Military Embedded Systems

Army units order cryptographic keys via a secure network


December 03, 2015

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S Air Force Photo/ Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Ford.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. The U.S. Army’s Key Management Infrastructure (KMI) now offers a web-based storefront for delivery of keys that protect radios, tactical laptops, and other communication systems. The process replaces the Electronic Key Management System (EKMS).

"Before, you had to drive the key to the individual units or they had to send someone to get it, even in combat zones," says Kevin Walsh, product lead for the Army's Key Management. "Now, the users are able to go to the KMI storefront, order their products and have them delivered to them over the network. So this is a whole new, net-centric approach for key management and distributing key material. It's simple, easy to use and flexible."

The pilot KMI program started in 2014 in response to a National Security Agency (NSA)-issue mandate – with Fort Bragg being one of the first accounts. It fielded 20 installations and the remaining operational Army accounts will begin the fielding process in the second quarter of 2016 through December 2017. The NSA with the Army's Product Lead Key Management, procuring, fielding, and training the capabilities for the Army oversee and lead the KMI program.

"The storefront is very user friendly," says Master Sgt. Clifton Dockery, a communications security custodian based on Fort Bragg. "The KMI system is more expeditious. We can produce a product to the field much faster than before. And the navigation procedures are easy to understand."

"This provides units with the most secure method to deliver cryptographic products," Walsh says. "Now, even if their keys become obsolete, the network can deliver new cryptographic products without having to touch a single device."

KMI consists of core nodes – which function in the background – that provide database storage, secure routing, key generation, and management services centrally located at a National Security Agency (NSA). The Army user has a single direct access called the KMI Storefront.

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