Army looks at redefining its classified networks

Army leaders hope to modernize mobile networks through secure but unclassified pathways.


The Army is looking at redefining its classified networks to better accommodate mobile devices on the battlefield, according to an Army deputy chief of staff.

Soldiers loved using their mobile devices -- but not the Army's Nett Warrior classified situational awareness system, Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, said during the Feb. 7 Senate Armed Services Committee's Airland Subcommittee hearing on Army modernization.

"One of the things we're looking at is how far down do classified networks need to go," Murray said. "The secure but unclassified network opens up all kinds of possibilities," he said. "The key piece of Nett Warrior is a mobile phone you can buy in the kiosk on the corner."

But without the right network infrastructure, that key piece of technology is rendered useless on the battlefield. That's the main reason why the Army has halted some of its modernization efforts on other tactical network communication systems, such as Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T).

The Army has been heavily criticized for asking for more funds to maintain its current systems while exploring other experimental options.

Repairs beyond what's needed to maintain WIN-T have been halted. Army CIO Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford explained the move in a House hearing last September.

But experimental and prototyped capabilities are expected to be deployed at battalion level and below to "get out an interim capability while we wait for that next generation network," according to the testimony of Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the Army Acquisition Corps' director and principal military deputy to the Army's assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology.

"We know what we have to do in terms of a network of the future. We have to find the transport mechanism -- the transport layer first ... we have to modernize that piece," Ostrowski said. "In the meantime, between that network of the future and now we have to continue to be able to fight tonight so that means fixing what we have, which is our current strategy, and then buying incremental capabilities."

Ostrowski said that the ultimate goal was to buy mobile network capabilities as a service.

As fellow panelist Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Army deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7 put it: "The stuff is out there, and we're trying to reinvent the wheel.... Just like you do your AT&T bill, do it for our soldiers' personal devices."