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The SIGNAL Blog

JIE Moves Boldly Forward

September 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

The Joint Information Environment (JIE) is well on its way to becoming a pervasive reality for the U.S. Armed Services and its coalition partners. The version at U.S. European Command reached initial operational capability on July 31, and the Army now has 1.5 million users on enterprise email, a key service under the environment.
 
Today at TechNet Augusta, Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J6 of the Joint Staff, said that the JIE is necessary because of real problems that exist in current environments. The foundation of the new capability is a single security architecture. Though the effort began as a measure to increase efficiencies, the military now realizes it offers much more, the general explained. Over time, the various services, commands and agencies created their own information technology. “That didn’t help us a ton on the battlefield,” Gen. Bowman said. The JIE will provide a unified enterprise for everyone, including mission partners.
 
Industry will be essential to ensuring that evolving capabilities are integrated as appropriate. “There’s no single answer,” Gen. Bowman explained. “The JIE is not static.” It also is far-reaching, intended for use at all echelons in all operating environments.  Gen. Bowman said everyone will join the new plan, though not in the same way. He compared the JIE services to a menu. Users eventually will have all the items, but not at the same time or in the same order. Earlier this month, the Defense Department Chief Information Officer Teri Takai directed that all department members will migrate to enterprise email. Organizations must submit plans within 120 days.
 

What Sequestration Means to Army Materiel

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

“No other field has changed so completely, so rapidly as signals has in the last 10 years,” Gen. Dennis Via, USA, commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), said during TechNet Augusta on Wednesday. During his address, he asked the Army’s communications community to help his organization provide the capabilities soldiers will need even as sequestration makes providing them more difficult. Senior leaders should worry about the budget, leaving soldiers in the field to worry about coming home safely.

As U.S. involvement in Afghanistan comes to an end, the Army is resetting and establishing itself to be ready for the next contingency operation. The AMC is taking on new roles and responsibilities, making adjustments as necessary to play its part in the changes. The command is expanding its Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise (EAGLE) effort for motors. Previously, only the Reserves had the program, according to Gen. Via, but within the month it should be available at forts Benning, Campbell and Gordon as well as Redstone Arsenal. Even with budget reductions, the command is engaged in big spending. Of the $2.2 billion the Army spent on science and technology in the last year, the AMC executed $1.6 billion of it. There is $28 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan, and the command is looking to bring $22 billion of it back to the United States.

The prospect of leaner funding is a big challenge. Gen. Via explained that leaders have tough decisions to make on money and personnel. The command is mandated to reduce its manning from 580,000 to 490,000 persons. “And we may go lower than that,” Gen. Via said. “We don’t know.” He added that any possible changes, including closing down AMC locations, are on the table as decision makers try to comply with sequestration.

In an interesting side note, Gen. Via is the only Army Signal Corps soldier to obtain the rank of four-star general.

Team Signal and LandWarNet 2020

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

Network modernization is the key to the U.S. Army of the future, and soldiers already are reaping the benefits of updates to the LandWarNet (LWN). The chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 is leading a charge to improve infrastructure by replacing copper circuit switches with necessary state-of-the art technology. “That’s what we have to fix,” said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, the service’s CIO/G-6, during AFCEA International’s TechNet Augusta on Wednesday. Improvements at Fort Hood, for example, are going to increase bandwidth there by more than 1,000 times. Along the way, other efficiencies are realized. By turning off unused phones, the Army is saving $14 million a year.

Many alterations are under way to create LWN 2020. By moving to a capability-set solution, the Army will enjoy three key advantages over older, program-of-record approaches. They are: the ability to reprioritize what installations to modernize next based on pressing requirements; the ability to take advantage of the rapid pace of information technology advancements by buying fewer items more often; and saving money as prices drop for the same items over time. “With a program of record, you just buy,” Gen. Lawrence said. Already, the Army is using the capability set to modernize 12 of its installations.

