DOD lays groundwork for network-centric warfare

The Defense Department did not plan the current hodgepodge of networks that has grown up with the decade-long evolution of client/server computing. But DOD now has embraced at the highest levels the concept of "network-centric warfare " in which tactical intelligence and logistics information becomes as much a weapon for the warfighter as light arms or heavy armor and combat units are ordered to battle from a desktop computer.

But information technology managers in all three services say the only way network-centric warfare can make the leap from concept to reality is by developing cohesive base-level and shipboard networks based on commercial standards at hundreds of locations throughout the world.

The concept of network-centric warfare took center stage in the Joint Chiefs of Staff's "Joint Vision 2010" paper released in July 1996 by then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John M. Shalikashvili. The document laid out the department's operational concept of joint warfighting and put networks with their ability to disseminate information quickly at the center of military strategy during the next decade.

Al Edmonds president of Tri-Cor Industries Inc. and the recently retired director of the Defense Information Systems Agency said the need to revamp the base-level infrastructure is obvious. "The bottom line is that as you move to network-centric warfare you need networks to move information...and information is absolutely critical in future wars."With the domestic portion of its broadband long-haul backbone network - the Defense Information Systems Network - nearly completed DOD attention and action have shifted to programs and projects to upgrade and standardize the client/server-based local- metropolitan- and wide-area networks that have sprung up during the years throughout the department and that are now hooked into DISN.

DOD estimates this effort will cost nearly $5 billion for all three services. Navy: Fleet Afoot The Navy leads all the services in the move to networks thanks to its Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) project. Conceived by Adm. Archie Clemins commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet IT-21 defines a standard networked computing environment based on commercial technology for its ashore and afloat units. Prototype IT-21 LANs are currently being installed in the West Coast-based USS Lincoln carrier battle group and the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group.

Backing up that effort the Chief of Naval Operations staff recently kicked off a companion architectural project dubbed IT-21 Plus designed to develop a "concept of operations" for a Naval Virtual Intranet according to Rear Adm. John Gauss director of allied and fleet requirements in the Navy's Space Information Warfare Division under the Command and Control Directorate. IT-21 Plus is a key step in the development of network-centric warfare within the Navy Gauss said "because we need to define the network we plan to use for warfare.

We need to look at how we do this as a corporation - [how we move information] to and from any command." The architectural study - very much a "a work in progress " according to Gauss - will examine "regionalization" of the Navy's IT infrastructure in areas where the service has a large presence such as San Diego Tidewater Va. Puget Sound Wash. and Jacksonville Fla. This regionalization concept would feature base LANs hooked into a MAN with a powerful server centrally located.

"We would put network management into those centers that would manage the networks all the way down to the desktop " Gauss said. The centers also would house network firewalls. Gauss believes centralization of these critical functions will save money through personnel reductions and lower equipment costs.

Possible locations for the centers in each region include Naval Computer and Telecommunications Command facilities as well as information processing megacenters operated by DISA Gauss added. Regionalization would provide better network control and improve security Gauss said. Regionalization also would support Clemins' vision for IT-21 Gauss said through powerful networks designed to support the fleet.

Network reliability and security is a real concern for Rear Adm. Stephen Johnson tactical system program director for the San Diego-based Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar). Even though IT-21 calls for the use of commercial products such as Microsoft Corp.'s MS-Exchange messaging software running under its Windows NT operating system Johnson emphasized that the Navy is no ordinary commercial customer.

"If my son cannot get on [America Online] it's no big deal...but we need connectivity reliability and redundancy as well as data integrity and data security " Johnson said. "We don't want [to risk] single-point failures and [we] need graceful degradation if we do have a failure."

While the IT-21 architecture envisions deployment of high-speed fiber-optic LANs with Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches ashore and afloat Johnson pointed out that because funding is limited meeting those goals is not a quick or easy proposition. "We're not like commercial companies such as Boeing or Hewlett-Packard that can make a corporate investment decision and then follow it.

We are constrained by the realities of the budget and we also have a much larger infrastructure." Due to limited funds Johnson added the Navy has to get it right the first time "because installing fiber is a 40-year investment." Funding constraints have already led to an important fiscal "lesson learned" from the installation of the first IT-21 prototypes on the ships in the Lincoln and Essex groups according to Capt. Mark Lenci the IT-21 project manager at Spawar.

Experience with the IT-21 installations aboard the Lincoln and Essex has shown that the cost of running fiber all the way to the desktop costs "30 to 35 percent more" than installing the fiber/ATM backbone with copper to the desktop Lenci said. Looking at this cost difference the Navy has temporarily backed off the total fiber-to-the-desktop solution Lenci added. The IT-21 infrastructure budget totals $75 million for fiscal 1998 and grows to $145 million in 1999. Eventually Johnson believes the Navy will opt for as much of an all-fiber solution as possible especially on ships because fiber can operate above OC-3 speeds - 155 megabits/sec - and it provides better isolation from electromagnetic interference.

