The U.S. Army has begun introduction of a new vehicular intercom system designed to offer soldiers 21st century communications features inside a variety of vehicles. A recent milestone decision by the Army’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems (PEO EIS) gave the go-ahead for procurement of the Army-Navy/Vehicle Inter Communications 5 system, or AN/VIC-5.
Over the past year, I’ve had the honor of forming, organizing and implementing two teams of emerging military leaders. Both have provided valuable insights, mostly through learning from doing and adapting after failure. The adage “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” runs deep throughout both, and individual members are given high degrees of autonomy. Working with these two groups, I have learned several lessons along the way, and I hope to carry them forward into the critical second year.
The U.S. Air Force cyber community is failing for a single fundamental reason: the community does not exist. In 2010, the communications community began to be identified as the cyber community. An operational cyberspace badge was created, and those who previously had been communications professionals now were seen as cyberwarriors. This change did not effectively take into account that cyber and communications are two distinct fields and should be entirely separate communities.
The U.S. Pacific Command intelligence community is fostering an increased dialogue between China and other nations with interests in the Pacific Rim. The expanded effort is designed to build trust, avoid misunderstandings and improve cooperation in areas where China’s national interests converge with the national interests of the United States and others.
Warfighters will soon have an easier time accessing and operating battlefield command and control applications from their vehicles, thanks to a new family of tactical computers being issued to Army and Marine Corps forces. The computers will replace multiple pieces of equipment, saving space and power and providing users with better situational awareness by allowing access to a variety of battlefield software applications previously only available to commanders in fixed command centers.
Legacy communications are underpinning new capabilities as the U.S. Army Pacific works to upgrade its systems before obsolescence defeats innovation. The new technologies and systems that will define U.S. military networking are beginning to reach across the Defense Department’s largest theater of operations. Yet, budgetary constraints are hindering implementation of new capabilities, and the existing systems that form the foundation of theater networking badly need upgrades before they begin to give out.
The U.S. Army’s goal to push the network down to the dismounted soldier is now reality as Rangers units and the 10th Mountain Division begin employing Nett Warrior. But developers are not resting on their laurels. They already are adding advancements to increase capability and improve functionality.
People, not technology, are still the greatest advantages or inhibitors in the world of military interoperability. For NATO, bringing together the right humans has enabled amazing advancements during the last five years, but it has also caused confrontations delaying momentum in certain cases.
U.S. Army officials are standardizing the information technology architecture on many current and future ground combat vehicles. The effort is designed to reduce the size, weight and power of electronics; reduce life-cycle costs; and improve interoperability while providing warfighters all of the data and communications capability required on the modern battlefield.
A prototype sensor technology under development will enable soldiers to identify threats more rapidly in low-light environments and to share target images with other squad members. Consisting of several types of small multispectral cameras, the system will use smartphone technology in the form of a warfighter’s handheld mobile device to process and fuse the camera data into high-resolution color images for the soldier’s helmet display. That display imagery can then be transmitted wirelessly to other soldiers.
The signal brigade in charge of U.S. Army communications in the Republic of Korea is incorporating new technologies and capabilities with one eye on ensuring success and the other eye on the hostile neighbor to the north. System improvements such as the advanced Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, voice over Internet protocol and a Korean theater version of the Joint Information Environment are designed to give allied forces a significant edge should war break out.
Cooperation and conflict define the new strategy guiding U.S. Pacific Air Forces as the air element of the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts to the strategic pivot to that vast region. The former aspect includes efforts with many regional allies as well as closer activities with the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, the latter element entails power projection to be able to respond to crises whenever they emerge, including those over water.
The U.S. Defense Department has spent the last decade developing a family of multiband programmable radios and waveforms designed to move voice, data and video with the goal of connecting small tactical units with larger battlefield networks. Much of this work has focused on supporting warfighters on the ground through vehicle and man-portable radios. But the services now are looking at other ways to connect troops by installing the new radios in aircraft.
Biometrics is on the verge of becoming more pervasive than ever in everyday life, setting the stage for personal identifiers to take the place of other common security measures. The expansion mirrors increased usage in fields such as military operations, citizen enrollment and public safety.
U.S. Army researchers are developing a software program that will provide signal corps officers will an improved common operating picture of the network, enhance the ability to manage the plethora of electronic systems popping up on the modern battlefield, advance information sharing capabilities and allow warfighters to make more informed and more timely decisions. In short, the system will assist in planning, building, monitoring and defending the network.
The Army wants to converge its multiple networks into a single architecture that offers the potential to reduce complexity and lead to more efficient battlefield communications. An upcoming exercise focuses on advancing this initiative with the ultimate goal of collapsing the service's many small and mid-sized networks into one.
Over the years, the Army has developed a variety of networks to support communications and command and control, explains Col. Mark Elliott, USA, director of the Army’s LandWarNet Mission Command. For example, Army intelligence and logistics forces operate their own networks to meet their specific mission needs. “All of these networks have grown up over time.”
Listen to many senior leaders in both the civilian and military sectors today, and it becomes apparent that there is no shortage of good ideas. Indeed, with austerity and sequestration the new reality, the lack of funds requires creativity. However, far too many fail to take personal responsibility by citing a vague “we should” mantra instead of the more powerful—and personally accountable—“I will.”
U.S. Navy researchers are developing a state-of-the-art encryption device for integration onto KC-130 tankers and unmanned aerial systems. An existing version of the device is being installed onto B-52 bombers, E-4s, which serve as airborne command centers for the U.S. president and other National Command Authority officials, and E-6s, which are command and control centers for nuclear weapons. The encryption system can be integrated into virtually any platform and offers backward-compatible, software-definable algorithms that can be updated during operations without downtime.
China’s activities in space have caught the attention of U.S. and other countries’ officials, altering how personnel must consider the domain. The importance of the area outside of Earth to military operations makes the location critical for any nation looking to put itself into a terrestrial position of power. During 2012, China conducted 18 space launches and upgraded various constellations for purposes such as communications and navigation. China’s recent expansion into the realm presents new concerns for civilian programs and defense assets there.
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have updated doctrine for future warfighters to realign space situational awareness as the fifth mission area and to offer direction on operating in a contested or degraded space environment. The updated document will guide combatant commanders and other warfighters for years to come, influencing training, mission planning and global operations.