Army tackles massive network modernization

Common operational environment essential to success

The Army will have to get used to working with less than perfect networking and communications solutions, at least according to one top official.

Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, Acting Deputy CIO, speaking to the attendees at the Army IT Day, said the Army's network is a big one, and its size and scale make it a challenge to modernize. Commercial technology or systems based on commercial equipment are being widely used in the service in those areas not covered by major programs of record, he said.

The Army isn't going to be able to modernize the network completely. What the service needs is a 70-or-80-percent solution, he said.

These commercially based technologies must fit into the Army’s new network architecture. Bowman noted that in 2010 the Army’s CIO G6 published the service’s vision for a new network architecture that will emphasize “everything over IP.”

An entirely IP-based system will allow soldiers to exchange data with other service clouds and work together in an interoperable fashion. However, a common operational environment is key to this approach. A common environment will provide a single standard to build on.

Bowman outlined several key issues facing Army network modernization. One is a need for a unified, servicewide enterprise e-mail application. He noted that there is pressure from the Office of Management and Budget and the White House for more efficiencies. Another is the need for centralized enterprise help desks and enterprise network operations. The service must begin centralizing its data centers. He said that there are currently more than 280 such facilities across the Army. The goal is to cut this number by 75 percent by 2018.

Bowman also pushed for changes to Army procurement. In the future the service won’t acquire equipment in open contracts that are extended over the years. The goal is to purchase technology such as radios in lots and then modify and reissue the request to open up competition, given that there is a large pool of  vendors to draw upon.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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