When Veterans’ loved ones want to pay respects at national cemeteries, they rely on tools like online directions, cemetery maps, and a grave locator – or they contact cemeteries directly for assistance. With nearly 4 million gravesites in VA’s National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) system, it’s crucial to have reliable data networks as the backbone supporting capabilities on which VA staff and Veteran families rely.
Having enough bandwidth – which is the maximum amount of data we can transmit over an internet network connection in a given amount of time – is important. This bandwidth helps NCA staff efficiently collaborate via Microsoft Teams and access data on shared drives. The upgraded capacity supports many capabilities, systems, programs and applications, such as geospatial services, cloud-based technology, business intelligence dashboards and more.
NCA administers 155 VA national cemeteries and funds 119 state, territorial and tribal Veterans cemeteries by providing a dignified burial in national shrines for Veterans and eligible family members.
Beginning in 2020 – and continuing to gain speed throughout 2022 and beyond – VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) has been teaming with NCA to improve the network circuits at NCA’s cemeteries and offices. With the goal of modernizing infrastructure and increasing bandwidth across NCA, OIT is currently replacing T-1 circuits with more efficient Metro-Ethernet (Metro-E) fiber optic cables/circuits.
Upgrading the data network circuits began in July 2020 as part of the initiative to upgrade more than 100 VA national cemeteries and sites nationwide. The modernization effort started when NCA, in collaboration with the OIT Account Management Office – Memorials Affairs team, partnered to identify a business need and formalized requirements to secure funding from conception to implementation. Nearly half of those sites require data network circuit upgrades. So far, the team has upgraded over 30 sites and less than 15 sites remain. Upgrades to the data network circuits are on track to successfully conclude in Fiscal Year 2023.
Iteratively upgrading the older copper cables to modern fiber optic cables boosted the size of the circuit and allowed up to 1100 megabytes of bandwidth per site – a vast improvement over the existing network capabilities. If sites need more bandwidth or upgrades once they are on fiber optic cables, providing upgrades is as simple as turning switches for local carriers, rather than having to lay new cables. The increase in bandwidth allows site staff to complete their work more efficiently, with fewer interruptions, and it enables Veterans and their families to access facility resources and communicate with staff with ease and efficiency.
“This project works toward our bottom line,” said Chris Thornton, OIT’s Local Area Network/Wide Area Network engineer and service provider. “It moves us toward NCA’s goal of a modernized system of record and a cloud-based system, while meeting one of VA’s main strategic priorities: Business System Transformation and Modernization.”
Once the data network circuit modernization initiative is complete, NCA cemeteries and offices will have more reliable bandwidth, to include internet access, which NCA can count on to serve them and our Veterans.
You can learn more about NCA benefits and services by visiting these useful links: