By May 9, 2016September 3rd, 2018Army ALT Magazine
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Leaders of PEO C3T and CECOM discuss how, by synchronizing efforts across differing missions, Army partnerships can make sustainment more effective and support the best possible solutions for the warfighter.

by Ms. Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Advances in communications, networking and computing technology present unprecedented opportunities to provide Soldiers with capabilities that deliver technical overmatch on the battlefield—such as software-defined radios, expeditionary satellite communications and mission command applications. Advances such as these also inspire new approaches to developing, delivering and ultimately sustaining capabilities. Sustainment, after all, accounts for nearly three-quarters of the lifetime costs for a weapon system.

New approaches to sustainment mean new partnerships and better use of existing alliances. In fact, Army organizations across the acquisition and sustainment communities are using these partnerships to meet the challenge of equipping the next-generation Soldier.


Larry Muzzelo, left, deputy to the CECOM CG, and Gary Martin, PEO for PEO C3T. The two recently talked at length about various aspects of the future of sustainment and the partnership of their organizations. (Photo by Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

Case in point: The Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T), which fields the Army’s tactical network, and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), a subordinate command of U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) that provides, integrates and sustains command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) system readiness, have partnered on initiatives that span licensing, training and software assurance.

In a joint interview conducted on Dec. 23, 2015, at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland, Gary Martin, program executive officer for PEO C3T, and Larry M. ­Muzzelo, deputy to the commanding general (CG) for CECOM, discussed these efforts and other Army sustainment initiatives both current and planned.

Jones-Bonbrest: Army sustainment means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?

Martin: Simply stated, sustainment ensures that all of the efforts associated with the equipment we provide to Soldiers in times of peace and conflict—training, operation, maintenance and support—are considered. The traditional efforts required to build a sustainment capability are currently being challenged as we focus on incorporating more commercially developed technologies than ever before. These often involve rapid technology evolution and increasingly rapid rates of obsolescence. Rapid change in technology does cause us to revisit the way we deliver training, repair and spares support for these systems.

Muzzelo: I would agree with that. After equipment fielding has been completed, these systems come into the life-cycle management commands, which have responsibilities to support the program offices in ensuring that the systems remain operationally supportable. As Gary mentioned, in our domain we use a lot of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment integrated into these weapon systems. As a consumer, you might throw out an old phone, but the Army isn’t going to throw things out, so we need to make sure they continue to operate as intended. We make sure the software is working, the parts are available for repair, the Soldiers understand how to use systems—and, as new Soldiers transition into units, we make sure training is provided to potential new users.

Martin: But the Army has a unique challenge when it comes to sustainment that many of the other services don’t: We generally have significantly larger quantities and varieties of systems as the result of mission and organizational constructs. Although the Army is getting smaller, we still have the responsibility to modernize the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard units. We can’t afford to equip the entire force overnight, so it generally takes many, many years to fully field a new system. Consequently, without sustainment, the technology can become obsolete before you can get to the end of fielding. So, as a result of the time it takes to field the entire force and the rate of technology advancement, we often have many different versions and variations of systems. That’s true of software as well as hardware.

For example, since the late 1990s we have fielded our situational awareness and friendly force tracking system, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2). An important part of our command and control, FBCB2 is currently on more than 100,000 platforms and found in every brigade combat team in the Army. Upgrading this system is a massive process. We had to field the upgrade in increments due to resourcing and maturation of technology, starting with Joint Capabilities Release and now turning to the newest iteration known as Joint Battle Command – Platform (JBC-P).

With the upgrade come significant features and a greatly increased density of systems within each unit—all things the next-generation Soldier expects—but it also takes time. So we have to prioritize and field in accordance with available resources to make the most of the capability and get it into the hands of our Soldiers as quickly as possible.


Combat and tactical vehicles integrated with WIN-T Increment 2 provide satellite and line-of-sight mobile communications and situational awareness. CECOM and PEO C3T recently teamed on a review of commercial software licenses for the system with an eye to buying licenses collectively, an effort that could yield more than $200 million in savings for WIN-T Increment 2 over the 20-plus years of the program. (Photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

Jones-Bonbrest: So how important, then, is the partnership between the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) community and the sustainment community?

Muzzelo: From my perspective, it’s extremely important. Systems are in the field for several years. So, as sustainment strategies are developed, we look at who are the vendors, are we buying data rights, is it sole-source, are there commercial products integrated in that capability, and what are the strategy and cost for that capability over the long term. If the sustainment and life-cycle management communities aren’t talking, you’ll have many challenges and obstacles in developing the strategy and then implementing it. On the sustainment side, in support of the program offices, we’re responsible for sustaining systems for many years. So if we’re not in sync, that leads to serious organizational and programatic challenges, and at the end of the day it really impacts our ability to provide the best support to Soldiers.

