Military and Industry Agree on Goals, But Differ on Course

November 2007
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Secretary of the Army Peter Geren warns against information overload in his address at LandWarNet 2007.
Fast-changing technologies open eyes to possibilities, yet provide no clear path.

The transformed infocentric force can count on a future rich in enabling technologies but short on how to achieve common goals, according to many military and industry experts. New capabilities deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are improving operations for U.S. forces there, but new challenges to interoperability are rising as commercial technologies increase their influence on military systems. And, neither industry nor the military can plot a clear course to achieving a fully network-centric force. Despite agreeing on goals, the two are far apart.

The problem is not that the military is losing sight of its goals, the experts say. It is that all of the new technologies being counted on to achieve network centricity are increasing the military infosphere’s complexity and are adding new issues and challenges. These efforts also are complicated by the changing nature of the Global War on Terrorism and the ongoing force transformation.

Discussion of these points was paramount at LandWarNet 2007, held at the BrowardCountyConvention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 20-24. The opening plenary session speaker, Secretary of the Army Peter Geren, summed up a key challenge facing the U.S. Army when he said, “We don’t want to replace the fog of war with the fog of information overload.”

In addition, the United States has entered a period of persistent conflict, stated Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, USA, deputy commanding general/chief of staff for the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Gen. Metz set a tone by asking industry not to push for a 100-percent solution, but instead to move a solution out to the warfighter and let the Army figure out the details.

Maj. Gen. (P.) Jeffrey Sorenson, USA, special assistant to the Secretary of the Army, also endorsed the assessment of persistent conflict—at least for the next couple of decades, he said—and called for similar steps to change Army information technology acquisition. Saying “the Army is flat,” Gen. Sorenson emphasized that the service no longer could conduct business as usual. Neither could the Army wait for grand requirements to be written. Many technologies today could be put together through interplay between warfighters and industry, he offered.

Brad Boston, senior vice president and chief information officer of Cisco Systems, relates how defense is pushing technology beyond its limits in several areas. 
The industry perspective is that everything is going digital, including the enemy. Brad Boston, senior vice president and chief information officer of Cisco Systems, said that defense is driving technology beyond its capabilities in four areas: massive scalability, mobile ad hoc networking, real-time video and security/information assurance.

Among the challenges to network centricity are budget funding, stovepiped systems, procurement practices and certification. Soldiers tend to have too many end-point devices, he added, and effective security is threatened by a “one size fits all” methodology that is the wrong approach to take.

The Army needs more agile approaches to technology, especially when the enemy can operate inside its acquisition cycle. The enemy is very network-centric, Boston observed, and to remain competitive the Army must focus its acquisition efforts on how to obtain the newest technologies quickly. Existing certification policies and strategies were developed for stovepipe systems and do not reflect current requirements.

A culture of innovation requires an innovation strategy, and innovation sometimes requires standardization, Boston said. Technology may be easy, but business aspects may not.

“The customer doesn’t really know what he wants until he sees it,” Boston stated, adding that this calls for customer interaction throughout the entire process.

Brig. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (r), principal director for Global Information Grid operations; commander, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) global operations; and deputy commander, Joint Task Force–Global Network Operations, DISA, leads a panel discussing joint operations. Panelists include (l-r) Brig. J.E. Thomas MBE, ADC, British Army; Brig. Gen. George J. Allen, USMC, director, command, control, communications and computers (C4), U.S. Marine Corps; Brig. Gen. Stuart M. Dyer, USAR, Coalition Land Forces Component Command; and Maj. Gen. Walter E. Zink II, USA, commander, Operational Command Post 1, U.S. Army North.
Similar sentiments were echoed in a joint panel headed by Brig. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA, principal director for Global Information Grid (GIG) operations; commander, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) global operations; and deputy commander, Joint Task Force–Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) at DISA. In that panel, Brig. Gen. George J. Allen, USMC, director, command, control, communications and computers (C4), U.S. Marine Corps, said that the federal acquisition regulation (FAR) was the biggest obstacle to supplying the force with the best available technology.

