ARLINGTON, Va. (June 17, 2014) -- Networks and cyber are "the commander's business" today -- and will be fundamental to executing the vision of Force 2025, Army senior leaders said.
From standing up a rapid acquisition cell for cyber capabilities to creating a standard network common operating environment, the Army is tackling the challenges of this evolving technical and operational landscape, while working closely with joint and industry partners to close capability gaps. The goal of these initiatives, senior leaders said, is to deliver a robust, versatile, integrated and secure network that will be fundamental to enabling a leaner, expeditionary Force 2025.
"The Army of the future must be able to deploy teams to any austere environment at a moment's notice, with the ability to connect and access data at the point of need," said Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, the Army's chief information officer/G-6. "To make that happen, we must have a global, always on, secure and available network that supports expeditionary operations. This network -- along with cyber capacity and training the force -- are key to making the 2025 vision a reality."
With the rise in asymmetric warfare and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, the Army will need a pervasive and flexible network to execute operations both in rugged, austere terrain and in the invisible realm of cyberspace, said Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Command.
"If you're going to be smaller, but you're better connected, it allows us to bring the right capabilities to the right place at the right time," Cardon said.
Speaking at a forum Thursday, hosted by the Association of the United States Army, Ferrell, Cardon and other leaders stressed that an increasingly networked battlefield requires not just growth in technology, but a change in command culture. Combat Training Center rotations now require units to combat cyber hackers as part of the opposing force. The semi-annual Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, field exercises include Soldiers conducting computer network defense against live threats.
"That's the new normal," said Brig. Gen. John Charlton, commanding general of the Brigade Modernization Command, which oversees the training and doctrine elements of NIE. "It's different; it's uncomfortable; it's what maneuver commanders are going to have to adapt to."
Lt. Gen Robert B. Brown, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, discussed the importance of developing and identifying future cyber leaders to meet these challenges.
"One of the keys to success for integrating cyber and network personnel into Force 2025 will be aligning talent with current and future Army requirements to improve the individual and the future Army," Brown said. "Commanders and leaders will be essential to the identification, assessment and development process in order to get the right cyber leaders in the right job at the right time."
The cyber culture shift also extends to the acquisition realm, where the Army recognizes the need to move more quickly than the traditional procurement process allows, said Kevin Fahey, director of Agile Acquisition for the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology). He said the service is currently developing an acquisition cyber cell that will have the agility and resources to rapidly deliver capabilities both in response to and in anticipation of cyber threats.
The acquisition community is also driving greater cyber security by implementing a Common Operating Environment across network programs, Fahey said. The COE is an approved set of computing technologies and standards designed to reduce stovepipes and support the rapid development and delivery of secure applications that interoperate across several computing environments.
"These standards -- common hardware, common software and common applications -- will support cyber by definition, while enabling more agile capability development and delivery," Fahey said.
Implementing the COE, which will offer Soldiers a more intuitive, plug-and-play experience with tactical network and mission command systems, is just one example of how greater standardization will benefit the Army. Migrating applications on the enterprise network to the cloud, consolidating data centers and converging and strengthening network operations (NetOps) tools will create efficiencies while optimizing information sharing and collaboration "from the cubicle to the foxhole," Ferrell said.
For the foxhole, the Army crossed a major threshold with the recent fielding of Capability Set 13, referred to as CS 13, an integrated, mobile tactical network package that connects all echelons of the Brigade Combat Team with voice and data, allowing commanders and Soldiers to stay situationally aware at all times, even when far away from the command post. With CS 13 supporting advise-and-assist operations in Afghanistan and delivery of the follow-on CS 14 underway, the Army is now implementing a tactical network modernization roadmap with three phases that act as building blocks to Force 2025: Network 2.0 (fiscal years 2014-16), Simplified Tactical Army Reliable Network (STARNet, fiscal years 2016-20), and the Network After Next (NAN, 2020 and beyond). The plan centers on making the tactical network more versatile to support an expeditionary force, as well as making communications systems easier for Soldiers to operate with less training and field support.
For the cubicle, the Army is making headway in efforts to modernize installations with greater bandwidth and network reliability, with a new approach that incorporates "commodity" technology purchases and integrated engineering teams, said Brig. Gen. John Morrison, commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command. For example, Joint Base San-Antonio-Lackland recently used a team of Army, Air Force and Defense Information Systems Agency, known as DISA, personnel to complete the installation's network overhaul in less than five months -- a process that previously consumed two or three years.
"It's an inherently joint and completely different way of doing business," Morrison said. "We're laying down the highway for the Joint Information Environment."
In addition to greater network interoperability with joint forces and coalition mission partners, close collaboration with private industry is another imperative to achieving Force 2025, senior leaders said. With limited research and development funding, the Army needs to target its network and cyber investments to military-specific interests while leveraging commercial innovation in other areas, Cardon said.
Michele Weslander-Quaid, a former Department of Defense information technology official who is now chief technology officer (public sector) at Google, said many of the Army's 2025 technology goals can be realized with commercial technology available or in development today, such as digital assistants, security at the data level and simplified authentication mechanisms. As network and cyber capabilities become more central to commanders' mission planning and execution, systems must also be more intuitive to use, said Weslander-Quaid, who participated in one of the panel discussions.
"You must be reasonable with your users, or they will revolt," she said, adding that industry is ready to partner with the Army in supporting the new paradigm. "How do we stay agile and adaptable? We are all in this together, and we recognize that."