Army’s Next Battle: Outdated IT Systems

As the U.S. Army makes its exit from Afghanistan, it’s turning its attention to modernizing operations at its bases at home.

Federal Computer Week tells of Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, who recounted an encounter with a returning general:

‘You give me absolutely everything I need to command and control in the fight while deployed, but when I go back home to Fort Bragg, I go back to the Stone Ages.’… Soldiers could deploy to the theater and you’ll have everything over IP, unlimited bandwidth … whatever [joint urgent operational needs] there were, we filled. But when they came back home, they were on the old, circuit-based switches; didn’t work; there was a lot of frustration.

Lawrence estimated that about 85 percent of U.S. Army bases run on “antiquated” networks. She said the Army is going to “bite the bullet and redesign the entire architecture of the network inside of the continental U.S,” in an effort to standardize Army command, control, communications and computing services.

Said Lawrence:

It’s time to get right-size with the right talent.

Among the priorities are better network defense and thin-client capabilities, as well as enterprise email. All email accounts are expected to be migrated to a central enterprise system by March, 2013. The Army is looking at the potential for a BYOD strategy where users could access Army systems without storing any sensitive data.

A Wired article also looks at the Army’s efforts to plan for its next deployment. It almost sounds like a familiar commercial:

“The network,” says Lt. Gen. William Phillips, the Army’s acquisitions chief, “is our number one program going forward.”

The Army is looking for ways to provide connectivity for units on the move and to get tactical information to small units and infantrymen.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cuculo, the Army’s self-described “hardware guy,” estimated that the Army needs to save at least 18 percent of its $184.6 billion requested budget – about $35 billion – for modernization.

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