Army pushes command-post-type capabilities farther out to the edge

Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price, the Army program executive officer for command, control, communications (tactical), discusses the results of the latest Network Integration Exercise, command-and control on the move and the Afghan Mission Network.

Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price is the Army program executive officer for command, control, communications (tactical), which manages the services tactical communications infrastructure and battle command applications. Before becoming the PEO about two years ago, she served a three-year tenure as the deputy acquisition executive for the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The general responded to written questions from Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg.

DS: Can you provide a brief, frank update on how C3T systems performed at this past summer’s Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 11.2? What's planned for the fall NIE 12.1?

Price: I can’t provide specific test data, which is still under review at Army headquarters. What I can tell you is that we obtained [at NIE] eye-opening user feedback on both the operational relevance and performance of our systems. I can also offer some broad lessons learned that emerged from this unprecedented exercise and describe how PEO C3T is responding to these needs as we build toward Capability Set 13/14.

PEO C3T personnel on the ground at NIE 11.2 collected detailed feedback from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) on both systems under test (SUT), such as the Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below/Blue Force Tracking (FBCB2/BFT), and systems under evaluation (SUE), such as the prototype Company Command Post (CoCP). Soldiers who had used the first version of FBCB2 while deployed told us that JCR is a significant improvement, meeting their demand for much faster updates of friendly and enemy force locations, higher-resolution maps and the ability to send larger messages.

They also were candid about how other features can still improve – changes we are already working on implementing for NIE 12.1, and for the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) software that will follow JCR.

There is also a demand from the field for a command post capability at the company level. Working with PEO Integration – now known as the System of Systems Integration directorate under the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology [ASA(ALT)] – and other NIE partners, we test drove four different versions of this concept during NIE 11.2. The prototype CoCPs all leveraged existing Army infrastructure and communications systems to give the company commander the networked common operating picture he needs to plan and execute the mission. Our experience with these variants during NIE 11.2 yielded a wealth of information and choices for the Army G-3/5/7 office as it develops the formal requirement for CoCP.

The point of these events is not to prove that every system works perfectly, but to find out what is most valuable to the soldier and what is missing from our current kit. Following NIE 11.2, the triad of organizations leading the effort – ASA(ALT) SOSI, the Army Test and Evaluation Command and the Brigade Modernization Command – identified two broad network shortcomings for Capability Set 13/14: the Army lacks soldier-level connectivity and small unit mission command capabilities, and must develop comprehensive requirements accordingly.

We are working to seek solutions to these two major lessons-learned. At the soldier level, PEO C3T will provide several SUEs at the fall NIE 12.1. One of the most transformative is the handheld version of JBC-P, which will satisfy direct soldier requirements by threading position location information and other mission command data between the dismounted soldier, vehicles and tactical operations centers. The JBC-P handhelds will be interoperable with the entire JBC-P family of systems, bringing squad and team leaders into the overarching network. The JBC-P handheld will be a SUE in NIE 12.1 and a formal SUT in NIE 12.2. The handhelds will be used in combination with the Joint Tactical Radio System Rifleman Radio to enhance small-unit communications and effectiveness.

DS: At the recent LandWarNet conference, I interviewed Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, the commanding general at the Brigade Modernization Command, and he said one of his most pressing needs is command-and control (C2) on the move for commanders. What's the difference between C2 on the move for commanders and Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T)? What's the connection?

Price: This is the other major piece of what PEO C3T is looking forward to seeing evaluated at the fall NIE 12.1. Our WIN-T Increment 2 will enable the command and control on the move you’re talking about. It is a self-forming, self-healing network that for the first time provides initial on-the-move satellite communications all the way down to the company level.

The increased bandwidth of WIN-T Increment 2 allows the Army to fill that moving network with voice, data, images and video for mobile mission command applications that will provide capabilities, such as situational awareness and digitized collaboration, among separate commanders. This means company commanders and leaders will have the networked connectivity and networked systems that today are only available inside a command post.

For NIE 12.1, PEO C3T has successfully loaded an initial set of these capabilities onto WIN-T computers along with FBCB2/BFT JCR, which is the only major mission command application available on the move today. Allowing units to seamlessly access collaborative capabilities like Command Post of the Future and TIGR as they move around the battlefield will be a huge leap forward for dynamic C2 on the move.

Although WIN-T Increment 2 is not a SUT until NIE 12.2 in the spring, we have installed Increment 2 equipment on more than a dozen 2/1 AD platforms for experimentation during NIE 12.1. We look forward to hearing what BG Dragon’s soldiers think about this initial set of mission-command on-the-move applications, which we will continue to develop and refine as we move toward Capability Set 13/14.

So that’s the connection – with WIN-T Increment 2 in place, the Army will have the strong network backbone with which to provide C2 on-the-move capabilities.

DS: PEO C3T also supports the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), a coalition system for sharing data and communications. What’s new with the initiative?

Price: With AMN, we are working with PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S), the Army G-3 office and U.S. Central Command J-2/J-3/J-6 to bring data sharing to coalition forces in Afghanistan. At their individual discretion, separate coalition forces can now share data from their respective secure networks on a singular, centralized network.

The U.S. component of AMN is known as the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) – International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or CX-I. PEO C3T is coordinating with: the Combat Training Center Division; PEO Simulation, Training and Implementation; and the G-3 to further enhance pre-deployment training on CX-I. Enhancements are being added to CX-I in the U.S. that will allow connectivity to the live network from the continental U.S., so full mission rehearsal exercises can be conducted on the CX-I environment. For the CX-I effort, PEOs C3T and IEW&S received the 2010 David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence, the highest award given in the acquisition community.

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