• Army improves network build for NIEs, gives Soldiers the power of change

    A Soldier from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division operates Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) equipment during the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, in November 2013. For the upcoming NIE 14.2, the Army has introduced a more efficient process to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network -- setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    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.”


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  • Army network stays connected even when ‘jumping the TOC’

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1, which wrapped up in mid-November at Fort Bliss, Texas, a system under evaluation, the Modular Integrated Command Post, provided advanced communication to the brigade Tactical Command Post through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios. The Modular Integrated Command Post also has the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. (Photos by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    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.

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, which wrapped up in mid November 2013, the brigade Tactical Command Post 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 Tactical Command Post tent.

    “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.”

    The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node provides the Tactical Operations Center and Tactical Command Post with communication and networking equipment (line-of-sight and satellite communications) both on the move and at the halt to battalion and above echelons. While at the halt, the Tactical Communications Node is equipped with a 10-meter extendable mast to improve line-of-sight connectivity.

    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.”


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  • PEO-C3T technologies support 8th Army tactical network and mission command modernization – “A journey to full operational capability”

    By Anton Antomattei and Michael W. Parker

     

    The 8th Army has been on a journey to achieve full operational capability, which required the ability to communicate with coalition partners anywhere on the Korean peninsula.

    That meant enhancements to the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System Korea (CENTRIXS-K or CX-K), a network for multinational information sharing. Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC) and the PM for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) have addressed these requirements by inserting robust mission command and network technologies into the CX-K.

    An enhanced CX-K network augments the 8th Army’s resources to carry out its overall field Army mission, to deter aggression against the Republic of Korea (ROK) or, should that deterrence fail, “fight tonight” as part of a combined and joint task force. As U.S. forces continue to retrograde from Afghanistan and rebalance resources to other theaters, including the Asia-Pacific, modernizing the 8th Army’s network and tactical mission command capabilities will support this strategic effort.

    The 8th Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) Soldiers obtained training across the entire Korean peninsula on how to operate, maintain and administer the latest Mission Command systems available to their unit. These systems are an essential component of 8A’s mission to establish an adaptable and flexible command and control system that can execute mission command from both fixed and mobile nodes

    A NEW TACTICAL NETWORK
    In 2011, PM MC, assigned to Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO-C3T), formed an assessment team and, with full support from 8th Army commanding general Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, began working to evaluate the technical requirements to create a tactical network to support mobile command posts. PM WIN-T, also assigned to PEO C3T, was a primary member of the assessment team.

    The CX-K mission command and network enhancement initiative supported the overall 8th Army Command Control Communications and Computers (C4) Modernization Campaign Plan, which required support in four areas: transport (network), data services, mission command capabilities, and interoperability with both ROK and reinforcing U.S. formations. The assessment team recommended that the CX-K tactical network be modeled after the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), which enabled each coalition nation to share information on a common network infrastructure. The CX-K tactical network and the AMN are the foundation for NATOs Future Mission Network effort.

    Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Network (WIN-T) Increment 1 equipment, such as the Satellite Transportable Terminal (STT) and Battalion Command Post Node (CPN) Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System Korea (CX-K) coalition enclave, were fielded to the 8th Armyin July, 2012 to significantly improve the tactical infrastructure, thus allowing support to the Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (NIPR), Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) and CX-K coalition networks.

    Similar to the AMN model, the transport area of the coalition network required fielding of additional routers and switches in each of its WIN-T nodes to support CX-K in addition to the current Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (NIPR) and Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR)networks. Also, the mission command server architecture needed to fully support the 8th Army’s fight on the CX-K network (full unit authorization) and also support SIPR requirements on additional servers, again mirroring the AMN model. With that server architecture, the command would provide tactical data services with a point of presence for strategic network and global services and data.

