ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Technology, people and processes must transform “sooner rather than later” to prepare for potential large scale combat operations against near-peer adversaries.
Such was the consensus among Army leaders as they briefed industry partners during the recent network Technical Exchange Meeting X, or TEM X, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they discussed the Army’s plans to transition to division as unit of action for the Army of 2030, pushing complex technical systems up to division to free up units to maneuver and control the battlespace.
“The changes that I have seen over the last four or five or six years, are unlike any other time as far as the rapid change of technology,” said Gen. Randy George, vice chief of staff of the Army, during his keynote speech.
While cutting-edge long-range fires and integrated air and missile defense systems are attention grabbers, the Army’s command and control capabilities will underpin everything on the battlefield, noted George, with communications across the joint and coalition force as the critical enabler to fight and win.
Referencing the current and future European and Pacific multi-national areas of operations, “[we are] making sure that we can bring all those systems together, understand our environment and talk to each other in a simple and straightforward way,” he said.
The Army’s paradigm shift to division as unit of action and the way it develops and fields technologies will align to four necessities, according George.
The first imperative, simplicity, is to ensure most Soldiers at the battalion and below echelons are not encumbered with complex systems or large quantities of systems. Second, these systems at the edge must be intuitive, just as smartphones are out of the box, he said. The third necessity is low signature, making the large antenna farms erected in previous conflicts obsolete.
“There's really nowhere to hide,” George said. “The electromagnetic spectrum is becoming busier and busier. And it is not just our adversaries and peers,” he said, noting the importance of leveraging commercial networks to blend into the spectrum.
The fourth necessity is constant innovation, which is where industry comes in, he said.
“We have to build systems … and make sure they're secure and updated [all the time] for learnability and intuitiveness,” George said. “The way we're going to do it is with American ingenuity.”
Data-centric Army at echelon
The systems for 2030 will be fueled by data and data analytics to enable decision making at the point of need, regardless of the echelon.
“It does no good to have a radar system if the data that that emanates from it is not moving fast enough to inform the decisions about whether or not [to begin] fires, or whether or not you need to move,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, Commanding General, Cyber Center of Excellence.
As the Army decomposes complexity to fight as a division, units will become more mobile and dispersed, requiring systems like data fabric and data mesh to capture and seamlessly sort the large amounts of data coming in and then turn that data into useable information for command and control operations.
“If we’re dispersed, we are by nature a distributed system, meaning my data has to be in multiple different places simultaneously … which will require data flows that move the right data to support the commander’s decision-making,” Stanton said.
Paradigm shift begins in the classroom
Aligning people and their skills in parallel with technologies and fighting as division as unit of action is equally critical to preparing the Army for 2030 and beyond.
“We need multi-disciplined Soldiers,” said Col. Paul Howard, Deputy Commander for Signal, Cyber Center of Excellence. “That's (what is) completely changing the paradigm and what we teach our officers.”
Over the past several years, the Cyber CoE condensed its career fields to ensure it produced Soldiers who can handle multiple pieces of equipment. Both commissioned and non-commissioned officers are part of the push to ensure the Army’s technical Soldiers are up to the challenges of the coming decade, with plans to bring them all together in the classroom to learn leadership and technical tasks, Howard said.
Since the Army of 2030 will be reliant on cloud and artificial intelligence technologies, the schoolhouse is incorporating new functional areas for data engineers, while also looking outside the norm to achieve the right training in these high-tech areas.
“Ways of the past may not be correct for the future,” Howard said. “We want to partner with industry and send students back to school in the very specific spaces to learn the skills there that the Army requires for 2030.”
The Army network modernization foundation laid so far, with years of operational unit feedback, is enabling the changes taking place today.
“We already have redundancy, resiliency, mobility and survivability of the networks, and data fabrics,” said Matt Maier, project manager for Interoperability, Integration and Services, Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. “We have continued to deploy this network to Soldiers across formations in the U.S., Europe and across the Pacific to obtain critical feedback.”
Expanding from the existing foundation to build an architecture with cloud and zero trust technologies, the Army will rely on industry and events like the TEM to bring them to fruition. The Army of 2030’s software-centric, data-centric environment will require more releases of software, applications and services, Maier said.
Soldier feedback will be even more critical in the years ahead, including getting units involved at the very beginning of the process to obtain their requirements, Maier said.
“We're not getting rid of acquisition rigor,” Maier said. “We will still incorporate critical design reviews, an increased number of lab-based risk-reductions, interoperability testing and capability assessments inserted into operational exercises or touch points.”
As the Army uses this experimentation to refine the future network design, it will drive toward the command and control principles of simplicity, intuitiveness, low signature and constant innovation, said Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the Network Cross-Functional Team, Army Futures Command.
“We need to move complexity up — that’s imperative for us,” Rey said. “We’re going to simplify the command network infrastructure and increase the time spent on the move.”
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.