Competitive Development Group welcomes 2014 fellows
The Director, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC), Craig Spisak, welcomes seven new Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship (CDG/AAF) fellows during an orientation meeting at Defense Acquisition University on April 1, 2014. The three-year fellowship program offers developmental assignments in program executive offices, assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology offices, U.S. Army Materiel Command Headquarters and functional organizations providing expanded training and leadership development for future Army acquisition leaders.
From the left: Walter Hamm, U.S. Army Contracting Command; Maurice Stephens, Engineering Center and Communications Electronics Command; Kyle Bruner, Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T); Monica Clemons, U.S. Army Contracting Command, Chandra Evansmitchell, CDG/AFF program manager; Craig Spisak, USAASC director, Lauren McNew, PEO C3T; Kelly Courtney, PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support and David Oatley, PEO Ammunition. (Photo by Bob Coultas)
For more information on the CDG/AAF program go to http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/competitive-development-group-army-acquisition-fellowship/
By Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, Col. Mark Elliott and Col. John Zavarelli
Just weeks after deploying to Afghanistan last summer, the commanders and Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (4-10 MTN) christened the Army’s new tactical communications network their “digital guardian angel.” Capability Set (CS) 13 became critical to their daily operations in Afghanistan, enabling them to cover more ground safely and providing a considerable tactical advantage. Their experience shows why the Army pushed so hard over the past two years to deliver CS 13, our first integrated package of communication systems that supports mission command on-the-move and brings the Soldier into the network.
But we owe it to the 10th MTN—and the units next in line for new network technologies—to go further. How do we continue to enhance and refresh the network with each capability set? How do we make the network more capable but less complex to use, train, maintain and sustain? How do we focus innovation on capabilities that could be transformative for the network of 2020 and beyond?
The answers rest in our partnership with industry. Examine Moore’s Law—that the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months—or simply look at your own cellphone: When the pace of progress is exponential, the Army cannot keep up by itself. To field the latest tactical communication technologies to Soldiers, we know we need industry’s agility, innovation and investment, especially in a fiscally constrained environment. Our approach to driving industry involvement in the next phase of network modernization is built on two principles: consistency and competition.
A NEW CONSTRUCT
Consistency is aimed at making the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) a more productive venue for businesses of all sizes to demonstrate their capabilities. While the Army is procuring commercial routers, antennas, network operations tools, operational energy solutions and other items as a result of the NIE process, it has taken several NIE cycles to refine the supporting processes for this new way of doing business. During that evolution, we have listened to feedback from our industry partners and are now implementing a new construct for NIE 15.1 and beyond.
This new construct will give industry additional time to respond to more focused capability gaps. It will also be synchronized with Army program objective memorandum (POM) planning so that successful systems can transition smoothly into our portfolios.
The other way we plan to engage the network industrial base is through more frequent competition. Government-owned waveforms and a standardized Common Operating Environment (COE) set the conditions for the Army to conduct more competitions for radios, apps and other network components—putting the “buy fewer, more often” acquisition philosophy into action.
This approach will give more vendors the opportunity to participate in building the network and give the Army the flexibility to choose from multiple technologies. By structuring contracts to facilitate competition among qualified vendors on a regular basis, we will also reduce system costs and ensure that we encourage the innovation that will lead to progress with each capability set. For example, Company A could win a delivery order competition one year and Company B could win the following year, but both would have an incentive to propose improved, affordable products for the year after that.
EVOLVING THE NIE
The Army remains committed to the NIE process, which has proven its value within the Army and industry since its launch in 2011. Driven by Soldier feedback, lessons learned in past NIEs have allowed the Army to mature certain programs, restructure or terminate others and reallocate resources to new priorities. CS 13 was integrated, refined and validated through the NIEs—reducing the integration burden on the 10th MTN and 101st Airborne Divisions while helping develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for using the gear in the field.
Industry partners who submitted their systems for assessment not only have received invaluable feedback from Soldiers and Army laboratories, but also have demonstrated the breadth of available commercial technology, informing the Army’s acquisition strategy for several key programs. The Army has spent $39 million to procure non-program of record, NIE-tested radios to field. Recently, Congress provided funding that gave the Army $9.3 million to procure several systems under evaluation from previous NIEs. The Army also has begun to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) as a formal mechanism for streamlined competitive procurement of non-program of record systems that show promise at the NIE.
The first RFP process resulted in six contract awards to different vendors for their vehicle tactical routers to be evaluated at NIE 14.1 in fall 2013.
While there has been great success, we have also hit some speed bumps in ramping up the NIE process. Frustrated vendors told us that the government’s capability gaps were too broadly defined, the funding was too scarce and the schedule too unpredictable. We understand industry’s challenges, and we are adjusting the NIE to better facilitate vendor participation while meeting the needs of the Army within budget constraints.
Beginning with NIE 15.1 in fall 2014, the Army will add periodic network baseline assessments to pinpoint capability gaps that industry can zero in on for near-term network modernization. NIE 15.1 will assess the integrated network baseline to evaluate the performance of existing network capabilities and identify remaining gaps. This effort will be informed by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Network Capability Review, an ongoing study that aims to identify the proper mix of systems and their requirements to provide integrated tactical network capabilities within various formations.