    INTEROPERABLE, UNTETHERED
    To meet the CX-K interoperability requirements, PM WIN-T fielded a third network enclave in addition to the WIN-T Increment 1 equipment it had already deployed in South Korea. This equipment included the unclassified NIPR and classified SIPR network enclaves. The coalition network enclave is similar in design to the classified and unclassified network enclaves, so it was easily integrated.

    PM WIN-T finished fielding the last of its coalition network enclave packages in South Korea in early July. It reused equipment and resources from previous requirements that were no longer needed in other arenas and leveraged those resources for the CX-K effort, yielding a cost avoidance of $5.876 million. With the new enclave equipment in place, the United States can take full advantage of its WIN-T Increment 1 systems in South Korea to quickly and seamlessly share voice, data, video and other information on the coalition network.

    To support a proof of principle for the tactical domain, PM MC provided early fieldings of several servers to the 8th Army and its subordinate, 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), in time for Exercise Key Resolve 13. This combined U.S.-Korean military exercise is held annually in March. About 13,000 ROK and U.S. Soldiers participated in the exercise, which featured combined planning, mission command operations, military intelligence, logistics and other key military specialties.

    By the end of the exercise, the 8th Army had demonstrated the ability to disconnect from the strategic infrastructure and operate its mission command network across its tactical WIN-T systems throughout the Korean peninsula, demonstrating untethered tactical CX-K capabilities for the first time.

    The 8th Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) received new Mission Command clients, server stacks and consoles as part of the MC-13 hardware refresh and fielding. The 2ID rapidly fielded these systems for use across the Korean peninsula in conjunction with the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System Korea (CX-K) upgrade.

    The CX-K enhancement coincided with the recent scheduled upgrade of mission command systems, which included hardware refresh, upgrades to existing systems and new equipment and software fieldings. Throughout these planned fieldings, PMs MC and WIN-T ensured that the 8th Army maintained operational capability. Following the upgrades completion in July, the systems were available for use in the theater’s largest annual joint exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) in August. UFG employs computer-generated scenarios for more than 30,000 participants from the ROK, United States and other nations to prepare them for contingency operations in defense of the ROK.

    The 8th Army C4I Architecture enhancements have set the conditions for future fieldings of PM MC’s systems, specifically, the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) 7.1 next generation software. CPOF is the commander’s collaborative and situational awareness system that processes and displays combat and sustainment information from other Army systems. CPOF 7.1 will support scalability (full theater in the same collaborative environment) and allow units to disconnect, continue to operate and reconnect to the network seamlessly. These capabilities, planned for the 2015 fiscal year (FY15), fully support the 8th Army in its role as a field Army conducting both its Army forces (ARFOR) and combined joint task force missions.

    The Army remains on course in its modernization journey of 8th Army network and mission command capabilities. PM WIN-T continues to improve network capabilities to effectively share information both internally and with joint forces and coalition partners, while PM MC continues to provide enhanced mission command operational capabilities in the coalition environment. The partnership between the 9th Army and PEO C3T organizations has, and continues to be, the driving force to enable the 8th Army to “fight tonight.”


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  • Extending the Global Information Grid network to the company and below

    The advanced capabilities of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 provide network mobility and reach down to the company level for the first time. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this WIN-T Increment 2 Soldier Network Extension vehicle (front) during training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013. (U.S. Army photos by Amy Walker)

    By Amy Walker, PEO C3T

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND (July 29, 2013) — As the U.S. mission in Afghanistan changes and forces conduct more dispersed operations, new tactical communications equipment for vehicles at the company level will help extend the network over vast distances to keep Soldiers connected and commanders informed.

    Currently installed on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles as part of the Army’s mobile Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 network, the Soldier Network Extension (SNE) will extend the network down to the company level for the first time. With this “extension,” company formations can now be geographically dispersed across large distances, away from their battalion headquarters, and still retain the network connectivity and situational awareness needed to command from disparate locations.

