The complexity of sustaining command, control, computers, communications, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems is rapidly increasing. Faster technological innovation cycle times, compatibility requirements across generations of systems, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, supply chain gaps, and the exponential growth of software dependency are some factors driving this increased complexity. Furthermore, the Army’s recent logistical support in the European theater has underscored our need to reinvent how the sustainment enterprise controls risk in support of large-scale combat operations (LSCO).
As the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) looks to the future of C5ISR sustainment, we continue to focus on how our organization can help set conditions that can enable tactical units to sustain their systems through processes, systems, and planning that can be institutionalized across formations. This includes adopting data-driven decision-making models for forecasting risk, unit readiness, and program objective memorandum prioritization. Additionally, sustainment risk reduction is highly dependent on building training that keeps pace with the demands of emerging technology and on encouraging performance-based contracting that includes smart sustainment support. In the field, smart leaders must adapt to fight and win. As a sustainment enterprise, we must also adapt our strategies for sustainment — across all phases of a system’s life cycle — to support the future fight.
Data-driven Decision Making
Data-driven models help us make faster decisions throughout a system’s life cycle while mitigating risk.
CECOM’s first principle for reducing C5ISR system sustainment risk has been to increase our forecasting accuracy through authoritative, quantifiable data. The U.S. Army Materiel Command (USAMC) transition to sustainment (T2S) strategy is already dramatically improving transparency across the Department of the Army. For C5ISR systems, it is particularly important to use deliberate T2S processes to help mitigate sustainment and integration risks. As we continue to speed up our acquisition process to keep pace with technological innovation, we must be cognizant of how decisions may unintentionally cause — and compound — future sustainment risks in the field. Faster technology cycle times appear to drive decisions in the equipping program evaluation group (PEG), introducing risk later incurred by the sustainment PEG and training PEG after T2S.
To identify sustainment capacity early on, we have established a C5ISR System Sustainment Risk Scorecard to combine expert judgment with key data risk factors. These risk factors include cost and contractual performance incentives, the number of differentiated parts and vendors, past similar system sustainment challenges, new system training complexity, parts obsolescence, and transition timelines between acquisition teams from Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA(ALT))/program executive offices (PEOs)) to sustainment teams from USAMC or CECOM. Each of these measures informs risk decisions and strategies regardless of the stage of development for any system.
To meet the Secretary of the Army’s objectives for “ruthless prioritization,” the scorecard provides an efficient overview of potential risk levels for sustainment in an LSCO environment. In turn, senior leaders across the Army — from corps commanders to ASA(ALT) and Headquarters, Department of the Army, to the Joint Staff — can use these data points to make risk-informed decisions based on a systematic combination of expert judgment and data. We hope to instantiate the use of a scorecard to accompany weapon systems throughout the life cycle.
CECOM is also developing a common operational picture to help leaders quickly assess the level of risk at each stage of a system’s life cycle based on the risk shape it takes in the Risk Scorecard. The Notational Risk Scorecard COP are examples of how the basic shape formed by the Risk Scorecard can offer a quick visual for both aggregate risk and areas in which risk mitigation measures could be prioritized.
CECOM has been using unit-specific scorecards to drive holistic, data-driven readiness efforts. Our Unit Status Report Scorecard focuses on unit training, risk management, and sustainment planning by creating a snapshot of a unit’s C5ISR readiness, supply, and training levels. Increasingly, units leverage multiple variants of C5ISR capabilities, from new equipment prototypes to legacy systems at the end of life. The complexities associated with multiple system variants, commercial off-the-shelf items, and external enterprise dependencies often prevent commanders from having an accurate picture of readiness, supply, and training. Once commanders can see complete views of these levels, they can combine them with their personnel levels to have a composite view of the overall C5ISR readiness of their unit.
To help mitigate risk for commanders in the field, the enterprise must use larger trusted datasets to provide commanders with information, including where and how C5ISR field support and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) personnel are spending training and maintenance support time. In one recent survey of two unit rotations to the combat training center, more than 60% of more than 100 field support trouble tickets for C5ISR systems related to unit-level or 10-level maintenance tasks. Another mission required enterprise-level engineers to deploy to a combatant command to perform 10-level software updates due to complicated system requirements and frequently changing mission demands.
