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NSCs enable expeditionary information.

"In modern conflict, information has become as important as lethal action in determining the outcome of operations."

FM 3-0, Operations, Feb 2008

It's all about information

The newly published FM 30, Operations, describes combat power as"... the total means of destructive, constructive, and information capabilities that a military unit/formation can apply at a given time." The manual notes that the warfighting functions comprising combat power--movement and maneuver, intelligence, fires, sustainment, command and control, and protection--are "multiplied by leadership and complemented by information." The graphic in the manual, shown below, reinforces the fact that information is essential to the successful execution of all warfighting functions, giving commanders the ability to understand, visualize, describe, and direct warfighting activities, and make informed decisions that effectively apply combat power.


To generate combat power, commanders of expeditionary Army units must have access to global information resources and the ability to quickly and securely exchange large amounts of information with modular forces located around the world. This capability must be available through all phases of an operation to enable planning and coordination with assigned forces that may be widely dispersed, to facilitate distributed training and rehearsal, and to enhance common operational awareness. The capability must extend across the full expanse of the enterprise, from the deployed force to the generating force, so commanders have access to information resources beyond the limits of their immediate area of operation. Properly configured, such a capability can give expeditionary forces the ability to deploy rapidly, immediately enter the fight, dynamically change task organization, and maintain command and control as forces maneuver and command posts relocate. Creating that capability--making information "expeditionary"--is the challenge addressed in the Signal Center's Network Service Center concept.

What a Network Service Center is ... and isn't

Although it sounds like a place, a Network Service Center is really a combination of capabilities that connect warfighters to an array of network services. The basic capabilities--transport, information services, and network operations--can be found at almost every echelon of the Army and in many forms; however, the Network Service Center concept focuses on capabilities that connect warfighters to global network services at the regional level.

Regional NSCs merge the capabilities of regional hub nodes, area processing centers, and theater network operations and security centers to integrate and precondition theater network services. RHNs are satellite earth terminals that have the capacity of three tactical hub nodes. RHNs collocate with Defense Information Systems Network gateway sites to provide the expeditionary force points of entry into the global network. APCs, commonly located with Defense Enterprise Computing Centers, provide information services and can host battle command and other applications to support the deployed force. TNOSCs serve as the NSCs' management component, coordinating and synchronizing the provisioning of network resources, protecting the network, and staging information to meet the needs of the operational commander.

Strategically positioned around the world, regional NSC's will establish an "always on" backbone network that will allow expeditionary warfighters to quickly transition from garrison to combat operations. See Figure 2.

Connecting the deployed force

In operation, NSCs will enable units to deploy rapidly without having to pre-position an organic hub node. Network services will be available as soon as units establish a link to an RHN. APCs will provide fixed platforms in sanctuary locations at which user servers and applications can be hosted. This arrangement will allow the pre-positioning of battle command and common user services to give warfighters immediate access to needed services. When available, servers at these facilities can be preloaded with battle command applications, standard operating systems, patches, and security configurations required by operational units.


Units arriving in theater will be able to obtain network services without employing an organic hub node. RHNs and APCs will support continuity of operation during those times when a supported unit's organic hub node is not operational. Using NSC capabilities, units will be able to gain access quickly to network services as they maneuver and relocate command posts. NSC facilities will also serve as a vital backup capability in the event a unit's organic hub node fails. In cases where operational requirements exceed the capacity of a unit's organic hub node, an RHN hub node can accommodate the overflow.

As the network is extended, TNOSCs will oversee technical management of the network, coordinate the provisioning of services, and provide the governance security oversight required to give the warfighter a high level of service availability.

Bringing the concept to reality

Portions of the NSC construct exist today and others are coming on line as funds become available.

Regional hub nodes are ready to go into full service in Kuwait and Germany. Additional hubs are slated for construction at east and west coast locations in the United States, and a fifth hub will be built in the Pacific region. A sixth hub, for training, located at Fort Gordon, has been in operation for more than a year. In addition to supporting operator training at the Signal School, the training hub provides network services to units training at sites as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, demonstrating to commanders that they can quickly gain reliable network services without deploying their own hub.

APCs have also begun to appear in the United States and in some overseas sites. More APCs will be built as funds become available. APC services, to include capabilities directly aimed at supporting deployed operational units, will continue to be explored. At the same time, upgrades to TNOSC capabilities will be incorporated to improve the ability to manage network operations across an enterprise that connects operational and generating force activities.

In recent briefings, GEN George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, has emphasized the critical importance of information in executing the Army's mission, and has expressed his intent to expedite the regional NSC effort. With support of the Army's leadership, regional NSCs will soon be providing the expeditionary Army a much needed capability to move information as quickly as it can deploy forces.


APC--Area Processing Centers

COOP--Continuity of Operation

DECC--Defense Enterprise Computing Center

DISN--Defense Information Systems Network

NETOPS--Network Operations

NSC--Network Service Center

RHN--Regional Hub Node

TNOSC--Theater Network Operations and Security Center

COL (Ret.) Wells is the author of the Network Service Center-Regional concept. A former Training and Doctrine Command Systems manager for the Mobile Subscriber Equipment system, Wells works for Janus Research Group, Inc. supporting the Concepts Section of the Signal Center's Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate.
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Title Annotation:network service center
Author:Wells, Geoffrey
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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