Army moves JRSS along, with other services in tow

LTG Robert Ferrell (2014)

Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell is advancing the defense IT backbone of the future.

The Army is moving forward with what Pentagon leaders consider to be a crucial piece of the future defense IT backbone: the Joint Regional Security Stacks.

The set of servers, switches and software tools, which has been dubbed a "firewall on steroids," is processing network traffic at several Army installations in the United States, with some overseas garrisons to follow this fiscal year, said Army CIO Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell.

The Army's migration to JRSS is complete at Joint Base San Antonio and Fort Hood in Texas,  Ferrell said Nov. 18 at a Federal Times and C4ISR & Networks conference in Arlington, Va. JRSS migration is ongoing at Fort Sill, Okla., he added.

JRSS equipment is in place in Europe as well, and Ferrell said the goal is to this fiscal year complete migration to the stacks at Army installations in Germany, in Wiesbaden and Stuttgart.

The Army will then turn to deploying JRSS in Korea in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, Ferrell said. "What we've found [is] that the switching infrastructure in Korea was really coming to the end-of-the-year life," so that gear cost money to upgrade, he added.

DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen has called JRSS the cornerstone of a less tangible Defense Department-wide initiative known as the Joint Information Environment, which seeks to standardize and consolidate IT networks for better security.

Services try to sync on JRSS

The Air Force has lagged behind the Army in deploying JRSS. Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Kneeland, commander of the base's 502nd Communications Squadron, has called for his service to more aggressively exploit the security benefits of the stacks.

Ferrell said in an interview with FCW that the next iteration of JRSS's underlying software, known as the Joint Management System, will allow the Air Force and Army to connect "seamlessly" through JRSS. The Air Force had particular requirements around packet capturing for JMS 1.5, Ferrell said. That version of the software is slated to be rolled out in the coming months.

The key is "getting that software and then defining the roles and the responsibility of the management and oversight of that one network," the Army CIO added. Further down the road, JMS 2.0 will bridge all four services' work on JRSS together, he said.

An April trip by Halvorsen to Silicon Valley altered the course of the JMS procurement to focus more on big data analytics.

All of the services are grappling with the challenges of deploying JRSS. The Navy's U.S. Fleet Cyber Command is responsible for command and control of networks at the edge, so there was some initial concern at the Navy over how JRSS would affect that chain of command, said Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance.

That concern, however, has dissipated as officials have grown more accustomed to JRSS's multi-tenant model of network management, Branch said at the conference.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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