The Shape of the Cyberforce

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

As cyber becomes increasingly important to military operations, the personnel necessary to success in the field are a major focus of attention. Senior noncommissioned officers from all four branches of the U.S. military and the Army National Guard sat on a panel to today discussing this issue during TechNet Augusta.
 
These leaders addressed the issue with training up cyberwarriors over a year or more, only to lose them quickly to other internal organizations or to the private sector. The Navy’s representative, Senior Petty Officer Nathan Maleu, said he is in favor of longer terms for sailors in the cyberfield and in fact would like to see that across the military as long as the term periods do not negatively impact careers. He also commented on group efforts stating “I’m really happy we’re standing up service cyber teams,” but he would like to see a more aggressive approach to standing up joint cyber teams. Air Force representative Master Sgt. Lonnie Becnel shared that the Air Force actively is working to extend tours. Another concern in his service is trying to find the people to become members of cyberteams. A lack of strong assessment tools makes it hard to know who really is qualified.
 
The Army National Guard is looking at how to recruit soldiers now and keep them through 2030 and beyond. The active Army and Marine Corps representatives expressed sentiments similar to their colleagues. However, Master Gunnery Sgt. Adam Bethard, USMC, noted that the Marine Corps has no  cyber career field. Rather, current career fields will receive more cybertraining. 

When 5th Graders Run the Army

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

The grade schoolers of today are the company and battalion commanders of tomorrow, and the U.S. Army already is preparing the network they will use. Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, USA, deputy commanding general, futures, and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, talked about that technology during his luncheon address at TechNet Augusta this afternoon. Soldiers are examining what they will require in 2030 and beyond, decisions that will be important for determining where to invest science and technology dollars.
 
Gen. Walker said that for 12 years life for soldiers has been simple. They were going either to Iraq or Afghanistan, returning for about a year, then deploying again. In that time, personnel found a way to enable rapid acquisition that worked around traditional systems to send soldiers the resources they needed to succeed in the field. That knowledge will serve the Army as it moves into a situation of reduced resources. The Army’s situation includes a complex environment in which even identifying threats can be difficult. Additionally, conventional and special operations troops are now combined in unprecedented ways. “We can never go back,” Gen. Walker stated.
 
According to the Army’s official planning guidance, the service has many roles moving forward, ranging from defeat and deter to humanitarian assistance. The general says people are coming to soldiers and saying, “We need you to do everything.” He added, “When you think of it, historically this is what the Army has done for the nation.” To meet challenges, the Army must modernize its technology. “We’re living off our investments [during] the '90s in terms of the network,” Gen. Walker explained. To provide the nation what it needs, the service branch must upgrade. “What we have now is a network that works great if you’re a motorized ground unit in Afghanistan,” he said. 
 

Evolutions Under Way in Army Signals

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

One particular issue keeps Maj. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, USA, up at night—materiel. Gen. Patterson is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Georgia, and shared his concerns during AFCEA International’s TechNet Augusta on Tuesday.

“I think what we’re doing at the NIE is phenomenal,” the general stated. The NIE is the Network Integration Evaluation, a twice yearly exercise that test new technologies for the Army. “Here’s my concern—it’s too damn complex,” Gen. Patterson added. The opinion is not just his own. He has heard it from many soldiers at all levels. “You need a Ph.D. to turn some of this [stuff] on,” the general explained. Troops have too much to do to have to push multiple buttons to communicate or even turn on a device.

Young soldiers were a topic throughout the general’s presentation, during which he walked the audience through what his organizations are doing in regard to the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities, or DOTMLPF, spectrum. He pointed out that youth today will not accept education that consists of multiple PowerPoint demonstrations. Therefore, trainers must adjust to be more collaborative. New soldiers and officers also expect technology. Facilities at Fort Gordon are making that difficult, because they are outdated. Gen. Patterson shared his frustrations trying to train 21st century soldiers with obsolete equipment and infrastructure. The general reaches out to young soldiers when opportunities arise. For example, he and members of his leadership team had avatars of themselves created and placed into a video that introduces newcomers to Fort Gordon.

