JBSA-Fort Sam Houston pilots massive network infrastructure modernization effort

By Mr. Dennis Garrison, Network Enterprise CenterJuly 10, 2014

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1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell (left), Army Chief Information Officer/G6, presents Air
Force Staff Sgt. Jessica J. Walker the Army Achievement Medal March 26 at the
Network Modernization-Continental United States awards ceremony at the JBSAFort
Sam Houst... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army Spc. Shannon January from the 56th Signal Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston holds new switches in place while technicians (not pictured) fasten them to a rack at the Mission and Installation Contracting Command headquarters at... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Tx. -- "When people ask me to provide an example of where joint basing is working extremely well, it's an easy answer -- the partnership between the 502nd Communications Squadron and the 106th Signal Brigade," said Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio.

The U.S. Army Signal Network Enterprise Center recently completed a first of its kind self-help effort to modernize the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston network infrastructure.

The modernization included increasing the network speed from a one-gigabyte connection to a 10 GB inter-building connection and the link into the global information grid from 10 GB to 100 GB.

The effort was "self help" in that past large-scale modernization projects were managed at the service component level and took a year or longer to complete. To reduce costs and time, Army senior leadership approved a new method to procure and field network components across the Army.

JBSA-Fort Sam Houston was chosen as the pilot location and is the first to implement Network Modernization-continental United States, known as NETMOD-C.

"It is amazing to think that just a year ago we were still trying to align all the Army acquisition and engineering pieces to make network modernization a reality," said Col. Jay Chapman, commander of the 106th Signal Brigade. "Deciding to pilot at here was the right decision and the NEC, joined by all of its mission partners, developed a local plan that you would think was years in the making.

"The combined team did in four months what past processes have shown takes more than a year," Chapman said. "We are already installing across the CONUS southwest and southeast domains at Fort Bliss, N.M.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Polk, La., as well as Red River Army Depot in Texas using the JBSA model."

The JBSA-Fort Sam Houston NEC replaced 1,390 network switches and the core routers providing the uplink into the Defense Information Systems Agency's Global Information Grid. The bulk of the work was done in four months by an integrated team of personnel from the NEC, the Air Force's 502nd Communications Squadron, the 106th Signal Brigade, the 93rd Signal Brigade, the 56th Signal Battalion, the Information Installation Infrastructure Modernization Program office and DISA.

In addition to the various cyber units involved, the 502nd Civil Engineering Squadron was an integral team member ensuring that power, grounding, heating and air conditioning issues were immediately mitigated. The combined team effort was recognized by Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, Army chief information officer/G6, at the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston NETMOD-C recognition ceremony where Soldiers, Airmen, and civilians were honored.

"Leveraging joint partnerships will increase both our upfront buying power and decrease our long-term costs to provide network capabilities and all enterprise services," Ferrell said in an update to the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff. "Joint Base San Antonio is clearly an Army-Air Force success story and we are ready to shift to Joint Base Lewis-McChord as our next major objective."

The NEC is pursuing additional enhanced capabilities made possible by the newly modernized network. Internet protocol video teleconferencing is already in limited production and will significantly improve VTC capability and quality as well as reduce costs associated with the current outdated VTC systems.

The NEC is also currently testing a plug-and-play network security protocol that will allow users greater mobility. The new protocol provides for user-based network security instead of the current machine-based methods. The user-based method will allow the customer to plug a laptop (or desktop in the case of office moves) into any network port on JBSA-FSH and log in without any NEC intervention. As other installations install this capability, the plug-and-play feature becomes enterprise wide.

Other improvements and enhancements will include voice over internet protocol phones, unified communications collaboration tools (chat, desktop video, etc.) and applications in the cloud, eliminating the need for common software loaded on each computer.

However, the NETMOD-C initiative is even further reaching. At this time, several other installations are in the process of implementing NETMOD projects.

Over the next few years, the Army intends to have all installations upgraded to the latest network equipment. Ultimately, network improvements and other joint service efforts will position the military for an interoperable network.

"This modernization sets the foundation for better integration for mission partners spread out across various JBSA locations -- notably the Air Force's 37th Training Wing at JBSA-Lackland and its subordinate unit the 937th Training Group at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston," said Lt. Col. Glenn Garay, 502nd Communications Squadron commander. "It will also improve the integration and behind-the-scenes collaboration that supports patient care at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, which currently straddles multiple networks across JBSA-Fort Sam Houston."

"JBSA-Fort Sam Houston is at the forefront of the Defense Department's transition to the joint information environment," said Lt. Col. Christopher Barry, S3 Plans Division chief, 106th Signal Brigade. "The joint information environment will go a long way toward eliminating today's service-centric stovepipe network environments.

"Imagine actually being able to share email, files, websites -- in fact, virtually all information -- among different service components (Army to Air Force, Air Force to Navy, etc.) and across different posts, bases, stations in different states or countries," Barry added.

Within the next few months, DISA, NEC and the 502nd Communications Squadron will be involved in the stand-up of the first Joint Regional Security Stack, or JRSS. Currently, more than 400 security stacks (aka firewalls) throughout CONUS are managed by different services at various installations. Security stacks filter and screen the data as it goes in and out of each installation.

"The current security architecture is complex, cumbersome and difficult to maintain. It also leads to disparate networks and significantly limits or prevents the sharing of data and resources," said Joe Perez, networks division chief of the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston NEC. "The JRSS initiative will reduce the number of security stacks to 15 or fewer.

"In addition to the enormous savings in resources such as people, equipment, etc., the JRSS architecture will place the different service components in the same security enclave, thus allowing the unfettered sharing of data in a true enterprise environment," Perez said.

Chapman said these initiatives position JBSA-Fort Sam Houston as a forerunner for future development.

"The improvements made to our installation network paves the way for further information technology initiatives to improve the user experience that will tap into the Army cloud where applications and data will soon reside," Chapman said. "Enterprise email was a journey at first, but I think most would say it has made communication and access better. Soon, SharePoint, storage and more will follow the same paradigm."

"Joint efforts lead to Joint capabilities and the joint information environment," Chapman said.

Kerstan J. Marquez, an information technology specialist at the Joint Base San

Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Network Enterprise Center, installs upgraded switches at

the Mission and Installation Contracting Command headquarters at the Long Barracks

on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.