FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. — As the Army accelerates digital transformation in support of increasingly complex and distributed battlefield environments, unified network operations will be a key enabler for secure global data exchange and a zero trust security architecture.
UNO’s initial integrated suite of software applications enhance and consolidate over 30 existing network operation tools into a simplified user-friendly capability, enabling signal Soldiers to plan, manage, monitor, configure and secure the Army’s unified network more effectively.
UNO is foundational to Army network modernization efforts that enhance network security, resiliency and data exchange, and to the service’s unified network vision — which integrates and converges enterprise and tactical networks as found in the Army Data Plan and Unified Network Plan.
As the UNO program of record matures in fiscal year 2024, future capability will further support key Army modernization efforts that will streamline strategic and installation network operations and enhance security and data exchange through identity credentialing and access management, or ICAM. UNO’s ICAM software will play a major role in the Army’s zero trust security architecture and attribute-based data access and exchange, which will require users to be authenticated, authorized and continuously validated for security configuration and posture to access applications and data.
“UNO enables Soldiers to sense, control, and visualize the Unified Network, from both a targeted and holistic perspective, to enable real-time assessment of impacts to joint multi-domain operations,” said Matt Maier, project manager for interoperability and integrated services (PM I2S), at the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), which leads the UNO effort for the Army. “Reducing the number of network management and monitoring applications and tools results in a simplified user experience, increased situational awareness, and stronger cyber network defense.”
Currently, signal Soldiers have multiple systems, network operations capabilities, logins and form factors to perform their key functions, which are displayed out on a main command post monitor where they manage and secure the network, said Lt. Col. Keith Jordan, product manager for tactical cyber and network operations (PdM TCNO), at PM I2S.
“We want to move to a singular simple intuitive user interface, where Soldiers will be able to conduct endpoint management at a single device that can reach out to all of their unit’s different network nodes, so they can plan, monitor and defend the network in a more effective and efficient way,” Jordan said. “This single interface concept will also ensure Soldiers are getting the best data and network information to the commander.”
Looking forward, UNO will also further reduce technical complexity at the edge by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to simplify operational tasks while providing tailorable and scalable capabilities at the appropriate echelon.
PM I2S manages UNO in collaboration with an increasing team of stakeholders, including the Army Zero Trust Office, Cyber Center of Excellence, Network Cross-Functional Team, PEO Enterprise Information Services, operational units and industry partners.
To date, the Army has released several requests for information to industry and continues to conduct market research and industry engagements to help inform the service of potential vendors interested in competing for the UNO program of record contract. On the current timeline, the Army plans to release a draft request for proposal this summer to garner additional industry feedback, with a potential request for proposal release later in 2023 and an UNO program of record contract award in late fiscal year 2024.
UNO capabilities are currently being developed under middle tier acquisition rapid prototyping authorities, such as UNO’s radio network planning tool Atom, which is integrated on the Ruggedized Applications Platform-Tactical Radios that is currently being fielded.
Subject to change, the UNO contract strategy is expected to be a multiple award contract, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity with a six-year base period of performance. Anticipated award evaluation criteria will include technical factors, cost, past performance and small business participation.
“In a dynamic multi-domain environment, having multiple industry partners gives the Army a lot more flexibility to deliver the right capabilities and enables us to move quickly and swap out capability on the backend as needed, and again, without changing the frontend,” Jordan said. “The idea is to keep that consistent look and feel throughout the network, throughout that entire endpoint.”
The Army is focused on laying a strong groundwork for follow-on UNO and network modernization efforts, which is reflected in the first few potential initial contract task orders. These are expected to include application programing interface and middleware development, and integration of current middle tier acquisition prototypes. APIs are defined rules that enable a modular NetOps architecture created from independent components that are integrated using standard, well-defined interfaces, while the middleware connects separate applications and enables them talk to each other.
PdM TCNO has been working with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab on early design efforts for the UNO middleware and API. The initial white paper can be found on PEO C3T’s Joint Communications Marketplace, and the full reference specification will be included in the UNO RFP expected to be released later in fiscal year 2023.
Other potential task orders could include the development and the graphical user interface and development of a training package; development of lower tactical tier functional requirements for command post, mounted, mobile and handheld and sensor computing environments, and integration with middleware architecture; and development of a tactical ICAM solution.
“We want things simple and intuitive, to reduce cognitive burden and training demand on the Warfighter, which is critical to the Army Data Plan and decreasing software fielding timelines,” said Brent Smith, deputy for TCNO. “We want to standardize and simplify as much as possible.”
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.