Senior News Editor
Rita Boland is SIGNAL Magazine's senior news editor. Before coming to AFCEA, she worked at Booz Allen Hamilton as a communications consultant. Prior to consulting, Boland was a sports editor, online editor and reporter for various newspapers and Web sites. Her subject areas at SIGNAL cover a breadth of topics encompassing the realm of information valuable to the magazine's readers and AFCEA members.
Boland earned her bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University-San Marcos).
My Recent Content:Soldiers Stand Up New Cyber CIO Focal
The U.S. Army has established a Cyber Chief Information Officer Focal within the acquisition community, responding to the ever-expanding role cyber now has in the service branch.
Run by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, or ASA(ALT), its efforts will not duplicate work done by the Chief Information Officer (CIO)/G-6—which is a key stakeholder that is establishing some guidelines—but rather take on new cybersecurity and information assurance responsibilities. Personnel in the focal will coordinate activities among various stakeholders in the Army cyber community, improving communications while making work more efficient.
Focals assist with communication, synchronization and integration among program executive offices (PEOs) regarding the warfighting materiel that goes to the field. Matt Maier, director, Cyber Focal Office, says within cyber, there are two main priorities: defensible resilient networks and equipment for cyber mission forces.
The Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence and Cyber Command will be the primary stakeholders of the new focal. However, officials also are in regular contact with other groups involved with the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities spectrum. Maier explains, “Terrorists use the Internet to affect us, unrestrained by policy, laws, etc. We need materiel to be effective to engage the enemy in cyberspace.”
Equipping cyberforces is an emerging effort for the military. Unlike the opposition, “we have to follow the appropriate engagement rules,” Maier explains. If networks are invaded, Army cyber experts want to be able to counter the threat and have resilience to it. Networks, however, is a broad term. Many systems, such as those for communications or artillery, have cyber components. All such technologies need defense. Various cybermission forces will create the teams necessary to keep networks safe, and those teams will require their own capabilities. The potential for redundant or conflicting materiel is apparent.
The Cyber CIO Focal takes requirements, then ensures the program office has what it needs to move smartly to begin delivering capabilities. Previously, no one integrated across the PEOs.
With the common operating environment, every system will use the same architecture, Maier says. This move includes not only improving cybersecurity defensive mechanisms but also improving the patching process, scanning and remediation architecture. The results should enable better response if an enemy engages the Army in cyberspace. Officials are confident they can design a system that allows for commonalities without losing fidelity.
Soldiers can expect to receive more responsible cybercapabilities as a result of the focal’s work. Part of its goal is to address the detrimental current acquisition cycle that often results in technology obsolescence by the time it reaches the field. “We’re looking very hard at coming up with those agile acquisition processes,” Maier says. He explains that the ASA(ALT) community is aware of what the cyberspace community needs.
To succeed, the Army requires industry support. Program personnel are looking at ways to use the Army Venture Capital Initiative to involve more small-business cybervendors. The initiative is an acquisition model designed to encourage small businesses to develop and transition innovating technologies to soldiers.
Maier believes there are many opportunities for cyber-sector involvement. Pairing up with various additional science and technology partners also will play a key role in the forward path of the focal. Team members are engaged with the Communications-Electronics Command to establish a program with academia participating to educate cyberprofessionals initially and through an ongoing process. The fast-changing nature of cyber means that continual training is critical to skills remaining relevant.
“In the last two years, we’ve had an influx of 15 new validated requirements,” Maier says. “That’s unheard of to be that quick.”
For all the involved groups, for all the future activities, communications will be key. Sharing across the Army will make cyber more effective for everyone across the force, he adds.
Cyber is becoming more critical in battle every day, and the U.S. Army is adjusting its Network Integration Evaluation to reflect that reality. The service branch is introducing new digital features to the training event from the laboratory to the field.
During the most recent evaluation, which occurred in October and November, several cyber features made their debut. For the first time, the Army Research Laboratory Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (ARL/SLAD) became part of the lab-based risk-reduction efforts in the lead up to the hands-on portion of the event. That work is helping to find earlier vulnerabilities that previously would have been discovered during the field portion of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) so experts can resolve any issues before giving the technologies to soldiers. “Is it going to find everything? No, no lab test is ever going to find everything, but I think it is allowing us to move the ball down the road from the perspective of being more proactive to find these issues,” says Jennifer Zbozny, chief engineer for the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).
