Army's next quest: worldwide bandwidth

Army's next quest: worldwide bandwidth

Now that the Iraq war has shown the possibilities of battlefield connectivity, the Army has a nearly unquenchable thirst for bandwidth throughout the world.

Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle, President Bush's nominee to become the next Army CIO, yesterday outlined an array of current and upcoming acquisitions designed to link all soldiers and make it appear as if the Army runs on one virtual database.

'In today's environment, we want to put the minimum force necessary in harm's way so we need the technology to keep people connected,' Boutelle said at a 2003 market view conference sponsored by Input Inc. of Reston, Va. 'The only way to send people virtually is through bandwidth. We kept nearly every soldier in the Gulf connected to the network almost the whole time.'

Boutelle said the Army relied on commercial and military satellites to keep information flowing for the war in Iraq as well as Afghanistan'but 80 percent of the traffic went commercial.

The Abrams tanks, Humvees and Bradley fighting vehicles were linked through a system that relied on satellites and IP communications. It let servicemen know where they were, where the enemy was and what was going on around them in real time, he said. When fresh data was entered anywhere in the system, it propagated within four seconds, he added. Each vehicle had a high-resolution screen, with everyone in the battlespace having the same view, Boutelle said.

'We put a lot of money down to gain access to commercial satellite capabilities because they are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis,' he said. 'We beat out Fox and CNN before they could reserve the bandwidth.'

Boutelle said the Army hopes to augment its success in using commercial satellites with its Information Technology Enterprise Solutions contract. The $800 million contract will be for global network managed services. The Army originally planned to issue the final request for proposals in early April, but delays pushed back the release until this month. Boutelle said he expects the award to be made in July.

ITES would complement the existing Warfighter Information Network-Terrestrial program, a $6.6 billion contract for IP and cellular communications, as well as the $877 million Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion program and the $3.2 billion Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization program, Boutelle said. The Army issued the RFP for GIG-BE on March 10. It chose two teams from Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. to compete in the final round for the WIN-T contract.

The Army also is planning a next-generation communication system under which it will launch a new constellation of comm satellites. The start-up funding for the contract is $231 million, but the program could be worth billions by the time the system is completed in 2011 or 2012, Boutelle said. The system would provide unlimited bandwidth around the world.

Boutelle is waiting to be confirmed by the Senate and hopes to move into the CIO role by the time Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello retires July 3.

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