ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 19, 2015) – Emphasizing modernization, standardization and ease of use, the Army is continuing its push to replace aging cryptographic devices with upgraded equipment.
Known as the Army-Wide Cryptographic Network Standardization, or ACNS, initiative, the effort is bringing commonality and simplification to cryptographic equipment, replacing it with modern, user-friendly devices to help streamline protection of the information, which resides on the tactical network. Started in 2012, the effort began at bases in the continental United States, followed by Army accounts throughout the Pacific, with the focus now in Europe.
“There are mandates out there from the Army and the National Security Agency that call for the replacement of these legacy devices,” said James Hayden, the total package fielding manager and ACNS lead for Product Director Communications Security, or COMSEC, Cryptographic Systems. “This effort will clean up the battlefield by standardizing what we use to protect information on the Army’s network.”
Replacing the existing “hard-coded” equipment with new software programmable devices will also enable efficiency for future upgrades, which will no longer require a complete overhaul of hardware.
“Now, as we move forward with standardized equipment, we’ll be able to reprogram algorithms from the field,” Hayden said. “So in theory, if the hardware box can survive 30 years without breaking, we would only need to do software upgrades instead of what we’re doing today, which includes totally replacing hardware and software.”
As cryptographic equipment comes out of compliance, it could result in an inability to communicate at secret and top secret levels. Additionally, the legacy equipment will not be compatible with the Army’s data network as the Army migrates toward Internet Protocol Version 6, or IPV6, Hayden said.
The ACNS effort is focused on replacing the legacy end cryptographic units, or ECUs, through an accelerated fielding process. PdD COMSEC cryptographic systems identified 30,000 ECUs at almost 70 geographical sites, which had aging algorithms that needed to be replaced. Of those, only 15 sites remain before moving onto National Guard and Reserve units later this year.
“As the network and mission command systems continue to evolve, so too must our cryptographic devices,” said Robert Vik, product director for COMSEC Cryptographic Systems. “This initiative ensures Soldiers have the most modern equipment possible. Without it, it would could compromise secret-and-above information being transported.”
The process includes identifying the equipment to be replaced, filling orders, training and integration, and disposal of legacy equipment. To date, more than 6,000 pieces of legacy equipment have been removed from the field and are in the process of being disposed of. The goal is to be as non-intrusive to daily operations as possible.
The effort is a partnership with the Communications-Electronic Research and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, Communications Security Logistics Agency, or CSLA, Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, and Tobyhanna Army Depot, or TYAD. The program is managed within project director network enablers by the PdD COMSEC Cryptographic Solutions Product Office.
The holistic Army effort is critical to the full lifecycle fielding. Experts are onsite to help Soldiers with the process and perform administrative tasks while CSLA logistics experts help with the paperwork and Tobyhanna experts work to ship legacy equipment back to TYAD. The documentation is completed by the team – allowing Army units to focus on their mission.