FORT BLISS, Texas (Oct. 5, 2015) -- Standardizing and simplifying warfighting functions into a single Common Operating Environment (COE) is a key step in modernizing and integrating the Army's tactical network to enable expeditionary command post operations.
Technology demonstrations during Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, not only establish current network baselines, but also display and advance the Army's newest capabilities. An example of the technologies evaluated include elements of the Command Post Computing Environment (CP CE) which aims to simplify hardware and software infrastructures for CPs at all levels to deliver integrated information.
During NIE 16.1, Soldiers evaluated emerging CP CE technology through various command post initiatives. The results of the command post assessments will help inform the operational community regarding potential approaches for light weight and at-the-quick-halt options, mission command applications needed for on-the-move operations, and improvements that support faster set up and tear down times of larger command posts. One example of this was the Mission Command Vehicle (MVC), which enables integrated mission command on-the-move by providing a common set of computer hardware that allows multiple mission command functions to be collapsed onto one screen inside a tactical vehicle.
For Capt. Jason E. Patterson, information systems management officer with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), the MVC brings mission command applications typically only found in the static command post into a mobile platform. "To put it simply, I have less stuff to carry and everything I need at my fingertips," Patterson said.
During initial phases of NIE 16.1, the brigade also evaluated emerging mission command capabilities that are part of a future iteration of CP CE, called CP CE version 3. This version will incorporate Unified Data (UD), which combines data feeds from across echelons into one authoritative system that will queue data upon request and provide scoped information to those requesting it.
Set to begin fielding in FY 2019, UD is one of the key technologies within the CP CE initiative and represents a shift to a cloud architecture approach providing one common network. UD enables a commander to share data and maintain situational awareness across domains and locations.
CP CE, one of six computing environments that make up the COE, delivers a common user interface and experience that consolidates and simplifies the separate capabilities commanders use for missions related to fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver. Connecting commanders with the information they need in one place means they can spend more time calculating decisions and less time mentally fusing data across separate warfighting functions.
Using CP CE, commanders can access software applications specific to their mission as well as view them on a common, geospatial digital map hosted on a single workstation. Designed to provide forces with operational flexibility through uninterrupted mission command, CP CE will merge information across the entire tactical space -- the command post, mounted and dismounted.
Transport design of CEs means commanders are no longer stuck to looking at separate screens and instead have a consolidated common operational picture, said Maj. Robert Richardson, intelligence officer, 2/1 AD.
"CP CE is a set of protocols that speak the same language," said Richardson. "On the move I have warfighting functions communicating accurate situational awareness that is always connected to the CP providing complete command and control of the war space."
Forging communications into one seamless environment provides operational benefits from top to bottom. Key enhancements of mission command capabilities include a common environment for functions and system-specific applications that ride on a common framework delivering mission command services via the web.
As the Army works to converge software, it is also looking to reduce hardware through CP CE's Tactical Server Infrastructure (TSI) effort. Using the TSI units will utilize a common server infrastructure across several Programs of Record that will simplify the fielding and maintenance of servers in the command post and act as the spring board for allowing PORs to easily develop and integrate applications into the command post.
Another hardware solution currently fielding to tactical vehicles and being used as part of the NIE mobile command post assessment is the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS). MFoCS provides tactical computers that are scalable and tailorable to both the mission and vehicle, and deliver situational awareness capabilities to dismounted Soldiers. The CP CE data interoperability services and applications are being designed to run on both CP web clients as well as on MFoCS smart clients. This allows not only the reuse of software but also a streamlined and efficient data exchange from the command post to the mounted environment.
Through efforts like the NIE, the development, acquisition and requirements communities will continue to integrate computing environments in an effort to inform mobile command post requirements and design. Phase implementation of COE efforts will enable faster, cheaper system upgrades while reducing training time and costs.
"This is an important step towards making our command post systems more intuitive and seamlessly interoperable. We're increasing the reach of useful and actionable information to a wider audience. The common data standards and implementation of the COE enable us to simplify and modernize the CP quicker and more efficiently," said Rob Tisch, Deputy Project Manager, Mission Command.