The capability gaps identified at NIE 15.1 will be fixed in place and released to industry so that their proposed solutions can be evaluated over the following two NIEs, 15.2 and 16.1. By identifying consistent gaps for two consecutive NIEs rather than releasing a new set with each exercise, the Army will increase industry’s lead time in developing and submitting mature capability solutions. NIE 16.2 will include another network baseline assessment. Then the updated gaps will be fixed in place and released to industry for two more NIEs, and the pattern will repeat for subsequent cycles.
While the original NIE process was built to meet theater needs quickly, with the transition out of Afghanistan, the refined process will allow us to be more deliberate in determining and filling our network capability gaps. The new schedule and fewer, better-defined gaps will also allow the Army to better align NIE results with POM planning to inform procurement and fielding decisions for future capability sets.
With these positive changes, it is still important to reiterate that the value of the NIE goes beyond acquiring systems. As the Army transitions from fighting two wars to preparing for future threats, the NIE will provide the operational laboratory to incrementally enhance the network, respond to the emerging needs of regionally aligned forces and assess dynamic “leap-ahead” capabilities—not just from industry, but also the Army science and technology community.
NIEs will continue to integrate capability sets before fielding, refine TTPs, evaluate force design options and non-materiel requirements such as training, and give Soldiers a “vote” by collecting their feedback on all of these areas. NIEs remain a vital component of the Army’s modernization efforts.
COMPETITION FOR RADIOS
Since the advent of DOD’s Better Buying Power initiative, there has been increased attention to the benefits of competition. The rationale is clear: An environment in which multiple vendors compete to satisfy the same requirement can reduce cost, spur innovation, cultivate the industrial base and eliminate the single points of failure that come with dependence on one vendor. But to make a competition as effective as possible, the strategy must be tailored to the specific product and the current market. Fortunately, we are now hitting that “sweet spot” with a key part of the network—tactical radios.
The current marketplace is primed for the Army to competitively procure advanced networking radios. The technical maturity achieved in the commercial, software-programmable radio field over the course of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) developmental effort has enabled industry to develop effective hardware solutions—radio “boxes”—more easily. Meanwhile, the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) maintains a data repository of secure networking waveforms and applications that adhere to open standards set by the government. The repository, along with the JTNC laboratory and accreditation resources, are accessible to vendors, allowing the waveforms to run on multiple hardware models that industry produces. Through our engagement with industry, including at the NIEs, we know that the technology now exists for a competitive marketplace of interoperable, affordable radios.
Thus, the foundation is in place to execute the Army’s tactical radio strategy. In September 2013, we awarded an initial contract for Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (MNVR), using a competitive non-developmental item acquisition approach designed to procure lower-cost, commercially available radios that meet the Army’s requirement for a mid-tier tactical network solution.
Now the Army is focused on executing full and open competitions, in which all industry partners can participate, for the full-rate production phases of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit Rifleman and Manpack radio programs. The goal is to decrease costs and drive down size, weight and power requirements while increasing system functionality and simplicity.
While the details are still being finalized, the Army will conduct a full and open competition for each radio, and award contracts to qualified vendors meeting the Rifleman and Manpack radio requirements. Qualified vendors then will compete for delivery orders as needed by the Army, after qualification and operational tests to confirm compliance with technical and operational requirements.
This constantly competitive environment promises to promote an active, engaged industrial base that has an incentive not only to lower prices but also to innovate for each capability set, ultimately improving the radios we deliver to Soldiers.
Such multilayered, multiple-vendor- competition has shown success before, such as with the Consolidated Interim Single Channel Handheld Radio (CISCHR) contract, executed under the JTRS program. Initiated in 2007, CISCHR provided a contract vehicle for the joint services to procure government off-the-shelf and non-developmental, software-defined tactical handheld radios. While not a perfect comparison, CISCHR illustrates the potential advantages of a multiple-award contract that allows for delivery order competitions among vendors.
Although this type of strategy can require more effort to manage, the money saved through competition far exceeds the administrative costs. CISCHR yielded an average savings of more than 40 percent, compared with the contractual ceiling prices over the life of the contract. It is also noteworthy that the radio technologies and features improved as a result of the vendors’ own investments.
Radios aren’t the only network component for which the Army stands to benefit from increased competition. With the COE providing a comprehensive, standards-based open architecture, the Army can leverage industry’s state-of-the-art capabilities and best practices for other computing environment technologies.
For example, many mission command systems previously developed by a single vendor as stovepiped boxes will be delivered instead as software applications, with multiple third parties competing to build and rapidly enhance them, broadening the market. The COE will also facilitate greater interoperability among various manufacturers’ systems, creating possibilities for common interfaces and common training as we work to simplify the network for the end user.
The network remains a critical Army modernization priority. It is a core element in enabling the Army to produce a future force that is smaller but still highly capable. As we build on lessons learned from the first CS 13 brigades to deliver these essential technologies to more units across the force, the Army will engage industry through consistent NIEs and frequent competitions in order to improve and simplify network capabilities. Working as partners, we will continue to provide our Soldiers with the information they need to change the game.
For further information, go to http://peoc3t.army.mil.
Brig.Gen. DANIEL P. HUGHES is the Program Executive Officer Command, Control and Communications – Tactical. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington, an M.B.A. in business management from Oklahoma City University and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hughes is Level III certified in program management. and is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps (AAC).
Col. MARK ELLIOTT is the director, G-3/5/7 LandWarNet – Mission Command. He holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Alabama, an M.S. in telecommunication from Southern Methodist University and an M.A. in national security strategy with a concentration in information operations from the National Defense University’s National War College. Elliott is a certified information systems security professional and is certified in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.