    “Having the SNE down at the company level facilitates the dissemination of real-time situational awareness throughout the entire maneuver brigade combat team formation by restoring lower tactical internet (TI) radio networks, sometimes limited by distance or terrain features,” said Lt. Col. Lamont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “It’s critical to keep those lower TI radio networks connected into the network and ensure commanders can see and understand what is happening on the battlefield.”

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE is installed on select vehicles at the company level. It extends the network over vast distances and helps to keep lower tactical internet radio networks connected even when they are blocked by terrain features. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this SNE during training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013.

    The SNE’s extension capability will benefit the Army as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan changes to a support role in helping the Afghans secure their country. As coalition forces reduce their presence, forward operating bases and fixed sites once used to access the network are being dismantled. As part of the mobile WIN-T Increment 2 network, the SNE for the first time provides lower echelons with the mission critical network reach-back to the Army’s Global Information Grid, the worldwide set of interconnected equipment and services that enable Soldiers to access the information they need, when they need it.

    The SNE’s Combat Net Radio extension takes advantage of the vehicle’s on-the-move satellite communication (SATCOM) systems to help keep lower TI radio networks connected, even when they are blocked by terrain features such as mountains. It also extends these lower TI radio networks, which include the Soldier Radio Waveform, Enhanced Position Location Reporting System, and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. The virtually unlimited distance of the SNE’s on-the-move SATCOM capabilities enables select elements to extend their data links as far as the mission requires.

    Positioned at the company level, the SNE can help pass critical information from lower echelons up to higher headquarters, and vice versa. This two-way flow of information provides commanders at all levels with real-time situational awareness, decreasing the time it takes to make decisions and improving the foundations on which those decisions are made.

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE is installed on select vehicles down to the company level. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this SNE during training exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. in June 2013.

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE also provides company level Soldiers with advanced collaboration and on-the-move situational awareness tools once only available at higher echelons, providing agility to their operations. Company commanders on-the-move can now collaborate with voice phone calls, hold battle update briefs, access email over the Army’s secret network and exchange planning files and documents. They can also use a chat room, one of the Army’s primary forms of battlefield communications.

    “By giving me [the SNE] you are enabling me to do a lot more work on my own from wherever I am,” said Capt. William Branch, a company commander for 2/1 AD. “Before I had to go to the company or to the battalion [Command Post] to access those services, now I can access them right from my vehicle. Giving me those services is enabling me and my platoon leaders to do a much better job and operate within my commander’s intent.”

    WIN-T Increment 2 is being fielded as part of the Army’s capability sets (CS). CS 13 is the first of these fully-integrated fielding efforts, which are scalable and tailorable in design to support the changing requirements of current and future missions. CS 13 includes radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components that provide connectivity from the stationary command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier. WIN-T Increment 2 is the tactical communications network backbone that binds the capability sets together. The situational awareness and network extension capabilities of the WIN-T Increment 2 SNE provide a vital link to the CS 13 architecture.

    The mobile WIN-T Increment 2 network is being fielded as part of the Army's new capability sets. A WIN-T Increment 2 Point of Presence vehicle was part of a convoy during 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013.

    WIN-T Increment 2 improves upon the network’s first increment, which began fielding in 2004, by providing Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications, accessible on-the-move. It utilizes both satellite and line-of-sight capability for optimum network connectivity and bandwidth efficiency, and its self-healing capability automatically reroutes blocked links so information gets through. Other WIN-T Increment 2 configuration items include the Point of Presence (PoP), which is installed on select vehicles at battalion and above, and enables mobile mission command.

    A few years ago it may have taken several hours or even days for the brigade commander to see and understand the details that his patrols had seen on the battlefield. But now the commander can talk to his leaders on a conference call while on-the-move inside a networked PoP or SNE vehicle. They can share information and share what they are seeing on the battlefield in real time, said Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division (3/10), during recent training exercises in preparation for his unit’s possible deployment to Afghanistan.

