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"State of C4ISR" Explains Priorities and Challenges During Time of Budget Uncertainty

November 6, 2013
By By Bob DiMichele, CECOM PAO

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- In an effort to answer questions about mission priorities and needs in this time of defense budget uncertainty and Better Buying Power mandates, the leaders of the Center of Excellence for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) provided the first 'State of C4ISR' presentation to almost 400 business, industry, and economic development stakeholders.

The presentation took place at the monthly meeting of the Aberdeen Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications-Electronics Association (AFCEA) on Oct. 28.

Maj. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, commander of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), led off the event by focusing the audience on the need for teaming and information sharing as well as the value of transparency. 'We must team together and stay connected. We have to share what we can and be transparent to move forward successfully.'

He summarized the major challenges the Center of Excellence and the rest of the Army faced in fiscal 2013: modernization, end strength reductions, new capabilities coming out of the Army's Network Integration Events, and, of course, the budget. He said that despite the challenging fiscal conditions the command confronted, the talented and dedicated CECOM professionals, operating at locations all across the globe, were able to accomplish their mission while also building the CECOM of the future that will sustain the Army and Joint Force of 2020 and beyond.

In fiscal 2014, Ferrell anticipates a continuing resolution in addition to the challenging impacts of budgetary sequestration. Yet, he said, Team C4ISR will continue the mission to support the Warfighter. 'Although, resources and budgets will remain limited, and tough choices will have to made in FY 14, given all we have accomplished, we can be confident our command is on the right track and that we will have the capabilities we need to remain the 'Critical Link' in C4ISR sustainment.'

One of the key areas of information exchange was that of command priorities. Ferrell highlighted four enduring priorities through this time of budget uncertainty.

The first priority he highlighted was the Army's transition to sustainment. He said that the C4ISR partnership of government and the private sector must enhance the lifecycle management of C4ISR Systems. 'What is really key is that the equipment will transition to units at the posts, camps and stations.' Therefore, readiness rates within units will be a major focus. Ferrell said, 'Each percentage point of a readiness rate equals a dollar amount. So, what is the right readiness rate?'

A second CECOM priority is to reinvest in Soldiers. 'We will need to teach them (the Soldiers) to install, operate and maintain their equipment. We will have to enhance those skills.' That will require the C4ISR team to come up with a new consolidated package for training, he explained.

The third priority highlighted was to create a new manpower strategy for fiscal 2014 and beyond. 'We are changing how we are organized and managed in the field. We have to organize better at the edge and be less stove-piped. We are going to create a common CECOM face to the field.' Those changes will entail a new regional alignment, managed by CECOM's Logistics and Readiness Center, with focal points in Europe, Korea, Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Hood, Texas.

This regional approach will incorporate five fundamental missions: C4ISR new equipment and sustainment training; maintenance, engineering and installation support to posts camps and stations; fielding; and technical assistance consisting of logistical assistance, hardware and software assistance, and communications security assistance. With this strategy, Ferrell explained that CECOM would reduce its reliance on contractor support in the field.

Ferrell's fourth priority is to consolidate the management of command resources, which comprise internal initiatives in the personnel, information technology and resource management offices to create better innovation and flexibility. 'This is how we are shaping the command for the future,' he stated.

The next presenter, Mr. Bryon Young, executive director of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, emphasized the concept of better buying power, which he described as 'more important than ever.' Better Buying Power calls for the defense acquisition community to make a cultural change by valuing affordability and becoming a more cost conscious workforce. He said that during the war years there was willingness in the acquisition community to trade price for capability or schedule. 'We have been a responsive sustainment community, but not an efficient one,' he stated.

Young said that concept is reversing because Team C4ISR is looking to combine efficiency with a more affordable capability. 'Now,' Young said, 'our focus is on total cost reductions to DoD.' He went on to say that Team C4ISR isn't trying to reduce profit margins for companies but instead reduce costs for the government. He explained that the best way to do that is through a bona fide competitive environment. 'We are looking to shape requirements so companies can truly compete.'

In addition, Young stated that the Army's small business emphasis remains strong and that organizational conflict of interest has a renewed emphasis.

Mr. Henry Muller, the director of the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, discussed priorities from a science and technology perspective. Muller identified three high priority initiatives: cyber security; position, navigation and timing; and the degraded visual environment. He also identified several challenges facing CERDEC ranging from uncertainty of the budget to the loss of intellectual capital and support to the acquisition and sustainment communities.

The Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, Mr. Stephen Kreider, discussed a number of challenges facing the PEO side of the C4ISR Center of Excellence. He said the post-conflict transition will not be just about saving dollars but also about managing the huge amounts of data now available to Soldiers. As an example of current technology capability, he related that one particular type of sensor can generate a terabyte of data every 30 minutes. Kreider also said that one of the key challenges is the ease of use of C4ISR systems for the Soldier. 'Soldiers simply need a less complex interface,' he explained. 'They can be overwhelming.' Better training was also one of the challenges he described. 'We need to train the 21st Century Soldier with 21st Century technology. Soldiers today learn differently.' Kreider also invited industry to make use of the C4ISR Center of Excellence laboratory facilities. 'Let's use those labs for looking at great ideas from industry.'

Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, the Program Executive Officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, said, 'We have great results in building the network and are making it better every day.' He said that instead of unit commanders getting individual systems and 'stitching them together,' Team C4ISR is providing fully networked capability sets to those commanders. 'It is a critical change in how we are getting equipment to our Soldiers,' Hughes said.

Hughes also echoed the need for increased simplicity of systems. 'We equip Soldiers; we don't man equipment,' he emphasized. Hughes challenged the industry partners to 'drive simplicity into the network at every level.'

In summing up, Ferrell said that Team C4ISR expressed appreciation to the audience for their partnership during very challenging times and ended by affirming the mutual commitment to working together.

AFCEA Chapter President Mike Bowen ended the State of C4ISR event by saying, 'In these peculiar times, the AFCEA Aberdeen Chapter intends to fulfill its chartered purpose as the ethical forum for discussion on needs, challenges and strategies among C4ISR government, contractor and academic parties. We must also ensure increased participation on the part of our engineers and scientists, as well as our young professionals.'

AFCEA is a non-profit membership association serving the military, government,

industry and academia in the fields of communications, information technology, intelligence, and global security. The Aberdeen Chapter is one of 145 chapters worldwide.

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