A tactical commander's vision of ideal communications
February 17, 2010
- Currently, the Army's divisions have made independent efforts to establish tactical SIPR networks on garrison installations which are located in the continental United States (CONUS).
- From May to December 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division successfully installed a SIPR Deploying Force / Generating Force (DF/GF) infrastructure into the Fort Bragg DOIM network architecture.
- In order to combine tactical and garrison SIPRNet networks, the division G6 and the DOIM established a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which allowed tactical communicators to have system administrative rights and privileges.
Thesis: The ability to access Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) data from the platoon through brigade levels at any time and from any location is paramount to the successful execution of full spectrum operations. Integral to this process is providing connectivity to Army Battle Command Systems (ABCS) in garrison, field, and combat environments. This requires High Data Capability Terrestrial Radio systems that ensure real-time SIPRNet connectivity during field exercises and combat operations, as well as via the garrison infrastructure. Critical to this model is the integration of the tactical Joint Network Transport Capability (JNTC) and the United States Army Network Enterprise Technology CommandAca,!a,,cs (NETCOM) Network Service Centers (NSC) throughout the Global Information Grid (GIG). This can and will provide an overall end state of having one single Army network that is accepted and endorsed by the senior warfighting Commanders, G6/S6s, and the senior U.S. Army NETCOM leadership.
----Garrison Connectivity - Partner with Your Network Enterprise Center (NEC)----
Units can obtain ABCS connectivity through their garrison infrastructures. Currently, the ArmyAca,!a,,cs divisions have made independent efforts to establish tactical SIPR networks on garrison installations which are located in the continental United States (CONUS). The 82nd Airborne Division accomplished this task in late 2008 and worked in close coordination with the Fort Bragg Directorate of Information Management (DOIM), now known as Network Enterprise Centers. This painstaking process included the Contracting Office, United States Armed Forces Command (FORSCOM), and Department of the Army. Together, we gained approval, funded, and installed the required networking equipment. The end result provided every commander and staff officer at battalion level and above in the 82nd Airborne Division with the capability to operate ABCS in their office areas.
From May to December 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division successfully installed a SIPR Deploying Force / Generating Force (DF/GF) infrastructure into the Fort Bragg DOIM network architecture. MAJ Hac Nguyen, division G6 telecommunications engineer (FA24), was the project lead that developed an integrated solution between garrison and tactical networks. The first phase was to build a centralized server room approved for open storage of secret classified equipment, specifically the division and brigade ABCS servers (Battlefield Command and Control System or BCCS stacks). The second phase was to provide this server room with SIPRNet connectivity across the Fort Bragg DOIM network that would maintain a logical separation between the divisionAca,!a,,cs tactical and DOIMAca,!a,,cs garrison networks. Additional routers and switches were purchased and installed in every division, brigade, and battalion headquarters building. This allowed tunneling of the divisionAca,!a,,cs tactical deploying force network through the DOIMAca,!a,,cs generating force network, resulting in a logical and physical separation of tactical and garrison networks while establishing a new SIPRNet capability to the warfighters (1).
Establishing this DF/GF backbone began with a simple information brief to the director of the Fort Bragg DOIM, and ended with a formal briefing to the FORSCOM G6. This ultimately led to funding approval from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology (ASA/ALT). (2) Final approval and installation was delayed for months due to assiduous explanations required at every step of the process to justify the need to run tactical ABCS in garrison. A side benefit of the long planning process was the building of stronger relationships between the division G6 and the Fort Bragg DOIM. In the end, the 82nd Airborne Division received approval to spend $1.2 million of its Operations and Maintenance, Army (OMA) funds to build the server room and install the DF/GF infrastructure to more than 60 locations on Fort Bragg. (3)
In order to combine tactical and garrison SIPRNet networks, the division G6 and the DOIM established a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) (4), which allowed tactical communicators to have system administrative rights and privileges. The Fort Bragg DOIM uses the Remedy trouble ticket system to manage thousands of customer requests annually. The Remedy Ticket System was revolutionary in tracking and maintaining network changes, but soon proved cumbersome as too few system administrators were on hand for a military population of more than 60,000 Soldiers and civilians. To assist the DOIM, an agreement was crafted that ultimately allowed 82nd Airborne Division Signal Soldiers to be delegated duties and responsibilities for managing the DivisionAca,!a,,cs Organizational Units (OU) on the SIPRNet. This win-win situation enabled Soldiers to maintain their communications skills as system administrators while significantly reducing the number of trouble tickets on the SIPRNet. Incorporating these initiatives into future programs like the NSCs will continue to enhance the services provided by the Signal community to the warfighters.
