As you might imagine, Marine Corps C4 has a substantial to-do list to expand information technology connectivity for Marines. Everything from improved command and control and cybersecurity — to wireless options and Windows 10 deployment — advances that will impact every Marine — from the tactical fighting hole to the garrison flag pole.
But there are three stand-outs direct from Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) that Col. Jeffery Goodes, AC/S G6 for U.S. Marine Forces Command (MARFOCOM), considers to be crucial to supporting the Marine warfighter and must be done correctly: the implementation of an Enterprise Service Desk; the Deployable Marine Corps Enterprise Network (DMCEN); and the data center consolidation and legacy domain reduction initiative. In addition to the three enterprise level initiatives Goodes discussed, he also discussed four topics he considers critical and in direct support of the MARFORCOM warfighter: returning communicators to the waterfront and implementing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.
Data Center Consolidation and Legacy Network Reduction
When the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO) issued guidance for reducing the number of data centers across the department, the Marine Corps had roughly 90, Goodes said. The goal is to get down to eight which will include the Marine Corps IT Center (MCITC) Kansas City and seven regional centers. In addition, there will be a certain number of installation processing nodes (IPN), installation service nodes (ISN), and special purpose processing nodes (SPPN) located where needed to support local functions, he explained. Reducing the overall number of data centers will allow the Marine Corps to reduce the number of operating systems, reduce facility funding requirements, increase virtualization, increase virtual operating systems per host, and be in line with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act guidance.
Complementary to the data center consolidation efforts is the collapsing of legacy networks used across the force, explained Goodes, guest speaker for an AFCEA Hampton Roads event in Norfolk, Virginia.
“When we started, we probably had something like 400 different domains used across the Marine Corps in one form or fashion; in May, we had 65 to 70 legacy networks that were used specifically by Marines for Marine things, now we have approximately 40 legacy domains. The goal is to get down to one: usmc.mil,” Goodes said. “It’s good business: it streamlines our hardware requirements, it allows us to reduce redundancy and increase virtualization, and it enhances our cybersecurity strategy for the MCEN, as well as our connection to the DoD Information Network,” he explained.
“Bottom Line: If the Commander of Marine Forces Cyber Command, Maj. Gen. [Loretta] Reynolds, can’t see it on the network, then it’s a vulnerability,” Goodes said.
The multiple disparate domains sprang up due to operating forces requiring workarounds to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet to execute their missions, in cases where the NMCI could not support Marines fighting in remote, austere locations, explained Kenneth W. Bible, deputy director of C4, Headquarters Marine Corps in a
CHIPS interview in July.
Enterprise Service Desk Transformation and MARFORCOM Service Desk
In concert with the data center reductions and alignments, the decision has been made to realign support and stand-up an Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) at the Marine Corps IT Center, in Kansas City. This ESD will therefore serve as the Corps’ information technology incident management and request fulfillment point of contact. The ESD will enhance standardization across the MCEN and will support the existing regional Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Information Technology (IT) Support Centers (MITSC) and subordinate installation processing nodes.
The ESD is designed to leverage institutional IT knowledge and subsequently increase efficiency when solving problems although the regional MITSCs, IPNs, ISNs, and SPPNs will still play a significant role in customer service support.
“Our ESD will be fully operations capable once 80 percent of its personnel are trained and have adjudicated security clearances; when the Detection and Analysis teams are fully staffed; and when customer satisfaction hits 75 percent,” Goodes said. “Although there are deadlines for putting the ESD into operation,” he said, “the Director of Marine Corps C4, Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, has directed that implementation will be event-driven and network-threat focused objectives will be met before the next phase will begin.”
Albeit the ESD is designed to Enterprise VIPs (General Officers and Senior Executive Service personnel), the Colonel said he wants to provide better help desk training for those Marines staffing the call centers to ensure their proficiency and professionalism and support the local user.
Because the local help desk is staffed by young Marines, Goodes asked industry representatives in the audience with expertise in help desk support to come to him with their best practices and lessons learned.
The MARFORCOM Service Desk processes over 5,100 trouble tickets per year and serves as the “refresh hub” for all IT equipment in the Hampton Roads area. Additionally the Service Desk routinely works with the MITSC East Service Desk, as well as the Marine Corps Cyber Operation Group (MCCOG) when dealing with complex IT problems.
