GUAM – As technology companies converged on Guam this week to network and learn more about base buildup preparations for the transfer of at least 8,600 Marines from Okinawa, the Marine Corps sent a message to the information technology and cyber security industries: Unless their new communications and computing solutions can be deployed in a tip-of-the-spear environment, don’t even bother to call.
Local telecoms and major players in the global Defense industry were on Guam this week for a conference and expo at the Hyatt Regency Guam presented by the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association. Locally based companies like GTA TeleGuam, Docomo Pacific, IT&E, iConnect and Cybertec joined the military’s Defense Information Systems Agency and worldwide industry heavyweights like CACI, Cisco, Dell, AT&T, HP, McAfee, Fujitsu, Hitachi Cable Manchester, Symantec, NetApp, SafeNet and Tellabs as well as the IT/Telecommunications division of Chugach Alaska Corporation, Tribalco, Motorola, Xerox and others.
With lucrative information technology contracts always in play to upgrade and maintain existing military infrastructure, and with the Navy already starting to release task orders for up to $1.2 billion in new Marine relocation construction projects — including preliminary utilities and site preparation at NCTS Finegayan, Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base, Apra Harbor as well as an Apra Harbor medical clinic and waterfront headquarters, AFB North Ramp parking and utilities, and a Finegayan fire station – local and global IT companies are jockeying for a piece of the related business.
Speaking about IT specialized for the defense, homeland security, and intelligence communities, Marine Corps Brigadier General Kevin J. Nally said that America’s most forward-deployed force will only work with technologies that support Marines deployed to the most remote, difficult environments around the world. Mr. Nally is the director for Command, Control, Communications and Computers, or “C4,” and the Department of the Navy’s deputy chief information officer for the United States Marine Corps.
Recent experiences in the war trenches of Afghanistan and the post-earthquake-tsunami isolation of Japan where all digital communication was cut off during the early days of the crisis are among the insights shaping the Marines’ increasingly tough standards for technology, Mr. Nally said. The lessons learned point equally to the need for reliable simplicity – regular, old fashioned analog phones proved the only reliable communications during the first days of the Japan disaster – and for maximum capability and performance with minimum complexity in lightweight forms.
To support the unique mobility, scalability and responsiveness of the Marine Air Ground Task Force operations model, which enables the Marines to be among the first responders to any contingency anywhere in the world, Mr. Nally indicated it was impossible to underestimate the need for increased power and reduced weight. In Afghanistan, where roadside IEDs kill soldiers forced to haul heavy or complicated equipment, devices that are light enough for Marines to wear literally save lives, he explained.
In testimony last month before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, talked about this new imperative. “Over the past decade, we have become more reliant on equipment sets resulting from the emergence of new threats, perhaps most notably the improvised explosive device,” Mr. Amos said. “This trend has resulted in the acquisition of some resources that are incompatible with the ethos of an agile, expeditionary force. To that end, we have begun an effort known as ‘Lightening the MAGTF,’ a measure aimed at reducing the size, weight, and energy expenditure of our forces from the individual rifleman to wholesale components of the MAGTF.”
Moreover, according to Mr. Nally, in situations where Marines are cut off from all infrastructure and utilities, equipment that can be recharged quickly through solar energy or other alternative and renewable sources trumps all other technology options.
Mr. Nally said that overall, the new way forward in Marine communications, data and cyber security technology will have to support the Marines’ expeditionary readiness for increasingly complex and widespread contingencies around the world and a fiscally constrained environment here at home.
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