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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence

Interview with Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence
Commanding General, Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command
By CHIPS Magazine - October-December 2009
U.S. Army NETCOM/9th Signal Command is a Direct Reporting Unit under the Army's Chief Information Officer/G-6 (CIO/G-6). Its core mission is operating and defending the Army LandWarNet (LWN) — the service's portion of the Global Information Grid (GIG), with the primary objective to ensure Army's network enterprise enables the warfighter at all echelons of operation. Additionally, the commanding general is designated as the Deputy for Network Operations for U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/U.S. Army Forces Strategic Command.

With the headquarters at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the NETCOM/9th Signal Command team has nearly 17,000 Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors stationed and deployed around the world, providing direct and indirect support to Army, joint and coalition warfighting forces.

NETCOM/9th Signal Command's organization is comprised of theater Signal Commands and brigades in the Pacific, Europe and Southwest Asia. Additionally, a U.S.-based Signal Command, 7th Signal Command (Theater), is scheduled to attain full operational capability by 2010. Nearly all of these organizations work under the operational control of Army and joint commands, and most are geographically dispersed.

It is this network of trained professionals that enables battle command and supports missions at all echelons — from the foxhole — to the White House.

The first woman to command the global organization, Lawrence was formerly the commanding general of the 5th Signal Command (Theater) and held the post of Chief Information Officer and Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computers, J-6, U.S. Central Command. CHIPS asked Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence to discuss the critical mission of NETCOM.


Maj. Gen. Lawrence enlisted in the Army in 1972. She received a bachelor's degree from Campbell University in North Carolina and was commissioned in 1979. Lawrence has a master's degree in information systems management from the University of Georgia. She has served in a number of assignments — platoon leader, aide-de-camp, executive officer, company commander, battalion commander, brigade commander, as well as serving in a number of staff positions in Washington, D.C.

CHIPS: Can you talk about new technologies on the field that are in response to warfighter demand?

Lawrence: I often tell my team that our No. 1 job is ensuring that the squad in Afghanistan is never out of touch; that the network will always be with them, ensuring that they have the capabilities necessary to fight and win. We have aggressively applied new technologies to make that happen — to guarantee that applications and data are available wherever and whenever the Soldier needs them.

We've also worked to introduce technologies that will decrease the preparation time to access intelligence and operations data and services from distant theaters and deployed joint task forces. As we've done this, we've been mindful of the need for seamless, secure and reliable communications in a joint, coalition and interagency environment and have partnered with other organizations to enhance the interoperability of the systems in the field.

One specific area we're working on involves leveraging advances in the management of virtual environments. Over time, this will allow the Army to develop more applications on virtual machines and enable us to quickly move applications and data between Network Service Centers (NSC) on demand. Similar advances in identity management, security management and configuration management technologies will allow the Army to provide a means of secured access to warfighter and enterprise applications, including information technology resources and data, which remain with them through all deployment phases.

By the time we're done, the Soldier from Fort Bragg will have access to the same information in the field as he or she does at home station or in transit. Finally, we're also using improved security management, system management and network management tools to efficiently provision network enclaves to support collaboration with mission partners.

CHIPS: U.S. Joint Forces Commander Gen. James Mattis has talked about the increased importance of the small unit. Does this change the type of technology that small units will need?

Lawrence: The truth is that we really are living in a world in which tactical decisions can have strategic consequences. Quality communication is the chief way that we can make sure that those decisions are informed. As smaller units assume more responsibility, technology and connectivity must be extended to their level. Recent history has shown us that network resources that once resided at the brigade level often need to be pushed down to the battalion and company levels. We're working a range of initiatives to do just that, including the fielding of War-fighter Information Network - Tactical Increment 2.

CHIPS: Can you talk about WIN-T Increment 2?

Lawrence: We're excited about WIN-T Increment 2. It is an important part of getting the network down to the unit in the field. It enhances warfighter mobility and provides a communication network down to the company level. Tactical communication nodes in Increment 2 are the first step to providing a mobile infrastructure on the battlefield.

Combined with mobile points of presence, vehicle wireless packages and Soldier Network Extensions, Increment 2 enables mobile battle command from division to company in a completely ad hoc, self-forming network.

WIN-T Increment 2 also includes embedding communications gear in the commander's vehicles, bringing SIPR (Secure Internet Protocol Router) to a commander on the go. Commanders and select staff will have the ability to maneuver anywhere on the battlefield and maintain connectivity to the network. Once we're done, WIN-T Increment 2 will deliver an initial, on-the-move, broadband networking capability using satellite and radio links. We conducted development and limited user tests of this build earlier in fiscal year 2009 and plan to field the latest increment later this year. That fielding will focus on mobile formations, specifically Brigade Combat Teams.

CHIPS: The Army is consolidating servers and their applications to Area Processing Centers to provide consistent services in a netcentric environment for geographically dispersed tactical networks. Can you explain how the APCs will improve warfighter effectiveness?

Lawrence: APCs allow the Army to manage IT services and ensure that the right information reaches the right person, at the right time, in a joint netcentric environment. The APCs are just one of the three components of the Network Service Centers. Combined with the other elements — Regional Hub Nodes (RHN) and the Theater Network Operations and Security Centers (TNOSC) — they will dramatically improve responsiveness to warfighter requirements and rapidly changing mission demands. Like our forces, these components are not always collocated. The NSCs provide warfighters with connectivity, network operations (NetOps), data processing, storage, security and applications hosting capabilities.

The connect capability, provided by both standard network connections and the RHN, provides a point of entry into the APC services and the GIG for expeditionary forces. The NetOps capability enables the TNOSC to manage and protect the network to meet the needs of the commander in the field. It also provides the means for units to manage their applications within the units' processing and storage enclave at the APC.

Warfighters will no longer be required to establish their own service delivery and support. Instead, they will derive those capabilities from the NSC and focus on their missions. Additionally, the Army will realize efficiencies by integrating and consolidating network, computing, storage and virtualization resources across applications and services provided by the NSC.

At the end of the day, everyone wins. The warfighter receives improved support while the Army is able to make more effective use of limited resources.

CHIPS: Can you discuss the LandWarNet vision and progress to date? Can you talk about the approaches that are used to defend LandWarNet?

Lawrence: As you know, our nation faces a wide range of threats. They are synchronous, asynchronous and global. What's more, they aren't going away. The Army must be able to seamlessly join the LandWarNet with the larger DoD enterprise, the GIG, while meeting these threats. The Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC) is our Army's strategy for aligning and transforming our network assets — our people, equipment and policies — to meet these challenges.

The reason for transforming to the GNEC is clear. We live in a different world than we did in the Cold War. When I joined the Army in the early 1970s, the focus was on the forward deployment of forces. The new reality is that 80 percent of Army forces are CONUS-based. This means that our Soldiers are called to deploy with little to no notice, and the Army's relevance in these conflicts will be judged by its responsiveness and expeditionary capability. The Army must be ready to fight upon arrival. The key to that is ensuring that we can provide reliable network services to our Soldiers anytime, anywhere. The GNEC will allow us to do that by providing a seamless network that is universally available and accessible to the warfighter from the home station, to the area of operations and back again.

We took an important first step toward this earlier in the year when we conducted the NSC operational validation (OPVAL). This operation successfully demonstrated that NSCs can host battle command applications out of Area Processing Centers on behalf of a brigade-level organization. By standardizing network operations, network management, collaborative tools and application hosting, we proved that the NSC and its pillars (Regional Hub Node, APC and the Theater Network Operations and Security Center) provide warfighters unparalleled access to the GIG.

Of course none of this matters if we can't provide the warfighter with a safe, secure network. We've developed a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the SIPRNET, NIPRNET, and all the elements of the enterprise network provide that safe and secure operating environment. Our approach enhances our defensive capabilities, improves the sustainment of programs, and working with industry, develops more effective and rapid detection and response capabilities. We're partnering with the military intelligence community as well to improve predictive intelligence. This strategy will allow us to dominate and win the Army's cybersecurity fight.

At the center of this fight are our security centers: the Army Global Network Operations Security Center and our Theater Network Operations Security Centers. The A-GNOSC and TNOSCs are the network's guardians. They work on a daily basis to detect, analyze and overcome the threat to theater and global network operations, helping our forces to maintain information dominance.

Additionally, the TNOSCs also provide NetOps and service desk functions — ensuring the seamless delivery of standardized enterprise services — while the A-GNOSC serves as the Army's operational arm into the world of the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations. Together, they represent the Army's key LandWarNet cyber defense capability.

