AUSTIN, Texas (November 25, 2019) --The Army conducted its fourth, and largest, tactical network-focused Technical Exchange Meeting (TEM) in Austin with industry last week, providing attendees with a roadmap on how they can influence the next set of network design decisions.
More than 670 industry and government partners attended the event, which focused on the Capability Set (CS) 23 priorities for network capacity, resiliency and convergence. Army leaders from across several programs of record, cross-functional teams, science and technology and contracting organizations, along with Army headquarters staff, centers of excellence, task forces, academia and advanced research personnel participated on multiple panels to describe critical network design plans and horizontal integration requirements.
The Army plans to field upgraded network capability enhancements on a two-year basis, starting with Capability Set 21 in 2021. For each successive capability set, the Army is seeking the art of the possible from industry; there are no pre-determined courses of action to achieve network modernization.
"We are eyes wide open as we head into CS 23," Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher, Director of the U.S. Army Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT). The N-CFT hosted the event, along with Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) C5ISR Center.
"We're looking for alternatives. What are we missing? What should we be looking at?"
CS 23 builds upon CS 21, which will feature the Army's first unit equipped with its Integrated Tactical Network (ITN). The ITN is an approach that injects new commercial components and network transport capabilities into the Army's tactical network environment to provide primarily battalion and below with smaller, lighter, faster and more flexible communications systems in threat-based environments.
"We have nearly settled on our CS 21 design build," said Col. Garth Winterle, Project Manager for Tactical Radios, assigned to PEO C3T. "We're now pushing hard to field the ITN to an infantry brigade combat team within the 82nd Airborne Division for experimentation."
Soldier experimentation will inform the final CS21 design prior to fielding to priority infantry units, he said.
"We must turn the page to CS 23 right here and right now, which will expand ITN to support Stryker and Armored brigade combat teams," Winterle said. "We have 18 months until our preliminary design review, with experimentation and Soldier feedback along the way."
Additional capabilities for CS 23 specifically target initial high capacity communications using commercial low-Earth orbit and medium-Earth orbit satellite constellations, and data and cloud strategies. Enhanced Common Operating Environment capabilities are planned enable multi-domain operations. Further CS 23 targeted capabilities include multiple classification networks for coalition interoperability and command post modernization to increase survivability and mobility.
"It's all about the speed of decision," Gallagher said. "We've made a lot of progress over the last couple of years by leveraging things such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning to accelerate the kill chain."
The Army must leverage the cloud, where it makes sense, but enhance its edge computing capabilities as well, he said.
"We want to streamline your hardware, downsize as much as possible and get the capacity that we can to enable our warfighting decision making," Gallagher said. "We want to make sure we obtain the absolute best value and the best decision making tools for our Soldiers."
Industry partners also obtained additional information on the collaborative efforts between PEO C3T, the N-CFT and the CCDC C5ISR Center, the latter which, in addition to providing critical lab-based science and technology support for network modernization, also facilitates Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). CRADAs are agreements between government and industry or academia to work together on a research and development project.
"We are now better aligned to collaborate and accelerate technology by using CRADAs to put technology into the Soldier's hands quicker," said Mike Monteleone, Director of CCDC C5ISR's Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate.
The theme of "accelerating technology" continued, with the Army's plans to host its own "Shark Tank" event in February, where vendors will present their best ideas to meet CS 23 priorities. A call for white papers in December will precede the event, followed by vendor selections in January.
Moving forward, small-scale Soldier touch points are planned for 2020-2021, which will inform a preliminary design review and experimentation beginning in April 2021, and a final CS 23 network design decision in April 2022. Since capability sets occur every two years and build upon the previous set, the Army will have already identified initial CS 25 capability requirements while narrowing down CS 23 decisions.
"This is a very aggressive timeline, but we're aggressive by nature," Gallagher said. "We are watching what happens with the continuing resolution, which could alter our fielding timeline, but we must stay on task and kick start CS 23."
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.