The Navy has designated the $2.9 billion Vivid (Voice Video and Data) contracts awarded to Lucent Technologies Inc. and GTE Corp. as "the vehicle of choice" for IT infrastructure modernization and IT-21 Johnson said adding "It was structured as a flexible tool for base modernization. It provides us with one-stop shopping. It allows us to do cost-benefit analysis to decide whether it is more cost-effective to buy or lease." Once that analysis is done Vivid also offers the Navy the option to buy or lease according to Tom Early the Vivid program manager for Lucent.

As the Navy moves to develop regional MANs Vivid is well-positioned to help with that effort Early added. "Part of our strategy is to work at locations where there are multiple bases such as Puget Sound " Early said. Lucent currently offers 7 000 line items on its Vivid contract from more than 85 vendors Early said allowing the company to provide the Navy with everything from "engineering and requirements installing the total infrastructure at a base." The Navy also has relied heavily on Electronic Data Systems Corp.'s PC LAN + contract for IT-21 shipboard LANs. The Navy Johnson added has "been very pleased with PC LAN + " especially because the service can use the contract to run "impartial tests" of various products to meet interoperability requirements. Peter Buck EDS' PC LAN + program manager said he is "pushing hard to make PC LAN + the vehicle of choice for IT-21.

We deliver an integrated solution and we guarantee it works." EDS Buck added is well-positioned to follow the transition from PC LAN + to Vivid because the company is partnered with GTE on Vivid. Infrastructure Rollout The Army recently consolidated the management of all its base infrastructure programs under the newly formed Army Communications-Electronics Command's Systems Management Center (SMC) under the command of Col. Dean Ertwine who views his role as making sure the various SMC divisions "complement each other."

Col. James McKan project manager for Defense communications and Army switched systems at SMC said the new organization is to provide "synchronization of [base IT] programs and engineer for a total systems solution." Key Army base infrastructure initiatives include the Outside Cable Rehabilitation (Oscar) program the Common User Installation Transport Network (CUITN) the Army's DISN Router Program (ADRP) the Major Com-mand Telephone Modernization Program and its successor the Digital Switched Systems Modernization Program (DSSMP). The centrally funded CUITN and ADRP spearhead the Army's efforts to upgrade the IT infrastructure at all its U.S. bases. Both are managed by Lt. Col. Ronald Heuler who views CUITN as the network infrastructure that "will carry the Army well into the 21st century."

CUITN provides bases with an all-fiber ATM network that has an OC-12 backbone and "OC-3 pipes to end-user buildings " Heuler said. The Army plans to use CUITN to upgrade all its 100-plus U.S. bases and posts. The upgrades will be phased so that those bases housing "first-to-fight" units such as the Airborne will get upgrades first. "Eventually all bases will be covered by the centrally funded program " Heuler said but SMC also can install a CUITN-like infrastructure for bases that do not want to wait the years their position on the phased list mandates provided they come up with their own funds. The Corpus Christi Texas Army depot was No. 56 on the install list - a position the depot officials wanted to improve - so they came up with their own funding and SMC "was able to provide them with a superb infrastructure " Heuler said.

SMC also plans to stack the base infrastructure upgrades logically McKan added meaning that it will begin with the Oscar project to upgrade the pipes. "Dig once" is the motto of SMC McKan added. Besides upgrading Army installations SMC actively markets its expertise to the other services McKan added. It recently completed upgrades for the Marines at Camp Pendleton Calif. and the Cherry Point N.C. air station. "We can save people money. The other services come to us " McKan said.

SMC relies on a standard topology for all the locations with equipment and software based on standard commercial gear thoroughly tested by the service at the Army Technical Integration Center Fort Huachuca Ariz. "We fly before we buy " Heuler said. The Army already has installed CUITN at six bases.

Topping the list are Fort Bragg N.C. home of the Airborne and Fort Hood Texas home of the 2nd Armored Division and the prototype "digitized battlefield" units. While wideband data is still a key driver for the high-capacity CUITN networks Heuler said video teleconferencing (VTC) has quickly emerged as another important application on base networks.

"Everyone wants to do VTC today. Almost everywhere we go people want to know: 'When can I get my VTC?' " This demand for VTC exists not only at high-command levels Heuler added. "The demand for VTC extends all the way down the force levels " he said.

The Army has not designated a contract vehicle for CUITN as the Navy did with Vivid for IT-21 but to date Heuler has relied heavily on the Air Force's Unified Local-Area Network Architecture (ULANA) II contract held by EDS and to a lesser extent the Lockheed Martin Corp. Sustaining Base Information Services (SBIS) contract using ULANA II for four bases and SBIS for two.

Gary Miller the ULANA II program manger for EDS said that due to heavy use of ULANA II by the Army total dollar value of the contract between the Army and the Air Force is "split 50-50." Though oriented toward replacement and upgrade of voice switches the Army and industry view the $1 billion DSSMP installation contract held by nine vendors as a viable vehicle for infrastructure modernization.

Unlike CUITN which is focused only on U.S. bases DSSMP can be used according to Heuler "to do bases worldwide." Unlike the centrally funded CUITN with its phased installation list DSSMP does not operate under such restrictions as long as the base "brings its own money " Heuler said.

