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Integrated Marine Corps Network Defends Against Cyberattacks

March 18, 2011
By Rachel Eisenhower

In an era of social media, smart phones and WikiLeaks, information assurance is increasingly critical to the mission of the U.S. Marine Corps. And Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, chief information technology officer, has his hands full ensuring that information flows smoothly and securely throughout the service. Among the general's ever-growing list of issues to address, one goal remains supreme: achieving a seamless enterprise capability to enhance decision-making and give Marines an advantage over their enemies.

In this month's SIGNAL Magazine, Technology Editor George I. Seffers explores this effort to tackle Marine Corps network challenges in his article, "U.S. Marines Creating Island for Network Defense."

Gen. Nally assumed his current responsibilities in November, and his to-do list includes overseeing the transition from the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) to the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) and streamlining the overall information technology infrastructure. The general will address the latter by creating a tightly integrated and secure network capable of supporting operations in battle and in business. Gen. Nally believes increasing continuity of operations will be crucial to defend against potential attacks:

"What we're creating is an island of defense, so you may be able to cut off part of the network from a cyberattack, but you won't be able to cut off the entire network."

The network comprises a Marine Corps Enterprise Information Technology Services data center located in Kansas City, Missouri, along with four regional network operations and security centers and eight Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Information Technology Support centers-a dramatic decrease from the 40 MAGTF centers currently in place. The reduction will improve efficiency and reduce costs, asserts Gen. Nally.

Transitioning from the NMCI to the Next Generation Enterprise Network is another top priority for Gen. Nally. The Navy awarded a contract to HP to oversee the transition of more than 700,000 personnel to NGEN, and the Marines began using an automated system to make the move. The general estimates the Marine Corps could be done transitioning before the end of March.

The biggest advantage gained with the switch to NGEN is that the new network is government-owned and operated, which gives the Marines greater control, relates the general.

"The most important thing to me is that we're going to be able to meet the commander's requirements in a more timely manner because we're going to be able to set the priorities in terms of taskings."

Above all else, Gen. Nally states that his top priority is the work force. Achieving a knowledge-based force is essential to advance beyond the nation's adversaries, and the need for information assurance education is critical to keep the work force on target to meet the Marine Corps' growing list of goals.

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