By Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, Lt. Col. Jack "Shane" Taylor and Maj. James E. HowellMay 26, 2015
The typical brigade command post (CP) of the past decade looked something like this: hundreds of feet of wires and cables, a deluge of transit cases and cumbersome tents--all requiring an entire day and a platoon of Soldiers to assemble. Now, advanced technology and improved acquisition approaches are enabling the Army to transform yesterday's command posts so they are leaner and more agile to support an expeditionary force, a major DA operational priority.
The acquisition community is delivering CP solutions that increase capability while decreasing size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements. We are weaving together evolving technologies such as 4G LTE/Wi-Fi, virtualized hardware, Web-based mission command applications and intelligent power in a holistic, flexible manner so the new CP is a well-honed weapon system--no longer an anchor, but an enabler that can support any mission, anytime, anywhere.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), CPs were huge, heavy, complicated and time-consuming to set up, move and tear down, but they performed as needed for more static operations in those theaters. As the Army transitions to a regionally aligned force that responds to unexpected contingencies at a moment's notice in accordance with the new Army operating concept (AOC), units will require mobile, scalable and expeditionary CP capabilities that support all phases of tactical operations, forms of maneuver and the doctrine behind employing CPs.
The new CP will not be a mere shelter, but a mission command and situational awareness enabler that supports commanders and staff at every stage of operations--from home station to in-flight, to early-entry landings of C-17s and C-130s filled with Soldiers and equipment, to larger follow-on tactical operations centers at different echelons.
These new systems will support a division-led Army operational concept with a modular, echelon-appropriate set of configurations tailorable to light and heavy units. Instead of sending division main CPs forward to the heart of the fight, with their extensive core mission command and network equipment, the "brains of the operations" can more frequently remain behind in a safer location, or even back in the United States. The Army will be able to deploy forward smaller "right-sized" formations armed with smaller mobile tactical (TAC) CPs to deter and operate in multiple regions simultaneously. The new TACs will be more agile than those of the past, tied to combat vehicles equipped with the Army's mobile tactical communications network, Warfighter Information Network -- Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 and corresponding mission command applications. For certain formations and missions, these networked vehicles can also be combined with new shelter variants such as inflatable air beam tents or towed hard-sided shelters, which could be erected and brought online in half an hour.
EXPANDING ACQUISITION PARADIGMS
To achieve these goals, the Army is revising its past acquisition approach to the CP by taking a holistic approach to development with synchronization across the user, acquisition, and science and technology communities. Requirements determination, technology development, integration and fielding for the new CPs involves numerous organizations, commercial and government products, services and infrastructure across multiple stakeholders. This holistic approach could influence other programs, present and future, as the Army continues to modernize the force.
For example, a working group representing the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance community is helping to inform the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command as it develops requirements for future CPs by providing a unified, inclusive view of current and future technologies that will feed into the effort.
The Army will also leverage early user feedback from a collaboration involving the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications -- Tactical (PEO C3T) and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center to rapidly integrate two division TAC CPs--one for the 82nd Airborne Division, a light unit, and the other supporting the 3rd Infantry Division, a heavy unit. The units' expertise in rapid response and early-entry situations as part of the Global Response Force (GRF) will help the service home in on the right combinations of tactical and strategic assets and requirements for the CP. The Army also plans to gain input from other units to continually shape and improve this capability as it matures.
User feedback from real-world operations will continue to provide lessons learned to advance CP capability. Urgent operational needs often require that a new capability be sent quickly to the field, such as in the ongoing Ebola response effort in Africa. Among the many network communications systems provided for this rapid response, the Army fielded unclassified Wi-Fi capability to support military and nongovernmental organizations. National Guard units have also demonstrated 4G LTE/Wi-Fi as part of their new CP package to support disaster relief efforts, and feedback from their use of these and other systems will continue to inform CP modernization for the entire force. The GRF will also continue to provide input on its new Enroute Mission Command Capability, which enables in-flight connection to the WIN-T network backbone, allowing commanders to tap into mission command applications such as Command Post of the Future and providing access to video teleconferencing, Voice over Internet Protocol calls and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles.
Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) will continue to play an important role in fleshing out capabilities and configurations to best support different echelons, operational stages and missions. One new CP capability package that includes improved power initiatives, hardware consolidation, secure wireless networking and expeditionary shelters will be evaluated at NIE 16.1 in fall 2015, with individual component capabilities scheduled to be evaluated during NIE 15.2 in May.
THE COMMAND POST UNPLUGGED
In its effort to simplify the CP, the Army now is tackling the first culprit of complexity, one that most Americans have eliminated in their own homes: wires.