The lab-based risk reduction that took place before NIE 15.1 is one of the biggest pushes to do more cybersecurity work in the evaluations. By moving assessments into the laboratory, soldiers save time on the ground. It also helps ensure that updates are loaded before the fieldwork and that mitigation measures are in place when necessary.
Matt McVey, lab-based risk reduction configuration management and operations lead, System of Systems Engineering and Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate, explains that not only does his organization provide the capability for units to test individual systems, but in the laboratory the units also have the opportunity to connect into the system of systems environment. This opportunity allows users to identify vulnerabilities and access points they might have missed when developing in a vacuum.
Also new for NIE 15.1 was a draconian approach to ensuring passwords are changed and that units really control them. Many of the systems in the evaluations come with default passwords when delivered. These need to be changed to specific passwords that users memorize. “I think that alone is going to help in terms of some of the threats we’ve seen before,” Zbozny says. “Passwords get out, and somebody gets into the network.” Troops might not have passwords at NIE, but they have connectivity, so once they obtain a password, they are in the network. Officials hope these fixes make the network more robust and secure.
The dangers of near threats have made headlines in recent years, and cybersecurity professionals often cite users as their biggest concerns. If people get their hands on passwords, they are one step closer to looking around on the network. Zbozny says misuse by authorized personnel is not her team’s biggest concern. Systems primarily run on the secret Internet protocol router network, which already has controls in place. However, dangers from inside as well as outside remain, so the Army is improving its user training.
In previous NIEs, leaders have seen passwords written on paper and posted inside vehicles, where anyone can see them. These leaders are trying to instill the discipline to maintain control of passwords at all times. Lt. Col. Carlos Wiley, USA, integration and execution division chief for SoSE&I, explains that soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, are made aware of the vulnerabilities in security as part of their NIE training. “Technically, we can find all the faults, but if the unit and the soldier are not tracking it, then the [red team] can get in,” Col. Wiley says.
Two blue teams took part in the NIE Validation exercise, and ARL/SLAD performed an analysis of them on WIN-T Increment 2 while the 1st Information Operations Command did an operational assessment of their work on all facets not connected to that network increment. “We must ensure from a holistic approach that the entire network is hardened,” the colonel explains.
PEO C3T now is working on a cyber road map that will lay out known vulnerabilities, describe how the organization expects to fix them and address bigger picture measures of additional network security. Officials want operations to be easier, not more difficult, for soldiers, so a major thrust of the effort is to refrain from adding complication to the network. With two-factor authentication, for example, experts say they can obtain the same security benefits without using a token-based method. Zbozny further explains that “down the line, we’re looking at things like biometrics. We would like to get to the point where really we just use some type of biometric signal. It’s different in the tactical world.” In the field, considerations must be made for items such as gloves, which make fingerprinting problematic. Authentication requires customization to the battlefield, so PEO C3T is working with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center to examine developmental capabilities for tactical biometrics that will replace current capabilities. While those technologies were not ready for NIE 15.1, pilots for two-factor authentication functions could occur next spring in 15.2.
Most of the cyber road map is classified, but officials can discuss the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE). Zbozny says it may “very well change how we do business from a data perspective.” This unified data capability was developed by the National Security Agency, spans many agencies and provides support to the Defense Department (SIGNAL Magazine, October 2013, “Information Sharing ...). “The bottom line is it’s going to bring what I call ‘hardening’ of our data on our network to make it impenetrable,” she states. “I hesitate to say anything is ever impenetrable, but that’s the intent. That really does change the landscape.”
ICITE would alter focus from people entering the network to what they could damage. By locking down that data, ICITE reduces the potential harm intruders can inflict. Work on that took place in NIE 15.1, and depending on the assessment of its value, it may become part of the data dissemination strategy for the Command Post Computing Environment.
Fiscal year 2015 is expected to be active for PEO C3T in terms of trying to enhance its security patching capability. Zbozny says personnel need to patch faster and respond quicker to vulnerabilities. They also need to reach a point where all their systems have the ability to pull patches off a secure portal and automatically download them rather than requiring a disk or other medium. “I don’t know that we’re going to get that all done for every system in PEO C3T in [fiscal year] ’15, but certainly the intent is to make a lot of progress down that path,” she explains. Today’s mission command systems can respond quickly and download patches. The focus is to move the rest of the systems to that same status.
A push for more cyber in the NIE is not necessarily new. Zbozny says the effort is how mission command reached its present point. However, the networking of forces is becoming increasingly important in the tactical world as well as for drawing services from enterprise networks. A vulnerability on one system is a risk for everyone, and as the Army continues to build out bigger networks, cybersecurity becomes a bigger issue for everyone. Industry has to deal with many of the same considerations. Before those NIE partners can enter the laboratory, they need to understand the information assurance requirements and their vulnerabilities. If they have vulnerabilities, the Army prohibits them from network access. Col. Wiley says “that’s where risk reduction comes in as well.”
PEO C3T is looking to bring industry in on many parts of the Simplified Tactical Army Reliable Network, or STARNet, the middle phase of its Network Modernization Roadmap. Cyber is an area it definitely wants to enhance. To accomplish the task, the program office collaborates with science and technology (S&T) partners to ensure development against gaps, thus spending Army money wisely. It looks to industry to fill other gaps that come from outside the S&T community. In November, officials held a briefing for industry that laid those out as well as needs outside of cyber. Zbozny says more events will be held in the future.
Another move underway to improve cybersecurity is certified ethical hacker training. A mobile team visited Aberdeen Proving Ground, where PEO C3T is based, and asked for the community to provide the training course last year. It helped students learn about threats and the latest techniques hackers are using as well as how to apply that knowledge to efforts such as the NIE. That way, experts can identify and react to risks better.
Col. Wiley likens that training to wargaming: It helps troops know their enemy. “The course lays out what all the known threats are, and it’s constantly updated,” he says. “That gives us a better understanding on who’s going to try to get in the network and what procedures they will be using to try to get in the network, so we can recognize them.” Soldiers on the ground see degradation in performance but might not know the origin of the problem. Rather than a system issue, the problem might be a result of a hacking attempt. Having troops more involved in the security process helps them understand attacks and how to recognize signs of one.
A developmental U.S. Navy project aims to provide a creative solution to the challenge of how to move unmanned underwater vehicles to their proper point for submersion. The project is creating a bio-inspired seacraft that will use flight to reach its destinations.
Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are responsible for the completely internal Flying-Swimmer, or Flimmer, effort, which is exploring the correct balance between an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). “The goal is to basically fly as an airplane, splash down and become a submarine,” explains Dan Edwards, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Research Section, NRL. “I don’t know how to describe it other than a flying submarine.”
The development team draws inspiration from nature, such as the gannet, a bird similar to a pelican that starts a dive high in the air before plunging, then swimming, underwater. The flying fish is another model as personnel study its ability to leap out of water and glide through the air to avoid predators. Flimmer is exploring an area between the two animals. Unlike biomimicry, bio-inspired technology looks at nature for a starting point, then adapts the technique as necessary to find solutions. Launching Flimmer from either land or ship is a reasonable option—Edwards says they essentially are the same—and experiments have been done using the test vehicles from airdrops. The craft fly at faster speeds than they swim because of the much higher density of water. The device is not designed to go from swimming to flying, though other projects at the laboratory are exploring that capability.
That difference in environment is one of the main challenges facing Flimmer. Weight is a primary concern when it comes to aircraft, but it is much less important to UUVs. They have concerns such as water pressure and buoyancy. “It’s a surprising challenge,” Edwards explains. “Swimming is so different from flying in some aspects and similar in others.”
A main benefit expected from all the work is rapid reaction. Flimmer can carry sensors for various purposes, such as detecting algae blooms or finding oil slicks from crashed airplanes quickly. With its flying capability, it can reach its water-deployment locations faster and often more effectively than traditional UUVs. Organizations outside the military such as the Department of Homeland Security or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could have applications for the technology. Another benefit from the concept would be access to areas restricted to larger craft or human users.
