SMC chief oversees upgrades

LONG BRANCH N.J. - If there is anyone in the Army who deserves the moniker "Mr. Infrastructure " it would be Col. Dean Ertwine commander of the new Systems Management Center (SMC) here.

The service has consolidated all its information infrastructure programs under Ertwine who also is slotted to receive a star on his shoulder in coming weeks. At that point perhaps a better nickname would be "Gen. Infrastructure."

As head of the SMC part of the Army Communications-Electronics Command headquartered at Fort Monmouth N.J. Ertwine will direct the command's efforts to oversee upgrades to base networks and communications systems throughout the United States.

Other SMC programs and projects include management of the Army's Global Positioning System receiver program information warfare and a counter-battery radar system used by artillery units.

SMC currently manages programs and projects worth $800 million a year - primarily information infrastructure programs - and the command expects that figure to jump quickly to more than $1 billion a year. Ertwine views his role with SMC - which picked up programs and projects from the former Information Systems Command as well as other Army organizations - as a developer of an infrastructure that will provide his program managers "with the resources to do their jobs in accordance with our charter."

He also wants to develop SMC into an organization that tackles its mission in a cohesive fashion. The base information infrastructure programs managed by SMC include the Army's outside cable plant program the Major Command Telephone Modernization Program which is the follow-on to the Digital Switched Systems Modernization Program and the centrally funded Common User Information Transport Network. Taken together these programs are designed to provide about 100 Army posts camps and installations in the United States with a fiber-optic Asynchronous Transfer Mode infrastructure capable of handling not only today's multimedia network traffic but that of tomorrow's as well.

Ertwine wants these programs synchronized so that work on the outside plant - the most basic task - is handled first. The strategy runs in accordance with the center's informal motto: "Dig once." For SMC to succeed in its mission Ertwine believes his program and product managers need to "provide programmatic and technical discipline [and] to complement each other."

While SMC's mission goes to the heart of the Army's current and future information technology Ertwine admits that the field is new to him. He began his career in Army artillery units after graduating from West Point in 1972. A recipient of a doctorate in chemistry Ertwine then switched to the Army's chemical branch. He spent much of his subsequent career in acquisitions ending up as the executive officer for the assistant secretary of the Army for research development and acquisition just before receiving his assignment as SMC commander.

Despite this lack of background in the IT field Ertwine believes he can provide the leadership to help SMC perform its mission. Ertwine said he learned lessons in leadership at West Point as well as during his Army Ranger and Airborne training. But he quickly added "The last time I jumped out of an airplane was 20 years ago...and I don't miss it."

The ability to lead also means knowing the extent of your capabilities and interests. Ertwine tests the extent of his abilities when he heads to the ski slopes. "My 13-year-old wants me to try [snow]boarding but I think I will stick to downhill " he said. "I like the cheap thrills."

Downhill thrills are hard to find at the relentlessly flat New Jersey shore. But that is probably good because Ertwine has a demanding task set out before him: developing what the Army and SMC staff call the Power Projection Infrastructure providing U.S.-based forces with high-powered data highways at home to support their mission abroad.

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