Army concept writers, analysts, scientists, and researchers are racing against the clock to describe and develop the required capabilities to enable better, faster decision-making in future multi-domain operations. It sounds like just another Army tagline, but it was a critical point of discussion during the Mission Command Battle Lab’s (MCBL) Future Command and Control Information Systems Seminar in April 2021.
As the Army continues to wrestle with operations in 2035 and beyond, each warfighting function and supporting function is actively developing concepts to describe how the Army will fight, what equipment it will fight with, and who will do that fighting. It looks great on paper, but concepts require continuous evaluation to ensure the Army makes progress on its goals; that is where the Futures and Concepts Center battle labs get involved.
Located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the MCBL is the Army’s lead organization for examining and evaluating command and control concepts and technologies through experimentation, studies, network integration, and prototyping. The MCBL works in support of the Mission Command Capability Development and Integration Directorate (MC-CDID) as well as the MC Center of Excellence.
Set to publish in 2021, the MC CDID developed the Army Futures Command Concept for Command and Control, which describes the capabilities needed in future C2 systems to be effective in a “complex, highly competitive, lethal, and hyperactive operational environment against neat-peer adversaries.” To bridge the divide between the concepts and research communities, the MCBL partnered with DEVCOM’s Advancing Concepts Office, to form the Future Command and Control Information Systems (FC2IS) effort.
There is a natural relationship between concepts and research that requires near continuous dialogue and collaboration. As concepts evolve and mature through experimentation and research, technologies, capabilities, and systems development for the FC2IS must also evolve. Jeff From, the MCBL Science and Technology Contract Lead, highlighted this during the FC2IS workshop. From said, “If the FC2IS line of effort successfully rationalizes the dynamic relationship between the Army’s concepts, both current and emerging, and the research that informs the Army’s future C2IS capabilities, we may see a bridge over the proverbial valley of death.”
The intent of the FC2IS effort is to develop a shared understanding between the concepts and research communities to prioritize solution approaches and mitigate C2 related gaps and challenges. Dr. Stephen Russell of DEVCOM’s Army Research Laboratory continues to reinforce the importance of this type of collaboration. During the seminar, Russell explained, “It would be good to take research artifacts as tangible concepts and experiment with them, in context, to tease out meaningful opportunities for future tech and research. This seems like it would have exceptional benefit in a loop for both concept refinement and research focus.”
The MCBL and Ignite team spent the last few months exploring anticipated gaps in C2 systems and marrying foundational research with the goal of creating an enduring, synergistic model for developing solution approaches and aligning solutions within AFC’s Top-Down Futures Development Process. Through future experimentation events, MCBL will further inform the AFCC-C2 and the TDFDP.
Like all Army challenges, building the bench of stakeholders is a necessary and critical first step. One of the most important partners to FC2IS is the Network-Cross Functional Team, which AFC has charged with orchestrating a myriad of modernization efforts including the unified network, common operating environment, interoperability, and command posts. While N-CFT remains focused on delivering capabilities to the waypoint force of 2028, FC2IS is ultimately looking to provide the Army with options for transformational C2 technologies for the AimPoint force of 2035.
Other partners from AFC helped to define friction points and challenges beyond technical shortfalls; many of which were tied to changes in organizations and relationships. One such linkage was defining FC2IS as distinguishable but complementary to efforts such as Combined and Joint All-Domain Command and Control in that FC2IS actively seeks research and materiel solutions to enable concepts described within CJADC2, AFCC-C2, and the Joint Concept for C2. FC2IS operates with two main goals:
· Link concepts, capabilities, gaps, research, and technology in support of the TDFDP
· Develop an ecosystem of collaboration to support the above
The operational gaps focus on the expected increase in data associated with the internet of battlefield things and a significant increase in the tempo of operations in the future. As command posts are inundated with large amounts of information, there is a growing need to develop systems that help staffs parse that data. The C2 concept describes that as “enabling leaders to have the right information, at the right time, and in a useable format to make the right decisions.”
Presentations illustrating the cooperation between MCBL and ARL included an overview of Dr. Mark Dennison’s Cross-Reality Common Operating Picture and Dr. Sean Fitzhugh’s Network Analysis for C2, which identified interaction clusters among various staff elements. Seminar participants all received updates on the Army’s current C2 system, Command Post Computing Environment, and the N-CFT’s capability set development framework to provide enhanced understanding and highlight opportunities for future research and experimentation.
Discussions further highlighted a need for improvements to current development processes. Todd Urness, DEVCOM’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center senior electronics engineer stated, “I still look at integration as FC2IS’s focus. I know you have great technologies; how do you marry those together?” ARL provided direction on their new “competencies” organizational structure that has a stated mission of “operationalizing science for transformational overmatch.” These presentations contributed to and helped foster an understanding that will drive future efforts. Maj. Minou Pak of the Advancing Concepts Office stated, “This is the level of collaborative effort that Army senior leaders emphasize: for operational concepts to shape current research investments and current research shaping future capabilities. All the while the Army continues its partnerships with industry to deliver those capabilities as they mature.”
Future modernization depends on relationships and partnerships. “Ideally, by forging these relationships early we can help to guide and facilitate transitions where appropriate and be both beneficial not only to our organizations, but to the Army,” said Calvin Johnson, MCBL Director.
The next formal event for FC2IS is a technical excursion in July 2021 that will demonstrate research and technology that could further mitigate C2 information system gaps. Interested researchers and program managers can contact Major Matthew Maness of the MCBL S&T branch for more information.