“When a Marine goes to someone’s desk to assist, I want that user to say ‘that kid really knows what he is doing and talking about,’” Goodes said. “We cannot forget nor neglect the fact that we G6s are a customer service-based organization and that our customers — regardless of rank or billet — deserve the timely, accurate, and reliable support possible.”
In another bold move, instead of extending the Marine Corps Enterprise Network to warfighters in remote locations, the MCEN is going to be “deployable,” Goodes explained, through a single image, single domain, single identity, ubiquitous presence.
Ultimately, the goal is to deliver more consistent services to Marines across the globe, supporting a wide range of missions. In this way, the MCEN is going to be more effective. “Our role is to efficiently install, operate, maintain, and secure the network regardless of location, power requirements or lift limitations,” he said, “and this seamless networked environment will be echeloned forward and redeployed without losing any critical information.”
Marines will have the ability to pull in the C2 applications and services they need from an app store, and have standardized infrastructure modules scaled to the space, weight, and power limitations they face in the deployed environment.
The concept has already been proven in a number of Limited Operational Experiments headed by MCTSSA, as well as during a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) deployment with the III Marine Expeditionary Forces, Goodes said. If a Marine communicator loses connection with the satellite, for example, the IT environment will still remain and allow the warfighter to execute his mission until such time that the network is reconnected to the satellite and ultimately its link to the MCEN.
Regarding the Marine Corps’ focus to enhance integration with Naval forces, Goodes sees a need to assign communicators once again to ship’s company to maintain continuity of C2/C4 capabilities, as well as to assist with modernization efforts.
Marines deploying on Navy ships bring multiple C2/C4 devices onboard to support their operations. These devices need competent operators and maintainers who can assist with the planning and embarking of Marines forces and who can ensure interoperability of green gear with blue.
“Space creep” is always a challenge with the limited space available on ships and therefore having a Marine communicator on hand who knows what is in the best interest of the deployed warfighter is good for interoperability and expeditionary operations. “The C2 network is a ‘critical capability’ for Marine operations; C4 is the enabler of C2,” Goodes said.
For the last 15 years, Marines had a large combat role in Operation Enduring Freedom, now Marine communicators are seemingly on track to go back to the waterfront, Goodes said. It is an issue that U.S. Marine Forces Command and U.S. Fleet Forces Command, as well as other stakeholders, are working.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Marine Corps Forces Command, has fully embraced a virtual desktop infrastructure — thin clients — for classified networks.
“About 75 percent of our MARFORCOM users have been transferred to the VDI. The problem is we are seeing every problem for the first time, especially after software upgrades,” Goodes said. “Embracing a VDI environment requires a change in the way we currently do business especially as such pertains to storing data.”
Getting in front of the VDI is high on MARFORCOM G6’s priorities since the Secure Operational Network Infrastructure Communications (SONIC) program of record’s VDI is scheduled for release in CY-17. MARFORCOM currently extends its VDI enclave to units throughout Hampton Roads and has most recently extended this capability to a single workstation located at I Marine Expeditionary Forces, Camp Pendleton, California.
Salute to the Marine Corps Birthday
Days before the Marine Corps’ 241st birthday and Veterans Day, when he spoke, the AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter honored Goodes and about 20 retired, active, reserve and civilian Marines with the traditional Marine Corps cake-cutting ceremony.
It is customary at Marine Corps birthday celebrations worldwide to cut a traditional cake in celebration of the birth of the illustrious Corps on Nov. 10, 1775. The first piece of cake is given to the guest of honor, the second to the oldest Marine present, and upon receiving the second piece of cake, the oldest Marine will in turn pass it on to the youngest Marine signifying the passing of experience, knowledge, and brotherhood from the oldest to the youngest of the Corps.
The Marine Corp’s birthday cake-cutting ceremony is important to all Marines because it is an annual renewal of each Marine’s commitment to the Corps . . . and the Corps’ commitment to America’s quest for peace and freedom worldwide.
Happy Birthday U.S. Marine Corps! Semper Fi!
For more information about Marine Forces Command (MARFORCOM), visit http://www.marforcom.marines.mil/.
Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.