Army Keeps IT 'Spear' Trained on North Korea

CAMP RED CLOUD South Korea - The Army's 2nd Infantry Division the U.S. combat unit closest to North Korea describes itself as "the tip of the spear." It sits on the thin edge of a Pacific Command military infrastructure that pays close attention to the potential adversary just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that has split the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War.

Maj. John Lehman the division's automation management officer said the division's command bunker at this base is "the brains of the tip of the spear" and the key terminus of a command and control (C2) system stretching more than 10 000 miles back to the Pentagon.

While parts of that C2 system boast high-capacity fiber-optic or commercial satellite trunks Lehman still struggles to maintain communications with some 2nd Infantry Division units "through 9.6 [kilobit/sec] terminal servers due to the limitations of our network." Out here on "the pointy end" of the Pacific Command tactical communications systems still carry much of the C2 load Lehman explained. However a five-year communications improvement plan funded at the rate of $2.5 million a year is designed to beef up 2nd Infantry Division systems.

"We have started putting some good stuff in here " Lehman said explaining that the division recently received 49 sets of hubs and routers to hook its key locations into a fiber-optic Korean Wide-Area Network (KWAN) which is operated by the Army's 1st Signal Brigade under a project dubbed Quicknet.

Col. Richard Lee commanding officer of 1st Signal said his unit instituted Quicknet to replace dial-up data connections on the peninsula with LANs connected via hubs and routers. Lee emphasized that any upgrades will benefit not only Army users but all U.S. forces in South Korea for which the brigade serves "as a combination of the local telephone company and America Online."

Rich Husak the civilian who serves as the brigade's deputy operations officer said every Army post and camp in South Korea "will soon have access to the KWAN via routers...[that will connect] approximately 50 to 60 LANs connected with [about] 22 LANs alone supporting the warfighters."

The brigade supports about 12 000 e-mail users in South Korea. Along with the hardware upgrade the brigade plans to start switching those users to Microsoft Corp.'s MS-Exchange which will be used "for day-to-day correspondence and unclassified accounts."

1st Signal headquartered at the Yongsan Reservation in Seoul also plans to upgrade the KWAN which currently provides T-1 bandwidth to Asynchronous Transfer Mode technology Husak said. To beef up the circuits serving remote camps close to the DMZ Lee said 1st Signal plans to piggyback the Defense Information Systems Network on a digital microwave system installed by the Armed Forces Korea Network to transmit radio and TV programs to the northern areas of South Korea.

Across the street from 1st Signal at Yongsan Air Force Lt. Col. John F. Murphy of the DISA-Korea Field Activity has just completed acceptance testing for one of the eight terminals of a satellite backup system to the KWAN. Explain-ing that KWAN consists of only a single fiber strand Murphy said the eight Stanford Talcum terminals procured under the Defense Information Infrastructure-Satellite Access Terminal (DSAT) contract will provide users with restoral and surge capacity.

The DSAT terminals according to Murphy pack a lot of punch providing users with C-band Ku-band and military X-band satellite access in one compact package: one antenna and integrated electronics on a trailer-mounted rig about one-third the size of standard military X-band-only terminals housed on five-ton trucks.Along with upgrades in the communications links 1st Signal has also started to upgrade its PC hardware according to Gene Nittinger the brigade's small computer expert. The Army currently has about 15 000 PCs in South Korea Nittinger said with 486s accounting for 50 to 60 percent. "Ten percent are Pentiums while the remaining 35 to 40 percent are 386s " he said.

Because the 386s cannot support Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system Nittinger has a fast-track program to replace them using mostly standard Army contracts such as PC-2 which was recently awarded to BTG Inc. and Sysorex Information Systems Inc. Nittinger who said he believed 1st Signal "had the first PC-2 orders out the door " prefers to use standard Army contracts because they offer a complete maintenance package. "Maintenance and reliability are important over here...and the Army contracts provide on-site service."

The increasing instability of North Korea - starkly illustrated by recent reports of widespread famine - makes improved communications and computer systems in South Korea a necessity not a luxury. As one soldier at Camp Red Cloud said the North Koreans have 11 000 artillery pieces ranged all along the DMZ many of which can hit downtown Seoul. That tends to focus the mind.

"We need the best we can get here " he said.

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