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Army examining what capabilities 'make sense' for network of future

April 10, 2012

By Edric Thompson

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 10, 2012) -- The U.S. Army will assess capabilities and emerging Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, known as C4ISR, technologies as part of its efforts to shape the future network when its annual integrated capabilities event begins at Fort Dix, N.J., April 16.

Product Director Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance & Network Modernization's Event 2012 will focus on the future network -- near-term and several years out. Findings will be provided to senior leaders so they can make informed decisions in regards to shaping the Army's future force and network, officials said.

"Network modernization is an Army priority. Each year our goal is to stand up a fully integrated and instrumented architecture that provides quantifiable data regarding the technical performance of a system-of-systems network that leverages C4ISR capabilities across the spectrum," said Lt. Col. Quentin L. Smith, product director, C4ISR & Network Modernization.

The event, which provides an opportunity for stakeholders from across the DOD to integrate and exercise future force capabilities, will also inform efforts to accelerate and recapitalize C4ISR technologies into the current force, thus supporting the Agile acquisition process.

"We help articulate the operational 'so what' of a provider's technology early in the process: where does it plug in, does it have potential, or does the technology provider need to go back to the drawing board to flush some things out, whether that's back at his lab or by collaborating with us," Smith said. "This is a non-attribution environment, not a pass/fail test. We're here to work things out collaboratively."

E12, scheduled to run from April 16 to July 27, will examine the development of an integrated Brigade Combat Team network that utilizes future capabilities outlined by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for 2013 - 2014. The work will support initiatives to provide actionable intelligence at the squad level and improved situational awareness to dismounted Soldiers.

"You don't just wake up one morning and have a capability. That's why we are assessing these now to see what works and makes sense at various echelons," Smith said. "In the past, we've grown technologies then introduced them to the Soldier at the back end. If we are to effectively and efficiently shape the Army's future network, the S&T community at large needs to engage with each other and the Soldier up front, using current and future requirements. And that means testing should be involved as you go through the wickets of engineering a system, from the very beginning to the end."

E12 critical activities will include handheld and cellular technology at the tactical edge, emerging telemedicine technologies utilizing Current and Future Force network capabilities, radio-based combat ID, the assessment of emerging radio waveforms and the recapitalization of current force technologies such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, or SINCGARS.

The design for E12 assessments is based on guidance taken from the Army Science and Technology Master Plan, Army Modernization Plan 2012, Net Enabled Mission Command Initial Capabilities Document, Common Operating Environment Implementation Plan, and capability gaps from TRADOC. This allows PD C4ISR & Network Modernization to better scope the parameters for technology developers seeking to support Army requirements, Smith said.

"Broad requirements result in an abundance of money, and the technology developer can still miss, especially if he throws an existing technology from inventory at a gap. That's wasting their time and ours. The definitive data needs to be scoped up front so the technology can be tailored to better support the Soldier's need. If we do that, there is the opportunity to save a lot of money," Smith said.

Funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, or ASA(ALT), PD C4ISR & Network Modernization is an R&D program within the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center, known as RDECOM CERDEC.

The program provides the Army with a relevant venue to assess next-generation technologies, to evaluate and validate technical progress, to facilitate technology maturation and transition to acquisition, and to perform risk mitigation and candidate assessment/selection for future Network Integration Rehearsal/Exercise events in support of the Army's agile acquisition process.

Major acquisition programs of record, such as Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, the Rifleman Radio for Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit and the Soldier Radio Waveform for JTRS Network Enterprise Domain, have leveraged PD C4ISR & Net Mod for risk mitigation and reduction to help achieve their milestone decisions.

The PD has also assessed the impact of Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Sensor Fusion on tactical operations, evaluated the degree of interoperability between ISR and Mission Command systems across the current and future forces, advanced technologies used to collect data on mobile and ad hoc networks, and proved SRW scalability by conducting, at the time, the largest node demonstration of the waveform in the field.

"We provide a neutral environment where engineers can come together and integrate without the distractions of proprietary positioning. In doing that, we become a catalyst where government and industry engineers learn from one another," Smith said.

"Instead of developing in a vacuum with a primary contractor, leverage the S&T community at large, government and industry, to shape and mature that technology. If we partner and learn from one another, I think the success rate of putting a great technology into the user's hand goes up tremendously. Collaborative R&D on the front end will streamline processes, saving time and money on the back end."

Findings and insights from all assessments conducted during E12 will be captured and presented in a final report, which is a formal deliverable to senior leadership and key stakeholders, and will be made readily available to interested parties from across the Army and DOD enterprise. Immediate quick look data and feedback will be provided to applicable stakeholders throughout the course of the event, officials said.

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