Army securing wireless LAN

The Army this week announced that it has selected a security solution to protect the mission-critical business systems of the Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface (CAISI) project, a wireless local-area network with about 85,000 users.

The Army has awarded Fortress Technologies a three-year "multimillion-dollar" contract for its AirFortress wireless security suite, said Janet Kumpu, chief operating officer of the firm.

"CAISI is a multiyear, wireless LAN program that will provide 'last mile' connectivity between the combat service support computers on the tactical battlefield and the wireless LAN that the Army provides," said Peter Johnson, chief information officer in the Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS).

PEO EIS, which provides IT acquisition, implementation and training for the Army, evaluated several security solutions based on criteria that included level of security, ease of use, network performance, mobility and total cost of ownership.

CAISI will most benefit areas that lack Internet or LAN connectivity -- such as motor pools and supply rooms -- by "giving them that level of connectivity," Johnson said. "The real value is in the computers we're connecting."

The AirFortress system will enable CAISI to provide secure wireless connectivity to support information technology for supply chain management, maintenance and other Army business systems, Johnson said, adding that deployment will begin within 60 days.

The AirFortress suite, designed for networks based on the 802.11b standard, has three components:

* Wireless Security Gateways - appliances that enforce network access rights and encrypt and decrypt communication across a wireless LAN.

* Secure Client - a software client that encrypts and decrypts communication across wireless LANs and protects wireless devices against attacks.

* Access Control Server - a software application database that monitors and manages the authentication and access control of wireless clients.

Defense Department policy prohibits agencies from operating wireless LANs without certified strong security, so "without our solution, they couldn't deploy the [CAISI] program," Kumpu said. "They haven't been able to use wirele

ss at all [and] had to go back to wired [communications] until they solved the security issues." The company already has shipped the first units to the Army for staging and testing, and an initial field launch is scheduled for next month. The original agreement called for 6,000 of the Wireless Security Gateways, deploying 2,000 units per year for three years, but the Army may accelerate that, Kumpu said.

The Army formally selected the AirFortress solution in January, said John Dow, Fortress' vice president of marketing and corporate development. He said the technology can be integrated into the Army's already-designed wireless LAN infrastructure within an hour, but because multiple modules and rollouts have to meet the service's "diligent" staging and testing processes, full deployment will take about one month.

In related news, Northrop Grumman Information Technology has awarded General Dynamics Decision Systems a contract to provide the Army Program Manager, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM, WIN-T) with wireless secure LAN capabilities.

The program includes options that would bring the total value to $83.4 million, with General Dynamics' portion valued at $64.9 million, according to the company. Of the total initial award, valued at $8.9 million, General Dynamics' portion is $4 million.


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