First JNN phase gets funding

Lawmakers and Army officials reached a deal last week that includes funding to finish phase one for fielding a new, interim mobile battlefield communications system, according to the Army's top information technology official.

Among other things, the agreement earmarks $247 million to buy the Joint Network Node (JNN) for the 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain and Fourth Infantry divisions, said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer. He spoke Oct. 14 at the 2004 Vision Conference sponsored by the Government Electronics and IT Association, an industry trade group.

Army officials believed they would receive funding to deploy JNN to the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions and already ordered it for them. But they did not know whether they could find funds to deploy the system to the Fourth Infantry Division, Boutelle said at a conference last month.

Officials at General Dynamics Corp. received a contract in May to develop and field JNN. They delivered the first system in August so troops from the Third Infantry Division could train with it before returning to Iraq later this year.

The Third Infantry, Fourth Infantry, 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions will receive JNN under the first phase of the program's implementation plan. The First Cavalry, 25th Infantry and 82nd Airborne divisions will get the system under phase two, which has not been funded so far.

JNN will give soldiers more mobile battlefield communications and bandwidth, make it easier for them to talk to U.S. and coalition forces, and improve access to data from military systems worldwide. Army officials learned from experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that they need systems that transmit voice, video and data when forces operate out of sight of one another.

JNN consists of vehicles equipped with satellite communications and voice-over-IP and dynamic IP technologies and systems that connect to military networks. It will give soldiers more mobile communications than the current Mobile Subscriber Equipment-Triservices Tactical terminals built in the 1980s but not as much as the future Warfighter Information Network-Tactical system now in development.

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