LandWarNet slated for key transformation

The Army's network heads for a flat, enterprisewide architecture

Electronic and communications technologies have changed dramatically over the past several years, along with military tactics, as the threat has transformed from large armies to smaller forces. In response, the Army is continuing to transform its networking schemes so warfighters in the field can rapidly set up networks and get data that will give them an edge over their enemies.

The Army is responding by transforming LandWarNet, its contribution to the DOD’s overall networking scheme, into an enterprise network that adapts to new technologies and rapid changes in military requirements. This transformation of cyber communications is even more challenging because military forces and planners must make changes while fighting a war.

As the United States relies more on data carried by these networks, ensuring that warfighters and commanders are connected seamlessly has become a top priority. “The network is the Army’s number one modernization effort,” said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the Army CIO.

Army officials are focused on creating a single secure, standards-based network that is accessible by soldiers, civilians and partners. At present, incompatibilities between different network technologies can make it difficult to stay connected -- when, for example, cellular links fade and users need satellite access.

Lawrence also wants to flatten the network architecture and shorten the time it takes to add nodes and set up new networks. A continued shift to standards and commercial products is one of the avenues that will help move this effort forward.

A key concern is to make it simpler to establish connectivity anywhere at any time, even in austere environments. These connections must permit interactions for any joint, interagency, intergovernmental or multinational force, making it easy to protect secure information while giving partners access to materials they need.

The impact of networks goes beyond the ability to let users share all types of information. Military users are increasingly adopting what commercial users sometimes call the Internet of things. Sensors like those now used to watch for enemy movement in remote regions can also be set up around facility perimeters. That can trim costs while also improving security.

“In forward operations, it can be very effective to implement an enclave perimeter security network,” said Olugbenga (Benga) Erinle, president of 3E Technologies International. “We’ve extended our perimeter monitoring system to integrate technology that picks up enemy sniper fire and triangulate to give pinpoint accuracy for the sniper.”

Networked tools can also help facilities trim costs and improve efficiency in other ways. For example, energy management software can monitor energy consumption, putting inactive devices into sleep modes and telling users which equipment is consuming the most power.

This focus on efficiency is an underlying focus of the LandWarNet transformation. For example, Lawrence noted that having a single network will simplify troubleshooting so each operation won’t need its own help desk. Using commercial technologies where applicable will also cut initial costs, particularly when software can be purchased through enterprise license agreements, rather than individually.

Military users and commercial entities will be sharing ideas and concepts during the LandWarNet 2011 conference in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 23-25. This year’s theme is “Transforming Cyber While at War.” Underscoring the importance of the commercial side, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is one of the plenary speakers. The DOD’s CIO, Teri Takai, and Defense Information Systems Agency Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett will join Lawrence as plenary speakers from the military.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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