Preserving a security system’s integrity during upgrades requires a tactical approach

Military organizations must weigh risks and opportunities when partnering with A&E firms


Security technology is getting smarter and cheaper every year. While many military project managers wonder if they can afford systems upgrades, their most pressing question is how they preserve the integrity of their existing system while ensuring that upgrades comply with current security standards. After all, the cost of the technology is irrelevant of the system doesn’t pass muster.

Information technology is not static; and neither is a well-designed security system. For example, recent changes in SCIF standards have forced some older military installations to rebuild their Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) at high costs (http://www.dni.gov/electronic_reading_room/ICD_705_SCIFs.pdf). To dodge this bullet the military engineer needs to ask, “How can I design today’s security system in a way that will let me add new components and even new systems, and stay in budget, and protect my current grid during the changeover?”

It turns out that innovative technology and methods can empower a military organization to do just that: enhance security while realizing substantial capital and operating savings. But first the military system integrator must understand the following guidelines and adapt them to his organization’s particular needs.

The following sections explore the challenges and effective strategies for meeting them.
Preserve the Facility’s Systems Integrity
The military engineer in charge of implementing new technology has to know the architecture and operation of the existing infrastructure, and must be up to date on all relevant security protocols and regulations that were written to keep the system safe. In a military facility that can be asking a lot, and in some cases it may require a stem-to-stern remapping of the existing configuration.

A great example of this is what the military has been up against with Smart Grid, which uses web-based communications systems to reconfigure power distribution on the fly so that power generating sources can interact intelligently with power-consuming devices. An example of this can be represented in the following way.

Let’s assume that a coal fired electrical generation station (power plant) is only providing power to a military base. The additional power is largely unused and is an inefficiency whose cost is charged to the military base. By integrating smart meters within the facility, the power plant can more accurately track the power requirements and reduce the oversupply to 10 percent. Further efficiencies can be obtained by installing active meters that will curtail the individual buildings’ power needs ensuring that power demand never exceeds the supply. The systems integrator’s goal is to see that that all of the facilities’ processes, procedures and components are preserved as Smart Grid technology is integrated into the overall system.
Select the Most Cost-Effective Technology
Here again the critical factor that makes innovation possible is knowledge. If a military engineer lacks the requisite technical knowledge and experience, potential upgrades will more than likely fall back on conventional solutions.

In previous years multi-mode fiber optic (MMF) cable was cheaper than single-mode fiber (SMF) optic cable. Today the picture is just the reverse. If a system is properly designed, if the correct transceivers are specified, and, most importantly, if the components are obtained at a competitive price, SMF cable offers 10 times the throughput at considerably longer distances than MMF cable and at a lower cost. Even if a facility already has MMF cable and termination devices in place, knowledgeable designers can use cables that combine MMF and SMF in the same cable to provide more cost-effective installations.

So why do many military engineers continue to advocate for MMF cable? They may be unfamiliar with the components that are required for SMF cable installations. They may focus only on current needs rather than the facility-wide potential to use the newer technology in the near term, increasing the quantity and lowering the price. Or they may simply lack the volume of business required to negotiate bulk purchase agreements.

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