ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — In light of emerging near-peer threats, the Army is preparing for large-scale combat operations by shifting from brigade-centric operations to the division as unit of action.
Critical to supporting this shift is a less complex network that can support large-scale combat operations by providing assured voice communications, a data-enabled common operating picture and digital fires as units quickly maneuver across long distances and resist cyber and electronic attacks.
To advance this capability for the Army of 2030, Army leaders from the operational, requirements and materiel development community recently outlined initial fiscal year 2025 network design, doctrine and policy imperatives to support the Army 2030 build. These designs, which will undergo Soldier-centric operational touchpoints and lab-based integration assessments, will reduce complexity at brigade and below echelons. The oversight and management of more intricate network operations systems will be centered at division to free up maneuver forces to focus on their missions and operate on the move.
“The division as unit of action is a fundamental shift,” said Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the Network Cross-Functional Team, Army Futures Command. “That will take us to a fundamental rebalance in our design that will improve mobility and hopefully survivability on the battlespace.”
The Army is actively targeting policy updates to keep pace with technology and operational requirements, including easing communications restrictions during multi-national engagements while still protecting sensitive information, by way of proliferating the secure but unclassified-encrypted, or SBU-E, environment.
“We will never fight alone, so it’s imperative that we find ways to communicate with our partners,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Potts, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. “Because communications are encrypted, SBU-E provides appropriate levels of security for safe mission partner collaboration without the complexity of setting up a Secret environment. We have fielded SBU-E across security force assistance brigades and several infantry formations at the brigade and below level, with a division headquarters and enablers now in operational assessments.”
As the Army shifts to a division focus in designing the network baseline, the service will conduct iterative design reviews informed by acquisition best practices, engineering design goals and operational feedback derived from Soldiers’ hands-on, real-world experiences using the capability. Currently, the FY25 network design process is benefiting from Soldier experimentation such as Pacific Pathways, Warfighter Exercises, Project Convergence, Joint Readiness Training Center rotations and deployments to support current operations in Europe.
“Soldier feedback is coming to us from across the globe as we continue to field our FY23 network baseline to brigades and division enablers, with additional BCT and division enabler fielding underway or planned for the remainder of FY23 and FY24,” Potts said.
A central component to the Army of 2030 is that it will be data-centric, providing persistent access to data and a way to synchronize it and make relevant information available to the users at the edge.
Emerging data and cloud-native capabilities, which will be matured as part of division-centric network designs and leading to a data-centric Army of 2030, are already providing critical forward operations to elements of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) to deliver mission command applications to the edge without heavy and cumbersome equipment.
“Not having to run that equipment there with us has led us to actually have a higher reliability rate,” said Lt. Col. (P) Randy Linnemann, 101st Airborne Division G6. “Having our data available to us everywhere we go in the world [in the cloud] is what we're looking at.”
Army network developers are taking this feedback and incorporating it into cloud-native command post options for Army of 2030 network designs. Additional technology improvements planned for delivery include more resilient network connectivity, unified network operations tools, mission command visualization and data management tools across the division formation.
As network equipment and management becomes centered at division and higher echelons, and cloud capabilities become more prevalent to the lower echelons, the Army will reduce the command post footprint for maneuver units and thus increase mobility and survivability, which are key capabilities derived from FY23 designs and targeted for FY25.
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.