” Hensley added. “We’ve learned lessons in configuration management from issues with servers under desks and in basements that people aren’t even aware of. It’s the nature of this business, the decentralized architecture.”

He added that “while networks may be defendable, there are networks that are not securable — the adversary will always find a way in.”

However, Army Brig. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, deputy commanding general of Netcom, was optimistic about the establishment of a cohesive, technology-based organization that better protects sensitive military data.

“Every day when I come to work, I say, ‘Welcome to the 21st century,’ ” Patterson said. “We’re exploring the idea of enterprise capabilities that are [departmentwide] instead of each service having its own. We want to avoid the duplicity and improve jointness.”

But he said there are hurdles in enforcing security, balancing priorities and dealing with the “unknown variable of how a cyber command fits into information security.” Patterson said others in the Defense Department might be looking to the Army for leadership.

“A cyber command will be a force of change," he said. "It will be a force that brings together jointness.”

— Amber Corrin

Cultural change to drive transformation

With a fragmented Army enterprise architecture community and misaligned capability sets between offices and the forces, the need for efficiency and improved functionality is driving progress on the Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC) transformational effort, according to one Defense Department official.

“We need a change in information technology culture. We need more intelligent analysis,” Michael Krieger, the Army's deputy chief information officer, said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference.

Krieger reported on the latest efforts in one of the Army’s largest modernization efforts. The GNEC program seeks to consolidate offices, units and endeavors that are disparate and chaotic amid the growing pains of digital immigration.

“We’re trying to redefine who the [network infrastructure] architects are, what their skills are and should be, the products being produced and the roles they play,” Krieger said.

Meanwhile, Krieger was upbeat about the future of military network infrastructure and touted the possibility of a social-media capability that would open the enterprise architecture community to facilitate cooperation and integrated solutions.

Additionally, although BRAC activities have been blamed for a many grievances throughout government, Krieger said he sees the program as a transformational tool. “BRAC is a great opportunity to evolve our portfolio management.”  

— Amber Corrin

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