----On the Battlefield----
Meeting the warfightersAca,!a,,c garrison communications requirements was only the first step in providing SIPRNet to the formations. The next key development was to replicate the brigade and battalion level services down to the company level and below in a tactical environment. Working two independent projects with Harris Corporation, the 82nd Airborne Division thoroughly tested the Harris PRC-117G and RF-7800 radios at the company and platoon levels, to include en route strategic air communications and communications on-the-move. (5) These radios provided company commanders and platoon leaders chat, e-mail, and data file transfer over SIPRNet. The 4th Brigade Combat TeamAca,!a,,cs (BCT) 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) initially validated PRC-117G and RF-7800 capabilities during two Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) reset digital exercises. PRC-117Gs and RF-7800s cost far less than the funding of Program Manager (PM) Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and Future Combat Systems (FCS). (6) These radios are available today and can be fully integrated into the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T) architecture.
2-508 PIR incorporated the Harris systems into key training events to include an air assault operation, a three-day mounted and dismounted platoon external evaluation (EXEVAL), and most recently the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation 09-05 at Fort Polk, La. (7) During the air assault operation, the 2-508 PIR Battalion Tactical Operation Center (TOC) provided access to SIPRNet via its Command Post Node (CPN). A PRC-117G connected to the CPN allowed SIPRNet data to pass to other PRC-117Gs located at reconnaissance elements 15 kilometers from the 2-508 TOC, the UH-60 C2 aircraft utilizing the aircraftAca,!a,,cs UHF antenna, and the Air Assault CommanderAca,!a,,cs RTO. The 4th BCTAca,!a,,cs Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) full motion video feeds were provided by connecting the UAV Ground Control Station (GCS), a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) video server, and the BattalionAca,!a,,cs CPN. From the time the C2 aircraft left the ground, the PRC-117G network afforded the Air Assault Commander and leaders in the C2 aircraft access to SIPRNet Web sites, full motion video from the UAV, e-mail, Sharepoint Portal Services, and mIRC chat. Reconnaissance elements with networked infrared video cameras also provided real-time streaming video of the objective. This validated 2-508 PIRAca,!a,,cs first test of the PRC-117GAca,!a,,cs capabilities and opened the door for additional applications to extend secure data outside of a battalion TOC to leaders on-the-move. (8)
During the EXEVAL, 2-508 PIR outfitted its platoons with the PRC-G. Additionally, RF-7800 radio systems extended SIPRNet services between the UAV GCS, 2-508 PIR TOC, and 4/82 BCT TOC that were located in three separate areas 10-15 kilometers apart. Thirteen platoons rotated through the three-day exercise, providing leaders and radio telephone operators (RTO) the opportunity to see the PRC-117G perform in both vehicular and manpack configurations. Using the PRC-117GAca,!a,,cs internal Global Positioning System and Falconview software, 2-508 PIR developed the means to track friendly forces by an icon representing the physical location of the radio. This application works extremely well for dismounted Soldiers, providing situational awareness of friendly forces.
If the application is reengineered in the future, it could be incorporated into the Blue Force Tracker (BFT) network architecture. (9) The highlight of the exercise occurred one night after a platoon conducted a fourteen mile road march to the objective rally point (ORP) while being tracked via the PRC-117GAca,!a,,cs GPS. Approximately two kilometers from their objective, the RTO attached a tactical laptop to his PRC-117G, pulled up the UAV feed, and started mIRC chat with the UAV operator located approximately 20 kilometers away. Rather than transitioning to provide full motion video coverage of the objective, the UAV continued to track the platoonAca,!a,,cs position in their ORP. With a few key strokes (specifically , Aca,!A"fly over the damn objective!Aca,!A?(10)), the platoon leader was able to effectively direct the UAV operator to re-orient his UAVAca,!a,,cs flight path. Thus 2-508 PIR successfully proved that with the PRC-117G, tactical leaders can have direct access to combat multipliers previously limited to battalion and brigade levels.
