U.S. mandate: `move info, not people

TUZLA, Bosnia—Soldiers from the 22nd Signal Command rush around the headquarters of U.S. ground forces to load a convoy of four heavily armed Humvees with one of the key elements of Operation Joint Endeavor: a package of preconfigured routers and communications servers for installation at one of the 24 forward operating bases.

"Our commanders told us that in this operation, they want to move information, not people," said Capt. Tom Jaycox, the integration officer for 22nd Signal. "That's why we developed this package of hardware to support e-mail. But to keep from moving a lot of troops around, we first have to move our soldiers out to install this equipment," Jaycox said, as he watched his crew saddle up to help stitch another remote base into the worldwide Defense Information Systems Network.

Last October when V Corps, the Army ground unit that 22nd Signal supports, started planning for Joint Endeavor, Jaycox tried to figure out how to fulfill the "move information, not people" mandate with standard Army communications systems not designed to support such a task.

The Army's battlefield tactical packet data systems, primarily Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) and Tri-Tac, were designed to handle classified traffic, not the large volumes of unclassified traffic Joint Endeavor requires to support logistics operations. "Logistics was geared to operate in a garrison environment, not in a tactical environment," Jaycox said.

MSE did offer a thin sliver of unclassified spectrum, about 16K, that rode on top of the classified traffic, but 22nd Signal still needed a way to separate the classified from the unclassified traffic, Jaycox said. The command finally found a way to do it, jury-rigging Motorola Corp. Network Encryption System (NES) devices—essentially firewalled routers—to mix the classified and unclassified traffic, Jaycox said.

Bruce Funk, a civilian engineer from the Army 5th Signal Command who is supporting 22nd Signal from Zagreb, Croatia, said, "We're essentially using the NES backwards. It was designed to send classified data over an unclassified network, but we're using it to send unclassified data over a classified network."

With that solution in hand, Jaycox said, 22nd Signal placed a rush order "for a half-million dollars worth of NES gear" and then started designing a hardware configuration to serve the forward operating bases. Working with 5th Signal, Jaycox said his command finally settled on a package that consisted of the NES, a Cisco Systems Inc. 300 router and a Cisco 500 comm server.

Funk said 5th Signal then integrated all this gear together into what he called "plug-n-play kits," all prewired for installation at the base camps by the 22nd Signal's task force data teams.

These packages, Jaycox said, allow company clerks at forward bases to plug their PCs into tactical phones and from there into the worldwide Internet, offering them connectivity never before experienced in a tactical environment.

Jaycox said, "These tactical data packages allow troops to tap into logistics databases, into the personnel system and into the financial system. If we ever removed [the system] from the forward bases, the troops would probably kill us. We're writing new doctrine here."

Featured

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.