Army brass assess progress toward modernization

Robust network connectivity remains top priority

The Army is making every effort to deliver powerful network capabilities to as many formations as possible, said a panel of top officers and officials this week.

The panel, which convened at Army IT Day on Dec. 9, outlined efforts aimed at providing improved connectivity to all Army units, programs harnessing social media to enhance information sharing among warfighters, and improvements in the rollout of fully modernized forces.

LandWarNet Battle Command Director Col. John Morrison said his organization’s top focus is building the network and capacity to get robust connectivity to as many Army formations as possible, including through the aerial layer and beyond line-of-sight capabilities. Morrison outlined several imperatives for the Army, these include building additional network capacity to support operations in Afghanistan, developing and deploying enhanced battle command capabilities, and edge network integration efforts to connect all units and soldiers.

Morrison also added that the command had realigned its efforts to fully equip more brigades with network centric systems. Originally only two brigades were scheduled to be fully equipped with new battlefield networking and communications systems by 2013, but after restructuring the program, the Army will be able to field nine fully modernized brigades by the end of 2013.

Brig. Gen. Lee Price, program executive officer for command, control and communications-tactical (PEO C3T), touted a number of programs she said had a successful year, including Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, and the MilSuite program that brings secure collaboration to soldiers, such as MilTube, the military-grade version of YouTube.

She also highlighted efforts such as the Centrix-ISAF mission network, which provides data transport and situational awareness to coalition forces in Afghanistan; ongoing work by the Network Systems Integration Transitions, which is the network component of the former Future Combat Systems program; and the Personalized Assistant that Learns program, which is developing a software application for command posts that allows commanders to set automatic alerts for data or emergency support during operations.

The Army has abandoned its own shared products list in favor of a broader version supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency, said Mike Krieger, interim Army CIO. He said a DISA list would be more effective because it could be shared across the services, and marks a major step toward reciprocity and a better common operating picture.

Krieger also praised MilSuite and other Web 2.0 initiatives being rolled out across the Defense Department. “Social media has been a tremendous tool for communication with the public, but can pose a threat internally,” he said.

However, with the right guidelines and means, it’s proving to be a driver in the 21st-century military. “We’re taking advantage of Web 2.0 capabilities, both leveraging internally and massively outside with public affairs,” Krieger said.

About the Authors

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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