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Telecommunications systems engineering course: designed for the FA 24, telecommunications systems engineering officer, TSEC is a rigorous curriculm.

With the support from Headquarters Department of the Army and as part of the Officer Professional Management System XXI program, the U.S. Army Signal Center established a separate, specialized officer functional area. This FA provides the Army with a core of professional network engineers to support the nation's full spectrum dominance strategy.

The Signal Center created FA 24, Telecommunications Systems Engineering Officer, and executed a comprehensive process of analysis and design effort to determine the most effective methods available to educate and train these officers. The result of that process is a rigorous curriculum that provides lecture sessions, research projects, and practical applications of math and science in engineering and designing telecommunications network solutions.

The FA 24 Telecommunications Systems Engineering Course is a functional area qualification program that awards Area of Concentration 24A and along with the CGSOC satisfies the Army's Intermediate Level Education requirement for field grade FA 24 officers.

Originally, the course targeted all Career Field 24 officers (at eight-to-10 years of service) with a hard science or technical undergraduate degree. The curriculum is taught at Fort Gordon, Ga., and consists of a 10-week Information Systems Operations Leveler course followed by a 20-week TSEC that is delivered at the graduate education level.

The TSEC was constructed with assistance from faculty members of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredited masters degree programs in Telecommunications, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (University of Pittsburgh, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Colorado). The Defense Information Systems Agency, the Information Systems Engineering Command, and the Fort Gordon Battle Command, Battle Laboratory all contributed to the development of the joint portions of our instruction.

The skills and knowledge required of this functional area came from merging two former Signal Area of Concentration 25 specialties -25D, CE Engineering, and 25E, Telecommunications and Networking. The 442nd Signal Battalion, in partnership with Information Systems Engineering Command, Battle Command Battle Lab--Gordon, and Defense Information Systems Agency, recruited professors from Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Military College, and the University of Pittsburgh, funded and developed the course curriculum and instruction.

Lab equipment and lab facilities (routers, Channel Service Unit/ Data Service Units, Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches, Private Branch Exchange, and communications security equipment) were provided by the BCBL (G) and through a contract with the General Dynamics Corporation. Simulations software and hardware were provided by ISEC, in cooperation with OPNET Technologies, Inc. for the first course iterations (2000-2001). DISA provided the Network Warfare Simulations tool which we incorporated into the curriculum in 2004.

Army officers assigned to the 442nd Signal Battalion with contractors augmented by contracted associate professors (PhDs) from various universities provide course instruction Lectures are conducted in the morning, with afternoons reserved for research, lab work, and hands-on practical exercises. Figure 1 depicts the course map for the TSEC.


The TSEC includes the following modules:

Module A, Math for Networking, provides a detailed review of mathematic fundamentals relevant to the study of telecommunications, electronics, and data communications.

Module B, C Programming, is an overview of the C Programming language, while focusing on object oriented design and structured layout of programs.

Module C, Telecommunication Systems, provides an overview of public and private telecommunications systems, fundamentals of traffic engineering, switching, transmission, and signaling.

Module D, Data Communications, is a study of the knowledge and skills required for engineering and managing high-speed data communications networks. Students gain an in depth knowledge of layers 1-3 of the OSI model and a working and familiarity with layers 4-7.

Module E, Switching, is an analysis of switching concepts relevant to the study of telecommunications, electronics, and data communications. The focus is on commercial switching technologies but includes information on Army and Joint standards for implementation and application.

Module F, Information Assurance, provides an in-depth look at the tenants of network security, focusing on confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and availability of data.

Module G, Network Operations and Management, is an introduction to the principles, practices, and technologies for managing networks, systems, applications, and services. Spectrum management software is also introduced to students in a lab environment.

Module H, Network Design, provides a structured approach to network design concepts and a systematic, top-down process to design telecommunications networks in the commercial, DISN, and DII realms.

Module I, Current and Future Telecommunications Systems, introduces students to the systems that make up the existing and transitional Army tactical wide area networks.

Module J, CAPSTONE Research Project, challenges students to identify a topic for research that addresses a current Army or Joint networking issue. Students will conduct research and use knowledge obtained in the course and formally present a proposed solution.

In September 2005, the second FA 24 CTSSB met to review the 16 existing 24A critical tasks to determine their relevancy to the current operational environment and recommend new tasks as appropriate. The board agreed on 10 new critical tasks that were derivations of the original 16, but de-emphasized the engineering of networks using specific tactical communications systems.

All tasks were placed into one of the following categories: engineer, monitor, validate, or restore a network. Emphasis was placed on keeping all tasks generic (no vendor specific equipment) and using open systems and communications standards to engineer networks.

In an effort to keep the TSEC curriculum current, we brought critical skills experts to Fort Gordon from organizations like DISA, U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command and Research Development Engineering Command to brief DoD/Army implementation of new and emerging technologies. We contracted faculty from IT graduate programs to augment the government staff and assist in maintaining the curriculum with the latest IT trends and industry standards.

In addition, the staff incorporates comments given by FA24 Officers in the operational environment along with lessons learned from DoD and Army IT publications. As a result, students are taught to assess and exploit new technologies in the engineering and design of a network solution.

The TSEC underwent a third-party evaluation by the American Council on Education in August 2002 and was recognized as having the equivalent of 30 graduate credit hours of study (a maximum of nine may be transferred) in the field of Telecommunications Systems Engineering. The recommended accreditation: Lower Division Baccalaureate/Associate Degree: (See Figure 1.)

Feedback from TSEC graduates and their supervisors has been very positive and indicates that the course is on target in equipping FA 24 officers to make an immediate and positive impact in their new organizations.

For more information about TSEC, please visit our website ( or contact the Course Manager, CPT Frank Ranero, at or (706) 791-1702.

CPT Ranero is currently assigned to the 442nd Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon, where he works as the FA24 Course chief. His previous assignments include company commander, Headquaters and Headquarters Compnay/10th Signal Battalion, Fort Drum, NY;. S6 1-87th Infantry Regiment during Operation Enduring Freedom; S6 1-26th Infantry Regiment, Schweinfurt, Germany; and platoon leader A/121st Signal Battalion, Kitzingen, Germany. Ranero holds an undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Puerto Rico and is pursuing a Master of Science in telecommunications management.


ABET--Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology ACE--American Council on Education AOC--Area of Concentration ATM--Asynchronous Transfer Mode BCBL (G)--Battle Command Battle Lab, Fort Gordon CDP--Cooperative Degree Program CFD--Career Field Designate CISSP--Certified Information Systems Security Professional CSU/ DSU--Channel Service Unit/Data Service Unit CTSSB--Critical Task Site Selection Board DII--Defense Information Infrastructure DISA--Defense Information Systems Agency DISN--Defense Information System Network DoD--Department of Defense FA--functional area G--Gordon HRC--Human Resources Command ILE--Intermediate Level of Education IT--Information Technology ISEC--Information Systems Engineering Command ISOL--Information Systems Operations Leveler NETWARS--Network Warfare Simulation OSI--Open System Interconnection PBX--Private Branch Exchange POI--Program of Instruction RDECOM--Research Development and Engineering Command TNOSC--Theater Network Operations and Security Center TSEC--Telecommunications Systems Engineer Course USAISEC--U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command
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Author:Ranero, Frank
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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