Col. JOHN ZAVARELLI is the director, system of systems integration (SoSI) in the Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. He holds a B.S. in management from the University of Colorado and an M.B.A. in business management from the University of Texas at Arlington as part of the Industry-Grad program that included training with industry at Lockheed Martin Corp. Zavarelli is Level III certified in program management and is a member of the AAC.
By Steve Stark
FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The award-winning Army AL&T magazine announced the winners of its annual “ALTies” awards, celebrating the best article, commentary, graphic, ad and photograph from 2013. Editor-in-Chief Nelson McCouch III presented the awards here today, following Army AL&T magazine’s second annual writer’s workshop at the U.S. Army Acquisition Service Center (USAASC) headquarters.
“Each issue of Army AL&T is a collaborative process, a team effort,” McCouch said. “Without our contributors, who help us continually raise the bar on quality, we would not have a magazine. But we have a great one that gets better with every issue.” Claire Heininger, editor/lead writer for Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), and a regular Army AL&T contributor, was guest speaker at the workshop.
McCouch also announced the new online version of Army AL&T, available at http://usaasc.armyalt.com/. The new online version of the magazine offers a significantly improved interface, simpler navigation, and enables users to share stories with friends and colleagues and through social media.
This year’s ALTies went to:
BEST ARTICLE (tie)
Wired for Success, by Lt. Col. Jeffery T. Yon and Mr. Jeffrey C. Faulkner, Reserve Component Automation Systems, Program Executive Office (PEO) Enterprise Information Systems, October–December 2013 issue.
Path to Success, by Ms. Kelly Courtney, PM Force Projection, PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support, January–March 2013 issue.
It Takes a Team, by Col. (now Brig. Gen.) William E. Cole, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (OASA(ALT)), July–September 2013 issue
Speaking of Savings, by Mr. Thom Hawkins, PEO Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, and Mr. Vince Dahmen, PEO Ammunition, October–December 2013 issue
Driving Competition, by Lt. Col. T.J. Wright, Product Manager for Precision-Guided Missiles and Rockets, PEO Missiles and Space, April–June 2013 issue
Total Logistics Integration, Product Director, U.S. Army Logistics Modernization Program, January–March 2013 issue
Introducing Capability Set 13, by Ms. Claire Heininger, OASA(ALT), January–March 2013 issue
The Five Phases of the Unit Set Fielding Process, PEO Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, April–June 2013 issue
Tiered Technical Knowledge, C4ISR Integrated Process Team, July–September 2013 issue
U.S. Army Logistics Modernization Program, PEO Enterprise Information Systems, October–December 2013 issue
Connecting Tomorrow’s Warriors, PEO Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, October–December 2013 issue
By Ray K. Ragan
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Jan. 30, 2014) – The Army’s Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) recently conducted a large scale technology demonstration of a new radio waveform here.
“We wanted to conduct a full scale, by that I mean an Army brigade’s worth, [demonstration] of radios exercising [and] characterizing the performance of the wideband networking waveform,” said, Joe Sweeney, test engineer for the Army’s Product Manager, Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (PdM MNVR).
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing.”
MNVR is a radio system that provides a robust, large-scale networking capability within a large unit, like an Army brigade, from the Soldier to the senior leaders. During the demonstration, a new radio waveform was shown capable of both data capacity and the ability to handle many network users. The demonstration showed the waveform was able to communicate between a smaller unit, like a company, and a much larger unit, like a brigade.
“This amounted to 88 radios in ground platforms and one radio in a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter,” explained Sweeney.
To support a demonstration of this scale, EPG was selected because it offers 1.6 million acres of testing space through the Buffalo Electronic Test Range and its accessibility to radio spectrum. EPG is a favorite among testers in defense and commercial industry because of its access to radio spectrum in a very quiet radio spectrum environment.
“We needed an area with the ability to deploy vehicle assets in a large representative geographic area with a lot of allowable bandwidth. We also needed a site with established test capabilities—by that I mean testing networking capabilities,” said Sweeney. “EPG provided all of that.”
EPG, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is the developmental testing ground for the Army’s communication and network technology. Among test management, planning and reporting, EPG offers other rarer test requirements like radio spectrum and a varied geography, including mountains, valleys and plains.
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing,” explained Mark Butler, the test officer at EPG for the demonstration.
“Once you have a clean spectrum, you can add things [interference] to it, or degrade it, but you can’t take a noisy spectrum and clean it up, so that makes EPG unique in that aspect.”
According to Butler, EPG worked with PdM MNVR on other projects and tested for PdM MNVR as early as 2005. This creates the advantage of understanding the program and any unique requirements that a PM may have.
“I’m in a fortunate position, because the PdM [MNVR] brings me into their integrated product team meetings, and EPG was part of the planning staff from concept initiation,” said Butler.
We looked at the requirements between the different PMs [PdMs]. We came up with some of the things we thought the PMs wanted to see, figured how we could put that into a relevant environment to see how it [the waveform] works.”
To date, this demonstration was one of the largest that EPG conducted at Fort Huachuca. In addition to 89 ground and air-based radios, the demonstration also used 104 channels of the wideband networking waveform to show that the waveform was capable of handling a large unit communicating.
“It [demonstration] was a semi-realistic scenario,” said Butler, “we actually came up with a scheme of maneuver that made sense, from staging areas, moving out, your recon people going out, we had all the movements in place to what you’d expect across the range.”
According to Sweeney, EPG demonstrating the waveform was an important enabler for advancing the radio program.
