Navy enables on-base WiFi access for Reserve personnel

With CAC readers already available to Navy Reserve personnel, providing WiFi access to the NMCI on base is a logical and cost-effective solution for accommodating online demand.

The Navy Reserve facility in Buffalo, N.Y., serves 160 reservists, 80 of whom are usually on duty at a time, but it only has 40 Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) seats available. That’s a recipe for frustration. 

“There are not enough NMCI seats in the house to enable everybody to do everything at the same time,” said Capt. Matthew Ragan, CTO for the Navy Reserve Forces Command in Norfolk. That is typical of the situation at the 193 Reserve facilities across the country, he said. “We cannot provide enough seats, because of cost concerns, to provide access for everybody.”


Related coverage:

How the Navy plans to run a tighter IT ship


So in May the Navy Reserve received interim permission to operate WiFi at its facilities and turned on an access point in Buffalo. “We got a five-bar signal, which was equal to an additional 120 seats,” Ragan said.

The ratio of NMCI connections available to Reserve personnel went from one seat for every two Reservists to two seats for each one.

The use of WiFi to expand network access might not sound like a novel idea, but “it’s new for the DOD,” Ragan said. “The Navy Reserve is the first organization to utilize WiFi on the Networx contract.”

This is not a case of using cutting-edge technology, he said. Reservists already can use personal laptops equipped with Common Access Card readers to access the NMCI through WiFi at public hotspots. “The security already exists.” What is new is using this technology on base. “We’re introducing an existing, proven technology for a different purpose. The innovation is the application to satisfy customer demand.”

It also is satisfying that demand on the cheap. Providing traditional wired NMCI seats for all Reserve personnel would cost an estimated $30 million. “We’re doing it for under $1.5 million a year,” under the Networx contract, Ragan said.

By September a half-dozen Navy Reserve facilities had WiFi access available, with another 10 scheduled to be enabled over the next month. After that, the pace will pick up, Ragan said. “We expect to have all Navy Reserve facilities fully functional by the end of the calendar year.”

The program is part of a broader effort to provide reservists with access to Navy resources while not on active duty.

“They need access to maintain their training,” Ragan said. This includes general naval training, as well as annual information assurance awareness training and other areas they are responsible for. “They also are managing their careers,” addressing personnel questions, arranging travel for training and other functions.

Doing any of this through NMCI requires CAC-enabled access, using the DOD-issued smart ID card with digital certificates that enables strong authentication to online resources. Reservists are issued the cards and current Navy policy is to provide a CAC reader for personal computers to all Reservists who want one, Ragan said.

“Access is cheaper than assets,” he said, and providing a reader for personal desktops and laptops is cheaper than adding NMCI seats.

He estimated that 95 percent of the Navy’s 47,000 Reservists have a personal computer, and about 60 percent of those have a WiFi-enabled laptop. Ironically, while this policy allows NMCI access from home or from the local Starbucks it did not do anything to improve access on facilities while on duty or during training weekends, when personnel most need it.

About a year ago, “the light came on,” Ragan said. “WiFi would be a total solution.” It was already being used to access NMCI from non-Navy facilities, so why not use it inside, as well?

This required approval from the Global Information Grid Waiver Board, which grants waivers, based on the level of risk being introduced, for any DOD use of services not procured from the Defense Information Systems Agency. The waiver was not hard to get, Ragan said. “We weren’t doing anything new,” except using mission money to provide access that already was available. “It was a low-risk endeavor. We weren’t trying to put a man on the moon.”

Next came approval for using the Networx contract to acquire access points, and then interim authority to operate the access points from the Navy. The access points, carrier service and support are being acquired from Qwest Communications, which merged with CenturyLink Inc. in April. Local facilities will be in charge of managing their own wireless access, but the contract, including help desk and billing, is being centrally managed by the Navy Reserve Forces Command.

“We are providing nearly all the access they need for about $2 a month, as opposed to nearly $100 a month for a hardwired seat,” Ragan said. The WiFi program is popular with the 85 percent of Reservists who have the CAC readers. “They love it,” he said. “It’s been very well received, and we can’t get them out there fast enough.”

The Defense Department’s mantra for information services is, “any information, any connection, any device, any time,” Ragan said. “That’s what we’re striving for.” With the current remote and wireless access programs, all of those conditions have been met except for “any device.” Access to the NMCI still must be through the Common Access Card, and any device used to connect will have to be equipped with a CAC reader.

It is unlikely that the gap between available devices and those approved and equipped to use the Common Access Card will ever be completely closed, Ragan said. Security concerns will always create a lag-time in approval to access DOD resources. But enabling WiFi access on base is a big step in the right direction.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.