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How Technology Can Help the Army Win in a Complex World

How Technology Can Help the Army Win in a Complex World Homeland Security TodayIn 2014, the US Army issued the Army Operating Concept (AOC), a document that outlined how the armed forces of the future can adapt to fight ever-evolving threats. The goal the AOC proposed was direct, sweeping, and ambitious – “win in a complex world.”

The problem, as illustrated in the AOC, is that the world is becoming a much more complicated and dangerous place. Enemies have grown more elusive, sophisticated, and capable. These adversaries have the capabilities to challenge the United States across multiple domains – land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace.

As these battlefronts become more complex, so does the technology that the armed forces depend on to deliver critical data and communications services. The Army has spent years investing in proprietary “best-of-breed” technologies designed to handle unique tasks. This approach has resulted in networks loaded with outdated legacy systems from different vendors, each with their own capabilities. The systems do not interact well with each other, and deliver overly complicated data that can be extraordinarily difficult for soldiers to process.

This inefficient and insecure approach is hindering the Army from winning in a complex world. However, technology is still a critical part of the Army’s initiatives, particularly for warfighters who must be able to quickly process and act on the data they receive. The AOC states “communications and information processing technology may improve understanding through common operational pictures and a reduction of technological complexity for users.”

Thus, as the Army continues its attempt to simplify the complexities of warfare, it should also take strides to simplify the complexities of its network environment, especially as that environment continues to expand. As troops become increasingly mobile and disbursed, the Army must provide soldiers with reliable bandwidth and communications solutions regardless of where they may be positioned, even in the most austere locations.

Warfighters must have immediate and secure access to actionable and easy-to-understand data that can be processed as soon as possible. This can be accomplished by using powerful networks that can be easily managed by central command, yet still able to deliver services to troops regardless of where they may be located.

Monitoring Security

Earlier this year, the Army issued its Army Data Strategy. In that report, LTG Robert S. Ferrell wrote, “The volume, variety, rate of change, and complexity of data are impacting the Army’s traditional information management practices.” The report called for secure access to data and “protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of Army information.”

To support this effort, administrators must continuously monitor and update the applications that run on the Army’s networks. This will allow them to immediately detect suspicious activity, trace it back to a source, and address the issue before it becomes a national security threat. Further, they must apply regular updates and patches to software, which can add another layer of protection by ensuring that all tools remain up-to-date and protected against known viruses and hackers.

Continuous monitoring also allows for the creation of customized views from the same streams of data. For instance, Army administrators can gain insight into network performance and availability or use the same data to gain a better understanding of potential security risks. In any case, the data can be collected once and reused as necessary. This can help save bandwidth, which is another precious commodity that directly impacts the effectiveness of troops in combat.

Monitoring Bandwidth

The Army is becoming increasingly dependent on data-intensive applications, such as video, to gain intelligence and plot strategy while in theater. Uninterrupted and reliable delivery of these applications requires substantial bandwidth, which dictates the amount of data that can be transmitted over a network. Networks must have sufficient bandwidth for warfighters to be able to successfully receive mission-critical information in real-time.

The Army has undertaken a concerted effort toward establishing networks built on technology that minimizes bandwidth constraints, but it is an ongoing process. In the interim, the Army must adopt solutions that allow its network administrators to closely monitor bandwidth utilization to ensure that warfighters have quick and reliable access to information.

Optimizing network bandwidth performance is particularly important as the Army continues to move more applications to the cloud. As the Army notes, “Cloud-based networking requires assured and significant bandwidth.” But bandwidth is not unlimited, so the Army must deploy solutions that provide users with visibility into what may be consuming bandwidth.

Automated and detailed monitoring of network bandwidth and traffic patterns can help identify applications that may be causing network slowdowns and control overall bandwidth usage for better quality of experience.

Bandwidth tends to be limited at the access points that armed forces personnel use to connect to the network while in the field, which could pose challenges for mobile forces. Maximizing bandwidth for these access points requires managing how bandwidth is being used throughout the network as a whole. If the rest of the network is running efficiently, overall performance, even at the edge, will improve.

Monitoring Everything

The future of warfare will be complex, but that does not mean that network management must follow suit. In fact, simplifying network management will be key to facilitating a more agile and connected military that is prepared to take on evolving conflicts. Even as the Army continues to deploy a vast tactical communications network, it is also making plans to consolidate the number of tools it uses to monitor and manage that network.

The goal is to make it easier for administrators to manage the network while gaining complete visibility. As such, the Army is deploying single solutions that provide end-to-end network visibility that can help reduce outages, detect and resolve performance issues and more, all from a centralized viewpoint. The tools must also be highly intuitive and designed for use by a generation of soldiers raised on the simplicity of smartphones and tablets.

To win in a complex world, the Army must attempt to control some of those complexities so that it’s easier for warfighters and network administrators to do the jobs that really matter. And while the Army may not be able to predict where the next battle will be fought, or how the enemy may approach, it can control, simplify, and streamline the technological resources it uses to win that battle. This will allow soldiers to focus on the complexity of the fight, rather than the complexity of the network infrastructure – ultimately leading to victory.

Paul McCloskey is director of business development for federal markets for SolarWinds.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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