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Army on the fast path to installing modern cryptographic equipment

April 11, 2013
By Meg Carpenter, PEO C3T

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 12, 2013) -- Until recently, Soldiers learning about cryptography were trained on Cold War-era equipment.

The Army is on a mission to change that training paradigm and Project Director Communications Security (PD COMSEC) is fast-tracking this effort. Jim Hayden, total package fielding manager for PD COMSEC, manages the Army Wide Cryptographic Network Standardization (ACNS) team, which recently installed new cryptographic equipment at Fort Gordon, Ga., home to the Army Signal Center of Excellence and school where communications Soldiers are trained.

Now the Army will put Soldiers in the field with prior knowledge on how to operate and load key using the most modern cryptographic equipment. One of these Signal Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Larry K. Olds, Headquarters/A 551st Signal Battalion, Soldier Tactical Mission Systems (STMS), recently had positive feedback for the ACNS team.

'The crypto standardization process helped the schoolhouse move into the present,' he commented.
When the ACNS team comes to an Army post, it provides new equipment for all tenants who house cryptographic equipment. The work at Fort Gordon was part of the Army's modernization strategy to standardize COMSEC and cryptographic equipment and to remove legacy equipment with fast-approaching cease key dates.

In cryptography, a 'key' is a parameter that determines the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm or cipher. The algorithm would be useless without a key. In encryption, the key is the process of changing plaintext into ciphertext, or vice versa during decryption. These technologies combine to protect the information exchanged on the Army's tactical network.

The Fort Gordon fielding of modernized crypto equipment consisted of 84 KIV-7Ms and 54 KG-175Ds, both Type 1 encryptors. The team also removed 570 pieces of legacy COMSEC equipment.

'The entire process was well orchestrated and a win for us,' said Lois S. Vann, director of the Communications Networking Systems (CNS) Directorate, 551st Signal Battalion, 15th Regimental Signal Brigade. 'We would never have been able to fund this type of upgrade without this incredible assistance. Our training is now current and more relevant, and we would never have been this successful without the support of this team.'

Accelerated Fielding

The ACNS team has streamlined its processes so that the equipment installation is accelerated and runs smoothly. The team first conducted a pre-brief to Fort Gordon. Then it returned for the site survey, bringing engineers who identified cable and racks to be replaced and special keys that were required.

The team is made up of members from the Communications-Electronic Research and Engineering Center (CERDEC), Communications Security Logistics Agency (CSLA), Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) and Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD). It is managed by PD COMSEC, part of the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).

Critical to the full lifecycle fielding are the experts who are on-site to perform administrative details. CSLA logistics experts help with paperwork and Tobyhanna experts pack any legacy equipment to send to TYAD. All required documentation is performed onsite before the team leaves -- allowing the gaining unit to focus on its mission and not on logistics paperwork.

'It's our mission to standardize the Army network with modern, user-friendly cryptographic equipment,' said Dennis Teefy, Product Director for Cryptographic Systems at PD COMSEC. 'The team prides itself in providing the highest quality fielding to the units -- this includes adjusting their property book, updating their requirements documentation and giving new equipment training. The team installs the equipment, guarantees the circuits work, packages the legacy equipment and ships it off the installation.'

Fort Gordon was one of five Army installations that participated in the pilot phase of the ACNS initiative in 2012. The team is on track to complete 14 installations in 2013 and standardize the entire Army by 2016. Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Benning, Ga., will receive updated equipment next.

The Army modernization program has helped Fort Gordon bring its communications security training in line with the operational Army.

Clyde E. Page, training specialist for Headquarters/A 551st Signal Battalion, STMS, foresees the advantage this will bring.

'Our instructors and student Soldiers are the first ones to benefit, but the lasting positive effect will be for the Commanders they support when they reach their gaining units,' Page emphasized.

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