NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 2, 2021) – Four signal Soldiers. Four very different units. And one message for industry: keep pushing the boundaries of the Army network.
“There’s a lot more technology out there – from 5G to [new satellite constellations],” said Lt. Col. Will Martin, G6 for the 82nd Airborne Division. “We need to have it all in this division. And that’s today – what’s [coming] tomorrow, we don’t know. That’s where we need help from industry: help inform us on what’s tomorrow, because we want to get there.”
Martin and his counterparts from the 101st Airborne Division, the Security Force Assistance Command, and the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division joined Army leaders and technical experts at the Army’s most recent network technical exchange meeting (TEM) with industry held on Dec. 2. The event – open to traditional defense contractors and non-traditional vendors attending both in person and online – served to provide not only direct warfighter feedback, but also high-level perspective on the Army’s network strategy and support to Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2.
Initiatives such as the recently concluded Project Convergence 21, where the 82nd Airborne Division and Multi Domain Task Force partnered with the joint services to demonstrate critical improvements in information-sharing and sensor-to-shooter data exchange, are key elements in understanding the network and data requirements of future weapon systems to deliver joint effects and achieve JADC2, leaders said.
“The stovepipes seem to be melting,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, director, command, control, communications and computers/cyber and chief information officer, Joint Staff, J-6, who delivered the keynote address. “The time is really here.”
The imperative to rapidly provide secure data to users across a dispersed, fast-paced, and electronically-contested future battlefield is driving changes in Army network technology, process, and policy, said Lt. Gen John Morrison, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6, whose office is leading the implementation of a plan to better unify and integrate tactical and strategic capabilities.
“We are moving past being network-centric to be data-centric,” Morrison said. “No matter where you’re operating – at the enterprise, or in an operations center, or at the tactical edge – we must be able to get the data at the point of need, or have the point of need be able to reach back to the data they need.”
The TEM was the seventh in a series of semi-annual forums the Army has hosted with industry partners in order to maintain open communication on the service’s priorities for network modernization and keep pace with commercial technology advancements. Each year, one TEM solicits whitepapers that can lead to contract awards for targeted prototypes, while the other TEM is informational to help shape industry research and development.
TEM 7 was primarily informational, outlining the design goals and specific focus areas for the Army’s future Capability Sets – a two-year delivery process the service uses to insert new network and mission command technologies into the force. Several sets are in process simultaneously: Capability Set (CS) 21 is currently fielding, CS 23 is in near-term development and experimentation for fielding beginning in Fiscal Year 2023, and Capability Sets 25 and 27 are in design.
The TEM also provided a look over the horizon to the objective state of the future network that will enable the Multi Domain Operations (MDO) Capable force in 2028 and MDO Ready force in 2035. The future state will incorporate data-centric, transport-agnostic capabilities with modern encryption and a security architecture based on zero trust principles – ultimately providing the resiliency and reliability to deliver the right data to the right decision-maker at the point of need.
“We have momentum. We have a crystal clear vision,” said Maj. Gen. Rob Collins, program executive officer for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical, whose organization procures and fields capability sets and hosted the TEM in partnership with the Army Futures Command Network Cross-Functional Team and C5ISR Center. “We are moving at speed, but making sure we wrap in acquisition rigor.”
In addition to the panels on warfighter perspective and future capability sets, the event included in-depth technical discussions on data fabric; command post agility and mobility; network operations and management tools; the C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS); and experimentation venues where industry can collaborate with the Army in the lab and in the field. For the first time, the TEM also involved the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which led a panel on its network-aligned opportunities in the Army Strategic Rapid Acquisition (AStRA) process.
Throughout the event, leaders stressed that as the Army continues to work with industry to mature its own network capabilities, technical and operational integration with joint and coalition partners is also paramount to achieving decision dominance and overmatch.
“The network is foundational to Army modernization efforts – it underpins everything we do,” said Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the Network CFT. “We need your help to achieve joint capability and sharing information and data with our coalition partners.”