Martin: The fact of the matter is that decisions made by project managers [PMs] early in the program can significantly impact what happens on the back end. With approximately 70 percent or more of the costs for a weapon system over its life being executed on the sustainment side, it is prudent that there is mutual understanding and mutual partnering on the front end. A decoupling there can result in significant inefficiencies and costs. We’re seeing that today, and it is the essence of the partnership that exists between AMC on the sustainment side and ASA(ALT) on the acquisition side. It’s critical. The better the partnership and engagement throughout the entire program life cycle, the more effective the program will be.

Muzzelo: I would also add that in sustainment, we are never funded to the full amount we need. So if the PM implements strategies to be as cost-efficient as possible on the acquisition side, that also comes into play when we’re sustaining the systems. We have many competing priorities, sometimes within different PMs that are in the same PEO, so that partnership and prioritization can only be successful if there’s a relationship and conversation between both organizations.

Jones-Bonbrest: Can you give examples of this partnership that are already in place?

Martin: There really are four issues that we have selected locally as opportunities to partner. Each addresses a couple of areas where we have seen a need for improved efficiencies. They include security patching, software assurance, software licensing and field support.

Muzzelo: Security patching is a good place to start. I mentioned that we use a lot of COTS products, at least in PEO C3T’s domain of weapon systems, and there are certain challenges that come with this. For example, Microsoft and Apple have to patch their systems. Most consumers are familiar with that process. The Army faces some of the same challenges. The Army’s process historically has been to send out CDs on a quarterly basis with security patches, which requires Soldiers to manually install software from the CD. In today’s high-tech environment, that’s a nonstarter. So we’re working collaboratively with PEO C3T to get the patches integrated, tested and posted to one site where users can download those patches for tactical systems. We’ve started that initiative with Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg, and we’ll go to Germany next. That’s a partnership that is beneficial not only to us but also the Soldier, and it really reduces the security risk of our tactical Army networks and systems.


The new field support concept for network and mission command systems embraces Soldiers as the first line of defense for troubleshooting, backed by a construct of multifunctional support. Field support is one of the key issues that PEO C3T and CECOM have joined forces to address in their search for efficiencies. (U.S. Army photo by Vanessa Flores, ASA(ALT) System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate)

Martin: The initiative, a partnership with PEO C3T, CECOM’s Software Engineering Center and the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, is leveraging the network enterprise centers at post, camp and station as the facilitator for connectivity to download these patches. Each of the efforts has shown we can improve the delivery of patches through automated means. Soldiers are leveraging this to reduce the fairly significant burden a unit would have to undergo to individually patch these systems.

Muzzelo: We now know it’s technically feasible. Our challenge will be to implement this on a much larger scale. So it is no longer, “Is this doable or not?” It’s, “How do I scale this for the entire Army?”

Muzzelo: If you look at the systems we have in sustainment, we’re really seeing an exponential growth in software. A decade ago, we had a couple systems in sustainment. Now we’re up to the point where in the next few years, we’ll have 120 or 130 different individual programs of record and 300,000-plus individual platforms. So you’re not at the point anymore where you can do a manual inspection of code and ascertain if that code is of quality, of sufficient reliability and security. We are at the point where we must use automated tools to do the analysis for us and understand if there are vulnerabilities in that code as early in the process as possible. So we started an initiative to use a suite of automated tools to give us results that we can then go back and provide to the developers to modify or reprogram the code.

Martin: Right, and I suspect there will be some side benefits as well. Although PMs execute and deliver individual systems, they all must operate together to effectively deliver mission command and networking capabilities. The greatest challenge in this portfolio is the integration of these systems into a system-of-systems solution. I believe that rigor in our software assurance process, particularly if you start from the beginning of the development process, will pay dividends in terms of reducing the integration risk down the road.

Martin: Another initiative is buying things collectively to ensure that we as a community are more effective. We mentioned the reliance on commercial items; well, one of the biggest costs in sustainment, particularly on our software-intensive systems, is the procurement of licenses for these commercial products where we do not own the intellectual property or source code. We must pay annual lease fees in order to get the vendors to provide security patches and the other things you need to maintain the appropriate level of cyber defense for these systems. License fees across the C4ISR portfolio cost over $100 million each year. Often similar commercial software products (such as Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, etc.) are used on multiple programs. We can achieve significant cost reductions if we procure these licenses collectively under enterprise license agreements [ELAs].


