Army modernization of encryption devices focuses on simplification
March 18, 2014
With its latest delivery of tactical communications gear to Afghanistan, the Army crossed a new threshold: bringing the squad and Soldier into the network.
But as the network takes on more users and more information, the need to secure that data -- including at the lowest echelons of the force -- is increasingly important. As the Army transitions from fighting two wars to preparing for future contingencies, including both conventional and hybrid threats, the service is replacing current cryptographic systems with technologically advanced systems to meet future needs.
This Army-wide initiative to transform the way encryption devices are procured, distributed, simplified and efficiently managed for both stateside and deploying forces is led by Product Director (PdD) Communications Security (COMSEC) Cryptographic Systems (CCS), and PdD Key Management (KM).
"PdDs CCS and KM were established and chartered to bring Army COMSEC into the 21st century and to align more than six decades of COMSEC procurements, fieldings and sustainment under Defense and Army acquisition principles and processes," said Stanley Niemiec, director of PD Network Enablers (Net-E), which PdDs CCS and KM are assigned to. "Meeting this mission means saving Army resources and taxpayer dollars, enabling the Army's networks, and simplifying the job of our warfighters and first responders."
These efforts also align with the Army's overall network goals of strengthening information assurance and cybersecurity, while still delivering capabilities that are simplified and intuitive for the user.
"Cybersecurity is becoming more and more prevalent and we're a part of that, providing the secure data and voice encryption," said Dennis Teefy, product director key management. "Not only are we cleaning up the battlefield physically by replacing older systems, we're also prepping weapon and communications systems for the next round of modernization."
Efforts to modernize COMSEC equipment and upgrade hardware and software is expected to bring more than $187 million in cost savings and avoidance for fiscal years 2012 through 2019.
"Cryptographic systems provide the Army secure data and voice encryption capabilities," Teefy said. "Without this equipment, there's no way for secret-and-above information to be transported all over the world both tactically and strategically."
Assigned to the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), PD Net-E, PdD CCS and PdD KM are fulfilling troops' needs for fewer but more-modernized devices that secure the capabilities comprising the on-the-move tactical network, including satellite communication systems, handheld radios and smartphone-like devices.
In March, PdD KM will begin fielding the Army portion of the National Security Agency led Electronic Key Management System (EKMS) modernization Initiative, called Key Management Infrastructure (KMI) Management Client (MGC). The KMI MGC is the next generation COMSEC management platform that will replace the currently fielded legacy Local Management Device and Key Processor (LMD/KP). The KMI MGC, already in use at 12 Army pilot sites, will provide COMSEC keys delivery through a storefront-style, web-based service that not only streamlines the process but also offers better performance and efficiencies for the Soldier.
PdD CCS is also reducing the number of approved cryptographic systems that perform the same function. For example, there are currently 55 approved National Stock Numbers (NSNs) for the Army's inline encryptor family of products. By fiscal year 2019, that number will be reduced to 12. Likewise, there are currently 34 NSNs for the link and trunk encryptor family of products, but by fiscal year 2018 there will be only one.
"That simplification is required for all of our families of products," said Robert Vik, product director COMSEC cryptographic systems. "We have to remember our equipment is Information Technology (IT) based and there's a shorter life cycle to it. Simplification allows us to properly plan and conduct full life cycle planning for new systems, which in turn saves time, money and resources."
PD Net-E's ongoing Army-Wide Cryptographic Network Standardization (ACNS) initiative is leveraging $283 million worth of modernized equipment to replace the aging devices that are becoming too costly and logistically difficult to support. Managed by PdD CCS, the effort identified 30,000 legacy End Cryptographic Units (ECUs) at 70 Army installations that will be replaced. Started less than a year ago, the ACNS initiative has already replaced equipment at 23 installations and is currently completing work for all of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC).
Much of the equipment used by Cryptographic Systems can be updated through a "refresh" process that includes running each device through maintenance to bring it up to an "A" classification, which ensures it has the most recent software baseline, new batteries and an updated manual. To do this, PdD CCS has relied on a management process known as "just-in-time" logistics, which calls for smartly tackling refresh in small batches, instead of all at once. This past year, when it came time to refresh 7,000 single-channel encryptors known as the KIV-7M, the "just-in-time" practice dictated that the devices were processed in batches of 200.
"If we took all 7,000 devices to refresh in one effort, what would happen if it took three years to field? We'd have to go back and redo them all over again," said William Wiesner, deputy product director for COMSEC cryptographic systems. "If a new software baseline is approved, we'd have to go back and start over. So we're finding not only great operational effectiveness, but financial efficiencies as well."