CENTCOM Leader Outlines Problems and Solutions

March 5, 2009
By Henry Kenyon

TechNet Tampa 2009 wrapped up with a keynote address by Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, USA, chief of staff, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). The general impressed upon the audience the importance of communications to all CENTCOM's efforts which involve work in almost all the countries in the command's area of operation, not only Iraq and Afghanistan. Communications are so necessary that to the command staff, a broken video teleconference connection is more of a problem than a broken rifle. Even the boots on the ground who use a rifle every day depend on reliable communications.

The general stated that one of his command's needs is to increase the ability of ground troops to communicate on the move and over the horizon. Small units especially need these capabilities. One way operators are handling the issue is through Netted Iridium. "The Iridium network is now being leveraged [for] push-to-talk radios," Gen. Hood said. Another major problem in the CENTCOM area is the lack of communications infrastructure. This hinders current communications, negatively affects CENTCOM's ability to develop host nation security forces that are interoperable with the United States and others, and decreases information sharing capabilities. Gen. Hood explained that the infrastructure leading to theater is better than what is in theater, but those pathways need to be improved as well. Progress is being made in places like Afghanistan, where investment in infrastructure has led to an increase from a few hundred cellular telephones in that country a few years ago to more than 8 million being used today.

Another good development referenced by the general is the development of One Box, One Wire, or OB1. The National Security Agency has tested the tool, which combines multiple networks into one box, and given it high ratings for performance. Also on the horizon is the Theater Network Management Architecture, a CENTCOM effort to improve situational awareness across the command's networks. Gen. Hood said it is critical for operational awareness and will enable personnel to see network events in real time rather than reacting to symptoms and fallout.

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