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CHIPS Articles: Powering America's Army

Powering America's Army
Army's top network and cyber leaders talk about the Network of 2020
By Sharon Anderson - October-December 2011
The Army has developed a holistic network strategy that fundamentally changes how it acquires, tests and deploys its network. In the past, the Army fielded network systems independently and on the acquisition timelines of posts, camps and stations, but the Army's new approach will deploy one network as an enterprise linking capabilities to a Soldier and the small unit, as well as to joint, coalition, interagency and mission partners.

The Army's top cyber and network leaders, Chief Information Officer/G-6 Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, Commander Army Cyber Command Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, Commanding General NETCOM/9th Signal Command Maj. Gen. Jennifer L. Napper, and Chief of Signal Maj. Gen. Alan R. Lynn each talked about their roles in building the Network of 2020 at the LandWarNet conference in Tampa, Fla.

The generals also met with the media Aug. 24 to drill home the message that the Army is migrating to a uniform architecture and a common operating environment (COE) that will enable quicker, and potentially cheaper, development and fielding of secure interoperable applications and systems that satisfy operational requirements.

Army CIO/G-6 and NETCOM/9th Signal Command

As the United States winds down Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom, the Army will reduce the number of Soldiers on active duty. At the same time, the Defense Department budget will shrink. In these circumstances, the Army's mandate will be to produce a force that is smaller yet better trained and more capable. To address these changes, Lt. Gen. Lawrence explained that in her first few months as Army CIO/G-6, she first focused on the vision of the network and aligned its development over the next three program objective memorandum cycles.

"So the vision is the Network of 2020 — Powering America's Army… One of the forcing functions of keeping us connected globally is the Base Realignment and Closures. We are now an 80 percent based CONUS Army, and what that means is we have to have the network and power for that CONUS-based Army so that they can be better trained, train as Soldiers fight with the ability to deploy with little to no notice to any austere environment but be connected to their mission command applications. And that is what we are working for, and so our bumper sticker is: 'Always networked, always on,'" Lawrence said.

The first step to an enterprise approach is single identity, Lawrence explained.

"That is a Soldier that can take his or her CAC and go anywhere in the world, put it in a government computer and have immediate access to their information because at the end of the day that's what it is all about — data. So whether the Soldier is sitting at home, or TDY, or at their post, camp or station, or deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria — in any austere environment — they can connect to the information."

In February 2011, the Army began migrating Microsoft Exchange email users to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Exchange. As of the end of August more than 90,000 users have migrated to the new enterprise email system. Although there were some problems with latency in the beginning, and a temporary halt to migration in July to resolve the challenges, the Army is now moving full speed ahead on the migration, Maj. Gen. Napper said.

"We knew we had challenges on the network in CONUS because of how many people we had running pieces and parts, and the inability to look at the entire network from top to bottom. We also thought we knew what kind of configuration would be required at the desktop and the network to do this enterprise email. We were not correct on the complete configurations because we also changed identity management. So that gave us a little bit of a challenge. We now have a very good, I would call it a 90-percent solution of how the network and those end devices have to be configured in order for us to be able to draw services from the enterprise."

Users are now armed with a pre-deployment checklist to ensure a smooth transition to enterprise email, according to Napper.

"Since we stopped the pause and restarted with migrating, we did two test locations at Fort Lee and Fort Leavenworth, and we have had absolutely no issues with those two locations. It took less than a minute per email account to migrate. Some of them in the beginning took 10 or 15 minutes so that's a sign you have a problem on your network. We knew it was going to be painful in the beginning. We did warn folks. They really didn't want to hear us, but we did warn them. I think now we have a much better process and configuration control going forward," Napper said.

The Army estimates it will save as much as $500 million in IT costs between fiscal years 2012 and 2017.

"It is a combination of the data center consolidations and enterprise email. As we were working our business case analysis, we computed what it cost to have a Soldier email account today. It is very expensive — over $125 just for a basic email account. So by going through a managed service and doing the consolidations that same account is now costing about $34. So that's where the huge savings are," Lawrence said.

Enterprise email will provide users with much greater storage and a Defense Department global address list. It will significantly reduce hardware, storage and personnel costs, and by eliminating the seams between heterogeneous local networks, security will increase.

