New tools ahead for DOD’s global grid
- By William Welsh
- Sep 14, 2015
The Defense Information Systems Agency will launch a new configuration management tool for the Global Information Grid on Sept. 28 that will give users better visibility into network assets.
A top Defense Information Systems Agency official told GCN the configuration management tool is just one of a number of near-term enhancements planned for the Defense Department’s worldwide data information network, which enables 4.5 million users to share classified and unclassified information. The enhancements are being made by the project team for the three-year-old Global Information Grid Services Management-Operation (GSM-O) program.
“On the immediate horizon, what we are planning to do is implement a series of technology insertions centered on global IT service ordering,” said Jessie Showers, director of DISA’s Infrastructure Directorate. The technology insertions are “a series of cyber defense and operational improvements that we are going to do to enhance network configuration management.”
In fiscal 2016, the GSM-O project team will automate circuit provisioning to enhance network performance, create tools and dashboards to resolve network outages, and introduce software-defined networking, Showers said.
In a broader strategic sense, DISA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin will keep the Global Information Grid in lock step with the overarching Joint Information Environment by implementing the Joint Regional Security Stacks, Showers said. That work is already underway.
In addition, DISA plans to offer a few coalition partners the opportunity to have their networks supported under GSM-O. Beginning in fiscal 2016, “we will do it on a small scale, and then we will expand it to other coalition partners so they kind of have the same kind of operational support that we furnish to our customers in the DOD,” he said.
Global storefront for services
The initiatives signal that the GSM-O program has crossed a major threshold by completing the consolidation of disparate tasks under previous contracts. The program is now moving at full speed to enhance and optimize the Global Information Grid on many fronts.
In addition to ensuring that the grid has the latest commercial technology, the GSM-O project team helps DISA guarantee that the grid is secure enough to defeat the millions of cyberattacks against it each day. That requires robust situational awareness to identify and defeat threats.
In the past three years, DISA and contractor employees have consolidated requirements from roughly 20 task orders covering more than 400 work elements under a previous time-and-materials contract and realigned them with the seven-year, performance-based GSM-O contract, Showers said.
That massive transition took place while a number of high-profile missions were continuing, including U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other global hot spots. “We didn’t drop a single mission, and no circuit degradation occurred,” he said.
The first year of the contract (fiscal 2013) was devoted primarily to contract consolidation to streamline processes and improve program efficiency, said Chris Kearns, vice president of enterprise IT solutions at Lockheed Martin. The second year of the contract was marked by a push for operational convergence, whereby personnel support from overseas network centers were brought stateside and consolidated into a single, virtual network operations center supported by staff in Illinois and Hawaii, he said.
In the second year, the project team also launched a portal known as the DISA Direct Storefront, through which DOD Common Access Card users from the military services, combatant commands, and defense and intelligence agencies can buy network connections, mobile devices and unified communications services.
Previously, each military branch acquired network services through its own entity. Kearns said the Direct Storefront offers uniform and precise information regarding cost and the time required to implement a service.
Goal of a common stack
The Joint Regional Security Stacks initiative being carried out through GSM-O will significantly improve situational awareness by giving the military services and DISA a common view of various aspects of network security, officials said.
JRSS is the middle layer, so to speak, of the global data communications network. It handles the network transmissions between the Internet access points and end-user devices. Until now, each military service had its own security stack.
The initiative is being undertaken as part of the Joint Information Environment, a holistic plan designed to give DOD and the military services secure computing capabilities across the breadth of their vast operations.
Centralizing the locally distributed architectures at each base, post, camp and station so that the U.S. military has a common stack across the globe requires two major steps, Kearns said. The first part is a move to Multiprotocol Label Switching to give DOD the requisite bandwidth capability to match the latest technology for managing the flow of network traffic. The second part is the installation of new sets of equipment for the sensitive unclassified area and the secret classified area.
The first stack of JRSS is already operational at Joint Base San Antonio, Kearns said. Twenty-four Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network and 25 Secret IP Router Network stacks are at various stages of installation and configuration worldwide. More than 400 global sites will complete migration to JRSS through 2019, he said.
“The security stacks being deployed under GSM-O will provide an enterprise-level security boundary and allow us to operationalize our security capabilities and our abilities to make this network look more secure,” Showers said. “You can’t make it completely secure, but we will make it a lot more secure than it is today.”
“This initiative is a major DOD priority,” he added. “DISA is using GSM-O as a key pillar to ensure that this effort is successful.”
Better response to network events
Another GSM-O initiative is the implementation of software-defined networking. “That’s the next-generational focus we are taking as well,” Kearns said. “It has huge benefits for security, operations and cost efficiencies.”
Software-defined networking will make the designated network connections “smart” through the use of software rule sets that will react almost instantly to unforeseen events that cause disruptions. To prepare the Global Information Grid for software-defined networking will require tailoring some data center connections so that they can use advanced architecture, Kearns said.
“Event management is one of the big areas that [software-defined networking] has a benefit to,” he added. When events occur and traffic must be rerouted, the pre-established rule sets take over. “If a certain network path becomes unavailable, the network has intelligence coded into it that allows it to reconfigure itself in real time.”
William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.