CHIPS: NETCOM/9th Signal Command executes command and control over a global network of organizations and commands. Among its many other responsibilities, EP&E [Enterprise Programs and Engineering] ensures configuration management and information assurance for the LandWarNet. How do you balance the need for security with the need for Soldier accessibility?

Lawrence: Balancing security with access isn't a new problem. It was with us when messages were written on paper and carried by a courier and remains with us in the current age of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. What has changed is the ease with which bad actors can try to disrupt our operations. Notice I said 'try.' Our Soldiers and civilians do a remarkable job in identifying, containing and defeating threats to the network.

But despite our good track record, we can't rest. As I mentioned earlier, a safe, secure network is fundamental to defeating those who would take aim at our nation. 9th Signal Command personnel work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to ensure information the Soldier receives in the field or garrison is delivered in a manner that ensures the information has not been tampered with or provides information to our adversaries.

We can only do this by ensuring that adequate information assurance controls are in place to ensure timely delivery of trustworthy information to only the audience to which it was intended. Sometimes that means extra work. Sometimes it means less access than some might like. In the end though, it's about saving lives and winning wars; something we can't do unless the Soldiers engaged in those wars have confidence that the network they rely upon is secure.

CHIPS: Can you talk about the U.S.-based signal command scheduled to attain full operational capability by 2010?

Lawrence: I'd love to. That would be 7th Signal Command (Theater). The command stood up earlier this year and is scheduled to achieve full mission capability by Jan. 16, 2010. 7th Signal Command (Theater) is the heart of the continental United States portion of the Army network and will initially command and control 39 separate elements located at posts, camps and stations across the country, as well as two Theater Strategic Signal Brigades: the 93rd at Fort Eustis, Va., and the 106th at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Once it's fully in place, the command will extend the Army's GNE capabilities to the operating and generating forces located within CONUS, providing integration, security and defense of the network.

CHIPS: Can you discuss what's going on in each Signal Command and organization under NETCOM/9th SC (A)?

Lawrence: Everyone on the team has been extremely busy as we continue to operationalize the Global Network Enterprise. 5th Signal Command (Theater), together with 7th Signal Command (Theater), played an important role when they led the NSC OPVAL I discussed earlier. This assessment proved that we can seamlessly transition a Brigade Combat Team and its data from CONUS to OCONUS through all phases of operation.

Of course, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait remain the focus of much of our activity. Our units there have been extremely busy, both in supporting ongoing operations and in the build out of the region's communications infrastructure. We achieved a major accomplishment recently with the completion of the Fixed Regional Hub Node at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. This hub provides up to 48 links of frequency division multiple access and time division multiplex access satellite connectivity, as well as 12 links of mounted battle command on the move and airborne command and control to support warfighter communications in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the 311th Signal Command (Theater) has been working closely with the CIO/G-6 Cyber and 9th Signal Command to establish effective security standards for the portion of the LandWarNet falling within their area of operations. You only need to read the newspaper to recognize the importance of information assurance and cybersecurity to operations in this critical part of the world.

Also in the Pacific, the 1st Signal Brigade in Korea is assuming the Joint Command Information Systems Activity (JCISA) mission from U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). Once the transfer is complete in FY10, 1st Signal Brigade will be the primary provider of C2 communications throughout the entire Korean theater.

Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence
Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence

The Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (A) Soldier of the Year, Spc. Daniel Justice, 2nd Signal Brigade, 5th Signal Command, is congratulated with a coin from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, U.S. Army Chief Information Officer/G-6, Aug. 20, 2009, during the LandWarNet Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence is second from right.
The Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (A) Soldier of the Year, Spc. Daniel Justice, 2nd Signal Brigade, 5th Signal Command, is congratulated with a coin from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, U.S. Army Chief Information Officer/G-6, Aug. 20, 2009, during the LandWarNet Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence is second from right.

NETCOM/9th SC (A) Commanding General Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence and Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Manley unfurl the new colors of the 7th Signal Command (Theater) during an activation ceremony March 6, 2009, at Fort Gordon, Ga.
NETCOM/9th SC (A) Commanding General Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence and Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Manley unfurl the new colors of the 7th Signal Command (Theater) during an activation ceremony March 6, 2009, at Fort Gordon, Ga.
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