The 4/82 BCTAca,!a,,cs JRTC Rotation 09-05 was the first rotation to implement the Company Intelligence Support Team (CoIST) concept. Each battalion was allocated a hardstand building with four rooms for its CoIST cells requiring roughly four SIPRNet connections including Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGRNet), SVOIP phone, Advanced SINCGARS Improvement Program (ASIP) radio-simulator, and a workstation for e-mail and chat capability. Throughout the Force-on-Force phase of the rotation, units occupied firebases that in many cases did not have data connectivity. 2-508 PIR was able to bridge this gap by extending its own CPNAca,!a,,cs SIPRNet to multiple firebases using a RF-7800W/PRC-117G hybrid network. Additionally, 2-508 PIR enjoyed SIPRNet on-the move-throughout the majority of their JRTC battlespace. This successful application of 2-508 PIRAca,!a,,cs hybrid network was evident as other battalions were forced to restrict their CoISTs to facilities where local fiber connectivity was provided by JRTC. Freed from the hard-wire tether, 2-508 PIR gained freedom of maneuver in their battle space. (11)
----Ready When the Nation Calls----
Historically, the primary mission of the 82nd Airborne Division has been as a strategic response force that conducts airborne operations with forcible entry capability. While once exclusively an 82nd Airborne Division mission, the responsibility to provide the nationAca,!a,,cs Global Response Force (GRF) has broadened during the Global War on Terror, with both the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the 10th Mountain Division recently providing BCTs for this mission. Readiness and no-notice capabilities do not happen by accident, but rather with foresight, investment, and training Aca,!" joint training (12). Probably the most complicated aspect of this mission is providing tactical Commanders with access to digital Battle Command systems while in en route.
The 82nd Airborne DivisionAca,!a,,cs Network Support Company implemented an inter-aircraft network by using the PRC- 117G in conjunction with the Secure En-route Communications Package-Improved (SECOMP-I) system during three separate Joint Forcible Entry Exercises (JFEXs) . This capability provided real time SIPRNet mIRC chat, e-mail, and file transfer between division, brigade, and battalion commanders, their Assault Command Posts, and the Joint Operations Center (JOC). Installing an Inmarsat radio in the lead aircraft provided SIPRNet reach back to a point of presence at the 18th Airborne Corps Joint Task Force (JTF) compound. The SECOMP-I systems then extended the SIPRNet through the formation over the PRC-117G network. (13)
With PRC-117G stacks installed in the five aircraft, commanders were able to simultaneously pass data and line-of-sight voice communications between the aircraft at distances in excess of 40 NM. The PRC-117G radio can operate in any C-17 aircraft without special modifications to the aircraftAca,!a,,cs antenna systems or fuselage. Unmodified SECOMP-I systems without the PRC-117G have never successfully implemented this capability. This is the first time in the history of Airborne Operations where commanders, while in flight, were able to receive and share SIPRNet data prior to exiting the aircraft. (14)
----The Way Ahead----
The 82nd Airborne Division has proven that SIPRNet can be rapidly deployed to the lowest levels of command, on-the-move, including while in flight. The 2-508 PIR validated this concept through the integration of PRC-117Gs, RF-7800s, and JNTC equipment during multiple field training exercises and JRTC 09-5. These COTS radios are readily available as the sourcing solution to meet the ArmyAca,!a,,cs requirement for SIPRNet connectivity at the company and platoon levels. Moreover, the divisionAca,!a,,cs Network Support Company confirmed that SECOMP-I modified with PRC-117G radios provides SIPRNet communications while in flight, allowing commanders access to vital Battle Command systems during forcible entry operations. Leveraging the capabilities of the PRC-117G and RF-7800 radios directly translates to warfighters having SIPRNet voice and data at anytime and from any location.
