SIGNALScape

Navy to Announce NGEN Winner Tonight

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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The U.S. Navy will announce the winner of the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) tonight, according to Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, Marine Corps director of command, control, communications and computers and chief information officer. Gen. Nally discussed the pending decision while participating in a panel discussion on the final day of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore.

NGEN is expected to be a multi-billion contract and will replace the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) network implemented about a decade ago. The NGEN contract differs substantially from that of NMCI. The NMCI contract called for a commercial firm to determine and provide network services to the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. For NGEN, the government wields control over the network.

The Marine Corps officially took full control of its network from contractors this month, and feedback from around the world has been positive, Gen. Nally indicated. “As of June 1, we became a government-owned, government-operated environment. That means we have more control of the network. We tell the contractors what to do, when to do it and how to do it. The perception throughout the Marine Corps from Okinawa to Europe, Korea, and around the world is that we’re getting things done more efficiently and effectively, and we’ve given flexibility back to the commanders,” Gen. Nally said.

The Marine general reminded the audience that the service started a few years ago to collapse five major unclassified networks into one under the Marine Corps Network Unification Plan. The plan should be complete in the next few years. “That is in full support of the Joint Information Network effort. We’re key players in that,” Gen. Nally said.

Data Collectors Increase Intelligence

June 27, 2013

Robots slightly shorter than the average human may be able to connect portions of the offline world to the online world digitally. Knightscope Incorporated will soon be testing the K5 and K10 robots, which can autonomously prowl through large areas and small spaces, collecting significant amounts of data from their immediate surroundings. Applications include perimeter surveillance of military bases and inspection of power plants.

An integrated machine operating system autonomously guides each robot through defined boundary conditions; the sensor operating system collects data from the immediate surroundings. During beta testing scheduled for the end of this year, this data will be fed into the company’s network operations center. Use of the robots will be offered to customers through a machine-as-a-service subscription business model.

The K5 and K10 feature omnidirectional cameras, microphones, optical character recognition, thermal imaging and air quality detection.

Gaining Consensus on the Joint Information Environment

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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Although pockets of resistance still exist, leaders in the Defense Department and military services largely agree on the need for a Joint Information Environment, according to panelists at the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The JIE will one day consolidate all of the department’s myriad networks into one while providing enterprise services, such as email, Internet access, common software applications and cloud computing. It is expected to increase operational efficiency, enhance network security and provide cost savings through reduced infrastructure and manpower.

Anthony Valletta, an independent consultant, led the panel with lessons he learned while serving as the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence the Pentagon. “Don’t tell anyone about the savings you’re going to get because the comptrollers will take the money within two minutes after you’ve made the announcement,” and “get the buy-in from the services,” he warned.

The panelists agreed that buy-in mostly exists already. Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers for the joint staff, offered some blunt comments on the JIE. He indicated that the joint environment is his highest priority and described the joint environment as the way to the future. “We have no choice. We have to be interoperable day one, phase one, to plug into any operation anywhere in the world, whether it be for homeland defense, disaster relief here in the United States or some combat operation somewhere around the world with coalition partners,” Gen. Bowman declared.

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, U.S. Army chief information officer, spoke passionately about the need for JIE, calling it “absolutely essential.” Gen. Lawrence said the real attraction of JIE for the warfighter is that “we’ve got to be able to deploy on little notice into any austere environment.”

DISA Reorganizing to Better Support Warfighters

June 26, 2013
George I. Seffers
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The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is undergoing a substantial organizational restructuring, which is mostly complete and will be “set in concrete” July 15th. The reorganization will ensure the agency can support the military services, the joint staff, and all warfighting customers as the military moves to the Joint Information Environment, said Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, USAF, DISA director.

The reorganization includes consolidating budgeting-related organizations under the office of the comptroller. The agency also has established a customer resource management office for customer outreach and is looking to optimize operational offices. Additionally, DISA has created a Joint Technical Synchronization Office that will “work hand-in-glove” with the agency’s JIE office that is designed to help the agency move toward the JIE as expeditiously as possible.

The moves have taken place over the past month and will be complete next month.

Gen. Hawkins made the announcement while during his luncheon keynote address on the second day of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium.

 

DISA Eliminating Firewalls

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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The U.S. Defense Department is building a single security architecture that ultimately will eliminate firewalls in the future, according to Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr., USAF, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) director.

The future architecture, the plans for which are not yet set in stone and will likely change, the general cautioned, will be designed to protect data rather than networks. “In the past, we’ve all been about protecting our networks—firewall here, firewall there, firewall within a service, firewall within an organization, firewalls within DISA. We’ve got to remove those and go to protecting the data. You can move that data in a way that it doesn’t matter if you’re on a classified or unclassified network, depending on someone’s credentials and their need to know,” he declared.

“We want to be able to normalize our networks to where you can have the collaboration and information moving over our networks and you don’t have to have the different firewalls, the separate networks, to get those things done,” he added. Additionally, the department can realize significant savings in instrumentation—for example, by moving from “hard phones” to “soft phones,” he said.

Gen. Hawkins stressed the importance of getting “the information to the soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, wherever it is they may be.”

The single security architecture will improve command and control capabilities, including cyber command and control, he said.

He also discussed the importance of cloud computing. The Defense Department is in the infant stage of deciding how to build the cloud and whether to use a private, public or Defense Department-owned cloud. “We want to do that in fiscal year 14 so that all of this can be automated, and we’re working feverishly to get that done,” he said.

U.S. Military Moving Toward Joint Information Environment

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr., USAF, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), spent some time during his luncheon keynote address talking about the Joint Information Environment (JIE), which the agency already has been working on for some time.

For example, DISA is consolidating data centers from 194 to about 12. Additionally, DISA has helped transition the Army to the enterprise email system. The Army was the first service to move to enterprise email, which officials project will save millions of dollars. The agency is now working with other services, agencies and organizations within the Defense Department to move them toward the new email service, as well. “In fact, at the end of this week, we’re going to be meeting [with the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to begin their migration to the enterprise email. It is working. It is very much a part of everything that we do,” Gen. Hawkins reported.

He revealed that the agency also has a number of pilot programs focused on the integration of voice, data and video. “Everything over [Internet protocol] is where we are going. We are looking at a unified capability being released out of DISA in fiscal year 2015,” he stated.

DISA Prepared to Announce App Store Contractor

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will likely announce within the next couple of weeks who will operate the Defense Department’s mobile app store, said Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr., USAF, DISA director.

The general, delivering the keynote address during the Wednesday luncheon at the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore, described mobile as a disruptive technology for the Defense Department. The agency has distributed secure mobile phones across the department for accessing secure email and other critical services. “It is a game changer from how we’ve been moving information before,” Gen. Hawkins said. “We have been going through that competitive process, and we’re about to release the name of where it is we’re going with that. I can’t tell you who that is because our folks are still working that at the contractual level. I believe that will be done in the next couple of weeks,” he revealed.

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