With ITES contract, Army aims to quench thirst for bandwidth

After the success of networked IT in Iraq, the Army's need for battlefield connectivity will only grow.

'Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle

When it awards a contract for its IT Enterprise Solutions program, the Army will begin to put in place the infrastructure and bandwidth to link all soldiers and make it appear as if the Army runs one virtual database, Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle said.

After the success of networked IT in Iraq, the Army's need for battlefield connectivity will only grow, said Boutelle, President Bush's nominee to become the next Army CIO.

Speaking last month at a Marketview 2003 conference sponsored by Input of Reston, Va., Boutelle outlined an array of current and upcoming acquisitions designed to link soldiers.

'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,' he said. 'We kept nearly every soldier in the Gulf connected to the network almost the whole time.'

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

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 was available to network users within four seconds. Each vehicle had a high-resolution screen, and everyone in the battlespace had 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-served basis,' he said. 'We beat out Fox and CNN before they could reserve the bandwidth.'

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 Defense Information Systems Agency issued the request for proposals for GIG-BE on March 10. It chose teams from Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. to compete in the final round.

The Air Force also is planning a communications system under which it will launch a new constellation of comm satellites for use by all services to greatly increase bandwidth. 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.

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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