Starting up a network is getting easier for the Army

Army Command Post ITS

Operating a command post network starts with the initialization process.

The network is essential part of the battlefield, providing communications, data, imagery and coordination. But before it can provide that command-and-control view, it has to be turned on, by a key step that allows the hardware to recognize and link up with other components.

That step—initialization—has become a lot more streamlined for the Army in the past year with the Initialization Tool Suite, or ITS, which is being rolled out to the Eighth Army in South Korea, with other commands on deck to receive the suite eventually.

When setting up a command post network, initialization, which accounts for a network’s mission command components, personnel and mission, must be done when the hardware is turned on. "That allows the hardware to recognize all the gear in the command post so it can begin to exchange critical information with the other systems across the battlefield,” Chris Famalette, assistant product lead for Initialization for the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, said in a release.

That has involved installing a disc with the “data products” that make up the unit information, such as the identifier and IP address for every point on the network. The first step may have been simple enough, but if changes required updates—say, a change in organizational structure or the addition of new technology—a new disc with new data products had to be made, a process that could leave units waiting for as many as 15 weeks. ITS provides the kind of flexibility that allows units to make changes themselves as needed.

"In the past we delivered a static data product to each of the units as they were preparing to deploy," Famalette said. "With ITS, we can now give them a lighter version of the product and allow the unit to manipulate their own initialization by adding, removing or deleting assigned roles."

ITS also simplifies and speeds up the initialization process, cutting a job that used to take hours down to a 10-step process that takes about three minutes, the Army said.

"ITS provides senior commanders a more accurate common operating picture and gives the S6 [communications officer] a simplified, more hands-on approach to adapting their network based on their fight," Famalette said.

The Army said it will field ITS next to bases in Europe, followed by the continental United States, while adding new features along the way.

ITS fielding will continue to Army Europe and then to bases within the continental United States. As it continues to evolve, new features will be rolled out. ITS consists of three Warfighter Initialization Tools, designated Manager, Platform and Server. WIT-P, which allows individual soldiers to initialize at their command post workstations, could begin fielding as early as summer 2016, the Army said.

About the Author

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

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