OCSE aligns IT standards for Army and joint all-domain command-and-control, and mission partner environments to ensure seamless interoperability of command-and-control systems across all echelons.
by William G. Langston, Frederick J. Fable, Steven G. Drake
The Army is currently undergoing one of the largest technological upgrades in its 244-year history. Major modernization changes to the mission command network and networked systems are in the process of being developed and fielded to Soldiers. The major changes to the network and systems, when implemented, will result in better secure communications in all environments and provide an enhanced common operating picture from the Soldier at “the pointy edge of the spear” to the command posts at corps and above.
The modernization efforts will also provide commonality across applications, graphics and data sets, as well as interoperability within the Army and with our mission partner environments while enabling joint, all domain command-and-control.
Establishing a mission partner environment capability involves aspects of the human, procedural and technical domains that collectively enable the U.S. Army and coalition partners to achieve shared understanding, mutual trust and confidence, and unity of effort in order to seamlessly plan, prepare and conduct unified land and multidomain operations.
Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is command and control that connects distributed sensors and data to forces from and in each domain—land, sea, air, space and cyber—at the scale and tempo required to accomplish commander’s intent. JADC2 success is predicated upon ensuring common data standards are implemented to achieve interoperability across the joint partners.
This is a tall order to accomplish and, in the past, the Army has struggled with the complexity of achieving this level of interoperable, networked mission command because while functional requirements were well defined, the system-of-system interoperability requirements were difficult to define. The Army’s previous attempt at such change was Future Combat System (FCS), a program designed to replace all of our network, command-and-control and ground combat platforms. FCS was intended to be interoperable by design because it was developed as a system-of-systems as opposed to separate warfighting functional areas such as maneuver, intelligence, fires, etc., with interoperability often a second design consideration.
Implementing rigorous system-of-systems lessons learned from FCS will be key for the Army to succeed in achieving interoperability. Most important is that networks and systems require the use of an agreed-upon set of information technology data standards. Implementing common data standards allow networks and systems to achieve seamless communication and transfer of information across systems, commands and national boundaries in a timely manner. Secondly, information technology standards must be identified during system development and coordinated among all systems implementing these standards prior to implementation. Based on government and industry best practices, waiting to address data standards until developmental or operational test events is too late. It’s costly and timing consuming to rework the underlying data structures to achieve interoperability once a system has been built.
LEGACY VS. FUTURE
Even though interoperability and the use of data standards are mandated by government statutes, policy, regulations, and system key performance parameters, most often these are not the focus of a system development effort. A program manager’s development efforts are driven by Army-approved requirements documents and capability delivery priorities set by the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) capability managers. Therefore, in a fiscally constrained environment, the program manager is often forced to choose between the requirement for system interoperability and the higher-priority requirement for warfighting functionality.
Until last year, legacy systems were developed against specific warfighting function (maneuver, intelligence and fires) requirements documents which rarely contained details on specific information exchanges with other warfighting function systems. There was no overarching system-of-systems view for interoperability or data exchange requirements. Requirements for networks and networked systems were scattered in multiple documents, and written by multiple communities without an overarching view of how all the systems exchange data and interoperate to create a common operational picture. While TRADOC recognized that standards are important to achieve interoperability, they considered the determination of which standards were needed to achieve interoperability to be a decision for the materiel development community and not found in the requirements documents. Instead, the requirements priorities of TRADOC capability managers were focused on capabilities that enhanced the specific warfighting functions that they represented. At times interoperability was addressed but seen as a secondary priority especially when funding cuts were taken by the program during budget cycles.
Recognizing the importance of data standards in achieving interoperability, the chief required that the Army network be based on open-source standards that are inherently interoperable. He required that TRADOC coordinate with the assistant secretary of the Army, acquisition logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) and the Army’s chief information officer to “refine an integrated set of common operating environment standards requirements based on designated open-source standards methodologies.” The execution order went on to require implementation of policies and standards that would make the Army’s primary tactical operations network one that allows our coalition mission partners to operate on the same network.
In support of the execution order, leadership stakeholders from across the Army signed the Army Mission Command Network Implementation Plan, Volumes 1 and 2. Together, they describe how the Army will modernize the mission command network, including all the warfighting functions, from now and into the future. The intent of these plans is to pivot the Army to a faster modernization path. Foundational to achieving this pivot are integrated operational requirements, and integrated, standards-based architectures that allow “plug and play” of new capabilities.
These integrated operational (warfighting) requirements are defined along four lines of effort. All four efforts are standards-based, culminating in the delivery of a robust, cloud-enabled common operating environment at all echelons prepared to support transition to joint all-domain operations.
Also, based on the chief’s execution order and to accomplish the second line of effort, TRADOC received approval in 2018 for the common operating environment information systems initial capabilities document and subsequent requirements definition packages. These requirements documents, for the first time, were designed to provide an overarching system-of-systems view of the mission command network and systems. They provide a holistic set of requirements for the common operating environment and break down those requirements into the subordinate definition packages that give each computing environment of the common operating environment its portion of Army’s warfighting capability. Currently, TRADOC is writing capability drop documents—documents that prioritize incremental delivery of capabilities within 18 to 24 months—the first of which has been approved.