"Today we have multiple help desks on installations managing their post, camp and station email. In the future we are going to have an enterprise service desk… In some posts, camps and stations that we inventory, we'll find five or six different help desks doing their own thing. So those are the things we are going to go after. We are literally going to go post, camp and station because I need those resources to reinvest in the Network of 2020. We want to get to everything over IP, wireless TOCs, tactical operations centers, Voice over IP. There are so many things that we need to be doing quickly. So we need to get those dollars back in and reinvested as fast as we can," Lawrence said.

The Army will eliminate approximately three-quarters of its data centers between 2011 and the end of 2015. In their stead, the Army will use a unified cloud computing operational model to provide enterprise hosting as a managed service. The Army will move applications into the DoD cloud as much as possible; then leverage commercial infrastructure; and, as a last resort, use Army-owned data centers.

The DISA managed cloud and nine Defense Enterprise Computing Centers will provide email for 1.4 million unclassified network users and more than 200,000 secret network users across the Army, and Transportation, European and Africa commands. The Army is moving along smartly in this direction, according to Lawrence.

"In fact, the Army is one of the more proactive ones in federal service when you look at all the data centers across federal service. We are going to take down about 25 percent [data centers] for all the right reasons. One of the things we learned during Operation Rampart Yankee is that we were operating at a very low inefficient rate across our servers in the Army.

"So this is just a no-kidding, smart thing to do. Twofold, one is not just doing the physical data center consolidation thing; it is spring cleaning. We have old applications we have been maintaining for a long time and so as we reduce our data centers, we are mandating that you cut your applications 30 to 50 percent. That's where you are going to get real savings and also in manpower as we go down from 300 data centers to 75 — it's even going to be below that by the time we are done, and it will be less people needed to maintain it."

Reducing costs is not the only factor in moving to an enterprise network. Lawrence explained the network will be more capable, global, seamless, trusted and reliable and meet the functional needs of the entire Army.

"Someone asked me what is the hardest, biggest impediment to achieving this [building the network], and I said it has to be the culture. The environment of 'if I can't touch it myself, if I don't own it, I don't trust it …' Intuitively we know what we are doing is right. It is just the culture of the trust," Lawrence said.

While Lawrence as the CIO/G-6 provides the vision, governance and policy for the Network of 2020, NETCOM/9th Signal Command is the operational arm of building, operating, defending and maintaining the network for the Army.

"In a short synopsis I'd say that our job is to execute the vision of the CIO in accordance with the orders from Army Cyber Command. It is an exciting time for us. We are in the middle of implementing all of the global networking enterprise initiatives that General Sorensen [former Army CIO/G-6 Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorensen] and now General Lawrence have been talking about for about three years.

"The second focus that we have this year is transforming the way we deliver the capabilities on every post, camp and station globally. We are getting at this as an enterprise approach. We have built together a process we are calling Army baseline IT services (ABITS) by which we can identify the kind of capabilities they need in the posts, camps and stations and the resources necessary to deliver that and to get down to one enterprise," Napper said. "If we have a bumper sticker it is that: 'We are one team in the Army providing one network.'"

Army Cyber Command

The Army activated Army Cyber Command/2nd U.S. Army Oct. 1, 2010, with its headquarters split based at Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade. The command provides the full spectrum of cyberspace operations.

It is a global command with more than 21,000 Soldiers and civilians serving worldwide. Army Cyber Command is supported by NETCOM/9th Signal Command, Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), and 1st Information Operations Command (Land).

"Our mission is to direct and conduct network operations and defense of all Army networks. The Army Cyber Command is the Army's proponent for cyberspace operations to improve all aspects of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities related to cyberspace operations.

"As we work to train, man and equip in cyberspace — it is a domain we must ensure we maintain the freedom to operate. And as you all know, each day the threat is growing more sophisticated and evolving. [We] recognize the need to operate and defend against cyber threats and the importance of enabling mission command, and when directed conduct cyberspace operations in support of full spectrum operations to ensure U.S. allied freedom of action in cyberspace and to deny the same to our enemies. We also serve as the cyberspace proponent for the Army and coordinate information operations with the Army. We are the service component to U.S. Cyber Command," Lt. Gen. Hernandez said.

Network dominance is an integral part of the cyber fight, Hernandez explained.