Commanders deserve to know where they have training, maintenance, software gaps, or dependencies to sustain critical systems. Datasets predicting a system’s dependency on the sustainment enterprise or OEM need to be built early in the prototyping or fielding process. As with industry best practices, data on unit dependencies must continue to evolve throughout the system life cycle to inform specific unit trends. The CECOM Division Health Chart is a way to achieve this goal. In the future, predictive logistics (formerly prognostics and predictive maintenance) will provide commanders with an even more accurate common operational picture. This can provide senior leaders with decision space to buy down risk through the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process; delay, cancel, or accelerate system fielding timelines; or assume risk later in the life cycle.
Planning for Sustainment with Partners
In addition to transforming sustainment decision-making processes, the sustainment enterprise must recognize the importance of our relationships with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and PEOs.
Risk reduction for system sustainment also involves aligning military occupational specialties (MOSs) to both historical like-system performance and emerging technological requirements. Information that flows into the training and sustainment PEGs must prioritize TRADOC resourcing to keep pace with requirements for Soldiers, assigned MOS tasks, and independence from field support. The Cyber Center of Excellence and the Intelligence Center of Excellence must be resourced in parallel with new fieldings and incorporate hands-on lessons with the latest systems. Likewise, we must resource units to develop Signal University training environments that are responsive to changes in threat, capabilities, and unit-specific needs.
The idea behind this more focused approach to training is to ensure Soldiers and logistics assistance representatives (LARs)/field support representatives (FSRs) have a common foundational understanding of the latest core technology concepts in order to build the specific skills, certifications, and permissions to sustain increasingly complex systems. In some cases, such as with specialized systems with low-rate production forecasts, this strategy would be superseded by a deliberate OEM partnership that ensures appropriate external support. An actionable item in this area is to physically integrate public-private partnerships (PPPs) at the organic industrial base to align sustainment repair with the workload by leveraging Army tactical logistics.
More broadly, modernization necessitates C5ISR knowledge transfer across all MOS types. The military intelligence and signal communities are no longer the end-all and be-all of digital systems; C5ISR now spans all six warfighting functions from fire teams through corps. Currently, an armor brigade has roughly 650 Joint Battle Command Platform systems integrated into the mounted framework of computers of at least three different vehicle platforms. Whereas past battlespace environments were predictable enough to rely on MOS-trained Soldiers and warrant officers, USAMC LARs, or OEM FSRs, the current environment demands that knowledge transfer on systems can occur more rapidly — or remotely — between operations support technicians and operations MOSs, as well as between the department and industry.
Planning for sustainment in performance-based contracting is another important lever to emphasize in system risk management. Whereas past contract terms may have overly relied upon OEMs for software and hardware rights, future contracts should focus on performance terms and clauses that drive interdependence between the OEM and Army. Contractual terms must call for minimally acceptable performance capabilities as a condition for contract fulfillment from the Army. Technical rights and software licensing clauses should grant the Army the right to exercise surge purchases in licenses at a fixed price, build replacement parts of obsolete systems based on technical standards, and make software updates in the face of legitimate cyber risk concerns without incurring additional costs.
In addition to ensuring performance-based approaches, long-term contracts (10 years) should be pursued that focus on incorporating plans for sustainment. From a technical perspective, this includes software availability and patch automation, software installation, software assurance, software identification and reporting, modern software development practices, software licenses, and obsolescence planning. Priced line items and evaluation strategies upfront should consider the following contract-based approaches where applicable: software licenses, data escrow accounts, PPP, warranties, technical data packages, a contractor-proposed organic sustainment implementation plan, and procurement of data rights.
Sustainment for the Future Tactical Environment
In this year’s European theater, we have seen a small glimpse of what sustainment will look like in LSCO. Institutionalizing data-driven, systematic decision-making processes into our risk management practices, resourcing a responsive and modern training enterprise, and incorporating sustainment into the contract planning process are crucial levers to help the sustainment enterprise maintain dominance in the future operating environment. While our Army currently boasts the most astoundingly responsive and efficient logistical enterprise the world has ever known, we must be proactive in adapting and evolving our processes to continue outpacing our near-peer adversaries.
Author’s note: The authors would like to thank Hector Rodriguez, Lara Orechovesky, Danielle Moyer, and the Communications-Electronics Command team for contributing to this paper and topic.
Maj. Gen. Robert L. Edmonson II currently serves as the 17th commander of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command and senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing from Frostburg State University, a Master of Science Administration in Information Resource Management from Central Michigan University, a Master of Science in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University, and received his Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa from Frostburg State University in 2022.
Col. Ron Iammartino served as the G-3, Director for Plans and Operations at the Army Communications-Electronics Command. He holds a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from George Washington University, an MA in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University, and an MBA in Finance from Monmouth University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
This content is published online in conjunction with the Fall 22 issue of Army Sustainment.