Gen. Allen noted that operation Iraqi Freedom saw the largest Marine expeditionary force tactical network ever established. But, the “new equipment” the Marines had was four years old. The Corps had to buy commercial gear and install it on top of this equipment—which already was antiquated.

Slow deployment of up-to-date gear is not the only drawback imposed by FAR. The Marine Corps wanted to use Joint Network Node technology, but was forbidden by FAR, the general reported. In this case, FAR prevented the Marines from buying joint. He told Congress, “Change the rules,” adding that he is frustrated by the problems these rules cause.

DISA is trying to work around many of these institutional problems by changing the way it conducts business. Its director, Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr., USAF, warned that change is inevitable, but growth is not. “Shift happens,” he told the audience. To handle that shift, DISA is trying new approaches that include euthanizing important programs that do not measure up, he declared.

Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr., USAF, DISA director, describes how his agency is trying to incorporate speed into the acquisition process. 
It is not always the rules that stand in the way, Gen. Croom suggested. Sometimes the problem lies in the way that DISA implements the rules. This is especially true as the agency tries to add speed to its acquisition arsenal. “I don’t know of any law that was preventing me from implementing speed,” he related.

Gen. Croom called for more dedication to jointness in systems, implying that many groups give lip service to the concept but do not strive to make it happen. “Don’t call it joint; build it joint,” he advised, adding that the U.S. Army has not always done that. He said to industry, “If you have something I can adapt for the joint world, I’m ready.”

The Net-Enabled Command Capability, or NECC, represents a new way of acquiring information technology. The U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and DISA will develop it together. Gen. Croom allows that this effort will require a good test area, so the partners are building the Federated Development and Certification Environment (FDCE) to test NECC elements operationally. The FDCE will be the sandbox for NECC, Gen. Croom noted, and he cited the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) as a cautionary tale. The services could not wait, so they built their own GCCS elements. The result was a group of stovepipes. For NECC, DISA will “certify the certifiers.”

NECC will involve software development, and it always is hard to design software to serve people’s needs, the general notes, particularly with current processes for implementing acquisition rules. The commercial sector focuses on speed and is willing to kill a program that is not working well. Gen. Croom wants that approach for NECC.

“We’ve told our folks, ‘Do not fall in love with NECC, because if NECC doesn’t work, we’re going to kill it,’” he emphasized.

His direction for programs is, “You ought to be rushing to failure,” he related. “Fail early and often, learn from that, correct it and move forward.”

Among the new directions being taken by DISA is computing on demand, which Gen. Croom likens to telecommunications access. Instead of buying hardware, a user would pay DISA for computing as if it were electricity. “Why buy a black box when I can do it cheaper?” he asked, noting that DISA pays half as much per satellite transponder than do other government agencies.

A related approach is storage on demand. Calling this “a sea change,” the general observed that many users are comfortable owning their own box. DISA’s 16 computing centers have seen their business grow by 300 percent, and costs are running 25 percent below average. “My goal is to let the services know they cannot compete with me,” he declared.

Gen. Charles C. Campbell, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command, warns that LandWarNet has points of failure that could bring it down.
The Army’s own LandWarNet program is complex in concept, scope, focus and magnitude of change—and it is being undertaken in the context of a changing Army undergoing paradigm changes, according to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, USA, added that the changes must strike a balance between an expeditionary army and a campaign capable army. Some of the Army’s changes are reformational, and some are transformational as the Army comes to grips with new types of warfare.

But LandWarNet could have its points of failure, he cautioned. The Army must “get right” the part of LandWarNet that supports joint battlespace communications. However, if the Army allows support for non-joint requirements, then LandWarNet might not succeed.

Secretary Geren declared that LandWarNet will give the Army a vital three-dimensional mesh of ground, airborne and satellite nodes, and he asked industry to help the Army by building inexpensive, secure radios with GPS for every soldier. Technology is moving so fast that what is cutting edge today “could be on the cutting-room floor tomorrow.”

