Army overhauls network strategy

The Army must have a network that is flexible enough to meet constantly changing requirements and emerging technologies, officials say.

[Editor's note: This article was changed May 26 to correct the rank of Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence.]

The Army is revamping its network strategy in an effort to make its networks more flexible, to better keep up with changing demands from combat troops and be more able to quickly incorporate new technologies, officials said May 23 in a press briefing.

“Our network represents the centerpiece of the Army modernization program,” said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli. “It will redefine the way we fight in the same way social media has changed the way we communicate and socialize.”

However, it will take some time to see the implications, he said.

Chiarelli stressed the importance of having an Army network that is flexible enough to meet constantly changing requirements and emerging technologies. He said the Army is fundamentally changing its approach to the network, including the way it handles acquisition and integration; its business model; and how it builds, manages and sustains the network and its capabilities.

The Army’s new strategies will improve acquisition and allow for incremental purchasing to better meet soldier needs, Chiarelli said.

According to Brig. Gen. Michael Williamson, joint program executive officer for the Joint Tactical Radio System, the strategies won’t be a complete change for procurement but are expected to bring about a marked improvement in acquisition and how new capabilities are integrated.

“You’re not going to see structural change in how DOD programs are defined and how requirements are written; the checklist of requirements is still completed. What’s changed is there will be no surprise down the road when you try to integrate [new capabilities] into a platform in the operational environment. There will be more complete testing and evaluating earlier on ... instead of synthesizing info from individual units,” Williamson said.

The new approach is already improving joint communications and training within the Army’s Global Network Enterprise Construct, and is helping with the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), which is used by coalition partners in Afghanistan for critical communications, said Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence.

“If you look at the network strategy, it’s now end to end. By extending the global network to every post and station, soldiers can train at any site and deploy at moment’s notice – this is innovative 21st-century training. By putting it in the cloud soldiers can train anywhere; in the past soldiers had to go to the field to train on systems,” Lawrence said.

The AMN is just one of those systems soldiers are able to train on before deploying.

“We’ve extended AMN to next deployers; we started at Fort Drum [N.Y.] ... and put AMN on GNEC. Every unit going into theater now has AMN in their headquarters. That’s what GNEC delivers to our team,” she said.

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