To support the chief’s modernization vision for mission command network and systems, ASA(ALT) established the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE) in March 2019. OCSE’s responsibilities include performing Army-level system-of-systems engineering by maintaining a standards-based Army integrated modernization architecture and communicating the Army data standards to subordinate program managers.
OCSE is also the ASA(ALT) staff lead for overarching governance and management of IT data standards for the common operating environment, including configuration management and promulgating the interoperability standards baseline across the six computing environments, and in coordination with Army, joint and coalition stakeholders.
The six computing environments contain approximately 118 legacy systems, with 775 unique point-to-point data exchange interfaces. The goal of OCSE and the common operating environment is to reduce the number of legacy system data exchanges using message formats by relying on common infrastructures developed by the computing environments. This will allow systems to become applications and services that efficiently leverage the standardized data provided by the infrastructure to achieve warfighter capabilities.
To ensure program managers know which common operating environment data standards to implement, OCSE is working with TRADOC to include a tailored set of key standards within each of the capability drop requirements documents to drive uniform implementation across ASA(ALT) systems and infrastructures. Making standards an inherent part of the program’s approved requirements also greatly benefits program managers by giving them a basis to program for the necessary funding needed for implementation.
For the first time, OCSE and TRADOC are collaborating during development of requirements documents by leveraging a common tool—the Army Capability-Based Architecture Development and Integration Environment (ARCADIE) Magic Draw Teamwork Server—to ensure standards remain consistent across all requirements documents. OCSE is also using the ARCADIE tool to model the interfaces between computing environments that allow efficient integration and facilitates interoperability. The individual system interfaces between two computing environments are consolidated into a single control point that documents the critical information flows and standards and will eventually include critical coalition and joint partner systems. This type of digital engineering allows OCSE and program managers to identify technical risks to interoperability earlier in a program’s development when design mitigations are much less costly to implement versus during developmental and operational testing.
The Army has set itself on a course to modernize the mission command network and systems to change the way it executes warfighting functions. The four lines of effort are key to modernization success, and the standards are essential to those. By implementing system-of-systems engineering and configuration management rigor to maintain a baseline of commonly implemented standards both within the Army and with our joint and coalition partners, we can achieve needed interoperability to successfully execute mission partner environments and joint all-domain command-and-control warfighting missions. For its part, OCSE will continue to lead the effort to work with the material development community, requirements developers, the Department of the Army staff, and joint and coalition standards bodies to define the standards needed by the Army to successfully execute its mission of winning our nation’s wars.
Establishing a mission partner environment capability involves aspects of the human, procedural and technical domains that collectively enable the Army and coalition partners to achieve shared understanding, mutual trust and confidence, and unity of effort in order to seamlessly plan, prepare and conduct unified land and multidomain operations.
Joint all-domain command and control connects distributed sensors and data to forces from and in each domain—land, sea, air, space and cyber—at the scale and tempo required to accomplish the commander’s intent. Its success is predicated upon ensuring that common data standards are implemented to achieve interoperability across joint partners.
WILLIAM G. LANGSTON is a deputy director with the Standards & Interoperability Directorate in the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE), ASA(ALT). He holds an M.S. in computer information systems from the University of Phoenix and a B.S. in marketing from Arizona State University. He served on active duty for over 6 years with the Army in the military intelligence and military police fields where he earned his Veteran of Foreign Wars and American Legion eligibility. Langston has been working in the information technology industry for the past 25 years; in his current role, he is responsible for cross-portfolio strategic planning, tracking, and management of systems through advanced development, test, evaluation, production, fielding and identifying associated problem issues and risks. He is Level III certified in information technology, an Acquisition Corps member, and has successfully completed the Harvard University Program for Senior Executive Fellows.
FREDERICK J. FABLE is a senior systems engineer with the Standards & Interoperability Directorate in the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE), ASA(ALT). He holds a bachelor of engineering in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He has demonstrated experience in systems engineering and program management with over 37 years of experience within the DOD and commercial sectors. He helped develop MIL-STD-188-220 for Combat Net Radio and the Fires Community as well as Voice Over IP and cell phones for commercial industry. He has performed and executed systems-of-systems engineering, program management, operational analysis, acquisition management, information technology, performance based assessments, interoperability standards assessments and systems integration for the Army and joint communities.
STEVEN G. DRAKE is a senior network and systems engineer with the Standards & Interoperability Directorate in OCSE. He holds an M.S. in systems acquisition management from the Naval Postgraduate School and B.S. in geophysics from the University of Texas at El Paso. He served on active duty for over 26 years with the Army in the air defense and acquisition fields. His final assignment was as the director for Army Interoperability Certification testing. After leaving active duty, he spent six years as the director for network interoperability, integration and testing for several companies supporting system-of-system integration and testing of command-and-control systems across the Army. He is Level III certified in program management, and Level I certified in contracting.
This article is published in the Winter 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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