Army preps Netcom office

Beginning next week, one organization will be responsible for all Army networks across the service. The Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) officially begins operations Oct. 1, a move that service leaders say is crucial to streamlining the management of information technology and command, control, communications and computers.

Netcom was created to manage the Army's IT and networks enterprisewide, and officials are working to "ensure that the installations, Army contracting and Netcom implementation are postured for an integrated implementation," said Maj. Gen. James Hylton, commander of the Army Signal Command, who will assume command of Netcom next month.

Netcom brings together Army Signal Command personnel and other organizations and will establish regional chief information officer offices to coordinate with central installation managers in overseeing IT needs for each region.

The four regional CIOs have already been selected, and the regional offices will be "largely manned and in place in the first quarter of 2003," with staffs of about 30 people, Hylton said. The CIOs will be stationed at Fort Monroe, Va.; Rock Island, Ill.; Fort McPherson, Ga.; and Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello said the structure of the CIO offices is still evolving, because they didn't exist before and officials have no precedent to follow.

Netcom is the Army's contribution to the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, Cuviello said. The grid is designed to improve interoperability across DOD by providing a framework for adopting network-centric operations.

"This means that we have the wherewithal to do the requirements planning, architecture design and acquisition of new technologies within an enterprise solution to be managed...organized and able to fight and defend the Army's networks," Cuviello said during a Sept. 19 Pentagon press briefing.

Netcom ties in with the Army's overall effort to centralize installation management, said Maj. Gen. John Scott, the service's chief integration officer.

"It's a corporate look at the information management and an operational look worldwide," Scott said, adding that the approach includes determining which areas are candidates for outsourcing, based on a regionalized, economic analysis.

Officials said that Netcom will change the way the Army purchases IT equipment and services. The single contracting authority for all Army IT acquisitions will be the Army Contracting Agency, which will establish an IT E-Commerce Commercial Contracting Center for IT-related products and services. This will help the Army capitalize on its total buying power, rather than having individual installations make their own purchases, Cuviello said.

Netcom will also simplify the process for acquiring IT goods and services, because the Army will be paying with "one checkbook, not 15 different ones" from the major commands, Scott said.

Cuviello said the Army has no mandate to save money through the establishment of Netcom, because the Army's secretary and chief of staff have said that any savings can immediately be reinvested into the service.

"One savings everyone is looking for is manpower," Cuviello said. "The intent is to reinvest...into the warfighting part of the Army and get soldiers out of day-to-day chores" and back into their active-duty units.

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Bringing it together

Maj. Gen. James Hylton said the budget for the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command will reach about $800 million when new mission areas inherited from the chief information officer's office — including the Army Knowledge Online portal, spectrum management and information assurance — are combined with the Army Signal Command's established reimbursable areas such as the Defense Message System and others.

Hylton will command Netcom, which will have a small office in Washington, D.C., but be based at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., along with its subordinate offices: the Enterprise Systems Technology Activity (ESTA) and the Army Network Operations and Security Center.

ESTA will bring Army technology specialists to a central location, where they can provide advice on information technology and network issues to Army CIO Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello. Currently, data must be collected from people in many locations, Hylton said. The Army Network Operations and Security Center already provides Cuviello's office with data on the security of the service's networks.

Officials will decide next year whether to continue managing Netcom from one location. "Can we do it from one facility or do we need more?" Hylton asked. "We're not sure where it's going to go, but we're going to look hard at it."

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