“We cannot afford a modernization holiday,” he emphasized.

Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., USA, deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of the U.S. Element in the North American Aerospace Defense Command, describes some of the challenges moving information among diverse organizations. 
And, modernization is absolutely essential in the information technology arena, observed Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., USA, deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of the U.S. Element in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Gen. Webster described the Signal Corps as the most thankless job in the Army. “We give you equipment that is outdated and outmoded,” he said, adding that no one thanks the corps if it works properly. However, if any electronics break, then it is the Signal Corps’ fault.

Spectrum use remains a challenge, and Gen. Croom believes that a solution lies in more efficient radios. “I’m an optimist that technology will allow radios that use less spectrum,” he offered. This would obviate the need for a spectrum manager. The general also called for mobile devices with high bandwidth rates that work anywhere.

Another item that will bring about significant change is the secure mobile environment-portable electronic device (SME-PED). It will require major policy changes, as “we are behind thinking about how you handle a device that has secure and unsecured” capabilities, Gen. Croom stated. The initial buy of about 10,000 devices should cost approximately $3,300 each, he added.

Gen. Sorenson warned that several gaps loomed for the future. The Army needs modular, scalable and tailorable battle command and control (C2). A dynamic, uninterruptible communications network also is needed. As the Army transforms into an expeditionary force, it must build strategic communications capable of communicating with internal and external audiences. In terms of technology integration, the Army is on the cusp of deploying technologies so advanced that it cannot figure out how to absorb them, he emphasized.

Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (l), commander of the 5th Signal Command, discusses some of the C4 challenges facing the Army. Other members of this joint panel are (r-l) panel moderator Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, USA, commander, U.S. Army Signal Center; Paige Atkins, director, Defense Spectrum Organization, DISA; Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith, USA, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command; and Brig. Gen. Ron Bouchard, U.S. Pacific Command.
Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, commanding general of the 5th Signal Command, cited several C4 challenges. Speaking on a joint panel chaired by Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, USA, chief of signals, U.S. Army, and commanding general, SignalCenter, Gen. Lawrence warned of disjointed C4 networks “kluged together in the field.” These networks unsystematically evolved over multiple contingencies, she noted. Other challenges include spectrum overload and bandwidth constraints.

Gen. Metz offered that the top institutional priorities should be to extend the secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNET) access across the Army, provide Director of Information Management (DOIM) support to the expeditionary Army and enable a unified C2 structure for networks. But, he applied a cautionary TRADOC perspective to this new technology when he asked, “How are we going to train everyone to operate all that Gucci equipment—especially the commander?”

Maintaining a technological edge is not limited to the battlespace. Boston discussed how Japan has plunged into the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) world because it suffers from a shortage of Internet addresses. Given that necessity, the Asian nation has successfully deployed IPv6 elements. He noted that specific reasons for adoption often drive usage, and he called for a public-private partnership for IPv6 in the United States to spur applications. Otherwise, Japan could leapfrog the United States in Internet domination.

No discussion of Army C4 technology needs would be complete without a look at Iraq operations, and several speakers offered observations. Secretary Geren noted that Iraq has shown that the Army cannot engage an enemy only at long range and can never have enough armor. Gen. Webster noted that the Army had a lot of information at the command post but could not share it with forces in the field.

Fresh off leg surgery, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, USA, deputy commanding general/chief of staff for the Army Training and Doctrine Command, calls for speeding technologies to the warfighter. 
Gen. Metz declared that the U.S. Army should be the one with the asymmetric advantage, not the enemy. When allied forces shoot at a sniper in a minaret, a camera should show that sniper and immediately distribute the image via the Internet.

And, homeland security issues rose to the fore as well. Gen. Webster noted that NORAD needs thorough database management to ensure that it does not illegally maintain data on U.S. citizens. No single database in the United States exists that lists all emergency response capabilities of state and local governments. The command needs a radio bridge that enables the military to communicate with state and local officials along with a common Web portal among its many mission partners.