ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (September 3, 2014) -- Taking an aggressive approach to meeting looming Cryptographic cease key dates for equipment used to safeguard information on the battlefield, the Army is moving forward with a comprehensive modernization plan.

Known as the Cryptographic Modernization Initiative (CMI), this new project incorporates a large population of various systems with embedded cryptography, including the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), with more than 400,000 currently in the field.

"If we miss these essential deadlines, it will decrease the security of the data being transmitted, which could be a danger to the Soldier," said Robert Vik, product director Communications Security (COMSEC) Cryptographic Systems (PdD CCS). "These upgrades are an important part of how the Army will communicate in the future."

While the majority of embedded systems affected by the National Security Agency-established "cease key" dates are radios, other affected systems include Satellite Communications equipment, data links from unmanned aviation systems and sensors, and vehicle Global Positioning Systems.

CMI, headed by PdD CCS, will upgrade equipment that uses embedded cryptographic hardware so it is able to accept and utilize modern keys. PdD CCS is taking steps to ensure this effort is as seamless to the user as possible.

"Any cryptographic algorithm has a life expectancy," Vik said. "This initiative includes many different systems with unique hardware and software needs. By coordinating the effort out of one product office, the algorithm and approach is centralized and simplified in order to create an efficient process."

Cryptographic systems include algorithms and cryptographic keys to code and decode messages. Together, these technologies combine to protect the information that flows through the Army's tactical network, radios and mission command capabilities.

In modernizing the tactical network to enable Force 2025 and Beyond, communications capabilities must support a force that can deploy at a moment's notice to austere environments while remaining connected and secure. This increasing reliance on information technology also increases the need to keep it protected.

The Army is tackling this challenge as it continues to advance its tactical network, by reducing complexity in communications systems and realigning the enabling hardware, software, processes and standards that keep the network running and secure. This effort includes replacing current cryptographic systems with technologically advanced systems to meet future requirements.

Throughout the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2015, the CMI team will be reaching out to PdD CCS industry partners and affected Project Managers and Program Executive Offices to begin developing courses of action (CoA) for consideration. The remainder of the fiscal year will be spent conducting analyses to identify which COAs best meet the technical, financial and time requirements.

"In our preliminary discussions, our industry partners are being very responsive and are leaning forward," said Bill Wiesner, deputy product director for PdD CCS. "That's a good thing because they will play a crucial role in this effort."

Contracts for the effort could be released as soon as Fiscal Year 2016 with execution targeted for Fiscal Year 2018.

"We will need to design the fix for each system involved in the CMI effort, then integrate, test, establish training and fielding plans, and then execute fielding," Wiesner said. "The holistic approach to the Cryptographic Modernization Initiative will allow the Army to execute the necessary upgrades with precision, yet maintain flexibility."