FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division described the forthcoming Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) to Army leadership on the final day of the Maneuver Warfighter Conference here Sept. 12.

Maj. Gen. James Mingus related the crucial nature of an integrated network to command and control.

"The underlying component that is so critical when we execute against a peer competitor in large-scale ground combat is that trust up and down the formation," said Mingus. "As shared understanding begins to erode, trust begins to erode. ... It really ties back to how critical our network is in a high-end fight against a peer competitor."

Mingus pointed to "thousands of disparate data centers" in the Army as driving the need to change.

"There were 15 major networks and dozens of other minor networks that existed just inside the Army, none of which were designed to talk with each other," said Mingus. "As a member of TRADOC, as the (Mission Command Center of Excellence) director, I could not take my (common access card) from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, go to Fort Eustis, Virginia, sit down to a machine, plug my CAC in and log on because I was a guest, even though I was on the same network."

As a further example of why the Army's networking capability required change, Mingus mentioned an armored brigade combat team two weeks to reconfigure their tactical network to operate in the European theater.

Mingus and other Army leaders focused on what was required of a new Army network to help the Army "fight and win its nation's wars" and "shoot, move, communicate, protect and sustain." From these goals, the Army leadership developed characteristics of the forthcoming network.

"When it comes to the network, we never will achieve an end state," said Mingus. "It's really more a series of successive and cascading future states. When you think about [technology] doubling every 18 months - and with the advent of (artificial intelligence), neural computing, nanocomputing, and big data management - we will go from what has been exponential growth in terms of how information and data is shared to almost viral in the next 15 years."

The end user device for the ITN is a consumer smartphone. Mingus highlighted the advantage of having a consumer-grade smartphone as an end-user device as the device would be more replaceable, the Army would not have to develop a device from the component up, and the Army would not be constrained to use the device long into obsolescence while development of a new device took place.

Mingus also touted the ITN's "mesh-like" nature. If connection to one signal relay is broken, then the communication device will find another automatically.

As to the ITN's "successive and cascading future states," Mingus brought up five goals. The ITN should be:
1) Simple and intuitive,
2) Redundant, reliable, resilient,
3) Easier to maintain,
4) Interoperable, and
5) An enabler of faster, better decisions than the enemy.

Several units have fielded ITN or components thereof, including within the 82nd Airborne.

"We will never achieve the perfect network, but in our opinion, at least within the 82nd," said Mingus, "I would much rather go to war with that."

To see the video from this event, visit https://vimeo.com/fortbenningtv/tacticalnetwork.

To see photos from this event, visit https://www.fortbenningphotos.com/Maneuver-Center/Warfighter-Conference/Annual-Maneuver-Conference/2019-Maneuver-Warfighter-Conference/2019-Day-3-Maneuver-Warfighter-Conference.

To read more stories from the Maneuver Warfighter Conference, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/ManWarCon or www.army.mil/benning.