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April 2013

The Continuing Journey to Fully Effective IT Acquisition and Management

April 1, 2013
By Kent R. Schneider

Those of us who have been involved with government information technology (IT) for some time clearly remember the many efforts to improve IT acquisition. All certainly remember Vivek Kundra’s IT Management Reform Program, the 25-point plan. Most would agree that progress has been made, but some would argue—correctly I believe—that work remains to be done.

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), posted a draft federal IT acquisition reform act on its website last fall. As part of the review and revision process for this bill, the committee invited comments from a broad set of sources. It asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study progress and issues related to IT acquisition and management, and it also held several hearings. Testimony at the most recent hearing, held February 27, revealed progress and disappointments.

The GAO report, delivered to the House committee on January 22, argues that billions of dollars are being wasted in execution of the nearly $80 billion annual unclassified federal IT budget. Most of this waste comes either from unneeded duplication in federal programs, systems and infrastructure, or from failed or ineffective federal IT programs.

While many reasons may exist for the duplications and failures, lack of effective communication seems to be at the heart of the problems. Government managers are not talking to each other, which results in stovepipes along organizational or functional lines. Government and industry are not communicating effectively, resulting in suboptimum outcomes and, often, yesterday’s solution. Do you remember the “Myth Busting Campaign” that Dan Gordon set up when he was administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy? That was all about separating the real obstacles to effective procurements from those imagined by the legal and other communities. The GAO report separates some of that fact from fiction.

Link Warfighters to Technologists at the Lowest Possible Level

April 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

As conflicts become more complex and uncertain in the 21st century, quick pivots to new technologies will become increasingly important. The starting point for this rapid fielding must begin with more frequent, and more relational, lower level warfighter-technologist interaction.

The current system does this nominally, but the relationships usually are far removed from the waterfront or the front lines where many user-generated solutions could be discovered. Science advisers, often from places such as the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory or the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), are stationed regularly at critical commands throughout the services. They provide a useful link between incredibly intelligent technologists and seasoned veterans.

Unfortunately, many of the interactions are only with senior officers and not the muddy boot or deckplate warriors who know best what is giving them day-to-day headaches. Additionally, many of the officers dedicated to acquisition programs are years removed from being actual operators. With the accelerating pace of technological change, even a year away from operational status can leave noticeable knowledge gaps.

Experience certainly is valuable, but after spending a long period of time in the same profession, a person’s creativity sometimes is lost. Even known innovators can get stuck in ruts when not exposed to different views of the world over sustained periods of time. Furthermore, as technology evolves, the quickest adopters usually are the younger generations. They often have better insights into how to integrate emerging, generationally ubiquitous trends to their professions than do their seniors who relied on legacy systems.

Today's Intelligence Challenges Face 
a Distant Mirror

April 1, 2013
By Capt. D. Mark Houff, USN

An established superpower is dealing with multiple threats to its interests around the world. An emerging global economic and military/naval power is making its presence felt throughout the world, particularly in Asia. The intelligence community is confronted with a complex environment punctuated by socio-economic power shifts and revolutions in communications, commerce and transportation. World intelligence organizations face internal and external terrorist and anarchist threats as well as exploding population growth and resource competition in strategically critical regions. Compounding these challenges are intelligence budgets that range from uncertain to non-existent.

Budgetary Concerns
 Dominate
 Pacific Pivot

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Declining defense funds and the rise of China may hinder strategic rebalancing efforts.

Whatever the threat; wherever the conflict; whatever the mission; the future U.S. military largely will be defined by forced budget constraints. The ongoing fiscal crisis, haunted by the twin specters of sequestration and continuing resolution, will have a greater say in shaping the future force than either adversaries or advances in weapon technologies.

Even resolution of the thorniest sequestration issues would not change the overall trend of declining financial resources for the defense community. The effects of budget cuts could be severe and might prevent forces from carrying out their missions. In terms of materiel, acquisitions will be slowed and new program starts largely could disappear. Operation and maintenance will be reduced, deployments will be cut back and support resources will be reduced—all as the United States rebalances its strategic emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region.

These were among the lead topics discussed at West 2013, the annual conference and exposition hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute January 29-31 in San Diego. While the three-day event had the theme of “Pivot to the Pacific: What Are the Global Implications,” discussions largely focused on the dire consequences of the looming fiscal cliff. Audiences that were aware of the impending budget crisis were surprised by the bluntness of the assessments offered by high-ranking Defense Department civilian and military leaders.

One stark assessment came from the event’s first speaker, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., USN, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Speaking to a packed house at a morning keynote address, Adm. Winnefeld described the looming financial crisis as a “wolf,” adding that it is becoming “increasingly apparent that this wolf is going to catch us.”

Overseas Drawdown Shifts Army Electronics Maintenance

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Force support will change with both stateside relocation and a new way of functioning.

Support to the U.S. Army warfighter’s communications and electronics assets will be taking a new direction as the Army redeploys back to the United States following more than a decade of combat deployments in Southwest Asia. Years of field maintenance will transition to base support, and the many commercial devices incorporated into battlefield operations will require a new approach to service and sustainment.

At the heart of these efforts is the Logistics and Readiness Center (LRC) based at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The LRC is drafting a new structure for communications-electronics support that takes into account the new mission realities of home deployment and reduced resources.

Yet, even with the efficiencies that planners hope to achieve with the new structure, the center will be forced to cut back on much of its support. Some missions will need to be abandoned completely for lack of funding or available personnel.

Corps
 Blazes 
Ahead With Cloud Computing

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

As they put the necessary pieces in place, Marines are mindful of tight resources and are seeking help from industry.

For the past year, U.S. Marine Corps technical personnel have been implementing a strategy to develop a private cloud. The initiative supports the vision of the commandant while seeking to offer better services to troops in disadvantaged areas of the battlefield.