“This was a real teaming effort with a lot of cooperation from the Army ground and aviation community,” he added.
By Claire Heininger
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The Army is introducing a more efficient process to produce the digital “glue” that ties together the network architecture for the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs).
The new method is not only faster, but also provides greater flexibility as the Army adds industry systems to the network baseline for evaluation and incorporates capability improvements for each NIE event. By automating key parts of the process used to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network, the Army is also setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks.
“We shaved off several weeks of production time while delivering a better result to support the NIE,” said Randy Young, the Army’s project director for Tactical Network Initialization (PD TNI), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “And it’s only a first step – what we’re doing for NIE will also be a proof of concept informing improvements to how Data Products are delivered and used across the force.”
Data products are a collection of mission data required to initialize the Army’s network, enabling the flow of digital information between different communications systems. PD TNI builds a unique Data Product for each Army unit, taking into account its specific mission, personnel footprint and mix of networked mission command systems.
Building data products for the NIE, however, poses a more complex undertaking than building them for a typical unit. While the Army’s usual 12-week production process was designed to deliver a complete, “set in stone” product – when the interoperability of a deploying unit’s network hinges on it, there is no margin for error – the NIE architecture is, by its nature, always changing. Systems are added to or subtracted from the evaluation list for a particular NIE. Vendors unfamiliar with Army network protocols need time to adapt their systems to Army standards.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks”
“The NIE requires a lot of flexibility because it’s an experiment, and also has systems from outside the Army connecting to the network,” Young said. “The network evolves over time as we get closer to each event.”
But the need for accuracy doesn’t go away – it is amplified, given that the NIE provides operational test data for programs of record, validates the Army’s network baseline for fielding and collects Soldier feedback on promising industry capabilities.
“If the data product is broken, there will be major issues at the actual event,” Young said.
For previous NIEs, the PD TNI team took the Army’s network systems architecture or “horseblanket” in NIE parlance, and manually translated it into the data products production environment by essentially re-creating a graphical depiction of the brigade network. Engineers spent weeks on quality assurance measures to ensure they accurately transferred the horseblanket and captured ensuing changes.
The new process, launched for the upcoming NIE 14.2, eliminates the need for recreating the horseblanket by automatically translating the horseblanket data into the production database. Once the initial legwork is complete, changes are detected automatically and can be pinpointed and implemented more efficiently. After the systems are aligned, the tool then automatically generates the address attributes and assigns them the internet protocol (IP) addresses required to actually communicate over the network.
Together, these changes allow PD TNI to produce accurate data products for an NIE in less than 12 weeks and better accommodate the need for flexibility.
“It allows us to start the build later, and for future NIEs we’re aiming to get even faster,” Young said.
The production techniques pioneered for the NIE will inform the Army’s processes used for fielding data products more broadly. The NIE is also serving as a test bed for new capabilities that give units the ability to adjust their network architectures due to operational changes. In the past, requests to change data products would be sent back to PD TNI, and the unit would wait weeks or months for a new set to be sent back to the field.
With the warfighter initialization tool (WIT) as part of their initialization tool suite, units can make updates to data products much faster at the brigade level, improving situational awareness and better enabling the unit to meet its mission. After successful evaluation at several NIEs, the WIT began fielding to operational units in 2013. At NIE 14.2, the Army will build on that progress by demonstrating the ability for a battalion’s worth of upper tactical internet mission command applications to “self-initialize,” or automatically re-create the information that allows them to connect to the network.
These improvements are considered interim steps to a long-term data products solution that will enable full “dynamic initialization of command and control applications,” Young said.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks,” he said. “Through the process and capability enhancements shown through NIE, we are absolutely on the right path.”
By Argie Sarantinos-Perrin
Building and sustaining an educated, professional workforce is a key mission for Army Acquisition leaders in order to provide superior capabilities and support to U.S. Soldiers. In support of this mission, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) recently rolled out a new online training dashboard that tracks training and certifications across its workforce.
The user-friendly dashboard displays the training and certification status of each organization within the PEO, providing leaders with detailed information on military and civilian employees’ development as they work toward completing required education and certification levels.
“The training dashboard is a very well designed, easy-to-use tool that I use to look across the PEO and see where we are meeting the requirements—and if we’re not on track, we can see where we need to improve,” said Mary Woods, deputy program executive officer for PEO C3T. “The training dashboard is a great tool that can be adopted by other groups in the acquisition community, and it can be modified to track training for other parts of the Army, too.”
The Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAPPMIS) dashboard provides information in three key areas—continuous learning points (CLPs), individual development plans (IDPs) and acquisition certifications. CLPs are earned by attending classes, training courses, professional activities, conferences or symposiums. IDPs map out an employee’s career path, including any training requirements necessary to reach specific goals. Together, these areas round out the skills and education that the Army Acquisition workforce needs in order to support the Soldier.
The emphasis on acquisition certification began in 1990 with the implementation of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), which requires all acquisition workforce members to be certified in their career field. A forum made up of general officer and Senior Executive Service leaders, along with the Army’s Director of Acquisition Career Management, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, monitor, review and champion DAWIA certification for the workforce.
“The training dashboard is a great tool that can be adopted by other groups in the acquisition community, and it can be modified to track training for other parts of the Army, too.”