Personal Identification Cards Become More Powerful

September 9, 2013

 

Federal employees and contractors are receiving updated identity management tools to log onto federal computers or to enter government facilities. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued new versions of the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card as mandated by revised standards. The stronger authentication credential combines cutting-edge technology with lessons learned from federal agencies. Improvements include a derived PIV credential option for use in mobile devices, an optional on-card fingerprint comparison capability, use of iris pattern as a biometric with or without fingerprints, optional secure messaging between cards and readers, and remote updating of the card’s credentials.

Mobility Banks Bucks

September 3, 2013

A recent survey of government employees reveals that federal agencies benefit financially from the flexibility mobile devices afford the work force. Responses from more than 200 federal employees at the management level indicate that 81 percent connect to work remotely at least once a week, 54 percent connect at least once a day and 45 percent connect several times a day. Respondents estimate that, in addition to their full-time work schedule, they spend more than another full workday—nine hours—each week checking their mobile devices for messages and email.

According to input collected through the survey MeriTalk conducted, federal workers believe they would increase their productivity by an additional seven hours per week—or nearly $14,000 per employee per year—if seamless remote connectivity and mobile access to their agencies was available. Among the challenges preventing the extra efficiency are slow connections, cumbersome security procedures and limited network access.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. sponsored the survey.

Cool App-titude: MapMyRide and AFCEA Cycle for STEM

September 3, 2013
By Rachel Lilly

Are you a cycling enthusiast? Whether you compete in races or just peddle around the neighborhood with your family, the MapMyRide app will help you make the most of your cycling experience.

The free app turns your smartphone into a cycling computer, using the built-in GPS to track your fitness activities. It records your ride details, including speed, distance, calories burned, elevation and the route traveled on an interactive map. Voice prompts can update you on your progress as you go. Feeling competitive? Compete against results from other riders on popular rides in your area. You can even post your workouts to Facebook and Twitter.

Download the app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play.

Several cyclists from AFCEA International headquarters currently are using the app to prepare for the upcoming AFCEA Cycle for STEM event. On Monday, October 7, a team of 20 cyclists will leave Pittsburgh to begin a six day, 335 mile ride to Washington, D.C., to raise funds for AFCEA science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational programs. Visit the website to learn how to become a sponsor of this event, or email Sean McGowan and Terry Rogers to learn more about joining the team or volunteering.

The MapMyRide app sites are not affiliated with AFCEA or SIGNAL Magazine, and we are not responsible for the content or quality of the products offered. When visiting new websites, please use proper Internet security procedures.

Szykman: Turning Big Data Into Big Information

August 30, 2013
By Max Cacas

 
Current efforts to deal with big data, the massive amounts of information resulting from an ever-expanding number of networked computers, storage and sensors,  go hand-in-hand with the government’s priority to sift through these huge datasets for important data.  So says Simon Szykman, chief information officer (CIO) with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
 
He told a recent episode of the “AFCEA Answers” radio program that the current digital government strategy includes initiatives related to open government and sharing of government data. “We’re seeing that through increased use of government datasets, and in some cases, opening up APIs (application programming interfaces) for direct access to government data.  So, we’re hoping that some of the things we’re unable to do on the government side will be done by citizens, companies, and those in the private sector to help use the data in new ways, and in new types of products.”
 
At the same time, the source of all that data is itself creating big data challenges for industry and government, according to Kapil Bakshi, chief solution architect with Cisco Public Sector in Washington, D.C.
 
“We expect as many as 50 billion devices to be connected to the internet by the year 2020.  These include small sensors, control system devices, mobile telephone devices.  They will all produce some form of data that will be collected by the networks, and flow back to a big data analytics engine.”  He adds that this forthcoming “internet of things,” and the resultant datasets, will require a rethinking of how networks are configured and managed to handle all that data. 
 

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