FORT BELVOIR, Va. – U.S. Army senior leaders participated in the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association International’s (AFCEA) TechNet Augusta, Aug. 14-17. The four-day event provided an opportunity for industry, academic, military and government professionals to discuss the cyber domain and how the Army and its partners can work together to achieve their goals. The main theme of the conference was "Enabling a Data-Centric Army,” and establishing the Unified Network is a key component to achieving this reality.
The Army is accelerating efforts to deliver the Unified Network, based on Zero Trust principles and centralized delivery of services, to ensure the Army of 2030 is capable of multi-domain operations under large scale combat operations conditions. The network is a foundational capability that will enable information to flow more efficiently, effectively and reliably while improving security and enhancing the user experience.
“We have not slipped away from improving user experience,” said Lt. Gen. John B. Morrison, Jr., U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6, during his opening keynote at TechNet Augusta. “We think efforts like Bring Your Own Device, and what we’re doing with virtualized desktop infrastructure, and other things, are going to allow us to get after both: this notion of being more secure but improving operational capabilities for those that we support.”
Cybersecurity has been a point of emphasis for a long time, but the newer concept of Zero Trust provides the Army with a clear framework that can be applied across all the different cybersecurity initiatives and capabilities. “The Army’s Unified Network Plan is all about achieving a Unified Network based on Zero Trust principles; I will tell you, you can’t do one without the other,” said Brig. Gen. Jacqueline (Denise) Brown, director of Networks and Command, Control, Communications and Computer (C4) Services and Integration for the G-6.
Army Cyber Command will provide the Unified Network using a fiscally efficient and more effective central delivery of services model to ensure end users are able to access information required to make decisions at any time and any location.
“The cyber terrain is changing beneath our feet. There’s a lot of work being done right now, at all echelons, to get people comfortable with some of these topics and start training to them,” said Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command. “Cyber alone will not win a war…Failure to defend the networks that our warfighters use absolutely will cause us to lose.”
Building the Army of 2030 requires great technological modernization, but the most important part of the future Army remains having well-trained, adaptable, and maneuverable people to out-pace U.S. adversaries and sustain the competitive advantage across all echelons and in all domains – land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace.
“It all starts with the great people that you are going to invest in, both in training development and retention,” said Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), at TechNet Augusta. “I’m very confident that the great Army we have had for many decades, we will continue to have as we roll into 2030 and 2040.”
For Brito, it is imperative for industry, academia, and Army leaders to recruit talent and develop people because they are the critical part to the Army’s and the nation’s success.
“Help us to continue to bring in [the] best Soldiers. Train them in whatever capacity you may have, deliver those leaders … invest in the intellectual capacity that we need to maintain overmatch because it helps us be a lethal force against our adversaries,” Brito said. “Our Army will always continue to deploy, fight and win, and bring home our sons and daughters; just as we did 50 years again when TRADOC came and [U.S. Army Forces Command] came, and decades before that, and decades in the future.”
During one panel discussion at TechNet, Sergeant Major Richard D. Knott, senior enlisted advisor to the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6, reiterated the importance of providing the right training, based on a foundation of fundamentals, that will help the Army adapt to emerging technologies to sustain a unit’s readiness. Knott discussed Regional Signal Training Sites (RSTS) that are allowing the Army to provide continuous development for Soldiers.
“We do believe that there are some basic fundamentals that every Signal Soldier should have [when] showing up to your organization on Day One; there are some things that we should be teaching them here at the Signal School,” Knott said. “But there are some areas that we need folks that have more expertise and I think, in those cases, it will start here [at the Signal School] but with the help of RSTS, we can help build in-the-field experts; we are bringing the training to you.”
The conference also addressed the new opportunities and threats revolving around new technologies, to include artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing, and how they can support the Unified Network to achieve the Army’s goals. According to Gen. James E. Rainey, commander of U.S. Army Futures Command, how the Army trains Soldiers, adapts, and, in some cases, implements new technology will prove vital in optimizing formations, now and into the future.
“Capitalizing on the opportunities that exist by properly integrating the right combination of humans and machines increases lethality, increases survivability, drops weight and drops logistics tail,” Rainey said. “It lets us take our Soldiers — that’s our most important weapon — and lets us optimize. And if you look at what industry is doing, compared to what we’re doing, I think there’s just unlimited open field running.”
The goal of all the modernization discussed at TechNet Augusta, according to Gen. Brito, is to help maintain overmatch across all domains. This has always been the key to military success.