ASC loses staff, gains power

FORT HUACHUCA Ariz. - The Army's worldwide communications supplier will have lost more than half its peak strength of 40 000 civilian and military personnel by the end of fiscal 1998 but its commanding officer Maj. Gen. Charles Sutten believes this amounts to "a move for the better."

The Army Signal Command (ASC) formerly the Information Systems Command (ISC) lost its workforce through a reorganization last September. The changes created what Sutten sees as a more "operationally focused mission" of providing communications to major Army commands worldwide.

The mission includes manning and operating mammoth 60-foot-wide satellite dishes that serve as the entry point for the Defense Satellite Communications System and includes installing and operating smaller tactical systems and switches supporting U.S. forces in Bosnia.

ASC through its Army Network and Systems Operation Center located here also monitors and provides technical support to base local-area networks (LANs) and to databases that support two key Army information systems: the Sustaining Base Information Services program and the Standard Army Management Information System.

The command also plans to set up this year an Army Configuration Management Office to ensure that the software for everything from digital telephone switches to PC programs is compatible so that services to users worldwide are seamless and will not experience any glitches.

These responsibilities leave ASC with a clear and "customer-focused mission " Sutten said. "Our job is bitways and services.... Our job is moving stuff around."

This mission includes control of signal brigades and battalions providing essential communications to warfighting forces in all the world's potential hot spots including Bosnia South Korea and Saudi Arabia.Many of the other missions performed by the old ISC including engineering and procurement were transferred to the Army Materiel Command.

Sutten believes ASC has gained efficiencies by coming under Forces Command (Forscom) which is in charge of deploying all Army forces based in the United States. "I'm now the [chief information officer] for Forscom " he said. "This gives us a seat at the table."

Maj. Bill Scott operations officer for the 86th Signal Battalion an ASC tactical unit based here said the command stands well-equipped to respond to the high-technology communications needs of deployed forces with recently established "Power Projection" companies formed around two new pieces of gear: a Mobile Gateway Van (MGV) and a Tri-band satellite terminal both mounted on Humvees.

Equipment in the MGV includes a Cisco Systems Inc. router LAN hubs and a tactical terminal adapter that provides dial-in data access for units connected through tactical telephones as well as hosts for military format messages Microsoft Corp. Mail and SMTP mail. Connectivity is provided through the companion Tri-band terminal.

The 86th will continue to operate six prototype Tri-band terminals built by GTE Government Systems Corp. until Raytheon Corp. which won the production contract starts delivering systems after the turn of the century.

Power Projection units can "lock on" to a satellite within 15 minutes after rolling to a stop and "we can provide phone service within 30 minutes " said Lt. Mike Miller a platoon leader in the 86th.

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