The first year of the program featured a vehicle called Test Sub 2. In its experiments, it flew like a normal airplane, and when personnel tested it in water, it “flew” the same way. “That was a fun realization,” Edwards says. To make the vehicle viable in both media, developers have to account for buoyancy, center of gravity and center of lift at all times, which requires a concentration on both aero and hydrodynamics. During three tests, experts did flights and splashdowns, determining what type of submarine would result from the airplane. A significant amount of pool testing went into hardware and software development, along with additional observations. In a pool, Flimmer can swim in a circle, a box or a straight line. Test Sub 2 saw action in an NRL area on the Potomac River. The swimming portion was difficult to observe because of murky water conditions; the vehicle disappeared at the depth of about a foot before resurfacing after its maneuvering. In year two, the program began flying the Flimmer configuration, a larger, buglike vehicle with fin mechanisms for flapping propulsion in the water and aerodynamic control in the air. It weighs approximately 22 pounds and is 3 1/2 feet long with a 6-foot wingspan. Tests look at handling, controllability and splashdown.
Other work involves computational fluid dynamics to study the flapping and how the fins will interact with the wings. “Fins are a big part of this,” Edwards explains. The multimodal body piece will create propulsion and maneuverability in water while providing control and vehicle stability in the air.
The fins used by the team are 3-D printed through selective laser sintering. A blade spreads a thin layer of powder, then a laser passes over the top, melting specific areas of powder together. The build volume steps down a small amount, and the process repeats until the 3-D fin is created. Edwards explains that the fin is very complex; making it via a more traditional subtractive machining process would prove difficult. The new additive manufacturing process allows developers to draw the fin as one piece, hit print and then wait to receive it in the mail, ready to use.
Manufacturing the hull and wing, made of aerospace composite materials, requires a different process. Technicians start with a female mold, lay in dry fabric and brush in epoxy resin to saturate the cloth. A vacuum-bagging process then squeezes the wet fabric against the mold surface and removes excess resin. After curing, the hull is pulled out. While the work is more labor intensive than 3-D printing, it accurately reproduces the hull’s outside surfaces, tailors the direction of fabric filaments for strength and, in Flimmer’s case, makes the part hollow. Size, weight and material-strength requirements prohibit the printing process from being a feasible option for the hull and wing.
Another piece of the puzzle to Flimmer’s field use is flying height. Developers trade energy for altitude. At the same time, drop from too high, and the UUV might incur damage when it hits the water surface. Tests have reached heights up to 1,000 feet. The problem with splashdown is that difference between air and water density.
Test Sub 2 did a sub-style landing designed to penetrate the water. Flimmer has more fragile appendages, and, as such, it resembles more of a seaplane when landing, coasting along the surface before submerging. Test Sub 2 flew at 60 knots and swims at 6 knots. Flimmer has reached speeds of 60 knots in the air; no top speed for swimming has been recorded yet.
Now in its third and final year, the program continues to push the Flimmer. It has yet to swim the winged vehicle. The body without the wings grew out of another NRL program called the Wrasse-inspired Agile Near-shore Deformable-fin Automaton (that turns into the acronym WANDA, as in the movie A Fish Called Wanda). Flimmer is adapting that, adding wings to the hull. The new Flimmer fins have been tested. While many parts of Flimmer are being adapted, the wings are being designed from scratch. Developers also must work out where to put them and other factors. To resolve all the complex issues, the team working on the project involves aircraft and submerged vehicle experts, all tasked with learning each other’s specialties.
Development focuses primarily on platform configuration, with some studies of electronic hardware and software. All the flying has been done manually so far, but an autopilot option is available, so making the leap to autonomous operation does not pose a challenge. Underwater piloting has been almost entirely autonomous. Understanding the actuation of Flimmer’s parts is critical for how to sequence its actions. Each rib of the body is independently actuated, and then there are the fins.
Team members are using the term “affordably expendable” to describe one of their aims for Flimmer. They expect to have the vehicles produced at a price point where recovery becomes unnecessary when the situation requires. In other applications, it could launch, splash down, take samples or gather other data, then a vehicle could pick it up and confirm its findings. Edwards says he can envision several vehicles each going out to different parts of a response area to perform an individual operation but providing information that combines to a more complex mission.
