Untethering soldiers with unified capabilities
- By Mark Pomerleau
- Apr 07, 2016
In the connected office of the future, virtualized desktops and unified communications promise mobility, agility and opportunities to consolidate systems.
For the Army, this capability makes particular sense -- consolidating and making the force more agile. Army CIO Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell described the so-called connected office as a unified capability. “You’ve got your iPhone, and it has everything in one spot," he said. "For the soldiers, we’re locking into our data that’s on our desktop, our phones in our office… [and] untethering the soldier from that office.”
“We’re bringing unified capability -- voice, video, chat -- to the service member” so that soldiers can get phone, chat and video teleconferencing regardless of their locations, Ferrell said at a March 31 AFCEA NOVA event. The unified capability has been discussed with the Army’s acquisition staff and “is on a glide path to launch to RFP to bring that capability in ’17 for the Army,” he said.
Enabling greater mobility across the entire Defense Department, meanwhile, depends on expanding Wi-Fi capabilities, which is a key responsibility for the Air Force Joint Service Provider office. JSP Director Brig. Gen. Brian Dravis said at the same event that his office is ready to declare initial operating capability for access to the Internet through common access card-enabled devices in parts of the Pentagon. “We have that installed," he said, and "good to go today.” Dravis said such devices would also be able to wirelessly access the Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRnet) -- DOD's private network for sensitive but unclassified information.
The effort to expand Wi-Fi is partly driven by younger workers coming in expecting convenient mobile access, Dravis said, adding that the effort has been a heavy lift. His office is next focusing on outfitting the entirety of the Pentagon with Wi-Fi, along with other installations within the Washington, D.C., metro area.
The Army is working toward deploying Wi-Fi in the field this year to speed the set up and tear down of command posts.
Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.