Corps prepares to field wearable data systems

The Marine Corps is mulling a commercial security standard that would extend command
and control applications over wireless LANs to handheld computers for Marines in the

“It’s not the guy with the biggest biceps who wins the battle but the one who
can push the information around,” said Maj. James Cummiskey, technical adviser to the
commanding officer at the Tactical Systems Support Activity at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

General Dynamics Corp. is leading the project under a $15 million contract that runs
until 2002, said Cummiskey, the Corps’ mobile computing systems architect.

The Corps must extend access points for wireless LANS over the Earth’s horizon so
that mobile units can sight the coast, he said. The Navy’s P-3 aircraft will act as
the access points, he said.

For Kernel Blitz, a North American amphibious exercise for 26,000 Marines and sailors
later this year, the Corps plans to use WaveLAN spread-spectrum wireless LAN equipment
from Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., Cummiskey said.

In last year’s Kernel Blitz, one battalion tested Microsoft Windows CE running on
28 handhelds. Officers using notebook PCs sent the battalion members orders via a wireless
LAN connection [GCN, Nov. 24, 1997, Page 1].

Cummiskey criticized security policies that hinder the push of information out to what
he called small-unit decision-makers. He said the Marines should adopt commercial wireless
standards such as the Global System for Mobile Communications. More than 85 countries have
adopted the GSM standard for 2-Mbps digital cellular service.

“We need to lose this fixation on military-only encryption standards,”
Cummiskey said. “Commanders want ‘good enough’ security that can move
fast,” even if there is some chance of interception.

“We can’t just develop for the needs of upper-level staffs,” he said.
“They just don’t get it.”

Cummiskey said the Marine Corps needs to focus on making its systems comply with the
Defense Information Infrastructure and Global Command and Control System for
interoperability with the other military branches. The Marines now develops Corps-only
applications for 32-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, he said.

“People don’t want to be tied to desktops and wires,” he said.
“They want mobile computing and access to everything” while they are out in the

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