    “The quicker and more responsive we are in sharing information, [the more] it allows me to gain situational understanding,” Whitehurst said. “That speed and that ability to quickly share information is critical.”


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  • Faces of the Force

    Template for Faces of the Force

    Transforming military operations by advancing communications

     

    By Susan L. Follett

     

    FOTF Editor’s Note: Lt. Col. (P) Collins was nominated for this feature by Public Affairs Officer Kyle Bond. “Lt. Col. (P) Collins has had a hand in groundbreaking work for Soldier communications,” said Bond. “He has an important story to tell, and his experiences and perspectives make him an invaluable resource for the Army acquisition community.”

    FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?

    Collins: I serve as the Product Manager (PM) for WIN-T Increment 2, the Army’s tactical backbone communications network, which provides reliable voice, video and data to Soldiers. The network is one of the top modernization priorities for the Army. WIN-T Increment 1 provided Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity communications down to the battalion level at-the-quick-halt. WIN-T Increment 2 provides advanced enhancements over WIN-T Increment 1, including unprecedented on-the-move communications capabilities down to the company level. It also introduces networking radios to the architecture and enhances Network Operations, a suite of integrated monitoring tools used to command and control the network.

    The PM is also responsible for the development, system engineering, acquisition, distribution, integration, testing and production activities for the program. We oversee the cost, schedule and performance through lifecycle development, and lead a team of 52 uniformed, civilian and contractor personnel. The PM team also directs the project teams and working groups that provide the engineering, programming and testing expertise needed to develop network communication systems for Soldiers.

    FOTF: What has your experience been like?

    COLLINS: I’m fortunate to be a product manager that has been able to take such a large project through all the life cycles — design, testing and securing a major procurement decision — and this experience has been phenomenal. We’re now getting ready to roll WIN-T Increment 2 into theater and it’s been great to participate and experience all phases of acquisition.

    FOTF: What has surprised you the most?

    A 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division soldier demonstrates Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 and Mission Command on the move applications during the Network Integration Evaluation 12.1. WIN-T Increment 2 is a major upgrade to the tactical network backbone that will extend satellite communications to the company level, allowing soldiers to communicate seamlessly through voice, data, images and video - even in complex terrain that can break line-of-sight radio connections. Hosted on a single computing system, the initial set of Mission Command on the move applications will provide mobile company soldiers with the real-time information that typically would only be available inside a Tactical Operations Center. (Photo by Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)

    COLLINS: My biggest surprise has been the sheer impact the network is going to have on the way we fight combat and conduct the full spectrum of military operations. WIN-T Increment 2 will increase the pace at which the Army can move combat operations forward while significantly decreasing the military decision-making time cycle. It brings much needed network on-the-move capability and increased bandwidth.

    What hasn’t surprised me is our Soldiers’ ability to train and become proficient with the WIN-T Increment 2 equipment. We have trained several hundred Soldiers to date, and they receive anywhere from one to 10 weeks of training. Increment 2 is a transformational communications system, and to see Soldiers train and operate this network and then deploy it is nothing short of amazing.

    FOTF: What’s the biggest challenge you face? How do you overcome it?
    COLLINS: Like most programs, our biggest challenge that we currently face is continuous change and fiscal uncertainty. We’ve found that the best way to deal with that is through transparency; sharing information as much as we can. That transparency builds trust throughout our team, and trust is our biggest asset in dealing with the uncertainty.

    FOTF: How has sequestration affected your program?

    COLLINS: From a program standpoint, it may result in budget cuts, and from a team perspective, it has the potential impact of employee furloughs. We have a major system test coming up in May, while at the same time we are fielding equipment in Afghanistan and other locations. We continue to work to minimize the impact to the program and those valuable team members that support mission execution.

    FOTF: What do you find most rewarding about your work?

