Security policies deny soldiers access to critical information, army contends.
A case in point is the Army's "land warrior" communications system that connects a small group of soldiers into a command-and-control network. The Army has spent more than a decade and billions of dollars on this program and halted it two years ago after numerous failures and because the equipment was too heavy. It later redesigned the system, made it lighter, and decided to keep it alive because troops in combat were finding it useful.
The most valuable feature of land warrior is that it shows the location of a soldier on a digital eyepiece monitor, so troops can keep track of each other without using voice communications, say Army officials. They can also exchange text messages, maps and other critical battlefield data.
Under National Security Agency policies, the land warrior network is a Type 1 classified device, so users require a secret clearance to be able to operate it. That means every land warrior soldier must have a clearance. The Army currently has a waiver, but only on a temporary basis.
Army officials contend these restrictive policies undermine their efforts to improve connectivity and access to critical information for troops in combat. Because all military networks are considered classified, deployed soldiers must obtain waivers to access essential information such as blue-force tracking data and the location of their fellow soldiers.
It is impractical for every soldier and marine to have a security clearance to tap into databases they use in day-today operations, says Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, the Army's program executive officer for soldier equipment.
"NSA still says that everything I do is classified," Fuller says in an interview. "Army and Marines have been arguing for a long time with NSA. Not everything we do is a national security secret."
The NSA restrictions are "killing us," he says, because they are impeding Army efforts to deploy wireless systems. "We want to get rid of all cords. Go wireless," he says. NSA does not like wireless because it opens up the access to encrypted networks,
The location of land warrior soldiers doesn't have to be classified, or encrypted at the NSA Type 1 level, Fuller says. "They're moving constantly, never staying anywhere more than a few seconds. It's perishable data."
"If a soldier gets in trouble at a bar and gets arrested, his security clearance is taken away and he can't be on the land warrior network," says Fuller. That could hurt a unit's ability to execute its mission. "We've been arguing over this" for a long time, says Fuller. "It's a huge significant policy change" that NSA would have to agree to.
The Army and Marine Corps are seeking relief from current policies, and are working with the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration.
"It's out of the Army's hands," says Fuller.
An Army four-star general recently raised the issue at an industry gathering. The Defense Department is still "governed by Cold War policies" that deny soldiers access to information, the official says.
Many soldiers don't have clearances, he says. "If you have four guys in a humvee and only one has clearance, do you tell the other three to not look at the screen? That's silly," he says. "We shouldn't have to tell soldiers to not look at the screen ... Would that jeopardize national security?"
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|Title Annotation:||Soldier Technology|
|Comment:||Security policies deny soldiers access to critical information, army contends.(Soldier Technology)|
|Author:||Erwin, Sandra I.|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2009|
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