As part of this effort, members of the Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) Department are working on enterprise licensing agreements with multiple vendors to achieve economies of scale. They also are examining thinning the environment as an element of infrastructure as a service, and they are exploring how an enterprise services support desk would support a cloud environment during the transition from a continuity of services contract to a government-owned, government-operated scenario. In place is a 600-day transition plan to help move from the former to the latter. Robert Anderson, chief, Vision and Strategy Division, HQMC C4, explains that the May 2012 “Marine Corps Private Cloud Computing Environment Strategy” serves as the driving document for the transition, and now Marines are trying to reach the point where they execute the requirements outlined in the paper. “There are multiple pieces that have to occur for this to happen,” he states. Personnel are working on follow-up documents now, including a mobility strategy and a five-year transition plan scheduled for release in June. The latter lays out the next steps for the cloud environment.

Marines Research 
Modernization

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Looking past the alligators close to the boat, scientists prepare for the wars of tomorrow.

Distributed operations are the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, and its premier science and technology organization is laser focused on the capabilities to make such missions a success. Enabling communications for mobile troops across long distances is a priority as battles continue in Afghanistan while the focus shifts toward more maritime environments. Success will give lower echelons better access to command and control, enhancing the fight in any theater.

Brig. Gen. Mark R. Wise, USMC, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) and vice chief of naval research, explains that people usually think of modernizing a force as working on resources to be ready in five to 10 years, but efforts at the laboratory reach much further ahead. “We are influencing the very leading edge,” he states. The research helps define what times to come should look like for Marines and what they will need to operate effectively. This aim at the future influences the requirements that influence modernization.

“The MCWL is very focused on distributed operations right now,” Gen. Wise explains. Units in current conflicts already operate at great distances from other units or their own command and control (C2) elements. As operations shift to the Asia-Pacific, such distance problems are likely to increase. The MCWL is working on methods to sustain—through enhanced logistics—and command and control such a force. Researchers are exploring material and nonmaterial solutions to find the correct enabling capabilities.

Marine Corps Ponders Training Changes

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

After a special operations deployment, handling state-of-the-art communications technology tops the list.

Back from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion already is working to apply lessons learned to training for the next deployment. As the battalion prepares for its next mission, it is reflecting on what its Marines learned about how they train, how their equipment worked and how they will prepare themselves for the future.

While they are able to use some of the best electronic communications gear developed for the military, the Marines nonetheless are trying to learn how they can improve both their initial and follow-up training to get the most out of that equipment. They also are asking important questions about whether they have enough, and the right kinds, of equipment.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2) Jason Reed, USMC, is a spectrum operations officer, G-6, and one of the members of the Marine battalion responsible for supporting the communications needs of Marines during the deployment. CWO2 Reed says one of the first things his bosses at the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) headquarters wanted to know is what worked, what went well and, more importantly, what needed improvement based on the deployment. For CWO2 Reed, that meant one thing: training for combat service support personnel.

He explains that MARSOC recruits Marines who have already received training for more conventional duties. “They’re radio operators, they’re maintenance folks, they’re cryptologists, they’re data network operators,” CWO2 Reed outlines. Upon arrival at MARSOC, however, the Marines receive a new level of training to support Special Operations, getting what he calls “a new baseline” in training.

The U.S. Army Peers 
Into the Future

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Technology plays a key role in helping the service adapt to a coming decade filled with uncertainty.

U.S. Army futurists believe that events such as last year’s Arab Spring predict a future that includes fighting not only on land but in cyberspace as well. The Army must do it with a renewed emphasis on using technology to empower commanders and their troops during a looming period of significant fiscal restraints.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Eustis, Virginia, released the U.S. Army Capstone Concept last December, a 34-page document that is an attempt by the service to define its role in the post-Afghan War era and provide a framework for how to fulfill that role. In the foreword, Gen. Robert W. Cone, USA, commanding general of TRADOC, writes that the capstone concept outlines the future operational environment, the role of the Army in the joint American military force and, finally, what capabilities and resources they will need to complete their mission. “Greater speed, quantity and reach of human interaction and increased access to military capabilities make the operational environment more unpredictable and complex, driving the likelihood and consequence of disorder,” Gen. Cone states. As a long-range plan that defines where the Army wants to be in the year 2020, the Army Capstone Concept (ACC) is heavy on context and analysis and leaves details and implementation to constituent commands.

Modernized Marine Drone Casts a Large Shadow

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The upgraded RQ-7 could play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. Marine Corps could potentially begin fielding newly upgraded RQ-7 Shadow systems as early as next year, according to experts. The new version of the combat-proven aircraft is fully digitized, improves interoperability, can be teamed with manned aircraft and provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to a broader range of warfighters, including manned aircraft crews. The upgraded system is intended to serve as an interim capability until the Marine Corps can field a larger, more capable unmanned aircraft.

The Shadow unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has flown more than 800,000 flight hours with more than 90 percent of those during combat. Both the Marines and the Army use the system. The Army is the lead service, integrating Marine Corps requirements with its own.

Shadow is being modernized with an array of upgraded capabilities, including a Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL); a universal ground control station capable of controlling multiple systems, including Gray Eagle and Shadow; and a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS). It also is being given a longer wingspan to increase time on station from six hours to 10 and more capable engines. Additionally, the military seeks to weaponize the system.

The Marines already have pulled the Shadow from Afghanistan, but the modernized system could play a significant role in the future. “As we look toward the Asia-Pacific region, we need more capable solutions that will allow us to feed data to the warfighter,” says Maj. Nicholas Neimer, USMC, the Marine Corps tactical unmanned aerial system coordinator. “Everything we do as far as improvements is to deliver real-time data to the warfighter and provide knowledge at the point of action.”

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