CECOM celebrates 42 years

By Susan ThompsonApril 20, 2023

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – On May 1, 2023, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command will celebrate its 42nd birthday. 42 years marked by change, but with a continuous focus on providing world-class communications and electronics equipment to Soldiers.

CECOM traces its roots to the 1917 establishment of a Signal Corps training facility and radio research and development laboratory at what would become Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The installation was originally named Camp Little Silver and was responsible for training the 1st and 2nd Reserve Signal Battalions. It was renamed Camp Alfred Vail shortly after its establishment in 1917. The Chief Signal Officer authorized the purchase of Camp Vail in 1919. The Signal Corps School relocated to Camp Alfred Vail from Fort Leavenworth that year.

The Signal Corps Board relocated to Camp Alfred Vail in 1924. The installation was granted permanent status and was renamed Fort Monmouth in August 1925. It was named in honor of the soldiers of the American Revolution who died in the battle of Monmouth Court House.

In 1929, the Signal Corps’ Electrical Laboratory of Washington and the Signal Corps’ Research Laboratory of New York merged with the Radio Laboratories at Fort Monmouth to form the consolidated “Signal Corps Laboratories.” Out of these laboratories came some of the most important developments that would later be the backbone of World War II communications equipment, including RADAR, field radio sets including SCR-300 (the “walkie-talkie” radio set), switchboards, field wire, and radio receivers.

Research in radar technology continued at the Evans Signal Laboratory despite the end of World War II. The site witnessed a milestone in scientific history on January 10, 1946. Signal Corps Scientists used a specially designed radar antenna (called the Diana Tower) to successfully reflect electronic signals off the moon, starting the age of space communications.

The Signal Corps Center was established at Fort Monmouth in August 1949 under the jurisdiction of the Chief Signal Officer. Consisting of the Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories, the Signal Corps Board, the Signal School, the Signal Corps Publications Agency, the Signal Corps Intelligence Unit, the Pigeon Breeding and Training Center, the Army portion of the Armed Services Electro Standards Agency, and all Signal Corps troop units stationed at Fort Monmouth.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Fort Monmouth concentrated on production engineering of equipment designed since World War II. By 1952, 250 of 274 pieces of major signal equipment moving to the field were new or improved. A major success of this era was the introduction of Automatic Artillery and Mortar Locating Radars AN/TPQ-3 and AN/MPQ-10, both products of the labs at Fort Monmouth. Other developments of the period included a lightweight field television camera with a backpack transmitter; a pocket dosimeter for detecting radiation; an ultrasonic quartz saw; and super-small experimental field radios.

The pigeon service, a fixture since the end of WWI, ended in 1957 due to advances in communication systems. Fort Monmouth sold many courier pigeons at auction, while “hero” pigeons with distinguished service records went to zoos.

A significant reorganization of the Army in 1962 resulted in major changes for Fort Monmouth. The Army disbanded the technical services (including the Signal Corps), and transferred those functions to new commands. The U.S. Army Electronics Command, stood up August 1, 1962, at Fort Monmouth, assumed the responsibility for signal material development and procurement under the newly established Army Materiel Command. This CECOM predecessor managed Signal research, development, and logistics support. ECOM encompassed the Signal Research and Development Laboratories, the Signal Materiel Support Agency, the Signal Supply Agency and its various procurement offices, and other Signal Corps logistics support activities.

ECOM supplied combat troops with a number of high- technology commodities during the Vietnam conflict. These included mortar locators, aerial reconnaissance equipment, surveillance systems, sensors, air traffic control systems, and night vision devices.

To improve the Army's materiel acquisition procedures, the Secretary of the Army established the Army Materiel Acquisition Review Committee. The Committee’s report, released in April 1974, said, in essence, that the commodity command structure of the Army, with its emphasis on "readiness," limited the Army's flexibility and impeded the acquisition process. The Committee recommended that research and development functions be separated from "readiness" functions.

While for most major subordinate commands of AMC, AMARC entailed a two-for-one split, in place of ECOM it proposed the establishment of four new organizations: the Communications-Electronics Materiel Readiness Command, the Communications Research and Development Command, the Electronics Research and Development Command, and the Avionics Research and Development Activity, a component of the new Aviation Research and Development Command. Only CERCOM and CORADCOM were headquartered at Fort Monmouth.

In the end, AMARC was a failed experiment. Reassessment of the changes at Fort Monmouth, begun in August 1980, concluded that, while the emphasis on research and development had increased (good), there was also much duplication of effort. Thus, on March 1, 1981, AMC combined CERCOM and CORADCOM to form the new CECOM, effective May 1, 1981.

The CECOM Logistics and Readiness Center stood up on 10 November 1987 to act as an overseer to all communications and electronics functions within CECOM. It became the Integrated Logistics Support Center on 1 August 2016.

A Signal Organization and Mission Alignment study was conducted in order to determine the most efficient way to organize the Signal Corps’ information management capabilities. Through this reorganization effective October 1, 1996, CECOM gained the Information Systems Engineering Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. On the same day, CECOM’s Research and Development Center Software Engineering Directorate merged with Information Systems Software Center, Industrial Logistics Systems Center, and Logistics Systems Software Center from several commands, to become the CECOM Software Engineering Center, allowing streamlined software support missions Army-wide with improved technological and cost effectiveness.

Reorganizations with AMC in 1997 formally placed Tobyhanna Army Depot under the direct control of CECOM.

Army reorganizations in 2002 created the Research, Development and Engineering Command, as a subordinate under AMC. This realigned the Communications-Electronic Research Development and Engineering Center, out of CECOM direct-command effective 1 May 2003. RDECOM later became the Command Capabilities Development Command under the Army Futures Command, and CERDEC is now called the C5ISR Center.

On February 2, 2005, the US Army Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command was activated, formally aligning PEO IEW&S, PEO C3T, and the Communications-Electronics Command under unified leadership. In 2007, the Central Technical Support Facility responsibility transferred to CECOM from Army CIO/G6.

In 2005, Base Realignment and Closure ordered the closure of Fort Monmouth and the relocation of CECOM to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The CECOM flag was cased at Fort Monmouth on September 10, 2010.

Currently comprised of six sub-commands, the Army Medical Logistics Command (added in 2020), the Software Engineering Center, the Integrated Logistics Support Center, Information Systems Engineering Command, Central Technical Support Facility, and Tobyhanna Army Depot, as well as the Headquarters, CECOM officially uncased its colors at APG in October 2010. Along with its people, laboratories, and equipment, CECOM transitioned its heritage to APG where it continues its 42-year history of support to the Soldier.