    COLLINS: Without a doubt, the biggest reward is the people and Soldiers I work with. The PEO and PM teams, the headquarters departments, the user communities and the units that we work with are fantastic. They’re driven and motivated, and they put mission first. Also, seeing how WIN-T Increment 2 will enhance Army operations by delivering unprecedented network reliability and flexibility is very gratifying. We’re modernizing the Army’s network and transforming our networking by adding on-the-move capabilities and providing them to the lowest echelons.

    FOTF: Why did you join the Army?

    COLLINS: Like many folks, I came from a very patriotic family who taught me that honesty, integrity and hard work matter in life. At a very young age, I saw the military as a place that also valued those traits and knew it would likely be a good fit. After high school I enlisted in the Army and then subsequently attended college, where I became involved in Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. The team work, esprit de corps, rewarding challenges and the Army’s care for my family kept me with the military over the years and looking forward to continued service.

    For more information, visit http://peoc3t.army.mil/.


    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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  • From Smartphones to satellites: Soldiers use new network preparing for advise and assist mission

    A Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, uses a Nett Warrior device to communicate during the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. Nett Warrior, a handheld situational awareness and messaging tool, is a key component of Capability Set 13, which extends the tactical network down to the dismounted Soldier. (Photos by Claire Heininger)

    By Claire Heininger

     

    FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 22, 2013) — For Staff Sgt. Stephen Kovac, getting important information and instructions to the rest of his platoon was a struggle.

    He could radio back to higher headquarters and wait for the calls to filter back down, losing precious seconds during an operation. Or, he said, he could “yell and scream back to the rear, use hand and arm signals, anything possible to get it across.”

    That was before Kovac began training with Capability Set (CS) 13, an integrated tactical network that extends digital communications down to the lowest echelons.

    “Using CS 13, you can send reports and you can see reports from individuals on the ground in order to manipulate my team leaders and squad leaders,” the platoon sergeant said. “Even the lowest Joe can send me information, and get it to me within seconds.”

    Kovac and hundreds of other Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) are now training with CS 13 as they prepare for potential deployment to Afghanistan later this year. During the recent Mountain Peak training event here, Soldiers and leaders said the new capabilities would support their mission as a Security Forces Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT), a formation that will be charged with working closely with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to improve host nation capabilities and help the ANSF take on increasing responsibility for the security of their country.

    Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division listen to officers' feedback during an after action review at the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. The unit is preparing for potential deployment to Afghanistan and the training required Soldiers to work in an advise-and-assist capacity alongside role players acting as Afghan forces.

    While the Afghan forces will be taking a lead in operations, the extended, mobile network capabilities provided by CS 13 will allow the SFAAT units to support with situational awareness and needs such as calls for air support, artillery support, medical evacuation (Medevac) and other reach-back communications.

    “As U.S. forces start to reduce our presence, we’re partnered with the Afghan security forces and continue to focus on their development, but we’re doing it over greater distances,” said Col. Sam Whitehurst, 3rd BCT commander. “Having this capability where I can take some of the capabilities to command and control the brigade on the move — that gives us the ability to extend our reach, even as we reduce our presence.”

    Whitehurst’s BCT is the Army’s second brigade to field and train with CS 13, an advanced, mobile communications network that represents a significant upgrade over capabilities available in theater today. The Army’s first such integrated fielding effort, CS 13 will allow units to utilize advanced satellite-based systems — augmented by data radios, handheld devices and the latest mission command software — to transmit voice/chat communications and situational awareness data throughout the BCT.

    At the command level, CS 13 equips brigade, battalion and company leaders with vehicles linked in to Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the backbone of the Army’s tactical communications network. Those vehicles allow commanders to leave their command posts and continue to issue orders, receive briefings and monitor the latest intelligence.

    A Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node is pictured outside the tactical operations center for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division during the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. The 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division were the Army's first equipped with CS 13, an integrated fielding effort of tactical communications equipment that is scalable and tailorable to different unit configurations and missions.

