PD COMSEC offers upgrade to ensure cryptographic equipment stays in compliance
November 7, 2012
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (November 6, 2012) -- As the U.S. Army continues to balance the push for modernization with an emphasis on efficiency, Project Director Communications Security (PD COMSEC) is launching a new effort to replace aging cryptographic devices with upgraded equipment.
The 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.
"This is antiquated equipment that the National Security Agency has mandated that needs replacing," said James Hayden, the total package fielding manager and ACNS lead for PD COMSEC. "COMSEC is providing a full service capability for units and funding this effort for all of the Army."
First established in May and now in full swing, the ACNS effort is focused on replacing the legacy End Cryptographic Units [ECU] through an accelerated fielding process. PD COMSEC identified 30,000 ECUs that have aging algorithms and need to be replaced.
In cryptography, a "key" is a parameter that determines the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm or cipher. The algorithm would be useless without a key. In encryption, the key is the process of changing plaintext into ciphertext, or vice versa during decryption. These technologies combine to protect the information exchanged on the Army's tactical network.
As equipment comes out of compliance, it could result in an inability to communicate at secret and top secret levels. Additionally, the legacy equipment will not be compatible with the Army's data network as we migrate toward Internet Protocol Version 6 or IPV6, said Hayden.
"COMSEC is streamlining and bringing up-to-date its security capabilities for the Army's tactical network," said Chris Manning, project director for COMSEC. "This effort not only ensures Soldiers have the most modern COMSEC equipment possible, but also enables cost savings."
By tapping into existing COMSEC equipment in current inventory at Tobyhanna Army Depot, PD COMSEC will fulfill troops' needs for the modernized cryptographic devices. COMSEC is leading the ACNS effort along with the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM.
Five pilot sites -- Fort Eustis, Va., Fort Gordon, Ga., Fort Jackson, S.C., Fort Knox, Ky. and the Detroit Arsenal in Michigan -- were selected as a starting point for the program. COMSEC teams will use the sites to perfect the process of replacing antiquated equipment, before offering the program to more installations, which will include up to 63 additional sites in the continental United States and further sites abroad.
NETCOM organizations were selected as the pilot sites because they have the highest ratio of ECUs.
The process includes identifying the equipment to be replaced, filling orders, training and integration, and disposal of legacy equipment. COMSEC personnel have already completed site visits at all five locations and are now placing orders and arranging integration and training dates.
"Our goal is to be as non-intrusive to daily operations as possible," said Hayden. "The first steps of the process we've been doing for years. It's basic logistics, but what we're doing now is taking it one step farther and adding the integration piece. So we're sending out the technical experts that can complete the integration, train personnel and ensure the equipment is installed and operational."
Already, feedback on the effort has been positive.
"They came down here with a great team and mocked up what was needed, then helped us install the new equipment and turn in the legacy equipment. They worked quickly and accurately," said Harold Roth, COMSEC manager at Fort Jackson, S.C. "It was a great effort."
The effort falls in line with COMSEC's goal of acquisition discipline.
"ACNS is a prime example of PD COMSEC's focus on total life-cycle management discipline," said Dennis Teefy, product director, Cryptographic Systems for PD COMSEC. "Acquisition is more than simply procuring equipment. It is about providing the Army user training, integration support, technical reach-back, and demilitarization when it is no longer required. ACNS provides total life-cycle support."
Created in 2010 and chartered to the Army's Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications -Tactical, PD COMSEC is in charge of the Army's cryptographic systems from cradle to grave, providing the Soldier with a single place to go when they have questions about the life-cycle management of their COMSEC equipment. With more than 380 cryptographic and ancillary models in the field, the organization has streamlined the process for COMSEC upgrades, challenges and acquisitions. PD COMSEC also provides expertise to the Army's system integrators as they secure the hardware and software that comprises the tactical network.