Army Programs Face Daunting Challenges

November 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman and Rita Boland
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Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA, U.S. Army chief information officer (CIO)/G-6, kicks off LandWarNet 2008.
Major communications elements deal with budgetary, cultural and technological issues.

The U.S. Army’s LandWarNet program, the focus of Army information technology modernization, is fragmented, unsecure, expensive and not standardized. This comes from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA, the U.S. Army chief information officer (CIO)/G-6. He believes that the Army will fix these problems, but it will take a coordinated plan to do so.

Speaking at LandWarNet 2008, which was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 18-21, Gen. Sorenson provided some anecdotal comments that illuminated the key issues he hopes will be addressed by Army and industry personnel. He described two incidents in which individual soldiers with little specified training nonetheless were able to solve complex problems simply by applying their own field experiences. He emphasized this key point: “Talk to the soldiers in the field.” No solution to any problem—technological or otherwise—can be achieved without input directly from the warfighter user community. “We can either work together to make it work, or we can go down together in a blaze of glory,” he stated.

And, as network centricity moves close to the individual soldier, this is becoming all the more important. “We’re no longer net-enabled; we’re net-dependent,” he pointed out. Soldiers are performing too much hardware and software integration, and that has to change. Gen. Sorenson called on industry to implement those solutions sooner and relieve warfighters of that burden.

“We continue to be confounded today by hardware and software integration in the field,” he declared.

Gen. Sorenson said that several key issues confront Army information system implementation. Many existing Army battle command systems in the field are stovepiped, the general noted. The Future Combat Systems (FCS)/Battle Command (BC) is a system of systems, but not every Army system will be FCS-enabled, so interoperability remains a goal.

Cyberspace activities are a full-time concern, and the Army must pay heed to all aspects of them. “Cyber operations is not a football game, it’s a soccer game,” the general analogized. “We must be on defense and offense simultaneously, and there are several balls in play.”

But budgetary pressures could impose severe limitations on the Army’s ability to modernize its information technology infrastructure. Gen. Sorenson said that the Army is entering a period of tremendous uncertainty in terms of its budget, with only half of the information technology programs currently funded.

One of these key programs is the Army’s Network Service Centers, or NSCs (SIGNAL Magazine, August 2008). They will be essential to allowing the expeditionary Army to deploy with its information architecture seamlessly.

And, despite its ongoing operations around the world, the U.S. Army is a continental United States (CONUS)-based force that must be able to deploy its capabilities seamlessly. Unfortunately, that is not yet the case. Brig. Gen. Brian Donahue, USA, director of the LandWarNet office, Army G-3/5/7, described that challenge to an overflow crowd in a combined track exploring expeditionary capabilities and horizontal network centricity.

“We are a CONUS-based Army,” Gen. Donahue declared. “CONUS will be a hard nut to crack. We have to fix this—Army relevance is at stake.”

The Army must be able to maintain its full capabilities throughout the entire spectrum of a deployed operation. Gen. Donahue declared that the Army no longer can afford to separate operational aspects. It must engage in decisive combat—phase three—concurrent with phase four stabilization operations. This was not done in the Iraq War, and now U.S. forces are paying the price.

So the Army must smooth out capability changes throughout deployment and operation. When the Army was forward deployed, this was not as much of an issue. CONUS could be a mess under those circumstances. But now, the Army cannot afford problems on the CONUS end. “The intent is to take the burden off of the deploying formation until they are ready to take it back,” Gen. Donahue said, adding that the Army leadership is backing these efforts.

The U.S Army is establishing the 7th Signal Command (Theater) for CONUS. Based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, the command reached cadre status in July and will reach initial and full operational capabilities in phased stages. The commander, Brig. Gen. Jennifer L. Napper, USA, is dual-hatted, leading the command and serving as the G-6 for Army Forces Command concurrently.

Col. Michael Kell, USA, G-3 for 7th Signal Command, explained to a track session audience that his organization will help create centralized control in the United States for commanders looking for signal support during operations. He echoed Gen. Donahue’s observation that the majority of troops are located within the United States, not overseas. “We are a CONUS-based Army, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. Part of the command’s mission includes extending LandWarNet capabilities to operating and generating forces. It also will establish information management capabilities and enable the Global Collaboration Environment.