Jay McCargo the DSSMP program manager for Bell Atlantic said he views the contract "as a very broad program centered around the modernization of telecommunications networks and infrastructure. There are so many more efficiencies of scale available now that the line between voice and data networks is rapidly becoming blurred. I am certainly not viewing this as a switched services-only contract."

McCargo said he believes that one of the best features of DSSMP is the flexibility it offers the Army by not locking the service into a rigid contract line-item list. Instead the Army or other DOD or federal customers come to DSSMP with a list of requirements and the DSSMP contractors and their partners come up with the best solution offering greater flexibility to industry and the military.

Air Force: Holistic IT The Air Force views its information infrastructure holistically according to Col. Dave Genovese program manager for the base-level Combat Information Transport System (CITS) at the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center Hanscom Air Force Base Mass. Top Air Force leaders see the CITS infrastructure "as a system which consists of a totally integrated voice video data and transport layer" plugged into the service's overarching "Global Grid" architecture Genovese said.

The Air Force has funded CITS as a system allocating $1.2 billion in funds for the project over the next five years. This system consists of a number of pieces including the installation of fiber-optic cable ATM switches hubs and routers at 108 bases as well as installation of an Air Force-standard network management system at those bases and base information protection software and hardware - with all those pieces designed to function smoothly together and to easily transfer information to other bases across the Global Grid. "We're working in phased approach " Genovese said.

"We have accelerated deployment for the information protection piece. We can't wait four or five years for info protect." This will include installation of firewall hardware and software such as Secure Computing Corp.'s Sidewinder at all 108 Air Force bases in 1998 Genovese said.

The Air Force like the other two services plans to install high-speed fiber networks at its bases but has not settled on a one-size-fits-all architecture knowing that varying demands may require base networks to operate at speeds ranging from OC-3 to OC-48. But Genovese pointed out that with commercial products upgrading the speed of the network amounts to not much more "than switching out one $1 200 card for another."

The Air Force has relied heavily on EDS and its ULANA II contract for CITS Genovese said and it will continue to do so. "We started out with ULANA and we'll ride with it " he said. But he added the Air Force also relies as well on its 38th Engineering Installation Wing at Tinker Air Force Base Okla. for a portion of the CITS work.

The 38th Genovese said can "design and install in accordance with our architecture." Miller the EDS ULANA II program manager said he "would like to see as much business as possible go through ULANA II. We've greatly expanded our menu of products and now have 138 vendors with [more than] 5 000 active [contract line items].' But Miller said besides competing with the 38th EDS now also has to compete with TRW Inc. which saw its ULANA II contract activated earlier this year after a lengthy protest period. "They will be a strong competitor " Miller said.

In fact as all three services hustle to upgrade their base-level information infrastructure there should be no lack of competition within and outside the existing contract vehicles. Asked who his real competition was Miller quickly answered "everyone." "We need to act more like an integrated enterprise " Genovese said. "We have a substantial effort under way to focus our programs...on operational needs."

Lt. Col. Mike Urban deputy program manager for the Global Grid project called the $1.2 billion CITS program "the largest and most cohesive [IT] infrastructure project" in the history of the Air Force. The service intends to develop its IT infrastructure "as a total system...that will provide fully integrated voice video data and sensor information " Genovese said.

In order to do this he said the Air Force first needs to look at the operational infrastructure determine what needs to be done and "then develop a technical systems infrastructure to meet those requirements.

"The Air Force plans to establish a standard base-level information systems architecture that it hopes will manage networks more efficiently and effectively on its 100-plus bases. The current base-level infrastructure is the service's "Achilles' heel " said John Gilligan the Air Force's program executive officer for battle management.

"Current efforts are not consolidated" and laid out in a fast-track program to develop and finance that infrastructure which he called the "base-level Global Grid." Standards need to begin at the desktop he said with each user requiring only one PC to access multiple Air Force systems.

Since the development of client/server architecture LANs have proliferated on bases. But many are installed as "stovepipes" that permit use in only one functional area such as the medical or logistics communities. The Air Force needs a program that will install and maintain central base LANs that will serve a variety of users he said.

The Air Force also needs to develop a standard MAN that will serve as the central pipe for information flowing to and from DOD's long-haul networks and LANs installed within buildings on a base. The service also must develop and install standard central operations centers on each base as well as develop standard encryption and information protection policies and products.

The bases and major operating commands such as the Air Combat Command can tap into central funds such as the $1 billion-plus CITS for base networking needs. But the standard base-level Global Grid architecture is needed to maximize that funding. Base-level IT infrastructure remains "the long pole in the tent " Edmonds said. "For too long people just thought of it as plumbing but it's not.... It's a critical part of the overall [Defense Information Infrastructure].... The services cannot support the 2010 vision without the base infrastructure."


  • Workforce
    White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography

    White House rolls out DEIA strategy

    On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued agencies a roadmap to guide their efforts to develop strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), as required under a as required under a June executive order.

  • Defense
    software (whiteMocca/

    Why DOD is so bad at buying software

    The Defense Department wants to acquire emerging technology faster and more efficiently. But will its latest attempts to streamline its processes be enough?

Stay Connected