The Army is increasing efforts to put the battle command system to the cloud and rolling out new network testing to better place fully integrated capabilities into the hands of warfighters downrange, they announced in a press conference last week.
The Army is establishing a new Center for Network Integration under the command of the Brigade Modernization Command and Maj. Gen. Keith Walker at Fort Bliss, Texas. The center will conduct six-month-cycle field testing, with hopes to decrease to a four-month cycle down the road.
The network is the centerpiece of Army modernization, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army Vice Chief of Staff noted.
“The network will literally redefine how we fight,” said Chiarelli “In the same way that social media has changed the way we interact and communicate in our personal lives, the network will change how we operate on the battlefield. And the reality is we won’t understand the full impact until we’ve had an opportunity to test the capability in an operationally realistic environment.”
Chiarelli emphasized that the Army will “buy what it needs, when it needs it, for those that need it.” Meaning the focus will be on placing the latest capability into the hands of those with immediate need, rather than fielding entire capabilities into the hands of all 1.1 million soldiers. Focusing on immediate needs means there will be an emphasis on buying less, with more frequent purchasing requirements and the overall goal of improving network capability over time.
“Key to all of this is our partnership with industry,” said Chiarelli. “Together, we must ensure that we have the most current technology available so that ultimately we may ensure that we get it into the hands of our soldiers as quickly as possible.”
By focusing on both immediate needs and integration new opportunities will be available for niche industry or those with immediate and actionable solutions. Army officials also noted that they’re looking to private industry to bring the integration capability to work within the common operating environment.
Up until now, equipment has been fielded and provided to Soldiers down range but it’s not being integrated into the network, said Walker. And before the creation of the Center for Network Integration soldiers on the ground in the States weren’t applying the same network of those deployed.
“What I’ve learned is that to me this is really kind of an optimization problem — is that as an individual PM, my job is to maximize the effectiveness of my system and that’s a good thing,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Williamson, Joint Program Executive Officer. “But what we find is when you start to tie all those together what I may need to do is throttle back this piece so that I can bring these up and get a net effect that’s greater and that’s what we’re learning by putting all of these together.”
Officials noted that Commercial-Off-the-Shelf-Technologies (COTS) were often critical in the rapid equipping process. Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, Army CIO/G-6 noted that especially in information technology, partnering with industry for COTS solutions would be key in solving problems.