Secure 4G/Wi-Fi will figure prominently in the Army's redesign of its CPs, providing both a tactical and logistical advantage. It will unencumber the CP of myriad cables, reducing footprint, strategic lift requirements, and setup and teardown times by at least two hours each. This technology also untethers commanders and staff from their workstations and allows leaders to access classified information from tablets and smartphones, without the need for encryption hardware. Applications include the ability to monitor remote sensors, live video from checkpoints and unmanned aerial vehicle feeds while mobile.
Information security has always been the Army's biggest challenge in providing secure 4G LTE/Wi-Fi for use on military networks. Working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. Special Operations Command, the Joint Staff and PEO Soldier's Nett Warrior program office, PEO C3T broke the barriers that hindered secure wireless and 4G LTE access to military networks with an NSA encryption solution called Commercial Solutions for Classified, similar to the security software used for online shopping. To this, the team added a no-cost "special sauce" that enables it to work on military networks. With this solution, the Army has leveraged billions of dollars of commercial investment at no cost to the government.
LIGHTENING THE LOAD
Virtualization is also supporting a leaner, more agile CP. It replaces hardware appliances such as call managers, security software and bandwidth management tools with software, enabling the Army to improve network performance, simplify network operations and reduce SWaP requirements for command posts, shelters and vehicles. For example, through virtualization the new WIN-T End Of Life Technical Refresh effort enables the Army to reduce the number of required Increment 1 transit cases by one-third, shedding 1,000 over the next three years across the Army and reducing the weight of the remaining cases.
The Army is also streamlining CPs from a power perspective with the use of technologies such as Intelligent Power, a microgrid power generation system that uses a highly flexible, reconfigurable power architecture. Intelligent Power prevents overloads and grid collapse, reducing manpower requirements for grid operation and fuel consumption by 25-40 percent. It also reduces the number of generators needed from 18 to four, greatly lightening the load on strategic lift aircraft.
Additionally, On Board Vehicle Power modifies a standard vehicle transmission to enable the vehicle to generate electrical power for both internal vehicle use and for smaller CPs.
MISSION COMMAND MEETS THE WEB
During OIF and OEF, individual mission command systems performed well and provided critical capabilities, but with multiple systems on multiple screens throughout the CP, the commander had to use a "swivel chair" approach when executing mission command. To achieve interoperability and collaboration, Soldiers had to manually extract data from one system and physically re-enter it into another, which was time-consuming and opened up the potential for human error. The infrastructure required to support these separate systems also weighed down the CP.
In response to these limitations, and in line with the new AOC, the Army is transitioning stand-alone mission command systems to sustainment and replacing them with an integrated, Web-based environment that delivers those functions as user-friendly apps, merged with the common operating picture of the battlefield.
The foundation for mission command on the Web is the Command Post Computing Environment (CP CE), which is unifying the CP by providing Soldiers and commanders with common views, shared data, shared maps and common services across the warfighting functions of fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver.
Critical to the Army's new CP vision, CP CE also simplifies the back-end hardware and software infrastructures required to support mission command systems at battalion and below. By keeping complex infrastructures at higher echelons, the CP becomes more agile for the units that need it most. Simplified infrastructure means that users will no longer have to start up multiple operating environments for multiple systems; they will just go to one, common environment. Furthermore, with the decrease in system complexity, Soldiers will train on one desktop, one time, across the entire Army. CP CE is a phased effort; v1 is currently in approval for fielding, and the final version is scheduled for release in FY19.
Also in the realm of mission command, the Army has introduced the Installation as a Docking Station (IADS) concept to support the expeditionary nature of rapid response forces. Soldiers at several U.S. Army installations now have daily access to the tactical mission command systems they will use when deployed, preparing them to carry out missions in the areas of maneuver, fires and logistics. The 82nd Airborne's use of IADS is working to establish one user identity, thus enabling the Soldier to access data throughout rapid sequences of joint forced-entry and airborne operations. Once in theater, the pre-trained troops assemble the systems and migrate the servers forward, alleviating a lag from the time the airplane departs and arrives at its destination.
From home station, to a plane or boat en route, to an urban back alley or desert terrain, the CP concept must be adaptable to unique and varied mission sets and operational environments. Reinventing the CP as a whole instead of the sum of its parts is key to increasing the expeditionary nature of forces so they can better support multiple, complex contingences of the future.
For more information, go to the PEO C3T website at http://peoc3t.army.mil/c3t/, the project manager (PM) for WIN-T website at http://peoc3t.army.mil/wint/ and the PM for mission command website at http://peoc3t.army.mil/mc/; or contact the PEO C3T Public Affairs Office at 443-395-6489 or usarmy.APG.firstname.lastname@example.org.