NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Army is building on its network modernization foundation to holistically enhance acquisition agility and the rapid integration of disruptive network technologies.
Innovative acquisition process improvements, such as an ongoing capability portfolio review, or CPR, as well as new development and business models, are helping the service to deliver a unified network that can adapt to changing operational landscapes and threats, said Army leaders during last week’s Capability Set Technical Exchange Meeting 9 with industry, in Nashville.
"The pace of technological change will continue to accelerate," said the Hon. Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the Army, during his opening keynote address. "Fielding the Army of 2030, which is aligned to our National Defense Strategy, will require us to face this challenge by accelerating digital transformation and the modernization of our network … to help us maintain that decisive overmatch against potential adversaries in the future. So, we're making targeted investments in the processes, technologies and skill sets that will accelerate our transformation.”
Camarillo said that the Army’s digital transformation will link enterprise and tactical networks, unleash data from embedded data silos, enable the secure and effective transport of data anywhere that its needed, and use modern software and software development practices and network architectures to truly enable joint operations. As part of a common transport layer, the Army is integrating and unifying current and emerging network components, common services, terrestrial systems, satellite communications and tactical radios to give warfighters a resilient transport agnostic means of communication.
OPERATIONAL LANDSCAPE CHALLENGES
The Army faces two fundamental transformational challenges, according to Camarillo. First, the service is rapidly transforming to meet challenging landscapes after two decades of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations, shifting to large scale combat operations that rely on modernized maneuver capabilities. Second, the Army is implementing a secure and resilient network to transmit critical data within those continually evolving and complex operational landscapes.
During the Technical Exchange Meeting 9 Warfighting Panel, Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, I Corps Commanding General, said that he is working to overcome the unique data exchange obstacles in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.
“I must provide the Joint Force Commander with options, in an operational environment that includes a near peer adversary, great physical distances, and harsh geographic conditions that challenge the Army’s ability to operate across all domains and warfighting functions,” Brunson said. “Our ability to conduct distributed command and control in the Indo Pacific theater requires access to joint partner resources wherever they reside globally. I require a diverse, assured, resilient and agnostic transport that is inherently joint, reasonably agnostic and optimized for distributed operations.”
LEVERAGING GLOBAL OPERATIONS AS LAB
As part of efforts to accelerate digital transformation, Camillo said that the Army is changing the way it develops, tests and deploys its systems to become faster, much more agile and responsive, taking advantage of all available acquisition pathways and authorities created in the last few years. To inform acquisition strategies and quickly integrate new technologies, the Army will accelerate experimentation, quickly prototype capabilities and leverage real-world operational exercise experimentation globally to de-risk programs — such as distributed command and control and tactical cloud capabilities; high-throughput, low latency multi-orbit multi-band capabilities; and automatic primary, alternate, continency and emergency communications plans.
Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, Commanding General for the XVIII Airborne Corps, and his corps have been supporting network experimentation efforts using several emerging capabilities in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, proving feedback on the experimentation together with real-world operational observations in that theater. “Our most recent deployments in CENTCOM and EUCOM have become laboratories for us to expedite our work … with pretty incredible results so far, as to what we think we’re going to be able to do in the future,” Donahue said.
From an industry perspective, Donahue stressed that new commercial systems need to be flexible and interoperable with the Army’s evolving network. “We have to be able to share the data back and forth,” he said. “We will always bring in new technologies, but if your system cannot integrate quickly, and change as the enemy changes, then you're probably not going to be relevant.”
HOLISTIC ACQUISITION PROCESSES AND STRATEGIES
To inform the Army’s acquisition strategies and to more quickly integrate new technologies into the network, Camarillo said there are areas where the Army needs to “fundamentally rethink its buying models, accept different lifecycle assumptions, and review investment strategies and the incentives they create.”
“Even when the Army controls the requirements, and can plan to spend against it, our processes can sometimes be narrow in scope, logging us into buying or replacing specific things, instead of ensuring that we have a needed set of capabilities across our entire network,” Camarillo said. “We have to be able to do that holistically, because sometimes the requirements can be duplicative.”
Camarillo initiated the network CPR process to inform requirements alignment, investments and create a sustainable coherent strategic path for transformation, which includes feedback from network stakeholders Army-wide. The 2022 CPR focused on six topic areas: the DoD Information Networks Army operations, common services infrastructure, the common transport layer, software and data, human capital and zero trust.
“We worked really hard over the course of the last several months to lay the groundwork to accelerate investments in certain areas, to drive requirements, and to incorporate industry's best practices so that our network can be secure, capable, and most importantly adaptable,” Camarillo said. “The CPR will help us invest much more efficiently, in a sustainable unified network, and with the associated capabilities that make our network and digital capability more effective.”
To accelerate the pace of change, during the CPR the team focused on foundational technologies where it could “shift investment to increase investment” in the adoption of evolving cornerstone technologies, such as cloud computing, cybersecurity and zero trust, resilient and robust network architectures that rely on a combination of commercial and military capabilities.
WORKING WITH INDUSTRY IN NEW WAYS
The Army is also modernizing the way that it buys software by adopting the industry standard practice of agile software development, which can also in many ways apply to hardware. The service will to continue to implement open systems architectures to enable rapid integration of evolving technologies without future vendor lock.
Additionally, the Army is leaning on industry to provide more of its own research and development investments and innovation to meet evolving Army requirements, such as providing the Army with information to inform the potential need for a low-cost single-channel, secure but unclassified radio solution, and to provide solutions to help secure data and the network through the emerging Unified Network Operations program.
The Army is also pursuing new business models to more affordably keep up with the accelerating speed of technology advancement, while reducing resource and budget burdens, equipment obsolescence and other sustainment challenges. For example, last week the service released a draft performance work statement in support of a satellite communications as a managed service, or SaaMS, pilot, which is slated for the summer of 2023. The intent of the SaaMS pilot is to inform decisions on the Army’s potential use of commercially leased equipment and services that would be flexible and tailorable to changing mission needs.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS A PARTNERSHIP
Camarillo said that there are two essential enablers to the Army’s digital transformation efforts: to get the right talent in the right place at the right time, and the service’s relationship with industry. The Army’s acquisition strategy will continue to emphasize competition, as well as collaboration and innovation among industry partners, at every stage, from experimentation, to procurement, testing, evaluation and management, he said.
“Multi-partner collaboration has to be the cornerstone of our future,” Camarillo said. “To get the innovation that we need, we need to ensure that small non-traditional partners are part of that conversation. And we need to do everything we can to make sure that it's easy, not difficult, to do business with the Army. Success in digital transformation is really going to require input and contribution from all of the people that are here in this room.”
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.