"Cyber threats demand new approaches to managing information, securing information and ensuring our ability to operate. Cyberspace is on par with the other warfighting domains of land, sea, air and space. It is in cyberspace that we must use our strategic vision to dominate the information environment throughout interdependencies and independent systems." Hernandez said.

The 1st Information Operations Command (Land) is the Army's only full spectrum information operations organization engaged in IO theory development and training and operational application across the full range of military operations. The command has regionally focused information operations and IO-related intelligence planning teams assigned to provide reach-back planning and special studies support. Operations planners are involved prior to, during and after exercises and support contingencies, such as the counter-improvised explosive device effort.

"Our operations center directs our mission, and in many ways, is our center of gravity. Additionally, we are growing a cyber brigade to serve as our operational arm for full spectrum capabilities. During the last year, we have been pretty busy, as you consider, we started from scratch. We have accomplished some major objectives that I'd like to highlight.

"First and foremost, we have established a high level of integration with U.S. Cyber Command and our fellow service cyber components. We have an operation focus with an unprecedented unity of effort in operating and defending all Army networks globally 24/7.

"We are heavily engaged in operational planning with U.S. Cyber Command contributing a growing bench of cyberspace planners that are focusing our efforts on cyberspace operations and to support warfighting commanders. For the first time I believe we have really planned and executed realistic cyber integration into major exercises, and I am excited that we have established the Army cyber proponent and begun the hard force development work.

"Additionally, we have conducted the comprehensive Army Cyberspace Assessment leading to our work on an Army Cyber 2020 Strategic Plan. While our mission is clear so too is our vision for Army Cyber 2020 starting to take shape. I'm building a professional team of elite, trusted, precise, disciplined cyber warriors defending Army networks, who when directed are able to provide dominant full spectrum cyber effects enabling mission command and ensuring a decisive global advantage," Hernandez said.

Army Cyber Command has three major lines of effort to guide its work, according to Hernandez. "First, operationalize cyber. Second, grow Army's cyber capacity and capability, and third, recruit, develop and retain the right cyber warrior force. The final point I would like to make is for a command built around technology, it is important to remember our most valuable asset is our people. They are the centerpiece to our work. Our Soldiers and civilians will determine our success and ensure that we remain second to none."

The Network of 2020 will enable:
• Access to key information anytime, anyplace.
• Sharing of information to facilitate fire and maneuver — and survive in close combat.
• Provide collaboration capability to aid in seizing and controlling key terrain.
• Employ lethal and non-lethal capabilities, coupled with sensors, to effectively engage targets at extended range.
• Distinguish among friend, enemy, neutral and noncombatant.
• Integrate indirect fires.

Chief of Signal

The Office Chief of Signal (OCOS) is the single point of contact for personnel development matters affecting the Signal Regiment within the eight personnel life cycle management functions: structure, acquisition, individual training and education, distribution, deployment, sustainment, professional development and separation.

As the commander for the Fort Gordon home of the Signal Center of Excellence, Maj. Gen. Lynn is the 35th Chief of Signal.

"Essentially what I do is run the university for signal officers, non-commissioned officers, Soldiers and warrant officers. But we also provide the future vision for the Signal Regiment. What I have been working on the last year is a fundamental change to the Signal Corps. Our current design is probably Desert Stormera doctrine where we provided support just down to the battalion level. As you know, battalion level is just not low enough in the formation right now.

"The Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth took a look at what our requirements would be, and they came across the mission essential capabilities list that we need to provide and that includes communications down to the company level and below. There is one caveat though, they did not want us to grow the number of Signal Soldiers that we have so we had to go from battalion level to company level and below without any growth in personnel," Lynn said.

To meet the challenge, the Army studied signal structure, doctrine, training, equipment and the employment of signal forces to design a new construct.

"So what we came up with is that we need smaller, more capable teams, much like the Special Operations Forces use, like the JCSE (Joint Communications Support Element) is running with, and smaller, more capable systems as well.

"[We looked at] commercial standards, a lot of commercial off-the-shelf equipment. We even looked at some small handhelds, including iPhones and Droids, this will allow us to cover more area because they are smaller teams. Same number of people but smaller teams, more capable equipment that can go further down in the force to provide support," Lynn said.

Training is also changing, according to Lynn.

