Army confronts LandWarNet modernization challenges head-on

Integrated network capability at tactical level a difficult hurdle

Although the Army is making strides to meet its LandWarNet modernization goals, challenges still remain for the three-year initiative. A panel of senior Army officers discussed on Oct. 25 the state of progress in upgrading the service's part of the Defense Department's Global Information Grid at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

One year ago, the U.S. Army launched an effort to mature LandWarNet. The goal of the modernization effort is the Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC), which will combine all of the Army’s individual command-based networks into a single enterprise. The service is one-third of the way through the three-year program.

Panel moderator, Army CIO/G-6 Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, outlined the current service-wide progress of the upgrade effort. He noted that the service is developing a cloud-based architecture to provide a common operating environment with a plug-and-play architecture. He noted that plans for this architecture were published in April and will be used to guide the service’s migration to a virtual environment.

The implementation plan for the common operating environment will be ready by January 2011, said Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of Architecture, Operations, Networks, and Space for the Army’s CIO/G-6. He noted that the goal of the environment is to spur competition, with contractors developing a variety of applications for warfighters to use. He concluded that the increased competition would also help to keep down overall development costs.

As the Army moves towards its common operating environment, it is also taking steps to streamline how it uses its enterprise resources. Alfred Rivera, director of computing services at the Defense Information Systems Agency outlined a recently announced initiative to move the Army’s e-mail and calendar services into the DISA cloud. He added that the ultimate goal of the effort was to move all of the individual services’ server capabilities into a common virtual environment.

However, the LandWarNet program still faces several challenges. One issue is providing an integrated network capability at the tactical level, said Col. John B. Morrison, LandWarNet/Battle Command Director.

The service needs to shift network integration to soldiers operating beyond a base’s perimeter, said Morrison, who compared building a military network to solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle. Although parts of this network exist today, they require constant modernization, and the Army currently can upgrade only two brigades a year to full network capability, Morrison said. The service will continue to build out the network and expand it to the lowest echelons, he said.

Security is a major concern for DOD networks. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, head of the Army Cyber Command, outlined steps his command, which became operational in early October, has taken. Charged with defending the Army’s networks, ArCyber has a global presence. He noted that the command is completing an initial assessment of its strategic plan and the resources and capabilities necessary to carry out its mission.

Among other things, he said that the command must be able to meet the constantly evolving threats found in cyberspace and finalize a command and  control construct for operations in this new environment.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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