Faxes are low on Army's priorities list

Congress wants the Army to replace thousands of fax machines with new fax technology,
but the Army envisions the digital battlefield of the future as one without fax machines.


The Senate Armed Services Committee requested a report from the Army on the future of
secure fax machines, including the cost of replacing legacy systems in the fiscal 1998
Defense Authorization Act. The Army, however, told the committee that fax technology
doesn’t play a big part in the service’s modernization plans.


“Rapidly advancing technology and the increasing use of computers in the tactical
arena may preclude or at least greatly decrease the requirement for secure fax
machines,” said Col. Michael Brown, the Army’s deputy director for information
assurance in the February report. He said the Army can’t determine the cost of
replacing its fax technology until the digitized division has been tested and evaluated.


The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s emerging future requirements
document calls for an Integrated Services Digital Network voice-switching architecture.


The Army plans to field the first digital division by 2000 under its Force XXI
modernization. TRADOC is still deciding which systems to use and to what level the service
should digitize.


But the legacy AN/UXC-7 fax machine is at odds with modernization goals, Army officials
said. The fax machine was built to military standards in the 1980s by Magnavox and uses a
rolling drum to transmit documents. The Army bought 5,000 of them for $105 million, or
$21,000 apiece.


The fax machines are no longer produced. Expensive to maintain as well as purchase,
more than 500 of the machines are under repair at any given moment, Army officials said.
Most machines fail after 2,495 hours of use and cost around $4,325 each for repair or
overhaul, service officials said.


The bulky UXC-7 weighs more than 65 pounds in its standard configuration and 110 pounds
with supplies, Army officials said.


The Army is already using newer commercial fax machines from Richo Corp. of West
Caldell, N.J., and Ilex Systems Inc. of Milpitas, Calif. The Army also uses either Secure
Telephone Unit-III terminals or in-line encryptors for secure transmissions. The committee
urged the Army to buy more of the modern fax machines.


The service is also eyeing a secure fax from Turtle Mountain Communications Inc. of
Maryville, Tenn.


“In anticipation of an upgraded requirement, we are reviewing an unsolicited
proposal from Turtle Mountain Communications Inc., which provides a ruggedized
multifunctional fax transceiver,” Brown said.


The Army’s 1st Cavalry division at Fort Hood, Texas, is evaluating TMC’s
SMF-1M-TAC fax machine in field trials.


Preston Leingang, TMC’s president, said his company’s fax machine would fit
well with the Army’s new digital division. The standalone fax machine, with carrying
case, weighs about 35 pounds. A 21-inch rack mount secures the fax into Humvees and other
combat vehicles to offset vibration caused by uneven terrain.


The SMF-1M-TAC is a commercial fax machine from Mita Copystar America Inc. of
Fairfield, N.J., that TMC modified by installing a 110/220-volt power supply, mobile
subscriber equipment connectivity, cryptographic equipment for satellite use and a secure
fax interface board that switches between secure and nonsecure Group 3 modes of
communications, Leingang said.


The machine, which costs $5,900, also serves as a printer, scanner and copier. About
300 TMC fax machines of various models are scattered among the Army’s commands and
organizations, Leingang said.


The Army also uses the TS-21 Blackjack by Cryptek Secure Communications LLC of
Chantilly, Va. The Army’s III Corps, U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as
Britain’s Royal Marines and Norway’s Special Forces, use the $14,000 machine.


The Blackjack is capable of transmitting and receiving photo-quality imagery, drawings
and documents at 64 Kbps, a Cryptek spokesman said.


“As much as the Army wants to have a digital battlefield and be paperless, they
haven’t figured out a way to get rid of paper,” said Cryptek president David
Gross. “So they use the TS-21 as a printer, scanner, copier and point-to-point fax
machine.”


The Army’s 11th Signal Brigade at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., just completed testing the
TS-21 as part of the Grecian Firebolt exercise. The TS-21, which weighs about 40 pounds,
can be installed on aircraft, ships and ground equipment.


But because TMC’s SMF-1M-TAC is a commercial fax machine that has been ruggedized,
Leingang said, it has lower maintenance costs than the TS-21.


But the TS-21 is designed to replace the UXC-7, Gross said, and is more rugged and can
withstand the extreme temperature, dust and vibration of the battlefield better than
TMC’s fax machine.

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