"Instead of training on one box, which we do today, for example, we will train a satellite operator. Tomorrow, we are going to teach them the theory of satellite line-of-sight and triple spherical scatter. If they understand the theory, as the boxes change according to Moore's Law, and they will change rapidly, they will understand the theory, and we just have to teach them how to operate the buttons. The buttons piece they will be getting from their apps, the applications we develop.

"We are developing our own apps at the Signal Center of Excellence. These apps are how the Soldiers like to train today. If you show them a projector and a PowerPoint slide, they will look at you like, Are you kidding me? They want to have that touch and feel on that system, they want to see it on a screen … By the time they actually get to the equipment, they are very familiar with it; they know how to operate it. It is the way they like to learn."

Training includes a range of opportunities: live, virtual, constructive and gaming.

"Soldiers today are interested in gaming. So we are already developing gaming in a number of the centers of excellence. Soldiers really care about their avatar. If they shoot OK at the range, their score is put into the system. So if they only score marksman in the virtual gaming environment, and they don't do as well as their buddies, their buddies are shouting at their avatar… And for the PT test, if they don't run as fast, we put that into the game… If that avatar is not performing well in the gaming their buddies are beating them up about it," Lynn said. "It is a new paradigm; a new way of thinking, a new way of training and it is pretty exciting."

Avatars are undergoing testing in the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Aviation and Mission Command Center of Excellence and could be deployed across the Army in a matter of months, according to Lynn.

"They have already laid out some of the digital maps for the actual areas that we used in Afghanistan, for example. It's new. It's just now taking off, but the quality is really pretty good… When they assess [recruits] when they come in, just like you get an ID card, you get an avatar, and it is going to look like you," Lynn said.

30-Day Tablet Test

The Army is conducting a limited 30-day test of Fujitsu Q550 tablets to ensure the tablet meets Army user requirements for a mobile device.

The tablet is running an Army gold master version of Windows 7. If the pilot is successful, the tablet will be available for Army purchase though the Army acquisition vehicle: Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions. Any vendor meeting Army requirements can make a device available for Army purchase though CHESS.

Currently, mobile devices are required to: have an Army approved operating system; be able to authenticate to the network; be Common Access Card (CAC)/PKI-enabled to sign and encrypt email; have a FIPS 140-2 certified encryption for data at rest; and have an enterprise management capability to turn off Wi-Fi and enable and disable cameras.

The test is expected to conclude Sept. 30.

The Network — Robust, Effective and Secure

The Army is changing the way it supplies network systems and capabilities to operational units by incrementally aligning the delivery of new technology within its defined COE and "Everything over Internet Protocol (EoIP)" strategy. To address the demand for mobile devices at the small unit level, the Army is working with industry to securely bring mobile devices onto the network, according to Lawrence.

"There is no doubt we are going to have millions to billions of sensors in the near future on this network. We are going to have mobile devices on the network and so the key is how we bring them onto it… I'm working with big companies, partners, Apple, Google, different companies, to say that this is what our requirement is going to be. We are testing one device right now that you can embed. It is an iPad-like device that you embed your CAC in and now we have the ability to log on to the network and sign in.

"Those are the devices we are going to seek out. We are working with a lot of partners, and I hope we have a decision within this week that the device does work and sign and encrypt. And if that is the case then we are going to put it on the shelves very quickly for our units to be able to procure." (See text box above about the 30-Day Tablet Test.)

Because the COE and EoIP are aligned with commercial standards, they can also enable the Army to "commoditize" many portions of the network and possibly lower costs. In this way, the Army will get out of the information technology research and development business, and rely instead on commercial off-the-shelf solutions as much as possible. The easier it is to acquire IT, the faster — and more frequently — the Army can deploy new capabilities in the field.

"A lot of discussion here is on enterprise initiatives and enterprise services, and I applaud them all. And I keep saying the faster we can get to them the better we are," Hernandez said.

"I am comfortable with all the efficiencies that we will gain… I am really more excited about the effectiveness that this will bring to our ability to defend our networks, and the ability to see ourselves, to see the threat, to see the cyber surfing, and now really start getting into a more active defense, the types of defense strategies that the Department of Defense has asked us to look at in its Cyber Security Strategy."

Maj. Gen. Jennifer L. Napper, Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence and Maj. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, the Army’s senior network and cyber commanders, discuss the network strategic vision moving toward 2020 at the LandWarNet 2011 conference in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 24, 2011. Photo by J.D. Leipold.
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