Brigadier General Jennifer Napper
Brigadier General Jennifer Napper speaks to attendees of the ninth annual Redstone Arsenal Information Security and Assurance Conference about the efforts being made to defend the Army computer network system in cyberspace. Napper commands the 7th Si... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

In July 2007 the Army Chief of Staff approved a concept plan presented by MG Carroll F. Pollett, then serving as Commanding General of Network Enterprise Technology Command. This concept approval set the stage for establishment of an Army theater signal command for the Continental United States (CONUS).

To implement the concept, on 22 September 2007, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army signed an Execution Order directing the activation of the 7th Signal Command (Theater) and two subordinate signal brigades. The decision to establish the 7th Signal Command is a critical step towards improving how the Army provides, operates, and defends the LandWarNet in CONUS, which comprises 80% of the Army's total network enterprise.

The command structure for 7th SC (T) includes the 93rd Signal Brigade in Fort Eustis, Virginia, and 106st Signal Brigade in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 93rd operates Network Enterprise Centers (NECs) at installations in the Eastern United States, while the 106th operates NECs in the West.

The CONUS Theater Network Operations and Security Center at Fort Huachuca, AZ is also assigned to the Command. On 1 Oct 09, Network Enterprise Centers previously assigned to the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, and the South-TNOSC will be assigned to the Command.

Over the next two years, the remaining NECs in CONUS and the 21st Signal Brigade will also be assigned to 7th Signal Command.

The 7th SC (T) Headquarters is located in Building 21715 on Fort Gordon. Significant construction was required to repair, renovate and upgrade this three-story barracks building into a command headquarters. Some of the major changes required were upgrades to electrical systems, installation of appropriate communications systems, operations center and conference facilities, and construction of a suitable command suite.

The work started almost immediately and is nearly complete, and Command personnel have moved into their permanent offices. Minor "punch list" items remain, such as exterior landscaping and installation of a small elevator.

7th Signal Command has completed the Cadre and Initial Operational Capability phases of its activation. The force design for the Command has been submitted to TRADOC, and is awaiting TRADOC approval. A formal activation ceremony was conducted on 6 March 2009. Currently 7th SC (T) is nearing Full Operational Capability, and is already making strides toward improving computer network defense, situational awareness, network operations, and support to expeditionary operations in the CONUS theater.

Personnel, both military and civilian, are arriving on a weekly basis to bring the Command toward full capability. As of September 2009, the Command stands at about 60% of its authorized strength.

Even before the Command was formally activated, its operations center was pressed into action by urgent operational events impacting the security of the CONUS network. The fledgling Command quickly implemented network reporting and coordination processes to synchronize actions between United States Strategic Command, Army Commands, brigade staffs, and installation Network Enterprise Centers across CONUS.

To augment the Command's lean staff during this early period, the U.S. Army Signal Center supplied "snowbirds" from the Basic Officer Leader Course to work in the Command Operations Center. This was a tremendous learning opportunity for the lieutenants, and helped 7th SC (T) meet mission requirements ahead of FOC.

7th Signal Command is building capability over time to establish unity of command needed to provision, operate, and defend the LandWarNet within CONUS.

Serving as the single focal point for network operations in CONUS, the Command provides CONUS-based operating and generating forces assured access to global Collaborative Information Environment and LandWarNet capabilities to support all network-dependent battle command requirements through all operational phases.

The Command's vision is to become the pre-eminent provider of LandWarNet, assuring freedom of maneuver in and through cyberspace. Recognizing the importance of teamwork in executing this difficult mission, the Command's motto is "One Team, One Network!"

Accordingly, the 7th has focused on building partnerships with each Army Command, Army Service Component Command, Direct Reporting Unit, and installation Senior Commander in CONUS.

All Network Enterprise Centers in CONUS will transfer to 7th Signal Command over the next two years, beginning with Installation Management Command NECs. It's therefore important to ensure a smooth transition, accounting for specific requirements of each organization, while sustaining or improving existing service and responsiveness.

Over time, the multiple network enclaves that exist today will be brought together under one set of standards and network operating procedures to form a single network enterprise in support of the GNEC.

Mrs. Patricia Essick is an Information Technology Specialist with 7th Signal Command G3 Plans and Engineering section at Ft. Gordon, Ga.

Reprinted from Army Communicator, Vol. 34, No. 2