LTG Jeffrey Sorenson, the Department of the Army (DA) chief information officer (CIO)/G6 and MG Susan Lawrence, commanding general, NETCOM, have been tasked by the Army Chief of Staff to standardize the Army on a single enterprise network within one year.(15) This is a complex problem that the CIO/G6 and NETCOM staffs have scrutinized and are attacking through many efforts. Updating AR 25-2 Aca,!A"Information AssuranceAca,!A?, consolidating all CONUS NECs under one command, and establishing NSCs for enterprise service management are guiding the Army towards having one log-in and e-mail address, along with singular access to any of the institutionAca,!a,,cs applications, databases, and Battle Command systems.(16)
Activated in February 2009, the 7th Signal Command (Theater) has the mission to extend network capabilities to operating and generating forces in support of CONUS-based information-enabled expeditionary operations; integrate, secure, and defend the network; and enable a global collaborative environment. BG Jennifer Napper, commanding general, 7th SC (T) has personally visited many major Army installations in CONUS in order to brief the standardization of NECs and capture the warfighterAca,!a,,cs network requirements and concerns. The 7th SC (T)Aca,!a,,cs two recently activated Signal Brigades, the 93rd and the 106th, exercise C2 over the NECs in CONUS. Additionally, these brigades provide Battle Command Assistance Teams (BCAT) to assist corps, division, and brigade combat team headquarters with migrating their portals, Army Battle Command Systems, and other data from CONUS to the theater of operations during deployments. The 7th SC (T)Aca,!a,,cs mission is critical to the integration of the separate Army networks located throughout CONUS into a sole Army domain under one standard. (17)
The future of signal support relies on the Signal CorpsAca,!a,,c leadership embracing the integration of tactical C4I/JNTC into the NSCs to maximize data connectivity to the warfighter. The concept of utilizing the NSCs to maintain secure communications to a brigade for daily garrison operations through deployment into a theater of operations, without a significant communications outage, was confirmed by an operational validation (OPVAL) between the Fort Bragg SIPRNet NSC and the 18th Fires Brigade in April 2009. The OPVAL began with the 18th Fires Brigade Army Battle Command Systems and portal coming online at the Fort Bragg NSC. The brigade then deployed to the local training area and connected via satellite to another NSC located at Landstuhl, Germany. While moving to the training location, their ABCS and portal data were migrated to Landstuhl and were available to the brigade upon installing the satellite link to Germany. This effectively simulated a brigade deploying to Southwest Asia and having access to all of their home station data immediately upon arrival in theater. (18)
Moving the Army onto a single enterprise network, then integrating Tactical C4I/JNTC assets into NSCs, will ease the burden on both the Signal community and the warfighting commander during garrison, training, deployment, and combat operations. 7th SC (T)Aca,!a,,cs ability to standardize the operations of all CONUS NECs has the potential to provide access to the Army network anywhere in CONUS, free of firewall settings and other encumbrances that frequently prevent efficient collaboration via portals, Adobe Connect, and other applications between units at different installations. Soldiers could also retain the same e-mail address when changing duty stations, rather than applying for a new account with each permanent change of station (PCS). The benefits of a single Army network are far reaching and will ultimately enhance our level of support to the warfighter.
With the consolidation of services at the NSCs providing a true enterprise solution, it might appear that efficiencies could be achieved by reducing the number of system administrators across the Army. However, this line of thinking is flawed for several reasons.
Because a government civilian commonly is employed in the same position for an indefinite period as long as there are no performance issues, establishing civil service positions or contracting civilians is the best way to operate and maintain NSCs in the long term. Tactical communications Soldiers have a high turnover rate due to PCS or expiration of term of service (ETS). Also, unless the Army can establish additional billets, manning NSCs with Soldiers would require harvesting signal billets from elsewhere in the force. This would leave divisions, brigades, and NETCOM expeditionary signal units without the appropriate manning for their missions. Therefore, civilians provide the best source for NSC manpower.
However, this is not to imply that Signal Soldiers should not perform system administrator duties. Commanders at all levels expect their G6/S6 to quickly fix all networking issues. Appropriately trained and certified Signal Soldiers need to have full system administrator rights over their organizational units in order to provide the flexibility and responsiveness commanders expect of the Signal community. It is not necessary for Soldiers to be geographically located at an NSC as this could be achieved by allowing remote access to servers located at the NSCs. This model not only provides more responsive service to warfighters, but also achieves efficiencies by allowing networking issues to be actioned at lower levels, thereby alleviating some of the NSC workload.
The Army invests heavily in training the Signal technical military occupational specialties (MOS). Functional Area FA24 (telecommunications engineer), FA 53 (information systems management), Warrant Officer series 250N (network), 251A (automation), 254A (TAC C4), and the enlisted MOS 25B (information systems operator analyst) unquestionably have the aptitude to serve as system administrators. In fact, they are already routinely performing these functions on dozens of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. Leveraging their abilities in the NSC construct would add yet another benefit of providing a training opportunity for the development and sustainment of skills that are required during combat operations. Regardless of whether they are a Soldier on the battlefield or a civilian in an NSC, the system administrator training must be standardized. This is achieved among the civilian workforce by requiring various technical certifications (such as in Microsoft or Cisco) as a requirement for the position. The same standard can be achieved for Signal Soldiers by making these certification exams a requirement for graduating from courses at the U.S. Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia.
----Streamlining Approvals/Synchronizing Networks----
The 7th SC (T) is streamlining the approval process, so that PMs and local units will not have to seek individual approval through their local NECs. As the Designated Approval Authority (DAA) for the strategic network, the 7th SC (T) Commander will provide blanket approval to NECs to connect ABCS systems to their garrisonAca,!a,,cs network.