Ensuring that PEO C3T complies with these standards, the business intelligence team at PEO C3T’s Military Technical (MilTech) Solutions Office developed the CAPPMIS dashboard. The dashboard enables managers to keep employees on track by providing 30, 60 and 90 day windows of when acquisition certifications are due, as well as when IDPs were most recently updated. It also shows whether employees are on track to earn the 80 CLPs that are required every two years.
The dashboard has also been adopted by the Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center and the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S), whose leaders praised the ability to efficiently monitor the records of employees who work at remote locations.
“We have people in Huntsville, Ala., Fort Belvoir, Va., Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and numerous other locations, so we have to coordinate people in different time zones,” said Patricia San Agustin, management analyst for PEO IEW&S. “Since acquisition training is a very high priority for our organization, the training dashboard is a great tool because of the fine detail that it gives you.”
The tool eliminates the need for individual project managers to request training information, since the dashboard is accessible at any time and updated every two weeks with new information from the CAPPMIS database.
Using the CAPPMIS dashboard enables PEO C3T to efficiently align with the priority to train, build and sustain an educated acquisition workforce, and ultimately provide better support to the Soldier.
By Amy Walker, PEO C3T
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 6, 2013) — The Army’s rapid fielding of network systems to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan led to vastly improved communications capabilities on the battlefield — but also increased network complexity.
The service is now moving to simplify and reduce the number of network management tools its communication officers, known as S6s, use to manage the tactical communications network, moving from deliveries of stove-piped tool sets across various systems and echelons to an integrated system.
“The S6 has a wide range of network transport devices, applications and hardware that he has to manage and he has a lot of different program offices providing him with their own Network Operations (NetOps) tools that don’t necessarily work together,” said Lt. Col. Ward Roberts, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or PM WIN-T, Increment 3, who is leading the Army’s Integrated Tactical NetOps team. “But the goal of NetOps convergence is to provide one tool, or an easy to use integration of tools, into one seamless delivery so that the S6 has one tool set to manage his whole network.”
Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, to which PM WIN-T is assigned, the Army is working to integrate and converge NetOps capabilities. The goal is to achieve network visibility from the enterprise level to the tactical level, while reducing the number of tools required. Integrating NetOps from the enterprise to the tactical edge will achieve efficiencies and improve operational flexibility. The NetOps efforts are just one component of the Army’s overall drive to simplify the network so it more resembles technology that Soldiers operate in their daily lives, making it easier and more efficient to use, train and sustain.
“Our young Soldiers are from a generation that has had iPhones, that has had Xboxes, that has grown up in an environment as digital natives,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for PEO C3T. “They expect things to work a certain way. So we’ve got to get NetOps down to a minimal number of tools that are easy to use, so the Soldier can make the network operational on a very complex battlefield.”
The Army’s WIN-T network backbone provides Soldiers across the force with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications, and now with Increment 2 supports on-the-move network communications down to the company level. Today, WIN-T NetOps tool suites are supporting S6s in theater as they facilitate the planning, initialization, monitoring, management and response of the network.
WIN-T Increment 2- equipped brigades now have four times as many network nodes that units had in the past, as many radio and satellite assets once possessed by a division, making it a challenge to manage that network. But today’s improved WIN-T NetOps tools make it much easier to manage that complexity, said Chief Warrant Officer Eric Bache, brigade NetOps manager for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 14.1.
“With my NetOps tools I can take a look at the various nodes and say, ‘I don’t want that link, it’s not passing enough data,’” Bache said. “I can shut one off and reroute it through another radio or antenna.”
An improved WIN-T NetOps tool suite developed under the WIN-T Increment 3 program will serve as the baseline for tactical NetOps as the Integrated Tactical NetOps team works to converge other products, such as those used to manage the lower tactical internet, known as the TI.
“As the Army modernizes its network, it is pushing network systems lower and lower in the echelons, so computers are in places that they never were before, including physically on the Soldier,” said Rich Greel, technical management division chief for PM WIN-T. “With the increased size of the network, additional number of nodes, and the Army pushing it down lower in the echelons, we have to ensure that NetOps tools make it easy for the S6 to manage that network.”
Today, the lower TI — the radio-based network used at lower echelons on the battlefield — is compartmentalized and can be difficult for the Soldier to track and manage. One of the objectives of NetOps convergence is to integrate existing lower TI tools together and make them work seamlessly with WIN-T’s upper TI tools.
An early success for lower TI NetOps convergence was realized with the 2013 fielding of the Joint Tactical Networking Environment NetOps Toolkit, which collapsed several lower tactical network tools, mostly radio management tools, onto one laptop.
This spring the next version of the advanced WIN-T NetOps capabilities are scheduled to be evaluated at NIE 14.2, before they are eventually fielded to units equipped with WIN-T Increment 2. The Army’s semi-annual NIEs leverage Soldier feedback to improve capability and rapidly mature and integrate its tactical communications network. They have also been a venue to converge NetOps tools.
The first NIE event in 2011 included more than 70 separate systems to run and operate the network. That total is now closer to 20. Part of the NIE 14.2 WIN-T NetOps demonstration will include the use of Condition Based Maintenance Plus. This new preventative maintenance concept for the tactical communications network is similar to OnStar and other diagnostic software found in today’s cars, and aims to increase reliability and sustainability while reducing sustainment costs.
“We are using the NIEs to validate our steps along the way and not waiting until we have an end product that we want to ship out,” Roberts said. “We are making incremental improvements and getting those out to NIE to garner feedback from the Soldiers, the larger network community and from our industry partners to see if our tools are helping Soldiers out and what kind of improvements we may need to make.”
