Defense boosts bandwidth of global network to meet battlefield needs

Rising demand attributed mostly to satellite and video images from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defense Department's demand for bandwidth has soared during the past two years as the military services relied more on dense graphic aerial images for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comment on this article in The Forum.Much of the increased demand showed up at the Defense Information Systems Agency, which boosted the capacity of its global network by more than eight times, from 480 gigabits per second in 2005 to 3,875 Gbps in 2007, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of DISA.

Croom, who spoke at the agency's customer partnership conference in May, said the expansion of its global network matched the increased bandwidth demand on core Defense Department networks that make up the Global Information Grid, the Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network and the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.

Bandwidth used on the Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network jumped nearly 600 percent from 2005 to 2007, from just under 10 Gbps to 68 Gbps. Bandwidth on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network increased from 8 Gbps to 12 Gbps, according to Croom's presentation slides, which were recently posted on DISA's Web site. The agency invites only military personnel and Defense contractors to attend the customer partnership conference, which was in Orlando May 5-8.

Croom's slides do not offer any explanation for the huge increase in bandwidth capacity on the Global Information Grid, but Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting in Jenkintown, Pa., speculated that the increase reflected the escalating use of satellite imagery and streaming video from unmanned aerial vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

DISA is redesigning both the Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network and the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network to increase security, performance and information sharing, Croom said at the conference, but he provided few details. Suss said DISA needs to re-engineer both networks to protect them against increasing cyberattacks.

The agency also has started to field mobile smart phones that encrypt calls over cellular networks at the Top Secret level, and encrypt e-mail and Web browsing at the Secret level, Croom said. The Southern Command was the first to use the Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device, he said, adding that 500 of the units will be deployed throughout Defense in July for further testing. General Dynamics and L-3 Communications hold National Security Agency contracts for the secure smart phones.