WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 1, 2016) -- The Army's chief information officer announced, March 31, the release of the Army's new, long-term, network strategy called "Shaping the Army Network (2025-2040)."

The strategy takes a long view of where the network and related science and technology efforts are headed and how the Army is looking to shape that future environment now.

"Shaping the Army Network: 2025-2040 provides the long-term strategic direction for Army enterprise network modernization within the context of the Army Operating Concept," Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, the Army's chief information officer/G-6, writes in the new strategy. "Using the IT baseline described in the Army Network Campaign Plan as a starting point, the intent is to guide development of science and technology requirements to get to 'what's next,' in the evolution of the Army."

The new strategy examines key technology areas that will affect networks and systems, to include dynamic transport, computing, and edge sensors; data to decisive action; human cognitive enhancements; robotics and autonomous operations; and cybersecurity and resiliency.

"It really gets at the capability of internet of things, software defined networks, advanced analytics, diverse sensors and actuators, and self-healing networks," Ferrell said of the new strategy to an audience of IT industry personnel. "So you have a complete picture of what we are working on today, what we are working on tomorrow, and what we are working on down the road."

The general pointed industry professionals to the newly-released strategy for 2025-2040, and also to the recently released Army Data Strategy, and documents outlining Army efforts in the near and mid-term, so that they may prepare themselves to partner with the Army to make it happen.

"It's about your R&D dollars, it's about investing into the right areas into which the Army plans to head," he said.

NEAR TERM

Soldiers today who need email, databases, telephones and teleconference capabilities for their work are often tethered to their computers at their desks. That's not going to be the case, going into the future, said the Army's chief information officer.

"If you think about our state of where we are in technology, you have your iPhone, and it has everything in one spot," said Ferrell, March 31. "For our Soldiers, we are locked into our data that is on our desktop, our phones in our office."

Ferrell said the Army plans to untether Soldiers from the requirement to be at a desk, and to bring IT that keeps them there now, forward to the tactical edge.

"Your office phone number that's in your office will be there, so you can't hide wherever you travel," he said. "And you'll have the ability, again, to get that VTC and that chat regardless of your location."

According to the Army Network Campaign Plan's implementation guidance for the near term, defined as 2016-2017, "mobility is the core of Army operational capability."

Soldiers, the plan says, must be able to execute their mission wherever they are -- at home or deployed -- and have access to the full communications, information sources and analysis they depend on.

Part of ensuring connectivity to the information tools Soldiers use to do their jobs is government-issued hand-held devices, like cell phones, that "can easily be integrated into the network and withstand the operational environment," the plan reads.

The Army plans in the 4th quarter of 2016 to release a mobility strategy that sets the direction for mobile technology, shapes research and development, experimentation and investment activities, and also embraces the integration of emerging technologies.

Also in 2016, the Army expects deliver initial mobile access to unclassified data and information on government furnished end-user devices. In FY17, the CIO/G-6 expects to do the same for classified data.

OS UPGRADES

Ferrell said the Army is on track to upgrade systems across the Army to Windows 10, and plans to begin that effort most likely in Europe and then move into the continental United States.

"That's a good news story ... the entire DOD and the Army on one operating system," Ferrell said.

Ferrell said the transition will, among other things, provide improved network security across the Army, enable quicker patching, and increase accountability and transparency.

"As you look at the mandate for the host baseline to be completed in 2017, we're on track to support ... DOD to meet that requirement," he said. "There will be some waivers, of course, with legacy systems."

He said the CIO/G-6 is partnered with Army Cyber Command, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the DOD CIO and others to accomplish that mission. He also said the Army will soon produce a "roadmap" that spells out how the Army will achieve upgrades across the force.

JRSS OBOARDING

In 2015 Army migrated two installations to Joint Regional Security Stacks, which Ferrell has in the past referred to as a "firewall on steroids."

This year, he said, the Army will migrate 19 installations to JRSS altogether. Already, six have been done, he said, and 13 more will happen this year. Europe and Southwest Asia are included in that.

By 2018, he said, "the expectation is to finish the migration of over 44 installations" to JRSS.

Ferrell also said the Army plans to bring the Army Corps of Engineers, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard networks inside the JRSS, and that completion of that mission will put 60 percent of the Army's force behind the JRSS.

PLAN X HEADED TO ARMY

Lt. Col. Ossie Peacock, the assistant project manager for defensive cyber, with Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, also said that the Army is in discussion now to transition the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's "Plan X" into the Army.

Plan X is a four-year, $120-million DARPA program that attempts to, among other things, make it easier for humans to visualize a network and its components, to automate the task of identifying as hostile or benign the anomalies that might appear on that network, to provide intuitive symbology that accurately conveys to users the status of various components of a network, and to make it easier for even inexperienced users to take action to prevent hostile parties from gaining access to and causing damage to a network.

"It's a platform that can be leveraged all the way down to the tactical level," Peacock said. "It's capable of scaling. There's some uniqueness to it. And it addresses the cyber mission command in a holistic manner. It does the planning, the war gaming, and actual course of action recommendations that allow the human to determine what course of action to take and it gives them feedback on expected outcomes."

Peacock said there are multiple PEOs across the Army that could take advantage of Plan X, not just his own PEO EIS. Now, the Army is in the process of assessing the maturity of the Plan X technology, he said, and plans to use a Federally Funded Research and Development Center this summer to provide it with an assessment of that technology.