Army to heavily fund force integration in '08

The Army will spend as much as $2.3 billion on its Future Combat Systems initiative in fiscal 2008 and hundreds of millions more on initiatives designed to better integrate its forces, a top Army official said at a government-industry event last week.

In a presentation to the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International, Army Deputy Chief Information Officer Vern Bettencourt outlined the top initiatives for which the Army will be spending most of its money in fiscal 2008.

In addition to the Future Combat Systems initiative, the Army will spend:
  • $518 million for the Army Battle Command System Integration project
  • $233 million for the Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below project
  • $225 million for tactical radios

Future Combat Systems is the Army's modernization program. It consists of a family of manned and unmanned systems, which will be connected by a common network, that will enable Army units to dominate in complex environments.

The Army CIO office recently completed a new 500-day plan, which it originally developed in late 2005, Bettencourt said. The earlier strategy's primary goal was to develop and maintain LandWarNet, the Army's component of the Global Information Grid. The new plan will be released June 11, he said.

The next plan will seek to "institutionalize LandWarNet throughout the Army," Bettencourt said. This will include emphasizing LandWarNet throughout the Army's training and education efforts so that soldiers "understand what LandWarNet is doing for them."

Another part of the Army's goal for the new 500-day plan will be to implement a data strategy.

"We've got the transport layer out there," Bettencourt said. "Now we have to concentrate on data and knowledge management."

The goal of securing the Army's systems and networks will include protecting data at rest.

"There have been a lot of lost government laptops," Bettencourt said, "and if the data is not encrypted, information can be compromised."

The Army will also reduce its 220 Internet gateways to five to better protect them, he added.

Another major component of the strategy is what Bettencourt called resourcing.

"We firmly believe our budget will be decreasing, so we are asking ourselves, 'Are we spending money in the right places?' " he said.

E-learning programs such as Army Knowledge Online will be among the key venues for continued funding.

"We have over 400,000 enrolled in courses on AKO," Bettencourt said. "Of those, 128,000 are enrolled in language courses and 32,000 in Arabic courses."

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