Army units may no longer have to purchase their own equipment to secure and encrypt data on the service's tactical network under a new effort to streamline the procurement and distribution of such devices.
The Army-wide initiative, led by the Project Director Communications Security, or PD COMSEC, has a projected cost avoidance of nearly $47 million during the next three years, officials said. By tapping into the reserve of COMSEC equipment that has already been manufactured, PD COMSEC will fulfill troops' needs for modernized devices, while at the same time aligning future purchases so they meet the Army's longer-term priorities.
"It will touch every single unit in the Army that uses crypto devices," said Maj. O'Neal Williams, assistant product manager for cryptographic systems. "If we do this right, we can program money to meet the demands for communications security in current years and follow-on years, so units do not have to set aside their own operational dollars in order to meet that requirement."
The strategy has already yielded benefits to the field in recent months, with PD COMSEC using new equipment in stock at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., to supply several units that had initially planned to use their own funds to order more, officials said.
"This situation illustrates how the Army can benefit from the partnership between COMSEC experts, project managers and units to make informed decisions about how best to secure their systems," said Chris Manning, project director for COMSEC.
The equipping effort has been a major focus for PD COMSEC, which was created in 2010 as a central hub for communications security throughout the Army. In addition to procuring, fielding and sustaining COMSEC capabilities, the organization also provides COMSEC expertise to the Army's system integrators as they secure the hardware and software that comprises the tactical network.
The organization's first semi-annual COMSEC Integration Integrated Process Team (IPT) forum, which will synchronize system integrators from separate project management offices, will take place Oct. 18-19 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Prior to the establishment of PD COMSEC, the Army lacked a holistic approach to replacing legacy crypto equipment in the field with new, modernized equipment. Individual units and system owners would instead request devices on an as-needed basis, identifying equipment by type rather than by quantity. This approach was often inefficient in providing the right number of systems to the right units at the right time.
The new strategy will involve a more detailed, Army-wide equipment assessment in order to plan COMSEC purchases over several years, Williams said. It will better align system deliveries with mission requirements and significantly lower the overall funding needed.
"We can capture future requirements and budget for it ahead of time, versus telling units, 'If you need it now, pay for it yourself,'" he said.
While initially focused on the operational force, the effort will ultimately streamline COMSEC procurement for the generating force and Army installations as well, Williams said.
PD COMSEC was chartered to the Army's Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, in September 2010. It was created as a result of an April 2008 memorandum when the then-commanding general of the Communications Electronics Command, Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, recommended that the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, or ASA(ALT), establish an O6-level project management office within PEO C3T to centrally manage programs of record for the cryptographic modernization, key management and overall life-cycle management of Army COMSEC.
PD COMSEC was established to centrally manage the more than 380 separate cryptographic and ancillary models in the field, and to synchronize a multitude of capabilities and program offices that require COMSEC as well as the many joint agencies that coordinate their delivery.
By Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T
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