The command will result in a restructuring of forces, with the 21st Signal Brigade scheduled to fall under its authority and the activation of the 93rd and 106th Signal brigades at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. At full staffing, the 7th Signal Command (Theater) should employ 606 military and civilian personnel. Also unique to the command is an intelligence analysis cell within the G-2. The command will develop a relationship with the National Security Agency facility at Fort Gordon so the analysts can counter cyberthreats to CONUS networks.

And cyberspace is a domain that the military must operate in and defend, according to the U.S. Air Force general in charge of the U.S. Strategic Command. Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, USAF, told a plenary session audience, “I consider the surface of the ocean a domain … I consider land a domain. I consider air a domain. I consider space a domain, and I consider cyberspace a domain.”

Problems in cyberspace can extend to other domains, reducing the ability to command and control troops and to conduct missions effectively. In addition, vulnerabilities in one part of the network can affect locations worldwide. Intelligence support is critical for network operations just as it is for operations in other areas. Gen. Chilton called recent attacks on U.S. networks espionage, similar to the practices used by spies. “This can all be done from the comfort of your home in your parent country,” he stated.

To protect the network, personnel must be prepared and policies must be enforced. The U.S. military needs to improve the security of the Nonsecure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET) by training all warfighters on rules and regulations regarding its use and ensuring such procedures are followed. Gen. Chilton recommended that commanders make it their business to pay attention to the health of the networks every day and concern themselves with problems and violations. To help alleviate these problems, he advocates cyberspace training in the military academies and service schools, as well as military cyberspace exercises and training events to prepare for attacks.

The general also addressed security concerns. Denial-of-service attacks are one of his major worries, but he said his biggest fear is the potential ability of enemies to infiltrate a network and pose as valid users. Adversaries then could send out misleading information and, worse yet, create doubt in the minds of users, undermining faith in all information coming through the network. To help reduce problems with malware and other threats, Gen. Chilton wants the military to move away from blacklisting items to whitelisting them. Through this process, the military would ask operators what they need for their missions and then open access only to those areas.

The dream of a separate and distinct cyberspace command is not going to happen, because cyberspace is an arena in which everyone operates. This was the declaration of the director, U.S. Army Information Operations (USAIOP) and U.S. Army Computer Network Operation-Electronic Warfare Proponents (USAEWP), Combined Arms Command, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Col. Wayne A. Parks, USA, told a track presentation audience that all aspects of the force use cyberspace, so it is not so much a specific discipline as a theater of operations.

“We have operations in cyberspace, not cyberspace operations,” he stated.

Col. Parks added that cyberspace cannot be separated from electronic warfare, as adversaries are using all of the electromagnetic spectrum to access networks. The wired and wireless worlds now are similar.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., USA, U.S. Army chief of staff, converses with the audience at LandWarNet 2008 via videoteleconference hookup.
The Army transition is hindering current Army operations, according to the U.S. Army chief of staff. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., USA, said that the Army is so consumed by the demands of the current fight that it cannot do the things that it is supposed to do. “The Army is out of balance,” said its highest-ranking officer.

Gen. Casey charged that the service is out of balance because it has been caught between two worlds. He told a large crowd at a plenary session that the United States “didn’t have the Army we needed” after 9/11. It has been transforming into the force it needs to be concurrent with combat operations around the globe, and that has not been a smooth process. Currently, the Army is about “70 percent there” in its drive to transform, the chief of staff claimed.

One thing the Army needs immediately is a systematic reset process, he emphasized. Units that return from Iraq or Afghanistan incur substantial personnel and material costs. In terms of materiel, each rotation from those two countries costs about $70 billion to reset. Having a systematic reset process will help compel the force transformation into a true expeditionary Army, he declared.

But the Army must be flexible enough to meet the many challenges it may face in the 21st century. Gen. Casey noted that traditional threats have been supplemented by newer, more diverse threats such as nonstate adversaries with modern means of combat, including high-technology command and control. Enemies will aim to use weapons of mass destruction against the developed world.

