Army busy upgrading Iraq communications

Wireless 'has really been a big hit in both Afghanistan and Iraq.'

'Kevin Carroll

Henrik G. de Gyor

Hundreds of Army civilian employees and contractors are in Iraq to upgrade satellite terminals for better security and transmission, install commercial hardware and software, and bring wireless technologies to the fight.

Army IT officials this month highlighted their efforts in Iraq during the Army Small Computer Program's annual IT conference in Hershey, Pa.

A big component of the Army's IT mission in Iraq is the Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems program, whose strategic satellite ground equipment transmits in the X, C, Ku and Ka bands.

DCATS contractors, along with personnel from the Defense Information Systems Agency, Air Force and Army, are upgrading six satellites and more than 50 terminals that carry most military communications. The effort should yield $365 million in lifecycle savings, said Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

'We have efforts to try to relocate some and to try to secure them better,' Carroll said.

The DCATS satellites are part of the Teleport system, run by DISA, which manages interfaces between systems in space and on the ground via the Defense Information Systems Network.

Meanwhile, Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface modules will link unclassified logistics systems through a wireless network.

'This has really been a big hit in both Afghanistan and Iraq,' Carroll said. 'The demand is high. Now the medical guys want it and the personnel guys want it.'

The Army's IT thrust fits with the vision of top brass to make forces smaller, but also smarter, more agile and deadlier.

Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army CIO, said information systems face billions of dollars in cuts if they fail to meet the Army's goal of extending the line of communications.

President Bush has approved a plan to increase the number of Army combat brigades from 33 to 43 and to improve their fighting ability through better networking.

Much of the criticism in reports about Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom has concerned poor communication with troops on the move.

'If your system doesn't work non-line-of-sight, it doesn't have a lot of value to us right now,' Boutelle said.

ITES 2 will be bigger

As the Army tries to improve IT products and services in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials at Fort Belvoir, Va., are gearing up to run another competition for a second iteration of the billion-dollar, performance-based IT Enterprise Solutions program.

The ceilings were set too low on the $1 billion ITES contract awarded last fall, Carroll said. ITES 2, expected to open for bidding this fall, would last five years and possibly be five times larger than its predecessor, he said.

'We'll look and see what we spent this year,' he said.

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