Quicker set up will be achieved with NEC approvals for connection to ABCS 6.4 equipment already in place. The 7th SC (T) will increase network reliability by monitoring the information assurance readiness for each system. By standardizing installation NECs across CONUS, 7th SC (T) will provide an environment in which ABCS can communicate and share information at separate installations.
A standardized change management process for PM managed systems will be an efficient alternative to the current NEC process, which might differ at each installation. Vetting PM managed systems through the 7th SC (T) change management process will standardize implementation across CONUS. The number of duplicate documents will diminish, as many present forms are virtually the same aside from Internet Protocol addresses. Synchronizing disparate networks will also be achieved to eliminate the need for additional network infrastructure, ending the excess costs and logistical burdens that come with it.
In an effort to standardize the connection of ABCS in the garrison environment, 7th SC (T) and the 106th Signal Brigade have worked with the ABCS PMs to validate Information Assurance documentation. It will also ensure the mitigation of each potential risk.
During the Army South ABCS fielding, numerous approvals to operate (ATOs) and certificates of networthiness (CoNs) were identified as non-existent or expired. As information assurance documentation was approved and updated, ABCS systems were added to the network and then scanned for DISA Gold disk current standards, multiple CAT I-IV deficiencies were identified that were not addressed in the Plan of Action and Milestones. This highlights the need for 7th SC (T) to work with the PMs to ensure Information Assurance compliance is achieved.
----Less Acquisitions Barriers Mean Quicker Fieldings----
So what can be done to expedite much needed capabilities to the warfighter' How can units obtain the mission-critical connectivity tools they need' We recently posed this question to the acquisitions community and learned that a more streamlined approach is necessary for this to take place.
Formalized methods do exist to grant rapid approvals for field urgent capabilities to units deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, but the Army needs to continue to investigate methods of increasing flexibility in the acquisitions process. The acquisitions community told us that over the past year flexibility has diminished with greater Department of Defense oversight. While checks and balances are critical, too many can be detrimental to supporting the fast pace of the battlefield. When a small fraction of contracting issues elicit unnecessary checks and balances, bureaucratic barriers surface. Unfortunately, these negatively impact the objective of meeting the warfighterAca,!a,,cs mission-critical needs.
The current acquisitions process allows units to field their own quick reaction solutions to technical needs on the battlefield, but only for small scale projects. They will be challenged, however, to obtain approval for bigger efforts with large hardware requirements.
Conclusion: In order to prepare for and conduct full spectrum operations, SIPRNet is required down to platoon level in garrison, field, and combat environments. The proven success of installing DF/GF to the battalion level throughout the 82nd Airborne Division garrison areas, utilizing the installation infrastructure, has already enabled commanders to exercise in a garrison environment the digital battle rhythms they will utilize during training or combat deployments. This allows them to focus immediately on their mission when arriving in theater rather than wasting the first few weeks developing digital tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and improving Soldier proficiency with ABCS gear. 4/82nd BCT has submitted an operational needs statement (ONS) that will allow for the extension of SIPRNet to platoon level using JNTC, PRC-117G, and RF-7800 equipment in tactical situations (training and combat). An additional ONS has been submitted by the 18th Airborne Corps for a secure en route communications system that will provide real time connectivity while in flight by using a combination of Ku-Satellite spread spectrum (KuSS) and PRC-117Gs. The KuSS capability will add full motion video and Voice Over Secure Internet Protocol (VoSIP) to the list of capabilities supported by the current SECOMP-I equipment. Lastly, NETCOM must ensure that the NSC CONOPS enables our well trained and highly capable Signal Soldiers to contribute by allowing for system administrative privileges under the NSC construct. These initiatives can and will result in quick, reliable, and secure C4I to the warfighter.
(1) (Nguyen, 2009)
(2) (Sparks, 2008)
(3) (Brown, 2009)
(4) (G6, 82nd Airborne Division, 2008)
(5) (Harris Corporation, 2008)
(6) (DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Future Combat System Risks Underscore the Importance of Oversight, 2007)
(7) (Jenio, 2009)
(8) (Kenny, 2009)
(9) (Kenny, 2009)
(10) (Jenio, 2009)
(11) (Dean, 2009)
(12) (Mayville, 2008)
(13) (Sherburne, 2009)
(14) (Carpenter, 2009)
(15) (Sorenson L. J., 2008)
(16) (Department of the Army, 2009)
(17) (Public Affairs Officer, 2008)
(18) (NETCOM, 2009)