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From Pizza to Posturing the Force: Realizing the Army’s Unified Network

The U.S. Army’s Unified Network Plan serves as the enabler for multidomain operations.
An ever-changing character of war calls for an expansive modernization program within the U.S. Army. During a training mission, soldiers demonstrate real-time joint intelligence, communications and collaboration capabilities on a transnational flight to provide uninterrupted mission command and secure satellite and radio communications. Photo courtesy U.S. Army

An ever-changing character of war calls for an expansive modernization program within the U.S. Army. During a training mission, soldiers demonstrate real-time joint intelligence, communications and collaboration capabilities on a transnational flight to provide uninterrupted mission command and secure satellite and radio communications. Photo courtesy U.S. Army

 

“That probably sounds insane,” said the director for the Unified Network Task Force as he began to define the simple goal of the Army’s Unified Network Plan (AUNP). U.S. Army Col. James Riley recently recalled a scenario in which he was calling in from a Network Enterprise Technology Command building and recalled his team’s technological inability to log in to the network from the G-6 building next door. “I can’t take the computer I’m using right now to the building next door to plug it in and have it work,” Col. Riley said during a recent SIGNAL Media-sponsored webinar. “That’s what we’re trying to solve.”   

A commonly used phrase within the military, “sensor to shooter,” holds a key term in the Army’s efforts toward an enhanced weapons system. “The ‘to’ in the phrase is the network,” Col. Riley noted. “If you do not have the network correctly rightsized doing whatever you need it to do, you cannot get the data from the sensors to the shooters.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AUNP operational framework is made up of three phases: set, operationalize and continuously modernize. Within those are five lines of effort (LOEs): establish the unified network; posture the force for multidomain operations; security and survivability; reform processes and policies; and network sustainment. The Army is currently in phase one of realizing the operational framework with goals to move to phase two by 2025 and phase three by 2028, Col. Riley said. 

Network convergence and streamlining access to various applications are key components in establishing the unified network. For example, as the Army implements Microsoft Teams as the primary voice capability tool, some access features remain blocked. “I can only call Teams people and get patched through other systems. “We want the ability to just use this to order pizza, as we like to say,” Col. Riley joked. “I should be able to use this system, hit a button, call off the DODIN-A [Department of Defense Information Network-Army] network and interface with ordering pizza or call home, or whatever I need to do.” 

For companies that would like to assist the Army, Col. Riley has one request: "We do not want to buy new stuff. If you have the ability to take what we have already done and knit it together to push this forward, that is what we need from industry partners.” 

AFCEA’s TechNet Augusta 2022 provides a fantastic opportunity to speak with Army members about the AUNP, along with its many other projects and operations. 

Click here to watch SIGNAL Media’s full on-demand webinar, The Army Unified Network Plan – Setting the Stage for the Unified Network. The series is a precursor to AFCEA’s TechNet Augusta event, taking place August 15-18 in Augusta, Georgia. Be sure to register today