Size will be a cost driver, as it is for many vehicles—and unmanned ones, in particular. However, at this point, personnel are not focused on cost, but the basic elements of the technology. Next steps for the program involve cutting wing molds. The final program outcome will be based on a demonstration wherein Flimmer launches from land, splashes down, floods and then swims underwater. Edwards believes that is completed with all the individual pieces. Now they must be integrated to show if the Flimmer is feasible.
Though the program is resulting in a test vehicle, it really is exploring the trade space for the kind of issues developers must resolve for a flying submarine. After the end of fiscal year 2015, team members will identify the difficult parts of the process and start to find solution. Edwards believes further research will be necessary after the three-year effort. “There are not many flapping underwater vehicles in industry right now,” he says. Industry might be able to start producing technologies from the program based on results.
Article updated December 3, 2014.
With a number of uncertainties coloring their activities, officials at the U.S. Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center are preparing their program objective memorandum, laying out several key projects and goals for the coming years. The leaders are calibrating efforts to align with expected congressional funding as well as with the capabilities soldiers require for mission success.
For fiscal year 2015, sequestration will not affect that budget timeline; however, fiscal year 2016 presents a different challenge, with possible large cuts to funding. The situation shadows the development of the program objective memorandum for fiscal years 2017 to 2021. Planning programs and budgets for the upcoming years involves making choices about what demands attention in an age of diminished resources and about where resources might remain viable. The autonomous systems command and control and sensing systems, or communications systems that might be on autonomous platforms, is one area of the portfolio undergoing adjustment. “That is something we’re going to have to go back and reinvestigate because there’s been an added incentive—though it’s not been finalized—through the various budgetary processes of re-emphasizing autonomous systems,” explains Robert Zanzalari, associate director, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). “That’s a business area that we think we’re going to have to try to go back into if there really is going to be a concerted effort to do more work at the platform level.”
CERDEC has nine strategic initiatives underway. They illustrate what the organization seeks to accomplish for warfighters from a science and technology perspective. They are not ranked in order of importance.
One of the initiatives looks at assured position, navigation and timing, or PNT, which Zanzalari says is a huge concern, especially as the military looks to operate in different theaters. To help address the issue, CERDEC is putting a renewed emphasis on the field. “We actually were fortunate to receive additional resources to jump-start this in anticipation of programs of record being established in the fiscal year 2016 time frame,” Zanzalari explains. Ongoing programs offer technology demonstrations or technology risk-reduction efforts that increase chances of success going forward.
Another initiative explores radio frequency (RF) convergence, a hardware-software convergence that looks at an architectural construct and concept to integrate more closely systems that work in the current RF domain. Experts are working to define an architecture, then design modules to fit into that architecture. Success would eliminate having to develop a box for each capability. The changes would address the problems of having to put RF devices for communications and RF for electronic warfare on platforms where they cause interference issues that reduce the functionality of both systems. Work on that effort has been underway for almost two years, with the first lab demonstration scheduled for the March time frame. Zanzalari says platform program managers have interest in the efforts because results will offer size, weight and power savings as well as potentially substantial cost savings.
A complementary initiative is spectrum agility and countermeasures. Most waveforms the Army employs cannot be deconstructed in a manner that makes them easily portable to other hardware devices. Under this initiative, personnel break down a waveform into its fundamental building blocks, understanding which of those the government can control and when a new one is needed. The building blocks will be simplified for creating unavailable waveforms. Currently, it could cost a billion dollars to develop and deliver one. “We can’t afford to stay in that environment … to provide additional communications capabilities to the forces,” Zanzalari states. “That’s a pretty strategic program.” CERDEC's Space and Terrestrial Communication Directorate leads that program with input from its Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate to ensure electronic warfare waveforms are considered in the construct.
Another initiative involves work in degraded visual environments that affect ground and air operations, which are the number one cause of rotary wing crashes. The directorate examines various sensor modalities to make platforms more survivable in those environments.
The energy-informed operations initiative researches how to produce managed energy at posts, camps and stations, from larger, fixed-infrastructure, forward-deployed bases down to smaller outposts. It looks at not only energy technologies, but also at energy consumption and how to plan for that.
