PD COMSEC cleans up multiple decades of COMSEC on the battlefield
October 18, 2013
At its three-year mark, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical's (PEO C3T) Project Director, Communications Security (PD COMSEC) has become the Army's central hub for communications security standardization and funding efficiencies.
"When we were chartered in 2010, our mission was a set of significant goals," said Stan Niemiec, the PD COMSEC. "Since that inception, and with a highly motivated team at every level of the Army and across a wide and engaged stakeholder community, we have turned those words into actions and continue to clean up decades of COMSEC on the battlefield and at Army installations worldwide. We are bringing reduced variants and quantities of much simplified modern equipment and acquisition discipline to the Army COMSEC arena."
Multiple efforts to modernize equipment and upgrade hardware and software capabilities for stateside and deploying forces have already resulted in more than $169 million in cost avoidance and cost savings for the Army.
Recently, PD COMSEC personnel analyzed fill device authorizations across the Army and determined the Army could reduce the amount of key loaders and still meet mission requirements.
Fill devices, like the Simple Key Loader (SKL), load cryptographic keys into encryption machines. SKLs receive, store, manage and export electronic cryptographic keys. The keys are loaded into communications devices such as radios and satellite terminals to secure networks.
This one simplification effort regarding how the Army authorizes SKL fill devices could result in a 43-percent reduction of fill devices needed across the Army. This is but one example of how the PD COMSEC team has sought to replace aging COMSEC hardware while meeting future COMSEC requirements.
A case in point: an M1 Abrams tank receives a radio and several other communication systems. Because each communication system is managed by separate program management offices, the individual offices each assign an SKL to their system. The end result might be an M1 with four SKLs authorized to it -- three of which would likely be left unutilized.
"If we move to an echelon-based issuance, an M1 tank platoon of four tanks would be authorized a total of four SKLs versus the current 16," said Eric Adair, product director for key management at PD COMSEC. "We would focus on one SKL per squad or one per platoon, and not have the issue of multiple SKLs on the same platform."
PD COMSEC was also chartered to centrally manage programs of record for the cryptographic modernization, key management and overall life-cycle management of COMSEC throughout the Army.
In March 2012, through the Army-wide Cryptographic Network Standardization (ACNS) initiative, PD COMSEC identified 30,000 legacy End Cryptographic Units (ECUs) at 70 Army installations that were not able to keep up with current requirements that ensure the information is properly encrypted. The old equipment is being replaced with $283 million worth of modernized COMSEC equipment in inventory at Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD).
The National Security Agency (NSA) mandated this antiquated equipment be replaced and PD COMSEC funded this effort for the entire Army. PD COMSEC is working in concert with the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) to quickly identify equipment to be replaced, fill orders, provide training and integrate the new equipment as non-intrusively to installations as possible for the ACNS effort.
"We were installing the new equipment in Hawaii and the U.S. Army Pacific Command [USARPAC] was so pleased with what we were doing that they asked us to reprioritize the order of when other USARPAC installations would be modernized," said Dennis Teefy, product director for cryptographic systems at PD COMSEC. "Now we're working in Korea, Kwajalein, Alaska, and Guam to satisfy USARPAC's crypto modernization requirement."
One of PD COMSEC's major program goals has been to help manage the Army's convergence of several Network Operations (NetOps) tools that make it easier for Soldiers to plan and manage Army communication systems. Recently, US forces in Afghanistan received the latest innovation that PD COMSEC is using to reach that goal. The Joint-Tactical Networking Environment Network Operations Toolkit (J-TNT) reduces the burden on Signal Soldiers down range and helps the Army avoid nearly $700,000 in spending.
J-TNT collapses several tactical network tools -- mostly radio management tools -- onto one laptop so that users can monitor all radios on the battlefield and also includes seven spectrum management applications. What was being done on four or more laptops can now be accomplished using only one.
"The J-TNT product benefits Signal Soldiers by allowing them to more rapidly plan the networks for software-defined radios to meet their commanding officer's mission," Niemiec said.
In-the-works activity by the PEO C3T team is taking this simplification effort even further, by turning the J-TNT into a software tool only that can be wedded to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) to provide for a more seamless and simplified tactical internet.
Having a single management office to procure Army cryptographic and key management materiel has yielded other cost and process efficiencies. The TYAD Communications Security team focused on the depot's equipment receiving process and reduced from 57 to 28 the number of days to receive, process and shelve equipment. For its efforts, TYAD COMSEC was awarded the Shingo Silver Medallion in 2012.
Other efforts at TYAD have resulted in nearly $42 million in better buying power cost efficiencies by using new equipment in stock at TYAD to supply Army units that had initially planned to use their own funds to order more crypto devices.
Being awarded one of the business world's top marks of operational excellence did not slow PD COMSEC's quest to improve COMSEC for Soldiers. It is implementing a new key management system called the Army Key Management Infrastructure (AKMI). AKMI will be a Web-based delivery that will streamline and simplify the process Soldiers are using now. It will also limit requirements for physical products and manual delivery through user-operated fill devices.
The PD COMSEC team has also developed the COMSEC Virtual Training Environment, where training and sustainment skills are available 24/7 to anyone with a common access card. This virtual environment has lessened the blow of budget impacts to training, specifically for Local COMSEC Management Software post-new equipment training and refresher training.
"Our team is working diligently to help the Army more efficiently and accurately account for all of its COMSEC items," Niemiec said. "On this -- our three-year anniversary -- we have only just begun our unending quest to protect and unburden our warriors by securing and simplifying the Army's networks in an effective and intensely resource-efficient manner."