ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 23, 2021) – The Army Futures Command (AFC) has implemented a capability that will enable approved Army personnel to remotely access classified networks via their commercial internet.
The solution, which was initiated in direct response to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic-related quarantine restrictions, was designed by the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center – a component of AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command – for the tenant organizations at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland.
“The pandemic environment has forced APG organizations to adapt and overcome challenges we could not possibly have foreseen. However, our mission in defense of our freedom and to empower our men and women in uniform demands nothing less. This solution will allow critical work to continue securely and seamlessly outside of traditional secure-processing areas, and it reflects APG’s century-plus tradition of resilience and innovation on behalf of our warfighters,” said Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, APG senior commander and U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command commanding general.
The work aligns with the Army’s vision of creating an environment where approved personnel can access classified applications and data from anywhere, noted Patrick C. Dedham, deputy to the commanding general, Army Network Enterprise Technology Command.
“This type of environment will allow the Army to extend the Secret Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) network to more places quickly without having to build out a lot of infrastructure. It will make us more mobile, efficient and effective,” Dedham said.
The C5ISR Center’s effort falls under Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC), a National Security Agency (NSA) program that adapts commercial products for Department of Defense secure networking operations.
“CSfC protects classified data through multiple encryptions, firewalls and network layers to ensure point-to-point protection. It’s a game changer from a transport and a communications capability. There are a lot of things that couldn’t be done in the past that are now real, and leveraging the commercial supply chain can significantly decrease the Army’s timeline for developing new solutions and systems,” said Brian Lyttle, chief for the C5ISR Center’s Cybersecurity Information Assurance Division.
The Center, which is approved by the NSA to conduct research and development into using approved commercial solutions to secure data and networks, has integrated and implemented 14 of the Army’s 31 CSfC capabilities. This includes developing wireless classified networks, encryption tunnels between multiple networks, mobile access to classified data, and the DoD’s first enterprise data-at-rest solution, which allows laptops to be considered unclassified when powered down to ease processing, storage and transportation requirements.
“What we’ve implemented at APG is unique because it combines three of the four NSA capability packages into a single solution: remote access, data at rest and an on-base transport solution to replace the traditional Protected Distribution System infrastructure,” said Lyttle, who noted that the Center is developing similar remote SIPRNET capabilities for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado.
Lyttle said that the Center will use the lessons learned from these efforts to inform the Army as the service looks to employ enterprise-level CSfC solutions.
“This has the potential to reach a huge number of users across the Army and Joint enterprises. Some of this expertise is fairly specialized, so the more that we develop it, the easier it will be to implement a common solution across communities and functions. We’ll continue to monitor its performance, modify the baseline as needed and work with our partners to identify a path for formally transitioning the capability to a sustaining organization,” Lyttle said.
The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.