The biggest benefit in achieving a common NetOps solution would be incurred by the Soldier, specifically the S6. The goal is to give him one method to do his job, train him one time and with one set of tools, making his job a lot easier. The second benefit would be realized by the greater Army. Buying fewer tools or buying the same tools more strategically and cost effectively will save taxpayer dollars.
“We are figuring out ways to save money by buying things only once, only buying what we truly need, and buying in the best, most strategic approach possible to get better deals and save money,” Roberts said.
The Army does not plan to buy a “one-vendor, end-all NetOps solution,” but rather a combination of products from multiple commercial vendors, either seamlessly working together upfront or integrated through an Army effort, Roberts said.
“The more vendors that look to team with other vendors in the commercial-off-the-shelf industry to provide tools that work together, the better off we are, and the easier it will be to pick those products up and roll them into our baseline,” Roberts said.
By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2013) — With the Army’s newest set of tactical network systems now in the hands of Soldiers who could be among the last to deploy to Afghanistan, the service is ensuring users master the power behind their communications gear.
To do this, the Army established a new System of Systems, or SoS, training concept drawing on lessons learned from previous units fielded with the integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13, or CS 13, including two brigade combat teams, known as BCTs, of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) that are now deployed to Afghanistan. The new approach embraces instruction on integrated systems capabilities, leverages Soldier knowledge and creates an underlying familiarity with how the equipment supports operations.
Using a train-the-trainer concept, the Army is instructing a “slice” of about 125 Soldiers from the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in order to establish proficiency with the network communications systems known collectively as CS 13, before introducing the gear to the full brigade for collective training events.
“We’re the fourth brigade to have CS 13, but the first to go through the SoS training,” said Capt. Justin Zevenbergen, communications officer with 3/101. “As signal Soldiers, we’re being trained first on CS 13 before the whole brigade is out there, so when we do begin our event training we can then say, ‘We’re going to rock-n-roll this because we know it, we’ve done it.’”
Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, or PEO C3T, the SoS training is based directly on user feedback and marks a key step in increasing unit proficiency and network performance. CS 13 marked the first time the Army has delivered network systems not on an individual basis, but as an integrated communications package that spans the entire BCT formation, connecting the static tactical operations center to the commander on the move to the dismounted Soldier.
“At first it’s overwhelming because there are so many moving pieces, but as time goes on and we keep working with the equipment, I think it will get easier and easier,” said Sgt. Brandon Pieper with the 3/101, who is also taking the training. “The systems are pretty easy to use and we’re moving forward from the lessons learned.”
As the Army continues to incrementally modernize the network and fields the follow-on CS 14 to additional units, including BCTs from the 82nd Airborne Division, this training concept will give Soldiers more time to learn the new systems and capabilities and maximize their effect. The right mix of technology and training will continue to evolve as the Army works to simplify the network, making it easier to use, train, maintain and sustain.
“We continue to incorporate lessons learned from Capability Set fieldings and drive those into our processes so we get better every time,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for C3T. “Now we are focusing on simplifying our communications systems for the end user while delivering a pervasive network that meets their needs.”
Also included in the SoS training is an overview course so commanders understand the network as an integrated combat multiplier and not just a collection of separate signal capabilities. A weekly technical “trail boss” meeting was added to keep training on schedule and troubleshoot any issues that arise.
“The idea is to get the brigade involved as much as possible, because that leads to good outcomes with CS 13,” said Tom Eberle, PEO C3T’s technical “trail boss” assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. “What the training allows them to do is to identify how the system is supposed to work. We wanted to help them help themselves. So we’re training the units to do that.”
The SoS training also focuses on “crew drills” that cross-train a collective crew on CS 13 systems — both mounted and dismounted — to ensure an overall understanding of how the systems function as a group in various mission scenarios.
CS 13 systems provide mobile satellite and robust radio capability connecting all echelons of a brigade combat team down to the dismounted Soldier, while improving battlefield awareness and reducing units’ reliance on fixed infrastructure. This becomes increasingly important as U.S. forces continue to draw down and carry out advise-and-assist missions with the Afghan National Security Forces, turning over many of their Forward Operating Bases and other infrastructure and gradually losing fixed network locations.
Using CS 13, the 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division (4/10 and 3/10) are exchanging information while on the move in treacherous terrain and digitally tracking and communicating with small groups of dismounted Soldiers who have spread out to remote locations as they advise their Afghan partners.
As the Army’s first two units to receive CS 13 over the past year, both 4/10 and 3/10 faced an accelerated timeline for training with the equipment prior to deployment. As they completed their training exercises, the units recorded their experiences to pass along to their counterparts in 3/101 and 2/101. This input directly influenced the new SoS training concept, and highlighted the need for the Army to simplify network systems for the end user.
“Our big focus with this equipment is effective management of communications,” said Chief Warrant Officer II Johnathan Bradley, a network technician with the 3/101. “It’s making it possible for anybody to operate the equipment that needs to operate it. The end state is to get these guys familiar enough with the equipment that they know when something is wrong and can mold it where it needs to go.”
The 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), will continue training on CS 13 for the next several months prior to possible deployment in 2014.
The SoS training will evolve as the Army incorporates additional lessons learned from Afghanistan and from the Network Integration Evaluations, semi-annual events that leverage the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, conducting rigorous mission scenarios in a realistic operational environment at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Those lessons are continuously folded into the Army’s tactics, techniques and procedures, so each unit can make optimal use of the equipment they receive and innovate new methods of use.
