Six degrees of worldwide integration

The six components of the Global Information Grid

Terrestrial communications. This is based on fiber optics and includes the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion program, a ground-based switched optical network that will create a worldwide information backbone supporting 10-Gbps and faster connections. DOD is rolling out GIG-BE worldwide at 92 sites, beginning next month. The network initially will offer OC-192 connectivity.


Wireless communications. This component of the GIG will be based on the Joint Tactical Radio System, a program to field software-programmable radios that provide multichannel voice, data, imagery and video communications. The radios, which eventually will replace more than 25 different types of military radios currently in use, can be upgraded with new software via a wireless information network.


Space-based (satellite) communications. The Transformational Communications System will use lasers to link ground-based fiber optic cables to space and transmit data to and from the ground and between satellites.


Net-centric Enterprise Services. NCES will integrate a common set of nine core information services over the Global Information Grid. The initiative is exploring new concepts and technologies while it continues to define the services.


Information assurance. Defense is building an end-to-end security architecture to layer cybersecurity into the GIG.


Horizontal fusion portfolio. Defense manages and funds a portfolio of net-centric initiatives aimed at accelerating the rate at which applications are Web-enabled. The focus of the program, also known as Quantum Leap, is to transform the prototypes into programs that will run over the grid.

'What it's not is a program. [GIG] is more of a concept and vision for how we're going to transform the department's IT to support net-centric operations.' 'DOD's Mike Krieger

Rick Steele

Robert Lentz, DOD's director of information assurance, says the GIG's security component will be fully vetted by the fall.

Scott Davis

The Defense Department's Global Information Grid exists today as a vision. It will take shape, over the next decade and beyond, as a six-layered, net-centric and interoperable network with both classified and unclassified components.

By design, the GIG will be in a constant state of development, just as the Internet is. In fact, the GIG essentially is a worldwide Internet for Defense.

'What it's not is a program,' said Mike Krieger, director of information management in the Defense Department's deputy CIO office. 'It's more of a concept and vision for how we're going to transform the department's IT to support net-centric operations.'

The six layers, or components, of the grid will be fiber, wireless and satellite communications, DOD's so-called Net-Centric Enterprise Solutions suite of applications, an information assurance layer and a portfolio of experimental pilot programs. Each will be added over the next seven to 10 years as they are completed, according to DOD's plans.

The money for the portfolio of pilots, dubbed 'horizontal fusion,' is an incentive for military leaders to start adopting net-centric systems.

'Horizontal fusion is a key carrot. It's helping the department move quicker,' Krieger said. 'And, if we agree with your pilot, we're going to give you some horizontal fusion dollars.'

Today, the GIG exists in what Krieger calls 'the current state.'

'The capability keeps growing. It's going to continue to be developed, just like the Internet,' he said. 'It's the processes, policies, as well as the IT and national security systems. It's too big to turn a switch.'

Still growing

The 200,000 users currently on the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet portal are integrated with the GIG. So is the Air Force's portal, Krieger said, adding that both portals will see increased capabilities as the GIG develops.

DOD, with the National Security Agency, on June 30 delivered an information assurance architecture, which will become the security component layer of the Global Information Grid. The architecture is being rolled out in three increments, scheduled for completion by 2016.
[IMGCAP(2)]
The information assurance architecture, which now includes 10 documents totaling 2,000 pages, will be fully vetted in the early fall, according to Robert Lentz, director of information assurance for the Defense Department.

The major communications components of the grid are:
  • An IP backbone bolstered by the fiber-optic Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion program

  • A wireless component encompassing the Joint Tactical Radio System

  • A satellite communications loop known as the Transformational Communications System.

'The current architecture in this current system-of-systems world [requires that] we spend a lot of time identifying who needs what data and engineering those interfaces to push the data to those users,' Krieger said. 'In a net-centric world, you build it from the ground up. We think you can do that today in small steps.'

Two major systems that will operate over the GIG are the Global Command and Control System-Joint and the Global Combat Support System. GCCS-J is the joint military command and control system of record, currently in use at more than 650 sites worldwide.

The Global Combat Support System is a GCCS-J application that feeds commanders combat support data and command and control information. Both systems operate over the Secret IP Router Network, which is part of the grid.

Donald Keller, project director for the Warfighter Information Network'Tactical program management office, said the program is the Army's tactical extension of the Global Information Grid 'that extends from the theater down to the maneuver units. WIN-T extends the GIG services to mobile commanders and individual warfighter platforms.'

'The interfaces between WIN-T and the strategic network are seamless from a user's perspective,' Keller said.

Prototypes of WIN-T equipment will be tested in a field environment in the summer of 2005. The program is scheduled for initial production in early fiscal 2006. WIN-T is designed so other services can connect to it. It has direct interfaces with Navy, Air Force, Marine and Joint networks. WIN-T can also serve as the primary communications network in a joint task force, Keller said.

WIN-T architecture development contracts were awarded to General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed-Martin Corp. in August 2002, and options for full development were awarded
to both companies in August 2003. There has been no contract award action since then.

One of the main thrusts of the GIG is to have a set of common standards and protocols so that interoperability is achieved from a program's start.

'In the past we were focused on systems-of-systems interoperablity, so we were trying to work all of these one-to-one interoperable exchanges. We kept working one-to-one interfaces,' Krieger said. 'Every time you would work an interface, a new problem surfaced.'

The GIG idea started several years ago. These days it has 'finally reached the point where we've articulated the vision,' Krieger said.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above