Next is mission command on the move, which Zanzalari calls “a huge one for us. The best way to describe that is the commander really wants to be in the fight.” Currently, commanders have to stay in vehicles or at command posts because those locations have the best situational awareness capabilities. The directorate’s efforts are aimed at making the same capabilities available in dismounted operations so leaders can be with their soldiers who are executing the fight.
Another directorate initiative has two focus areas. CERDEC’s Data to Decisions’ first line of work strives to bring more information sources into the mission command fold, helping to sort through data to make it more actionable. The complementary piece brings in big data, whether structured or unstructured, combing through that to present a better picture of red and unknown forces to the commander. “That’s really what’s going on in the intelligence community when you’re talking data to decisions,” Zanzalari explains. The work reflects the center's work over the past three years into solutions to bring operations and intelligence together from an integrated mission command perspective.
Next on the initiatives list is cyber, which incorporates defensive and offensive cyber operations and cyber situational awareness. Directorate personnel are the leads for the situational awareness piece. “It’s really understanding what is being done to other networks at a specific time and how to best take advantage of what’s available to us from a spectrum utilization perspective,” Zanzalari says. The effort includes both the network side and the application side because cyber crosses these two boundaries.
A final initiative focuses on pervasive sensing. It started out performing integrated sensor architecture but now includes the development of actual sensing technology. “We’ve kind of morphed into being more holistic, where the integrated sensor architecture, which is what we were featuring in our initial strategic initiative, is now really a subset of omniscient sensing,” Zanzalari explains. Researchers are exploring pervasive sensing technologies that know all and see all.
Covering all that work is a relatively modest amount of money. CERDEC had approximately $331 million for fiscal year 2014 to perform its core science and technology mission. The money is spread across four directorates: the Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate; the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate; the Command, Power and Integration Directorate; and the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate.
Adding complexity is the interrelation of many of the efforts not only to each other, but also across other parts of CERDEC or outside groups. Zanzalari says that it can be difficult to grasp all the interrelationships and the second- and third-order effects that may come to fruition when people fail to understand the integration across portfolios and platforms. Making budget and program decisions is not as cut and dry as choosing one item and not another. Even decomposing programs to fundamental pieces or tasks is difficult, and removing one could have a substantial impact on another capability or product the center wants to deliver.
CERDEC looks at priorities from the Defense Department, including the research and technology leaders, to understand where they are concentrating. The center is engaged with the Army’s direction led by the Force 2025 and Beyond guidance from the service’s chief of staff.
Developers also have to consider the pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to the increased focus on PNT, they have to rethink communications strategies because satellite communications is an issue in a heavy foliage environment. Zanzalari foresees a re-architecting of the network with the understanding that the capability may be unavailable in the region. Also of concern is a more sophisticated adversary, especially from the cyber and electronic warfare viewpoints. Considerations go back to protecting the network on mission command systems.
Meeting the demands of the workload and changing priorities calls for the right work force. Some areas require reshaping, such as growing cyberprofessionals or redirecting power and energy personnel to shift from concentrating on supplying power to understanding demands for it. The latter means a change to understanding microgrids and grid technology, which requires more software orientation than physical-science orientation.
Zanzalari says there has been no decrease in the government’s call for engineering support and services; in some cases, more government support is requested. “We’re having a very difficult time working through that at this point because we’re under some hiring restrictions … but the general position is that the acquisition community, and even to some degree the sustainment community, are asking for more government labor than we can provide. We’re in the process of having to provide that support using the contractor industry.” The result is that the government loses out on the chance to recruit some of the best employees, who go to the private sector when jobs are available. For engineers, demand remains relatively high.
Adding to CERDEC’s science and technology human-capital challenge is the loss of 10 to 15 people a month because of retirement. The center is prevented from replacing them, but it also misses the opportunity to have the institutional knowledge these experts possess transfer to new work force members. Enough subject matter experts remain now to conduct business, but Zanzalari says soon the center will reach a point where business areas fail because of the lack of the necessary knowledge transfer. Leadership knew the most difficult period would span 2015 to 2017. A lot of retirements also occurred when CERDEC moved from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to its new home at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, but the organization hired 1,000 new people while still at its former location, allowing time for them to learn from more experienced personnel.
