First Army Base Installs IP Infrastructure
Transitioning to an IP-based network is not for amateurs.
U.S. Army stakeholders are working together to steadily modernize the network that reaches from the home station to the tactical edge. To understand this effort, one needs to understand the changing mission requirement for the command element at home station to maintain a consistent, secure, and reliable connection with dispersed, tactical teams maneuvering on the battlefield.
Future war scenarios forecast that Army installations will need a network infrastructure capable of supporting the signaling transport requirements for military operations within an Internet Protocol (IP)-based network infrastructure. This capability—voice, data and video over IP—will enable command elements at home station to maintain open communications with small combat teams, most likely operating in dense megacities. By modernizing from the tactical edge to the installation, the network will enable the Army to transition to a regionally aligned, expeditionary fighting force.
This transition requires the Army to upgrade its installation infrastructure and voice system. The existing voice system uses time-division multiplexing (TDM) switches, transport equipment and the associated copper infrastructure that has been in place for more than 30 years. Now at both the end-of-life and end-of-support phase, these systems have a high risk of failure in addition to high maintenance costs. As a result, the Army is in the process of transitioning to an IP-based voice system.
In recent years, IP network technology has proven to be as reliable as legacy TDM technology, in addition to being less costly to maintain. As such, the TDM-to-IP transition will position the Army to drive down operating and sustainment costs.
Transitioning to the state-of-the-art IP technology will not be business as usual. It will not be amateur hour, and we will need all hands on deck to conduct the rigorous assessments and planning required to perform this transition into the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA's) Assured Services Session Initiation Protocol network, which provides end-to-end assured services.
In support of this Army-wide effort, I serve as the assistant product manager for the Army’s effort to modernize Fort Leonard Wood’s voice communication systems. The Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems has a long history of providing state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure to soldiers. It takes many people to execute a project of this size and complexity.
Together, we executed the first TDM-to-IP transition at an Army installation. The Fort Leonard Wood modernization project served as the proof of concept that the Army could perform the TDM-to-IP transition at other Army installations. The lessons we learned from this project will help to accelerate the network transformation and integration into the DISA network at all future sites for many years to come.
In the process, my team managed a voice system modernization that started in February of 2015, migrating approximately 19,900 users to an IP-based information infrastructure provided by DISA.
By completing this project, Fort Leonard Wood is the first Army site to transition to DISA’s Army network for voice calls from both the Defense Switched Network and commercial Voice Internet Service Providers. By completing this IP transition, Fort Leonard Wood is also the first site to decommission and dispose of its legacy TDM switch entirely and commence significant cost-reductions by eliminating old, long distance analog voice circuit optimization.
This installation capability set modernization will enable uninterrupted mission command and secure reliable voice, video and data communications across the joint operational spectrum. As a result, soldiers will experience network enhancements with more direct and transparent access to enterprise-level services, delivering the mission required installation capability sets at home station.
In February 2015, Alberto Dominguez was appointed the assistant product manager for the installation capabilities sets for the continental United States under the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The views expressed here are his alone.