As it continues for future units, the SoS training will empower Soldiers and leaders with the technical knowledge to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time to make crucial mission command decisions. By fielding the network in Capability Sets, the Army is providing scalable and tailorable equipment that is responsive to what the commander needs to execute current and future missions.
By Amy Walker, PEO C3T
FORT BLISS, Texas (Dec. 9, 2013) — Brigade and battalion command posts, the heart of battlefield operations, are more mobile and agile than ever before, and through ongoing improvements in network capability, the Army is increasing their ability to move forward in the fight while retaining commanders’ critical situational awareness.
Current technologies such as Warfighter Information Network Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2, the Army’s mobile tactical communications network backbone, and emerging solutions like the Modular Integrated Command Post, or MiCP — a vehicle that efficiently provides networking equipment and power to support a command post — are enhancing a commander’s ability to lead from anywhere on the battlefield.
“We are a maneuver unit that has to be mobile, lethal and expeditionary; if we are not able to move with our systems then we are really disadvantaged,” said Col. Thomas Dorame, commander for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the operational unit for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, exercises. “Right now utilizing WIN-T Increment 2 and mission command on the move, I am able to extend the operational reach for the brigade, but more importantly, as units continue to move, to make contact with the enemy, we are able to provide them updated information from any location.”
As part of the Army’s modular expeditionary force, brigade Tactical Command Posts, referred to simply as TACs, replicate the critical mission command and communication systems found in units’ much larger Tactical Operations Centers, known as TOCs. Both TACs and TOCs are stationary and don’t possess full operational capability when in transit to new locations, but the TAC’s robust at-the-halt network capability can be torn down, moved and set up in a fraction of the time that it takes to reconstruct the full blown TOC.
The smaller TAC’s mission command and communications capabilities are tailorable and scalable and can be rearranged depending upon mission requirements. When the commander needs to move his main TOC forward on the battlefield, he will send the TAC ahead first to retain the unit’s operational network capability. Once the TAC is set up in its new location, the larger TOC can then move forward with minimal disruption to battlefield operations.
“WIN-T Increment 2 improves commanders’ flexibility since they can ‘jump’ their TACs and the TOCs much faster now, without loss of situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. LaMont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “They can simultaneously command and control from either location, or from their WIN-T Increment 2 -equipped vehicles.”
Fielded since 2004, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to the battalion level. WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding last year, enhances these capabilities by providing an on the move network that extends down to the company level. Both increments are deployed in Afghanistan today as part of the Army’s interoperable tactical communications network architecture.
WIN-T Increment 2- equipped TACs and TOCs leverage Tactical Communications Nodes and advanced Satellite Transportable Terminals for satellite communications, which enable them to cover greater distances. In the past commanders could only jump their TACs as far as they could get their line-of-sight radio relay set up, approximately 10 to 15 kilometers. Now with WIN-T Increment 2′s beyond line-of-sight satellite communications, a commander can move his TAC an unlimited distance, Hall said.
“The commander is able to keep full situational awareness at all times,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tornabell, brigade communications officer for 2/1 AD. “He can go from the stationary TOC or TAC into his WIN-T Increment 2 Point-of-Presence-equipped vehicle, which has virtually everything [communication and mission command capabilities] that he had at the stationary locations; it gives him the ability to be driving on the road at 25 mph and continue to command the fight.”
To help incrementally advance network technologies such as WIN-T, the Army leverages its NIEs, semi-annual Soldier-led evaluations in the realistic operational testing environments of Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Army also uses the events to introduce emerging industry solutions that could potentially satisfy network capability gaps.
During NIE 14.1, which wrapped up in mid November, the brigade TAC was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional TAC tent. When the brigade TAC was set up in its stationary location, its communication and mission command laptops and screens were connected to the MiCP, an NIE system under evaluation, which provided the servers, network connectivity and power to the TAC. Since the TAC servers were located on the MiCP vehicle, they were always ready to be quickly reconnected with the network equipment in the TAC directly after a jump, instead of having to be torn down and set up again.
Integrated onto a survivable MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, the MiCP solution significantly reduces size, weight, and power — thermal and cost requirements. The capabilities of two legacy Command Post Platforms, currently used to provide the necessary communications equipment to operate and support a TOC or TAC, were combined into just one mobile platform. MiCP provides advanced communication through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios, as well as the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. MiCP will also be evaluated at NIE 14.2 this spring.
“MiCP helps the commander be more flexible in where he can go and how quickly he can set up and establish [operations] at the halt by having to just connect a few cables instead of two sets of vehicles coming to the halt and setting up both of those,” Tornabell said.
As the Army continues to modernize its network and make it easier for Soldiers to learn and operate, the force will increase its agility and ability to conduct current, evolving and future missions. The depth and breadth of information available at Soldiers’ fingertips, both in and out of the TOC, is also increasing, facilitating collaboration down to the lowest echelons and across the entire brigade combat team.
“Operationally, we want to fight to the fullest extent with our great network and communication capabilities, and now we are able to extend out a lot further,” Dorame said. “We are able to receive back reports with a better clarity and fidelity to allow commanders at battalion and brigade level to make faster decisions with better resolution and less risk to the overall force.”
By Amy Walker
The Army’s Common Hardware Systems (CHS) program takes a holistic approach to contracting by providing a one-stop-shop across a system’s lifecycle, supporting it from cradle to grave.