In its work with industry, CERDEC has evolved to embrace small business as a source for innovative technology while continuing to conduct business with traditional partners. Zanzalari believes industry at large has a greater appreciation of the value of partnering with CERDEC for several reasons, including as a systems integrator. The facilities at the center allow for testing in an open environment to see how it fits into the network. The lab- and field-based risk reductions result in a partnership that allows the private sector to showcase their technologies and enables the military to communicate back how those capabilities likely will fare in the larger network construct. CERDEC also benefits from interacting with technology providers it would have missed had it remained with a singular lead systems integrator.
The U.S. Navy’s technology plans are moving away from systems to focus on capabilities. Changes aim to ensure that the fleet has the functionality to be operationally ready at all times.
Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker, USN, program executive officer (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) and PEO Space Systems, explains that the mission of his organizations is to develop, acquire, deploy and sustain in the most effective manner possible the naval information dominance capabilities warfighters need to accomplish their missions, including coordinating all Department of the Navy space research, development and acquisition activities. The current fiscal environment demands that work be carried out with affordability as a key consideration along with providing required support. “It’s about warfighting capability for the fleet,” Adm. Becker states. “That’s where our priorities begin and that’s where our priorities end: getting capabilities to the fleet.”
Looking out long term, the Navy needs to understand how to improve the warfighting readiness of deployed systems. The admiral explains that capabilities must be provided in a way that allows for modernization; part of that effort involves commonality and interoperability in products. “Capabilities evolve for their own purposes and their own mission,” he says. “It’s time for us to take a more holistic view.”
One of PEO C4I’s efforts that tries to tackle that problem is the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program. It collapses five distinct afloat networks down to one. The two PEOs’ portfolios have more than 100 programs and projects that range from space-based to subsurface systems. Another major effort is the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) that involves a four-satellite constellation, along with one orbiting in-reserve satellite, ground stations and software. MUOS will enable a communications architecture that will provide secure communications on the move to the joint force both on land and eventually at sea.
PEOs C4I and Space Systems also are looking at disruptive technologies and disruptive processes. Experts are trying to assess where disruptive changes could occur to improve business and acquisition methods. Another critical area is people. The admiral says there must be a trained and ready workforce organized and equipped for success.
While trying to implement all these improvements, the PEOs must deal with the issue of matching the pace of technology advancement. “Fundamentally, that’s my biggest challenge,” Adm. Becker explains. In some cases, it can take up to 10 years to identify and decide how to meet, develop, contract for and deliver a requirement. Ten-year-old equipment is not effective. “That math doesn’t close,” he states.
CANES is one attempt to take on that challenge both by collapsing networks and having two-year software and four-year hardware refresh cycles. The PEOs also are automating as many network updates as is feasible operationally. Current approaches are manpower intensive to push updates to all devices.
Industry and the research environment can help the PEOs with the technological challenges. In a partnership with the Office of Naval Research, Adm. Becker’s staff is working on a project to implement a tactical cloud architecture afloat. Building on the implementation of CANES, this project will reduce risk while demonstrating how the advantages of cloud computing can improve the delivery of warfighting capability to the fleet. The Distributed Common Ground System-Navy, or DCGS-N, Increment 2 program, which is fundamental to strike operations, will be the first major program to transition to this architecture.
Close working relationships with industry and academia are important to both PEOs. For PEO C4I, in particular, it releases its master plan each year so these partners can review the compiled list of capability gaps from programs of records and projects as well as the time frame in which solutions are needed. The document includes near- and far-term efforts, laid out in detail. Personnel also can review the document on acquisition gaps for science and technology. Both are available at: www.public.navy.mil/spawar/PEOC4I/ProductsServices/Pages/default.aspx.
To explain how he judges how well efforts are progressing or meeting their objectives, the admiral pulls from his electronic attack background. “I would measure our success in our ability to support the information kill chain,” he says. Success involves delivering all the information and capabilities commanders need on the network as well as protecting the networks from attack. Services would allow mission success for naval forces as well as their joint and interagency partners on shore and afloat.
“It all ties back to the fleet and making sure that the fleet is ready—that the fleet is capable of operating forward to conduct the business of our Navy and our nation,” Adm. Becker says. His PEOs aim to ensure U.S. warfighters and their coalition partners are ready with all their C4I capabilities when and where they need them.