    The integrated network also arms dismounted leaders like Kovac with Smartphone-like handheld devices that pinpoint the locations of fellow Soldiers, and connect to lightweight radios to transmit data such as text messages, Medevac requests and photos.

    “In Afghanistan in 2003, we had to take our digital camera with us, and we had to take all this extra equipment that we had — now you’re bringing it into a phone,” said Staff Sgt. Lee T. Hamberger, who used the handheld Nett Warrior system and Rifleman Radio during drills at Mountain Peak. “If I saw something suspicious, I would take a picture of it — basically anything we saw that could help with information for future patrols; they were able to have a better view of everything that was going on.”

    The week-long, brigade-level training exercise marked a significant step forward in increasing Soldiers’ proficiency using integrated network equipment in an operational environment, Whitehurst said. The next stage for the BCT will be a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation at Fort Polk, La, which will pose SFAAT scenarios with role players acting as host nation army, police, civilians and enemy insurgents. Recently, the 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division concluded its own JRTC rotation as the first unit to utilize CS 13 in the SFAAT mission.

    The next two BCTs to receive CS 13 fielding efforts, both from the 101st Airborne Division, are beginning new equipment fielding and training at Fort Campbell, Ky. With each integrated fielding effort, the units can adapt the equipment to their particular mission requirements.

    “This tactical network will provide connectivity and situational awareness for any mission in any region,” said Col. Rob Carpenter, Army director of System of Systems Integration. “The idea is to provide scalable and tailorable equipment that is integrated across all levels, so it can be responsive to what the commander needs to execute mission command. You are seeing that now as the 10th Mountain Division brigades continue to train with the network’s capability during their exercises.”


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  • Army prepares for next Network Integration Evaluation

    Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division train on Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 in February. The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for WIN-T Increment 2, which is the Army's mobile network backbone. (Photos by Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

     

    FORT BLISS, TEXAS — With two units now readying for Afghanistan with the Army’s new tactical communications network, the service will continue to drive technology forward through its next Network Integration Evaluation this spring.

    Soldier training, vehicle integration, system check-outs and other preparations are well underway in advance of NIE 13.2, which begins in May at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. It is the fifth in the series of semi-annual field evaluations designed to keep pace with rapid advances in communications technologies and deliver proven and integrated network capabilities to Soldiers.

    The NIEs are not stand-alone events, but build on previous exercises by improving the Army’s integrated network baseline and incorporating Soldier feedback into system functionality and training methods. As the Army continues to field network capability sets with systems and doctrine vetted through the NIE, the events will further evolve to include joint and coalition involvement next year.

    “The NIE offers us the ability to evaluate and improve the network incrementally,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as ASA(ALT). “It forces the community together in an environment where Soldiers are telling us what we did well and what we didn’t do well — very graphically, very visually, very obviously.”

    From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier. It will include an aerial tier to extend the range of communications and operational energy solutions to more efficiently power networked equipment.

    “We’ve got some good questions, and the scenario will allow us to get at a lot of those operational pieces,” said Col. Elizabeth Bierden, chief of the Network Integration Division, Brigade Modernization Command, or BMC. “We’ve seen many of the systems before, but I think we just get the network better every single time.”

    An engineer works on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with network gear in preparation for the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.2. From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier.

    The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the Army’s mobile network backbone. WIN-T Increment 2 provides an enhanced capability over the current Increment 1 version used today in Afghanistan, including unprecedented “on-the-move” communications capabilities down to the company level. A successful test will enable the Army to keep fielding WIN-T Increment 2 to operational units beyond Capability Set 13, which is now being delivered to select brigade combat teams (BCTs) preparing for deployment.

    During the FOT&E, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) will conduct the full range of military operations — from movement to contact to peacekeeping — and stretch the WIN-T network over even greater distances than during NIE 12.2, which was the unit’s first formal chance to assess the system. Following that evaluation in May 2012, the Army aggressively pursued and implemented corrective actions to address the areas identified for improvement, and 2/1 AD Soldiers have also become more comfortable and proficient with the equipment.