Networked vehicles provide on-the-move communications, mission command and situational awareness that commanders need to lead from anywhere on the battlefield. PEO C3T and CECOM have different but overlapping responsibilities for the C4ISR system readiness that supports the Army network. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

Muzzelo: We are targeting a few specific products. This includes working to put in place an ELA that both organizations can buy from. Specifically, we’re looking at one for the PEO C3T community, one on the PEO for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (IEW&S) side, and then something jointly that would satisfy the needs of both IEW&S and C3T as well as CECOM. That effort is underway.

Martin: A few years ago, we started to do reviews on programs of record to look at which software licenses are required for procurement and delivery, and how many of those same products are required for sustainment. In many cases we found that we did not have an integrated enterprise approach to buying licenses. As a recent example, Larry’s team and the project manager for War­fighter Information Network – Tactical Increment 2 (WIN-T Inc 2) took a look at licenses for commercial software within the WIN-T system and how we can buy those licenses as a collective team to leverage that same enterprise contract. We are projecting more than $200 million in savings for WIN-T Inc 2 over the 20-plus years of the program. Now we’ll start to go through other high-priority programs and bring in PEO IEW&S, also located at APG, because they use a lot of the same COTS software applications that we use.

Martin: For the past 10 to 14 years, Soldiers have relied extensively on contractor support and field technical assistant teams. CECOM, PEO C3T and PEO IEW&S conducted an analysis of field support technical assistance across our programs. By assessing trouble tickets entered by units during their combat training center rotations, we uncovered patterns and trends highlighting opportunities for technical assistance right-sizing as well as areas where units were struggling with gaining proficiency in systems operations and maintenance. This insight has resulted in a number of actions, including improvements to system initialization and configuration steps and processes to reduce the Soldier burden.

We are now working to assess options for working collectively to improve the availability and delivery of home station training. There are a number of challenges associated with this, including the availability of time to conduct new equipment training (NET), rotation of Soldiers shortly after NET has concluded and the volume of new systems being fielded collectively under capability set fielding, etc. MG [Bruce T.] Crawford (CG, CECOM), BG [Mitchell L.] Kilo (U.S. Army Forces Command G-6), BG [Thomas A.] Pugh (CG, U.S. Army Signal School) and I are working together to assess ways to synchronize training efforts at the Signal School, in new equipment training, at the mission command training centers and at the signal universities to better support the units and improve sustainment training. As we reshape training, part of that same process is rebalancing the technical assistance. That’s a delicate balance.


Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) train on mission command applications Jan. 5 at the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Kinnard Mission Training Complex. (Photo by Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

Muzzelo: We already started re-evaluating the training packages we have and are leveraging the mission command training centers and signal universities for sustainment training on the systems. Often the field tech assistance providers are not part of NET, and the training centers and universities don’t have the latest equipment and software, so they can’t build the technical competence to conduct the sustainment training for these new systems we’re fielding.

Martin: In January, PEO C3T and CECOM began a phased implementation of a new home station training initiative with the 101st Airborne Division that will help determine the skill gaps and how do we train for those better. We’re excited to see the results as this moves forward.

Jones-Bonbrest: What’s on the agenda when it comes to the future of sustainment?

Martin: One of the efforts we are going to take as a challenge for this coming year is to take a more critical look at ways to reintroduce competition as we buy our sustainment services. We have a real challenge in this community with the pace of obsolescence and the proprietary nature of the technologies we buy. We have started a conversation about assessing our highest-cost programs in sustainment and are looking for innovative ways to reintroduce competition.

Muzzelo: For example, we might buy a warranty that is good for three or five years, and then the system gets transitioned to sustainment. We’re looking at why we can’t put something on the contract for another five-year warranty that I can exercise at the point when the system comes into sustainment. Is there a way of getting a better deal? Another concept we are pursuing is to buy licenses in perpetuity when the system is contracted for and in a competitive environment when there may be a willingness to give the Army a better deal if we ask the question.

Martin: Right, and if you really look at Better Buying Power, the basic principle is being smarter about how we do business. The ways we incentivize our industry partners—driving competition, being smarter buyers—are what we are looking to do. When it comes to sustainment, these objectives are much more achievable if we work together. The real gains will come from early and persistent engagement by both the PEO and AMC community throughout the entire program life cycle.

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MS. NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a staff writer for DSA Inc., providing contract support to PEO C3T. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has covered the Army’s tactical network for several years, including multiple training and testing events.

This article was originally published in the April – June 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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