ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 21, 2020) – The next promising tactical network capability will never reach a unit without Soldier acceptance, the right process and the right resourcing.
“We’ve followed exciting technologies emerging within our Army research and development organizations, only to see the technology succumb to the valley of death,” said Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher, U.S. Army Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT) director. “Historically, these promising capabilities stall or expire because we simply did not have the funding to transition them from early development into our Programs of Record for further development.”
Working across industry and with Army science and technology (S&T) partners, the N-CFT identifies promising capability and aligns it to Army tactical network modernization priorities. Critical to this process is prototyping and experimenting with tactical network S&T projects that hold promise for transition into programs of record.
Through the N-CFT and program office partners, the Army is now identifying Capability Set 23 (CS23) technologies, which focus on network capacity, resiliency, and convergence, and it does so with the right funding at the right time.
“We’re focusing on the Army’s next integrated kit of tactical network transport, application and command post enhancements,” Gallagher said. “This will be the first year the Army has aligned prototyping funding to support our capability set efforts.”
The Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding, specifically for prototyping, supports capabilities that have shown enough promise to graduate from the early R&D phase to the demonstration and validation phase.
The N-CFT has identified eight promising Army-developed S&T efforts and six industry based prototyping efforts for its funding allocation. The industry efforts were identified as part of a series of Technical Exchange Meetings that took place over the last year, and 2020 marks the first year that that Army has been able to align the proper funding to champion industry prototypes into experimentation. The Army expects contract awards this summer, with experimentation to begin shortly after.
Included in this year’s S&T efforts is the requirement to address spectrum obfuscation, said John Shotwell, chief engineer for Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, who is assisting the N-CFT with network design and integration for CS23.
“We require spectrum management capabilities to both deny our signal emissions from the enemy and to protect our friendly force communications,” he said.
In addition to furthering spectrum obfuscation and awareness, the Army is exploring cyber situational understanding, which helps operational units better “see” themselves. With spectrum awareness comes the ability to mitigate threats to the tactical network environment by converting the cyberspace data it ingests and analyzes into useful, actionable information.
An Integrated Tactical Network Operations project will focus on network operations at the battalion and below echelons by providing tools that allow Soldiers to monitor and manage the Integrated Tactical Network while providing remote management and monitoring access at the battalion level.
Ensuring command post survivability is another planned effort, which addresses the critical requirement to safeguard Soldiers. Command post survivability entails creating mobile, smaller command posts as a means to geographically disperse and conduct high capacity communications between the dispersed nodes to increase resilience and data distribution.
Additionally, the Army will continue to develop application security of software by working measures to prevent, identify and act on security vulnerabilities. S&T efforts will include establishing and integrating tactical cloud capacity for secure, container-based development and deployment of new and existing technologies such as machine learning, and cyber security sensors to be able to better detect and predict intrusions.
Rounding out the eight Army S&T efforts are waveform interference and tactical identity management development. Waveform interference cancellation capabilities, led by PEO C3T, PEO Soldier, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command (CCDC) C5ISR Center and the Network-CFT, will mitigate adversary jamming; the tactical identity access management capability features a wearable wireless authenticator that will enable Soldiers to rapidly prove their identity when accessing devices and applications.
All of these maturation efforts are the result of the partnership between the S&T, CFT and program community. Together these organizations ensure capabilities are properly vetted early on for a viable and smooth transition to a program office.
"Injecting prototype funding into the Army's network modernization process enables us to move technology from research and development into integrated experiments to assist in transitioning capability to the programs of record and, ultimately, the Soldier,” said Michael Monteleone, CCDC C5ISR director. "This is an important part of the collaborative process, where confidence is built within programs of record on the technology's maturity and moves that technology from the CCDC technology-development Centers into the programs' baseline as a unified capability."
Throughout the process of maturing Army S&T and industry prototyping capabilities, the Army is using a DevOps process, which places developer’s side-by-side with Soldiers and commanders in operational units to obtain timely operational feedback.
“We are aligning our capability needs to the capability set process using DevOps, and now with our prototyping funding also aligned, we are confident that we will be lock step with what our Soldiers have told us they need to win the fight,” Gallagher said.