    “The training is more hands-on, and with the knowledge we already have we’re able to go more in-depth,” said Spc. Erik Liebhaber, who has participated in three NIEs and said training for 13.2 incorporated specific scenarios that Soldiers had previously encountered in the field. “That’s a big part of the continuity.”

    Other systems under formal test include Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), the Army’s next-generation situational awareness and blue force tracking technology; Nett Warrior, a smartphone-like system for dismounted leaders; the Area Mine Clearance System-Medium Flail, an armored vehicle designed for clearing large areas of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines; and Tactical Communication and Protection System, designed to prevent hearing injury while allowing Soldiers to remain cognizant of their environment during combat. A dozen additional systems, such as those comprising the aerial tier, will receive less formal evaluations.

    Both JBC-P and Nett Warrior have actively incorporated user feedback from several previous NIE cycles into their hardware and software designs.

    “It’s gotten a lot simpler to use,” Staff Sgt. Lance Bradford said of JBC-P. “That was our largest suggestion to them — you’ve got to get this more user-friendly.”

    Soldier feedback and lessons-learned from the NIEs not only affect the conduct of future NIE iterations, but have also been applied to the process of producing, fielding and training units on Capability Set (CS) 13, which is the Army’s first such communications package to provide integrated connectivity throughout the BCT. The NIEs informed all aspects of CS 13, from how network systems are installed onto a vehicle, to which training approach is most effective, to which Soldiers within a brigade are issued certain pieces of equipment.

    Two BCTs of the 10th Mountain Division, now in the final stages of training before deploying to Afghanistan later this year, are receiving lessons-learned and recommended operational uses for the equipment that were developed during the NIE process. Serving as Security Forces Advise and Assist Teams (SFAATs), the units will rely on the new network as they work closely with the Afghan forces, take down fixed infrastructure and become increasingly mobile and dispersed in their operations.

    While NIE missions to date have confirmed that CS 13 can support such operations, they have not been limited to the Afghan mission. The NIE 13.2 scenario will set the stage for future exercises that will include new offensive and defensive operations replicating what units may face in other regions, including joint and coalition involvement beginning with NIE 14.2 next spring.

    “We are trying to set the stage for a joint and multinational effort in 14.2, and so we’re looking across functions at Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, close air support, air ground-integration, with the major objectives focused on joint entry operations and the joint network,” said Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, BMC commander. “We’ll be in a position to look at a number of those joint functions and we’ll set the stage through the series of NIEs we have coming up.”
     
     


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  • Long-term strategic planning spurs agile consolidation

    A Soldier from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) uses a Nett Warrior handheld connected to a Rifleman Radio to pass information during operations at the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.1 on Nov. 9, 2012. The Rifleman Radio and Nett Warrior are key to connecting dismounted leaders into the tactical communications network through voice and data. (Photo credit: Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    Katie Cain

     

    Army Acquisition leaders are implementing a new approach to equipment modernization—a comprehensive 30-year strategic planning process designed to harvest key lessons learned from more than a decade of war, identify current and anticipated capability gaps, recognize emerging threats and provide a detailed analysis of the service’s investments in science and technology (S&T) and material development.

    As part of the 30-year plan, the Army is re-assessing S&T across all portfolios to create a detailed road map of our future capabilities, linking S&T investments with Programs of Record (PORs) and long-term sustainment strategy. This approach seeks to harness near-term capability and identify emerging technologies for the future in order to sustain an agile, deployable, technologically superior force able to keep pace with rapid technological change.

    The Army is working to lay out current and planned capabilities across a 30-year time span and aligning not only processes to support the plan but, but also aligning organizations in order to employ better business practices. As a result, in January, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) consolidated two directorates – the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE) and the System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate – into the Systems of Systems Engineering and Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate.

