Air Force, Army plan to share network and security systems

The Air Force is looking to piggyback on an Army IT modernization plan that speeds up its networks while potentially saving billions.

Military departments are following the IT playbook of other budget-strapped government agencies with a plan to share excess capacity on their networks and IT systems, a project expected to save billions of dollars in future IT costs, the Defense Department’s press service reported

A recent opportunity to share IT systems arose when the Army, facing force structure changes, upgraded to faster multiprotocol routers and regional network security stacks. Meanwhile, the Air Force was looking to upgrade its IT systems to meet plans for a Defense Joint Information Environment.

By piggybacking on the Army’s upgrade, the Air Force would be able to avoid about $1.2 billion in IT costs, according to press service. For its part, the Army expects to cut its IT budget by $785 million between 2015 and 2019 by consolidating hundreds of security stacks into 15 joint stacks, which the Air Force will also use.

The upgraded routers will increase the backbone bandwidth to 100 gigabytes/sec, while speeds at Army installations will hit 10 gigabytes/sec, a huge leap from typical speeds of 650 megabytes/sec at Fort Hood, Texas, for instance, according to Mike Krieger, the Army’s deputy chief information officer.

The regional security stacks are designed to improve command and control and are essential to enabling a single security architecture in the joint information environment, he said.

“More and more, we’re saying that some of the service-delivery capability can be managed at the enterprise level, greatly improving efficiency, effectiveness and security,” said Richard Breakiron, network capacity domain manager for the Army’s chief information office.

The new routers will also help the Air Force and Army converge network backbones and gain additional savings. The Air Force Space Command’s Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton said the deal allows the Air Force to bring on unified networking capabilities such as voice over IP, “and it allows us to put much more of this capability up at the enterprise level.”

Together, Multiprotocol Label Switching routers and the regional security stack improve performance and security, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins, Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is working with the Army on the implementation. He said the project “creates a network that is fundamentally more defensible and more efficient.”

DOD chief information officer Teri Takai called the IT sharing and modernization agreement involving the Air Force, Army and Defense Information Systems Agency “an important step forward” in the military’s “aggressive” pursuit of a joint information environment.

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