“Because CHS is a consolidated acquisition source that can provide total lifecycle systems management, it allows the Army and Department of Defense (DoD) to reduce inefficient single-point solution procurement, lifecycle sustainment costs and field support manpower requirements,” said Danielle Kays, product director (PD) for CHS.
The CHS program provides a rapid and proven means to deliver modified commercial-off-the-shelf information technology (COTS IT) solutions to its DoD customers, primarily the Army’s operational force. Its consolidated acquisition approach can design, develop, modify, ruggedize, environmentally test, procure, sustain and provide configuration management for hardware systems — all using a single contract action.
“We collaborate with engineers across the Army Materiel Enterprise to obtain program requirements and reach out to industry to identify the latest technologies that meet the user’s mission,” Kays said. “CHS systems engineers offer a single, efficient interface to develop solutions that meet the needs of multiple program executive offices and project managers (PMs), supporting cross-program solutions for the common operating environment (COE).”
“The customer has the peace of mind in knowing that from a logistics standpoint, once the equipment is fielded there is a single number to call, a single hotline and a single turn-in point for all hardware under warranty.”
Instead of encouraging developers to begin with a blank slate by designing a system or capability from beginning to end, the Army is advancing parameters for a more interoperable COE where government and industry partners can contribute applications to an existing standard framework. Through customer-provided requirements and engineering processes, CHS helps to identify the best fit and more focused, efficient solutions across the Army. The CHS effort also touches the many units and tactical organizations that are purchasing modified COTS equipment outside of the COE, allowing CHS to promote the common systems infrastructure through the acquisition process.
CHS increases efficiencies by applying a Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Materiel Enterprise-centric approach to streamline technology insertions, saving execution time and accelerating delivery schedules. In collaboration with its prime contractor, CHS will design and develop a system up-front to meet customer requirements without having to charge the customer for non-recurring engineering to research, design, develop and test a new product.
“Once a system is added to CHS, the system and the ‘next generation’ of that system can be acquired for the life of the CHS contract with a simple delivery order, without going through a re-compete for future procurement,” Kays said.
To reduce cost and accelerate procurement, CHS can implement large consolidated buys, resulting in economies of scale.
The program office also ruggedizes hardware to ensure it can survive in the intended operational environment. Customers can choose the level of ruggedization based on their environmental and mission requirements. CHS also provides environmental testing to ensure equipment meets operational requirements.
When developing acquisition strategies, sustainment costs typically represent the largest life-cycle cost factor programs need to consider. PD CHS’s tactical sustainment strategy includes regional depot support, extended warranties, rapid turnaround times and configuration management. Project manager offices that oversee large programs of record (PORs), such as PM Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, PM Mission Command and PM Distributed Common Ground System-Army, utilize CHS to fulfill their multi-year sustainment strategies. Bundling services under a single CHS part number allows the PORs to control costs across the product lifecycle.
When adding hardware to the CHS contract, customers can also choose from a menu of flexible warranty options to maintain it. After fielding their hardware, customers also have the option of returning to PD CHS to generate a task execution plan supporting reset, deep cleaning, equipment retrofit, field training exercise support and out-of-warranty repairs. The CHS warranty covers all hardware for defects in material, workmanship and fair wear and tear. Warranty repairs or replacements are accomplished within a 72-hour repair turnaround time at worldwide CHS Regional Support Centers.
“The customer has the peace of mind in knowing that from a logistics standpoint, once the equipment is fielded there is a single number to call, a single hotline and a single turn-in point for all hardware under warranty,” said Joshua Graham, systems engineer for PD CHS.
In the past, when purchasing large quantities of equipment from multiple contractors at different times, it has proved nearly impossible to always receive the exact equipment in the same configuration that was originally purchased. Equipment with different configurations can cause future integration, interoperability, training and user issues that inevitably increase costs. However, configuration management is a critical function of the CHS program and is provided to ensure system interoperability and compatibility across multiple programs. CHS manages each customer’s unique configurations and program baselines to ensure that in all subsequent buys, the precise configuration is being purchased and can be used and integrated into other systems exactly as the initial equipment had been.
CHS also manages items reaching end-of-life and works with industry providers and PORs to ensure the replacement items fit within the configured design and operating environment. These efforts not only increase consistency for greater efficiency, but also offer significant cost avoidance.
The CHS technical evaluation environment utilizes a distributed network and leverages only those systems, architecture, and automated assessment tools required to support each evaluation. Coupling technologies like hypervisors (virtual machine monitors) and hardware remote management capabilities with the Army’s testing networks will help provide a more simplified method for future hardware evaluations.
“Potentially, multiple solutions can meet technical specifications and system interoperability requirements,” Graham said. “Following the conclusion of each technical evaluation, CHS provides materiel developers with the data and metrics needed to choose the right brand-name solution for their program and end users.”
CHS continually seeks innovative ways to effectively and efficiently provide the right solutions to its customer base. In a unique opportunity to demonstrate and review new advancements in technology, PD CHS will be hosting a Technology Day on Oct. 1 at the C4ISR Campus at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The event will also provide a venue for technical leads and engineers across different C4ISR organizations to discuss common program requirements and collaborate on effective technology solutions that meet mission needs yet simplify operations.
“The goal of this Technology Day is to give technology providers the opportunity to demonstrate possible solutions and collectively allow us to further understand the needs of our customers and the C4ISR community,” Kays said. “Supporting our Soldiers should not be a stove-piped, isolated effort, but one approached in an open and cooperative arena.”