Army rolls out online crypto storefront for tactical communications

Army KMI crypto key loader

A soldier programs a key loader to allow his radio to communicate securely.

Secure tactical communications is getting easier for the Army with the rollout of an online storefront that allows users to download cryptographic keys that can secure communications for radios, tactical laptops and other devices.

The Key Management Infrastructure, or KMI, gives soldiers Web-based access to encryption, replacing a process that involved physically delivering keys. The system consists of core nodes located at a National Security Agency location. The nodes operate in the background and provide secure storage, routing, key generation and management services, the Army said.

"Before, you had to drive the key to the individual units or they had to send someone to get it, even in combat zones," Kevin Walsh, product lead for the Army's Key Management, said in an Army release. "Now, the users are able to go to the KMI storefront, order their products and have them delivered to them over the network. So this is a whole new, net-centric approach for key management and distributing key material. It's simple, easy to use and flexible."  

The Army piloted the program beginning in February 2014 at 20 locations and plans to begin fielding KMI to other operational commands beginning in the second quarter of fiscal 2016 and finish the rollout by December 2017.

"This provides units with the most secure method to deliver cryptographic products," Walsh said. "Now, even if their keys become obsolete, the network can deliver new cryptographic products without having to touch a single device."

The Army’s Product Lead Key Management is fielding KMI, though the overall program is led by the NSA, which mandated that the military services and Defense Department components replace the legacy Electronic Key Management System with KMI, setting that December 2017 deadline.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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