NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Army’s design goals for its unified network of 2030 are shaped to tackle some tough challenges: large-scale ground combat operations; near-peer adversaries; a complex, globally distributed and electronic warfare-contested battlefield — all as the pace of technology accelerates with increasing speed.
To retain U.S. decision dominance and collectively flesh out potential solutions for this future operating environment, nearly 1,000 Army, joint service, and industry stakeholders gathered this month in Nashville, for the ninth in a series of Technical Exchange Meetings, or TEMs.
“Near-peer threats operate in cyberspace at a very high level, and we need to acknowledge that and build a network that enables [joint] and coalition operations, with the flexibility to maneuver it and to defend it,” said Lt. Gen. John Morrison, U.S. Army deputy chief of staff G-6, during his TEM 9 keynote address. “Figuring out how to share intelligence so that we all clearly understand the threat and the environment is going to be absolutely critical for all of us moving forward — not as an Army, not as an industry company, but as a nation.”
TEM 9 highlighted several key focus areas that support the Army’s digital transformation and future network, including data centricity, agnostic and resilient network transport, zero trust architecture, and unified network operations and management. The two-day event focused on the Army’s network modernization Capability Set (CS) 25 and CS27 design goals, as well as the supporting acquisition approaches, such as the ongoing Capability Portfolio Review and new business models such a Satellite Communications (SATCOM) as a Service.
The Army uses its two-year incremental Capability Set process to execute network modernization across the force while keeping pace with technology advancements and emerging threats. Each capability set builds off the previous and is infused with commercial solutions informed by synchronized Soldier touchpoints, global experimentation, and developmental and operational tests.
“The Army is now three years into the Capability Set fielding and development process and we have strong momentum,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Potts, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “To deliver usable actionable data to commanders, when and where they need it, we need a network transport that is modular, scalable and tailorable. We have to make it easier for our signal officers to set up multiple transport layers. We also want to understand where we can spread across [network] layers to be smarter about the way we utilize the bandwidth that is available.”
The Army’s network community works on several Capability Sets at a time. While currently fielding CS23, the Army is simultaneously prototyping and experimenting for CS25 and maturing science and technology (S&T) efforts for CS27 and beyond.
CS21, which has already been fielded, focused on expeditionary and intuitive capabilities for infantry formations at brigade and below. Building on CS21 foundation, CS23 focuses on capacity, resiliency and convergence, and CS25 furthers automation and protected network capabilities. CS23 and beyond target network modernization for mounted formations, as well as networking the division formation.
CS25: AUTOMATED AND PROTECTED
CS25 is moving from the prototyping and experimental phase to the system design and development phase, which begins with the CS25 Preliminary Design Review in April 2023. This review will ensure alignment of requirements, enabling technology, acquisition, and funding to help ensure a successful transition from S&T to programs of record.
CS25 solutions will help deliver data at the point of need, through the integration and enhancement of numerous capabilities, such as the new Command Post Integrated Infrastructure; resilient transport-agnostic network capabilities that incorporate initial high-throughput, low-latency multi-orbit SATCOM and automatic Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency solutions to reduce Soldier burden; and more robust cloud capability. CS25 also advances the Army’s tactical data fabric and C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards, which enables the Army to insert cards embedded with networked capabilities.
Soldiers will plan and manage the CS25 unified network through an integrated set of Unified Network Operations (UNO) software tools and begin to utilize zero trust data security principles through UNO’s Identity Credentialing and Access Management software.
CS27 AND BEYOND: MULTI-DOMAIN CAPABLE
Key CS27 design goals evolve transport-agnostic, data-centric network capabilities and modern security architecture. Major advancements include spectrum efficiency across dismounted and mounted platforms; and a unified network that blurs the lines between the traditional lower tier tactical and upper tier tactical and brings them together through transport agnostic networking.
CS29 design goals plan to move the Army from coalition Mission Partner Networking to a true Mission Partner Environment, where units do not have to set up a new network with every new mission. Fully operational tactical data fabric adhering to zero trust principles will further enhance secure and relevant data exchange with joint and coalition partners. CS29 will also increase usage of cloud services in a tactical environment, further enabling distribution of warfighter applications. Other CS29 design goals will enhance line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight on-the-move communications and waveform spectrum efficiency.
“We have done a good job in aligning our S&T to program transitions, which have been very supportive in the delivery of the Army 2030. As we’re looking ahead toward the design of Army 2040, we’re going to stay aligned from an S&T perspective, but we’re also going to get a lot more agile,” said Joe Welch, Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) C5ISR Center director, assigned to Army Futures Command. “We’re putting a plan together, but we’re [also] making sure that we are able to react quickly as commercial developments accelerate, to be able to modify that plan and make sure that we adhere to our ability to stay agile in the S&T space.”
As it evolves with each Capability Set, the Army expects to retain several key attributes in the network of 2030 and 2040: transport agnostic, data-centric, modern security architecture and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities dominance. Although the service expects these attributes to retain relevance, it can’t yet know what revolutionary commercial technology, operational landscape or strategic need could arise 15 or 20 years from now. The key is to build on current successes and to be open and agile enough to integrate innovation, Army senior leaders echoed during TEM 9.
“We’re looking for you to come to us with your innovation, your transformative approaches, your breakthroughs, R&D, and anything else that you have,” said Dr. Raj Iyer, Army CIO, to the TEM 9 industry audience. “We are telling you the threat environment that our commanders are operating in and what the strategic needs are; then you have to translate that to what it means in terms of your capabilities.”
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army’s mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army’s joint, coalition and other mission partners.