Army to roll out encrypted Wi-Fi

Army to roll out encrypted Wi-Fi

With a combination of common wireless technology and military-grade encryption, the Army plans to widely deploy Wi-Fi at command posts -- a move officials say will make for much nimbler combat units.

"The encryption technology that's used on it is really good and has yet to be hacked," said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, who until last year was the product manager for the Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 1. 

WIN-T is the service's sprawling global communications network that enables the Wi-Fi. The Army tested WIN-T's wireless capability in May 2015 at Fort Bliss, Texas, where it demonstrated how a battalion-sized element – numbering between 500 and 600 soldiers – could move an unclassified wireless command post.  Wi-Fi will be rolling it out to soldiers around the world this year, according to Babbitt.

For Babbitt, it's about time. "I mean, who doesn't have Wi-Fi in their house?" he said in a March 23 interview with FCW, GCN’s sister site.

The Wi-Fi capability will reduce the time it takes to take down and set up Internet communications at a command post by three hours, according to Babbitt. "Now, right after the tents go up, units can turn on the Wi-Fi 'hotspot' and bam! They have a LAN," Babbitt said last June.  "So instead of your network coming up last, now it comes up first…. That's enabling maneuver. Wireless reduces a unit's most vulnerable time period."

His approach to acquisition starts with identifying a capability that soldiers in the field need and finding the money for it, rather than vice versa. "I'm always looking for how to do stuff within the rules but without the structure that slows it down."

A longer version of this article originally appeared on FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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