U.S. Army Advances Plans for New Pacific Command Facility
A new building at Fort Shafter in Hawaii will replace World War II-era units with a state-of-the-art center.
When the U.S. military began its now popularly termed “Asia pivot” a few years ago, the new outward focus on the Pacific region as a national military priority warranted some internal Defense Department focus on how to achieve the mission—to include bumping up the position for the U.S. Army Pacific commander from a three-star general to a four-star. Accordingly, the new position would need a four-star mission command center.
Army engineers of all stripes went to work on creating a new U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) mission command facility (MCF) at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. It not only consolidates command and control capabilities and provides the Army’s theater commander with a state-of-the-art facility, but also it dovetails with the Pentagon’s major effort to standardize network services across all of the Defense Department known as the Joint Information Environment (JIE).
“The focus has really been shifted to the Pacific, and as a result of that, leadership changes are now in place to meet those requirements,” says Lt. Col. Mollie A. Pearson, USA, product manager for Power Projection Enablers (P2E) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
The Hawaii modernization effort upgrades a command facility built in 1944, originally constructed to be temporary, and consolidates functional operations housed in 12 World War II-era wooden buildings and trailers. Since the 1970s, the facilities were upgraded roughly every decade or so. The multiyear, six-phase project, estimated to cost slightly less than $400 million, is at the behest of Army leaders who directed that USARPAC transform into an operational, expeditionary Army Service Component Command to support the Pacific Command combatant commander. Officials have yet to determine a project completion date.
“This new building will provide an environment conducive for USARPAC, a four-star headquarters, to host flag-level and diplomatic visits from 36 partner nations in the Asia-Pacific,” Col. Pearson offers. “Mission success depends upon the ability of USARPAC to act quickly and effectively based on the most timely, accurate and reliable information available.
“Recognizing that information is a strategic asset, USARPAC leaders are working to establish a robust, rapidly scalable, interoperable and secure IT capability in the USARPAC MCF,” she adds.
She describes the end state “bells and whistles” as a project where the theater Army commander will have a fully functional center that is JIE compliant and will meet the stringent Unified Capabilities Requirements 2013, a detailed Defense Department document that specifies technical requirements for certification of approved products to be used in all of its networks.
The P2E office’s efforts, which encompass projects all over the globe, have not been immune to plights brought on by sequestration, and officials are bracing for additional fiscal hardships. “In general, we’re all under a constrained environment now and realizing the opportunities we can capitalize on if we’re more efficient in what we do,” Col. Pearson reports. “Within this program office, there has been a lot of discussions on how we can be more efficient, how can we maximize savings and how can we do more with less. We want to ensure that ultimately, the capabilities have to be there for the soldiers. What can we do to maximize that and assist with that?”
The office tweaked its acquisition process, awarding single, long-term contracts to address multiple bases in a region, for example, instead of awarding multiple contracts for each base within an area of responsibility. Also, the migration toward JIE “has enabled us to have commodity buys because not each installation or commander is demanding different services or deliveries,” explains Tony Moles, technical management director for P2E. “The whole JIE concept, because it’s a global network now, it’s a global capability [and] has allowed us to buy in bulk. We don’t have to go and customize it at each installation building our command.”
Additionally, the Army has embarked on a mammoth U.S. force relocation on South Korea. The Yongsan Relocation Program (YRP) and Land Partnership Program (LPP) will migrate most U.S. forces and Headquarters United Nations Command away from Seoul, mostly all to Camp Humphreys. P2E-Pacific provides and sustains the command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems and services for classified and unclassified networks in 600 buildings at the expanded Yongsan installation.
“They moved a mountain” to create the expanded area, Moles says. He was not embellishing. The area used to be rice patties and sat below sea level since it needed to be flooded. “So they took this mountain and put it out there and leveled off the rice patties. It took years for them to move the mountain, truckload by truckload.”
The YRP/LPP shift is part of the Strategic Alliance 2015 plan signed off by U.S. and Korean nation leaders, giving South Korean forces more responsibility for the defense of their nation while U.S. forces shift to more of a supporting role—and physically farther from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea from its southern neighbor. During a six-year period slated to end in fiscal 2018, U.S. forces should be consolidated to new facilities, down from 104 posts, camps and stations to 48 installations and two enduring hubs. U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys will grow from 1,210 acres to 3,538 acres and increase in population from 10,000 to 36,000.
For P2E personnel, the move presents a challenge to migrate new systems without shutting down legacy systems, Moles says. “You can’t just shut them off and move them because they have to be ready to go the fight, at night. Fight tonight,” he said, using a term to denote a critical urgency that the systems be ready at all times.
Engineers already performed a similar effort and will use the full migration project of the Army’s Main Communications Facility unfurled at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait as the template. Engineers executed a critical cutover of transmission circuits and migrated servers and more than 200 applications from legacy facilities to the upgraded 9,000-square-foot space that services Southwest Asia.
“We went from a bare floor data center facility that was lit and air conditioned, but had no equipment or anything in it, … to a fully operating capacity [facility] with all of the circuits migrated, all of the data services migrated to the servers from legacy systems,” explains Kevin Kelly, CEO of LGS Innovations, which executed the Kuwait contract. Engineers created mirrored operational environments to mitigate any network downtime. “It’s a very graceful transition you coordinate closely with the mission so that you don’t do it during a time when you can’t suffer any kind of outage or glitch along the way,” Kelly says. “Our folks were working side by side with soldiers literally in a tent, configuring servers and moving data over outside of the data center prior to physically moving those servers into the [facility], powering up and transitioning services one by one.”
The secure, self-contained facility in Kuwait also provides the basis for the JIE mission in U.S. Central Command, with an area of responsibility for 20 countries. The modernization project serves as a model to emulate and capture lessons learned across global strategic networks, Kelly says.
“JIE is focused on the delivery of [information technology] infrastructure that complements warfighting and mission capabilities,” Col. Pearson says. “One of the five major focus areas of the JIE that will be delivered incrementally with increasing optimization of information, network, hardware, applications and governance is data center consolidation.
“The [facility] in Kuwait is a significant step forward toward realizing the JIE for the U.S. Central Command …, which will enable users to securely and reliably access the network no matter where they are. It provides the infrastructure to host the data center consolidation required in the Southwest Asia area of operations.”