Delivering the Network Our Soldiers Deserve
In This Article
Director of Customer Success
The network is the framework that enables and empowers all other warfighting platforms. Yet the Army's network infrastructure varies widely from one command to the next. Far from being uniform, it's really a federated network built from different architectures, different hardware configurations, and different software versions, but somehow able to operate together.
The Global Enterprise Modernization Software and Services (GEMSS) program is an enterprise-wide contract intended to modernize and standardize those networks to give the Army an operational advantage.
GEMSS is available to every network manager across the enterprise, a single contract that maximizes both buying power and capability, with built-in training and support. Embracing GEMSS will help accelerate the evolution from "comply-to-connect" to "zero-trust," a transition that will accelerate the flow of data to and from the warfighter and enhance the U.S. Army's decision advantage over its adversaries.
In today's federated architecture, manual reporting and assumed trust underlies our comply-to-connect model. As long as we trust those manual reports, we trust that local network settings are safe and secure. With trust, on the other hand, compliance shifts from manual reporting to a handshake on every data transfer. The conventional model is like flashing your ID at the Main Gate and then getting full run of everything on post; zero trust, however, is like needing your Common Access Card (CAC) to come on post, and then needing it again for each subsequent step on your way to work: parking your car, entering your building, accessing your workspaces, logging into your workstation, and signing into your email.
The fact is, we know attackers want access to our network, but only as a means to get to our data. By implementing zero-trust, our security effort shifts from the network itself to protecting what's truly valuable, our data.
GEMSS is the key to that, providing the glidepath to go from legacy hardware switches to the end goal of software-defined and configurable networks, which can be updated and changed more rapidly and more securely. GEMSS encompasses all that plus the training, software support, and simplified licensing needed to make the transition smooth, plus access Cisco DNA Center so you can:
- Identify, authorize, and classify new endpoints and users
- Establish enterprise-wide policies for users and devices
- Facilitate complex segmentation by advanced artificial intelligence, to enable users to quickly access the data they're authorized to access, while blocking all unauthorized access requests
The Army doesn't fight alone. It fights jointly with the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Space Force, and in coalitions with allies, like fellow NATO members, and partners that may vary by operation. Interoperability is hugely important, but it's not that easy. Data has to be carefully segmented and not every ally or partner will be treated the same. Developing the rules and systems to ensure proper sharing without undue risk is a critical operational imperative.
Traditionally, we've locked down everything and limited the network's capability in order to manage risk. We've used humans to filter which information goes to whom, a cumbersome and ultimately self-limiting process that constrains operators. GEMSS will help the Army revolutionize that approach through software and automation, unlocking capabilities. It will let you take a UAV feed and broadcast it across multiple networks, using an IP stream that allows anyone to connect to it as long as they have the right permissions.
For commanders in the field, that's huge. It will accelerate the tempo of operations, empowering the Army with a critical speed advantage over adversaries. And for the young soldiers working for them, it's going to open up a whole new set of possibilities. Remember, all that data that's on the network has a purpose that it was designed for. But the creativity of our soldiers is such that they often imaging doing things no one else anticipated, taking data that was designed for one purpose and specifically tailoring it to solve a problem we never thought about before. Having a network that supports and enables that kind of creativity is itself going to be a game changer.
Accelerating the Army toward a new and better future. The faster we all get on board, the faster our soldiers get the network they deserve.
Welton Chase is a retired Army brigadier general now serving as Director of Customer Success at Cisco Systems. He led Army Cyber Command's largest theater signal command and U.S. European Command's Joint Cyber Center over the course of 32 years of distinguished service.
To learn more and to sign up for training, licenses, or other access, go to the Army Digital Modernization Community Page.