WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 6, 2014) -- The Army's general in charge of all things tied to the network said one of his top priorities is to build lighter communications systems.

Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, the Army's chief information officer/G-6, spoke at the monthly Association of the U.S. Army Institute of Land Warfare breakfast yesterday, in Arlington, Virginia.

He shared his priorities, which include enhancing cyber security, increasing the network bandwidth, consolidating data centers, migrating thousands of apps to a government "cloud" and moving the entire Army to voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP.

To meet the Army's vision for 2025 and beyond, of deploying smaller Soldier teams with little or no-notice into unforgiving environments, it's very important that the communication infrastructure from the installation to the point of need remains ready at all times, Ferrell said.

"My first priority is to provide signal capabilities to the force, and what I mean by that is, to build lighter communication systems to bridge the gap between the tactical and institutional networks," he said.

Ferrell added that providing signal capabilities includes equipping the signal regiment for an integrated end-to-end network as well as the responsibility for training the signal force to meet C4 (cyber and command, control, communications and computers) and cyber missions while also aligning the signal force structure.

Second of the general's five priorities, is to enhance cyber security capabilities. He said the 7th Signal Command's Cyber Protection Brigade was recently stood up along with the Joint Forces Headquarters for Cyber at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

"We changed from Signal Center of Excellence to the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon," he noted. "We also stood up a branch in a career field for cyber and that career field number is 17, so now we're working to look at how we assess folks who want to go into that career field as well as the branch."

Ferrell also said the Army is working the doctrine for electronic warfare and are fine-tuning plans for moving Army Cyber Command from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to Fort Gordon.

The CIO said his other three priorities revolve around the institutional side of the network and sees them as opportunities the Army can build upon as it moves forward. The third objective involves increasing the network throughput and ensuring sufficient computing infrastructure.

"With this initiative, what we're going to do across all posts, camps and stations is increase the highway from 10 gigabytes to about 100 gigabytes, and that will increase that bandwidth from 600 megabytes to about 10 gigabytes, thus setting the stage to stand up the cloud," he said.

Ferrell said the service is managing the Army network, but that doesn't include the Corps of Engineers, the National Guard or the Army Reserve. He said by expanding the bandwidth, the Army would be able to move the Corps of Engineers and Reserve Component onto one network through a new technology called the Joint Regional Security Stack, or JRSS.

"If you imagine the global network right now, we have more than 700 touch points or 700 back doors or opportunities to intrude into our network," he said. "What we're going to do is take those back doors, replace them with the JRSS technology, and bring 700 down to 33."

He also noted a partnership pilot, which has been on-going at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, for the last 18 months that teams the Air Force, the Army and Defense Information Systems Agency, known as DISA. The security boundaries on the Air Force and Army sides have passed testing and have been taken down, Ferrell said, and the services are now behind the JRSSs .

"By April 2015 we'll truly have a joint network with the Air Force moving toward the joint information environment, and that's a big game-changer, again passing both Air Force and Army data over the same network, we're starting at Joint Base San Antonio. This will be enduring," he said.

By next April, there will be 11 JRSSs in the continental U.S., as well as one in Europe and three in Southwest Asia that should be complete, along with all capacity switches and last-mile switches.

By presidential mandate, each service was to consoldiate their data centers. Of the more than 550 Army data centers, Ferrell said 55 percent have been shut down.

Delivery of data services to the edge, said Ferrell, involves looking at more than 11,000 applications, then doing an assessment on which apps to kill, which to migrate to the government cloud, and which may move to the commercial side.

Ferrell's last priority lies in strengthening network operations, which he says gets into improving and simplifying network operations by merging them into a single IT service management. He said his service counterparts, DISA and the Defense Department Chief Information Office are working through roles and responsibilities of a joint management system.

"What I see, after we move these apps to the cloud, is that a next major goal of the Army will then be to move the Army to voice-over IP," he said. "So again, looking at cloud technology, moving the apps, expanding the bandwidth, the next major phase we'll do is look at unified capability and move everything over to voice-over IP. That's video, chat, sharing of files and things of that nature."