    The reorganization was the result of a directive to merge from Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, ASA(ALT) Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management (DASM), in an effort to continue to advance the Army’s agile acquisition process, improve efficiencies, enhance long-term strategic needs planning and lower overall acquisition costs.

    A System of SoS
    SoSE&I provides coordinated system-of-systems (SoS) analysis, engineering, and architectural and integration products to facilitate how the Army efficiently shapes, manages, validates and synchronizes the fielding of integrated materiel capabilities. Comprising two directorates – SoS Integration (SoSI) and SoS Engineering (SoSE) – SoSE&I combines the systems integration and engineering offices into one organization, allowing for more efficient and effective cooperation to enhance the Army’s long-term planning objectives.

    “Bringing engineering and integration together gives us the ability to look at a system of systems across the Army and incorporate it into our long-term strategic planning,” said Terry Edwards, Executive Director, SOSE&I. “We’re able to look out at how we shape the Army’s architecture to be more capable, but also how we deliver that capability in a more efficient manner.”

    Soldiers, engineers, trail bosses and other personnel prepare for the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIEs) at the Integration Motor Pool, located at Fort Bliss, Texas. At the Motor Pool, the Army's System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate leads integration of network equipment onto various vehicle platforms, and validates system performance prior to the start of the evaluations. NIE 13.2, the service's fifth NIE slated for May 2013, will focus on continued solidification of the network baseline and be used to execute the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E). (Photo credit: Travis McNiel, System of Systems Engineering & Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate)

    The office now shapes and analyzes near-term and long-term systems integration and architecture engineering across Army program portfolios. This will allow the Army to better communicate to industry and the research and development community how portfolios align and integrate over time, allowing for better planning of independent research and development (IR&D) resourcing.

    Using the SoS approach, SoSI is charged with synchronizing integration and interoperability across Program Executive Offices (PEOs) and Army PORs, current force systems and other doctrine, organization, training, leadership, personnel and facilities (DOTLPF) elements to achieve integrated capabilities for a full-spectrum force. SoSE plans, analyzes, organizes and integrates the capabilities of both new and existing systems into a SoS capability to achieve necessary end-to-end coordination and performance. The third major component of the organization, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) coordinates across PEOs and serves as conduit to G-6 in the transformation to deliver timely, trusted, and shared information across the ASA(ALT) community. The result is better collaboration and more efficient and effective cooperation to enhance our long-term planning objectives.

    Combining Engineering and Execution
    “You have SoSE, which is the engineering side, and you have SoSI, which is the execution side,” said Col. Rob Carpenter, SoSI Director. “SoSI implements the plans and architecture that have been put together by SoSE. We do everything from lab-based risk reduction, all the way to capability set fielding. SoSI did this before the organizations merged, but now our starting point is an architecture that’s been produced by SoSE. The biggest benefit is having a direct connection between a handoff of products between the engineering side and the integration side so we’re not duplicating any efforts.”

    By eliminating the duplication of requirements for PEOs, SoSE&I is reducing duplicate budget requirements, and creating efficiencies in design, operations, and sustainment that will result in lower costs to the Army, and creating specifications/standards to simplify integration.

    Consolidating the organizations created an optimum balance of personnel and resources, which in turn is enabling more effective communication with industry partners, both small and large, who participate in the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs). SoSI is the Army’s materiel integrator and synchronizer in support of all phases of the Agile Process and the NIE. NIEs are now helping to shape “agile” capability integration by assessing Soldier provided and technical operational test data to influence not only how the Army procures capability, but also how integrated network capability requirements are validated and refined.

    In April/May, the Army will conduct its fifth NIE, known as NIE 13.2, to execute the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E). WIN-T Increment 2 is the backbone of the Army’s tactical network, providing key Mission Command On-the-Move capability beyond what is available in today’s operational force. A positive FOT&E will solidify the network baseline and allow additional industry and government solutions to be integrated and evaluated as part of the Army tactical network.
     
     


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