ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (March 23, 2020) – The Army’s Network Cross Functional Team conducted its first large-scale, multi-day “Shark Tank” technical demonstration earlier this month, where invited vendors presented proposed solutions for the next round of tactical network modernization designs.
The event followed the Army’s Technical Exchange Meeting (TEM 4) in November in Austin, Texas, and a subsequent request for white papers seeking Capability Set (CS) 23 solutions. The white papers provided the Army with the information it required to invite select industry partners to the demonstration.
The Army is leveraging the capability set process to deliver network modernization packages bi-annually, with each successive set informed by experimentation, demonstration and direct feedback from operational units and Soldiers. CS 23 focuses on network capacity, resiliency, and convergence and will build upon CS 21, which will begin fielding in FY21.
“The Army received great interest from industry in response to our request for white papers related to the six topics, with more than 140 submissions,” said Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher, Director of the U.S. Army Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT).
The N-CFT hosted the technical demonstrations, 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.
This is the first year the Network CFT has funding in its budget to directly resource prototyping, demonstration and small scale experimentation of possible solutions.
"Instead of a traditional approach of just asking vendors for formal written technology proposals, we used a 'shark tank' format modeled after the popular television show," said Lt. Col. Brian Wong, N-CFT Chief of Market Research.
Selected vendors were invited to discuss their capability measured across standards selected by several government organizations, Wong said.
“This format allowed multiple government organizations to provide input into shaping the design goals of the future network capability sets and enabled vendors, through technology demonstrations, to validate the maturity of their solution and propose how they would execute collaborative [developmental operations] DevOps with engineers and Soldiers," he said.
The six topics addressed were Electronic Warfare Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) compliant SATCOM modem and resilient radio waveforms managed multi-orbit SATCOM services; consolidated tools for Unified NETOPS; ID Management for multi-level security with mission partners; hardened transport for command posts and mounted formations and distributed computing and data architectures.
The Request for White Papers specifically requested industry to deliver prototypes, develop preliminary training materials and conduct experimentation with Soldiers and units in the field to drive DEVOPS and collect direct user feedback.
Additional capabilities for CS 23 specifically target producing more intuitive solutions to reduce cognitive burdens on the Soldiers.
“Complexity will never go away, but we want to move that complexity as far from the tactical edge as we can,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Chris Westbrook, N-CFT Senior Technical Advisor.
Next steps include down selection of the vendors based on the “shark tank” 23 demonstration event. Those selected will receive Request for Prototype Projects in April. Following the proposal evaluations, the Army expects to award up to several prototype projects for one or more of the CS 23 topic areas.
“This type of technical demonstration allows us to solicit all of industry, be more inclusive of small businesses and non-traditional vendors and vet capability significantly faster than in the past,” Gallagher said. “We are excited about prototyping both the emerging industry solutions and capability from our science and technology partners at the C5ISR Center on our road to delivering future capability sets.”
Army Futures Command Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT) was established to address the most pressing challenges to the tactical network that our soldiers use on the battlefield. The N-CFT is focused on delivering the Army a network that enables our Army to fight, win and dominate in a multi-domain environment by 2028. The N-CFT drives requirements and transitions to deliver a network that is expeditionary, mobile, hardened and intuitive.