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Air Force, Army tell industry networks will be similar

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

TYSONS CORNER, Va. (July 13, 2006) -- Air Force and Army officials say their plans for network modernization are similar to one another.

Army Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the Army chief information officer, and Lt. Gen. Michael W. Peterson, Air Force chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer, spoke at a conference for information technology professionals July 11.

"If General Boutelle and I set our architectures down beside each other, and our vision for where we are going, I think the difference you'd see is that his slides have a green tinge," General Peterson said. "Otherwise, we are in sync. We want industry to know that."

Across the Department of Defense, the services are working to synchronize their respective operational and support networks. Eventually, the services' individual networks -- the Army with "LandWarNet," the Air Force with "ConstellationNet," and the Navy with "FORCENet" -- will all be tied together as part of DOD's Global Information Grid, or GIG, expansion project.

The GIG expansion project aims to bring increased bandwidth to all areas of the military -- aircraft, foxholes, special forces and sustaining bases. That type of integration requires each service to ensure their portions of the GIG are compatible. The services have agreed to run their networks with an "internet protocol," or IP, architecture. That was one message the two generals had for civilian industry leaders who will in all likelihood be responsible for constructing those military networks.

Another message was that implementation of the GIG, the "transport," would bring a whole new spate of problems involving data synchronization. Particularly, in order to realize the synergy of having every system connected to every other system, the resources on those systems would have to speak a standard language and be able to share data seamlessly. That isn't the case today.

"That is a very onerous process to go into legacy systems, look at the data they are generating...then tie it to a transport and then tie it to another system," General Boutelle said. "Some things become very ugly when the transport comes to it. We need to be quickly shifting our focus to a single data strategy, and I think we have one. The Joint Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense have agreed upon a data strategy, and data elements and symbology, so these (systems) will interoperate seamlessly."

Solving the data synchronization problem is something experts in the Army, Navy and Air Force will have to work on in order to fully leverage the GIG's overall potential.

"This is not a job for the people in the IT community alone," General Peterson said. "This is very much about functional communities having to do some very rigorous work in defining the data, in terms of what data they require and then describing it in terms of taxonomy, naming conventions, etc. That's the path we are on.

"It's not just about business systems; it's about delivering operational capabilities," General Peterson said. "It is a five- or six-year journey, but we are on our way to making that happen across the Air Force."