Army IT Day: Consolidation key to future networking, says LandWarNet director

The Army’s side of the Global Information Grid, known as LandWarNet, is undergoing rapid changes as the service copes with new technology and a tight budget environment, says the director of the effort.

A key part of the service’s efforts is streamlining the system by consolidating multiple networks, COL Mark Elliott, director of LandWarNet’s Mission Command, said March 13 at AFCEA NOVA's Army IT Day.

Rapidly changing technology combined with complex network issues are forcing the Army to rethink how it manages and runs its systems, Elliot said. The service’s current goal is to be more agile in how it runs its IT and communications processes. But Elliott noted that there are some difficult choices to make to allow the service to continue to deliver network capabilities to warfighters.

“Everything we do now touches on the network,” he said.

While the Army faces budget issues, Elliot said he is confident that the money problems will be resolved. But whatever the outcome, the Army’s IT processes must be more affordable, Elliot said.

Although LandWarNet has been deployed for more than a decade, there is a need to gain efficiencies by modernizing the network by consolidating its various systems into a single enterprise, Elliot said. One example is the Mission Command Network, which must be a single, secure and standards-based system. Developing standards has proven to be a challenge because many of the Army’s legacy systems were built and developed separately. Additionally, new systems must be joint, multi-agency and multi-national from their inception, he said.

“We no longer have separate transport systems out there,” Elliot said. His command is working on converging its networks and transport systems by bringing together formerly stand alone areas such as intelligence, medical support and logistics, he said.

The Army also has to manage its vast collection of 500,000 legacy radios operating on LandWarNet. Elliot noted that the service is not very good at getting phasing out systems, but added that there is a need for adopting common hardware and systems in future acquisitions.

These common hardware and software systems would form a baseline for the entire Army. The commonality also provides a widely accepted base for program mangers to build on, and it also helps to reduce network complexity, Elliot said.

Although the Army is beginning to adopt common standards, there is still too much complexity in its networks and systems, he said. The goal is to put the more complex aspects in the background, where they are automated and do  not interfere with users.

On the user side, the approach allows for simple interfaces with drag-and-drop tools or simple pushbutton operation, he said.



About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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