Army streamlines network initialization

Army streamlines network initialization

The Army has developed an easier way to get its computers up and running. When machines are first turned on, soldiers must answer a series of questions and navigate an installation process to ensure their computer is recognized and can exchange information with systems across the battlefield.

Up to now, soldiers installed a disk pre-loaded with “data products,” the information that assigns roles to each system in a command post and Internet Protocol addresses that take into account specific missions and footprints of each unit.  Data products allow for greater information sharing between units, but new data products could take up to 15 weeks to be created if revisions were necessary. 

Now, real-time changes initiated by a communications officer can be integrated into new equipment while modifying or adding roles instantaneously.  Additionally, the Army will develop what is called the Initialization Tool Suite (ITS) to streamline the data product instillation process by cutting down layers of command and installation.  With the ITS, individual soldiers will be able to “initialize their mission command systems and join the tactical network… much like turning on a commercial computer for the first time,” according to the Army announcement.  

The new suite will free up communications officers, letting them more accurately tailor their network to the fight they might be facing.  It also eliminates the need for pre-defined static data products for each system in the network and gives senior commanders a more accurate common operating picture.

"ITS gave us the ability to make changes after we've delivered a set of data products," said Giovanni Oddo, technical management division lead for product director initialization.

"In the past, we had to deliver a 'set in stone' product, typically on compact discs for the unit to install on their mission command servers. Now, we preload the information on the systems and all the soldier has to do is turn them on and answer a few questions."

The ITS is composed of three separate tools.  All three involve the Warfighter Initialization Tool, the Army’s communication network that allows for information to be updated much faster, thus improving situational awareness. When all three WIT tools work together – WIT-Manager, WIT-Platform and WIT-Server – data provided to Army units is updated quicker, reflecting changes in operational areas such as equipment or various other organizational changes.    

While WIT-Manager is already being used to rapidly initialize communications systems for brigade size units (3,000-5,000 soldiers) and below, the Army will be rolling out WIT-Platform as the next phase, which will let individual soldiers initialize at their own command post stations. 

The Army envisions all changes to take place by the end of 2015.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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