US Army CIO says war technology 'works correctly'

The US Army is fighting a war in which most of its technologies are working correctly, the chief information officer of the Army...

The US Army is fighting a war in which most of its technologies are working correctly, its chief information officer said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello said the Army - which was in the middle of changing to a "network-centric, knowledge-based force" when the Iraq war began - has been able to track most of its vehicles and troops on the ground in Iraq through technologies such as the Army's new satellite-based Movement Tracking System and another satellite and mapping system, Blue Force Tracking.

"We are tracking where most stuff is over there," Cuviello said. "We don't have them all, and that's why when people turn right when they're supposed to turn left ... sometimes they get in harm's way."

Cuviello was, apparently, talking about an Army supply convoy that was attacked in southern Iraq Sunday after reportedly taking a wrong turn into enemy territory.

But even in the friendly crowd, Cuviello admitted that the technology does not always work perfectly. The war in Iraq will neither be short nor easy, he admitted.

"Are there glitches? There will be, and you will hear more of that," he continued. "Are we stretched? Yes, very much so. Are the right things there? Yes. Are there enough of them? No. There's not enough money out there for all the great things we're trying to do."

Beyond the war, Cuviello spent much of his 30-plus-minute presentation at the Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems conference in Virginia talking about making the Army more network-centric, or wired.

In August 2001, a top-level Army memo directed the military branch toward a more wired backbone, and in July 2002, another memo outlined a goal of consolidating the number of servers used by 30 percent by September 2003.

The Army has reached that goal by consolidating many legacy single-function servers into newer multi-use servers, Cuviello said, and is now aimong to halve the number of servers by the financial year 2004, which starts in October.

Another way to consolidate servers is to eliminate about 6,300 Microsoft Corp. Exchange servers the Army runs, Cuviello said. The Army is moving toward a Web-based Outlook system that has the same calendaring and task functionality that the Outlook e-mail program has, he added. By this summer, more than 30,000 Army workers will be using the web e-mail system.

There are many goals for the move to a network-centric system, he said, including reducing the total cost of ownership for technology, delivering secure web-based interoperable and open systems, and providing better Army oversight of its technology resources.

Earlier during Wednesday's conference, George Knizewski, lead engineer and contractor at the Army PEO EIS Chief Information Office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, led a discussion with vendors over the Army's plan to mass deploy 802.11b wireless devices in the field by 2008 to 2010.

Knizewski said Army soldiers are using wireless devices in the field in Iraq, and by using antennas in desert areas, have been sending and receiving data from a range of several miles, much more than the range of 300 to 500 feet that 802.11b devices typically have in urban areas.

The Army is also experimenting with third-generation wireless technologies, Knizewski said, but has been focusing more on getting existing wireless technologies more secure.

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