WASHINGTON – Even as forces draw down in Afghanistan and budgets are reduced, modernization of the Army network will not stagnate, said the service’s chief information officer.
“We ensure Soldiers have the best capability available to them, everything over IP; highdefinition, full-motion video; unlimited bandwidth, whatever request they’ve needed we’ve been able to get that technology to them very quickly,” said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the Army’s chief information officer, or CIO, G-6, before members of the Association of the United States Army. As the Army’s CIO, G-6, Lawrence said she continues to focus efforts on getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, regardless of location, by expanding the network’s bandwidth and capability to transmit and process data.
“LandWarNet is the foundation of today’s Army, and the Army of the future,” Lawrence said. “[It’s] the primary tool for effective management of the Army’s human, financial and materiel resources. It’s the most important, most empowering system for every Soldier and leader in an operational environment.”
Lawrence said a priority for the Army is working on improving network security. That effort is important, she said, because decision-makers must be able to trust the data they get over the network. Leadership must feel confident the data they receive is accurate, and that it has not been compromised by the enemy. This year the Army will reduce the number of network access points from 400 to just 12, Lawrence said. That effort will enable the service to have better visibility of unauthorized probes, malware or viruses that may compromise the network.
Lawrence also said the G-6 is working on extending to the entire Army such enterprise services as data storage and retrieval, voice, video, email applications and collaboration tools. Part of that effort involves centralizing and standardizing all such services to make sure that even Soldiers “at the farthest tactical edge” have the access they need. Speaking on the effectiveness of modernization, Lawrence drew on the impact it’s had thus far on the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which is currently deployed to Afghanistan. She said due to network improvements, the division was able to deploy with only as many boots-on-the-ground Soldiers as it needed to fight the fight.
The division still has requirements for intelligence, logistics, personnel and other such teams. But network improvements now allow many of those Soldiers to stay behind at Fort Campbell, Ky., where they provide network-enabled reach-back support to deployed Soldiers. In establishing that network capability, Lawrence said her engineers and warrant officers were challenged by differences between tactical network architecture and installation campus architecture, but they were successful in their effort. Where it once took as many as 30 minutes to get an intelligence report from Fort Campbell into Afghanistan, it now takes as little as 19 seconds, she said.
“When you’re in contact (with enemy forces), getting intelligence a half-hour later just doesn’t work,” Lawrence said.
In the same way, the G-6 has prepared the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) for its upcoming deployment. Providing that type of capability to deploying units will become a “way of life” within the Army, Lawrence said. Lawrence also said the Army is gradually placing all data into a cloud environment so Soldiers can do distance-learning and self-development training over the network. “To make sure the Soldier can be connected at all times, that’s the direction from the chief to me, every Soldier will be connected to the network,” she said.
Even as forces draw down in Afghanistan and budgets are reduced, modernization of the Army network will not stagnate, said the service’s chief information officer.