With 60 percent of the world’s population living in cities, the Army must be prepared to operate among people, not around them, the general stated. This and other challenges will require a force that is versatile, expeditionary, intellectually and institutionally agile, lethal, sustainable and interoperable, particularly with indigenous forces.

Rear Adm. Elizabeth A. Hight, USN, vice director, Defense Information Systems Agency, addresses a plenary session at LandWarNet 2008.
Where most leaders would endeavor to view the big picture, Rear Adm. Elizabeth A. Hight, USN, vice director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), sees the biggest picture of all. The issue for communicators is not about serving an activity, or a service or even a military. Nor is it about winning a war in the kinetic sense. It is about all of the services coming together to attain a national goal.

But, the challenge is how an organization can pursue that goal without losing track of its own specific needs. With all the complexities facing development and acquisition of information systems, Adm. Hight offered no easy solution other than one basic human skill: think. Leaders must weigh risks based on priority of need. “Nothing ever will meet all of your requirements,” she told the Wednesday plenary session audience.

But, above all, everyone must think in terms of an enterprise instead of a network. This is particularly important as the Army moves into new areas of operation, such as stabilization. No individual service can operate without support from other services, and communicators must keep that foremost in their planning.

“LandWarNet is part of a larger enterprise,” she declared. “We have to optimize for the enterprise.”

She cited FCS in her enterprise approach. Instead of worrying about how FCS works, the Army should worry about how FCS uses information from all the other available sources. “The minute we stand in our own little lane, we’re in trouble,” she warranted.

Above all, planners and executers must be able to “say yes” when it comes to optimizing for the enterprise. Adm. Hight described the U.S. Army Signal Corps as “the best organization of professionals in the Defense Department,” adding “If you lead the way and get to ‘yes,’ the rest of us will be able to follow.”

But training those signal professionals is becoming more complex each year. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Foley, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, said that his command’s campaign plan is “intricately tied” to other Army information campaign plans. He said that Fort Gordon “is in relentless pursuit of world-class training.”

A panel discussion features three key Army communicators (l-r): Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Via, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Life Cycle Management Command and Fort Monmouth; Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Foley, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon; and Brig. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, USA, commanding general, Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command.
Joining Gen. Foley in a special panel was Brig. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, USA, the commanding general of Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Signal Command. She emphasized the importance of information security—and how that is not given enough attention. “We are not doing well securing our NIPRNET—it’s a sieve,” she told attendees at a special panel discussion. The Army is doing well securing its Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET), but it is not robust enough. The warfighter must understand the security threat, she declared.

And, this problem is going to worsen as data proliferates. Gen. Lawrence warned that, with data expected to double in the next few years, the Army must learn to manage that data smartly and efficiently. The problem is not in the pipes but in the data flowing through them.

The new Army goes to war with the National Guard and Reserves, and there is no way to build a network enterprise that separates them from active-duty forces, Gen. Lawrence states. And, the young soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan use traditional forms of communication—such as e-mail—much less than they do Web 2.0 aspects such as wikis and blogs.

Meanwhile, the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Life Cycle Management Command is trying to prepare to move its entire operation concurrent with combat operations overseas. Its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Via, USA, the third participant in the panel, said that the closing of Fort Monmouth provides the command with the ability to rebuild the organization. He predicted process improvements, enhanced integration and more co-located organizations at the new facility being built at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

System integration is the name of the game if the U.S. Army is to be able to succeed in this new age of persistent conflict, declared Lt. Gen. Michael A. Vane, USA, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. Saying that the Army is challenged to fight this new war, the general called for network access for the leader and the soldier.

Land power, more than any other domain, requires integration of processes and capabilities, he told a luncheon audience. And, this state of persistent conflict has increased the importance of the individual soldier. That translates to a broad-based integration of systems to extend beneficial capabilities down to the warfighter.

A key element is the development of architectures, Gen. Vane pointed out. He said that the operational architecture must drive the system architecture, which must be supported by a technology architecture. Right now, teams are working toward vital integration goals.


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