Logistics is probably the most complex and interrelated capability provided by today’s military. But to those unfamiliar with its conceptual and technological reach of difficulty, it can be considered an assumed capability—something that simply happens—or, worse yet, a “back office” function that is not connected to warfighting capability.
The success of military logistics during the past decade of combat operations is partly to blame for anyone’s assumption that continued logistical success in the ever-changing national security environment is a given across the entirety of the military logistics enterprise. This dangerous assumption tends to exclude logistics from the conversation regarding the nation’s current and future warfighting needs.
As a result, the logistics enterprise is rarely debated outside the logistics profession with the same intensity as other more publicized warfighting needs, especially the need to regain our military technological advantage over major competitors. Failure to understand the implications of not modernizing logistics in a time of great technological change compromises success of the modernized force.
In addition to ensuring modernized logistics capabilities are appreciated as central to regaining our military advantage, logistics capabilities must be considered in the ongoing discussion of solutions to overcome the current readiness shortfalls of today’s military. Logistics is nearly absent from the recent testimonies by military leaders, members of congress, and industry. While all of the testimonies highlight the need to modernize the U.S. military in order to regain our technological advantage, few specifically highlight the need for modernized logistics capabilities.
“Logistics isn’t rocket science…it’s much harder!” Logistics is—those at home, deployed in operational settings, and permanently stationed abroad—given that it must operate around the world and across every domain of activity in spite of enemy efforts to frustrate its operations. Consequently, it is far more complex than even the most operationally global business enterprises.
Logistics planning and modernization define the distinctive characteristics or qualities of the military force and ultimately provide the military commander the freedom of action, endurance, and ability to extend operational reach that are necessary to achieve success.
Logistics operations are far more than “back office” functions and are truly what sustain the force and support its warfighting readiness. The criticality of logistics is not a newcomer, however; logistics has a significantly more complex nature today because of its integration across air, land, sea, space, and the information and cyber domains.
For the U.S. to be able to sustain effective combat operations in the modern era, it must “prioritize prepositioned forward stocks and munitions, strategic mobility assets, partner and allied support, as well as non-commercially dependent distributed logistics and maintenance to ensure logistics sustainment while under persistent multi-domain attack.”
As network and electronic warfare capabilities are introduced to the forward edge of the battlespace, individual capabilities represented by on-hand quantities of different technologies and trained personnel will truly define a unit’s ability to execute the mission-essential tasks demanded in the complex warfighting environment of a peer adversary.
The impact of logistics beyond readiness grows exponentially when taken in the context of the larger complexities of strategic logistics capabilities such as national and international rail, port, and sealift capacities. Reductions in the size and capability of the industrial base, limitations on our national sealift capacity, and aging of the infrastructure needed to move personnel, weapons systems, ammunition, and fuel all directly challenge the ability of the United States to project military power.
Requirements for recent conflicts pale in comparison to the requirement laid out for the future military force in the National Defense Strategy (NDS). The future fight will require significantly greater responsiveness and diversity in the face of a greater threat. The NDS requires a military that will “be able to strike diverse targets inside adversary air and missile defense networks to destroy mobile power-projection platforms.
This will include capabilities to enhance close combat lethality in complex terrain.” To achieve mobility and resilience, our military will be required to field “ground, air, sea, and space forces that can deploy, survive, operate, maneuver, and regenerate in all domains while under attack. Transitioning from large, centralized, unhardened infrastructure to smaller, dispersed, resilient, adaptive basing that includes active and passive defenses will also be prioritized.”
The force of tomorrow must be ready to defeat a peer competitor in a broad battlespace that requires security for each logistics movement, the ability to off-load across various widely distributed locations, with minimal infrastructure, and in a communications-degraded environment.
The ability to meet the NDS requirements requires a significantly more agile force. It must be able to dictate the time and tempo of its buildup and control the massive capabilities of the U.S. military. It must coordinate with allies and partners to place combined force capabilities against the adversary’s weakness and develop and sustain a broad array of overseas advanced bases that will change frequently and provide the responsiveness and effectiveness needed to prevail despite enemy efforts to prevent U.S. forces from getting to or operating within the theater of combat.
U.S. military has not had to “fight its way to the fight” since World War II. Equally absent since that time has been the need to apply combat power to preserve logistics capabilities.
Given the evolution of competitors’ abilities to threaten the logistical underpinnings of U.S. combat power, force logistics planning now requires innovation in both technology and operational concepts. In a time of constrained fiscal resources, this means doing differently with less. There is no option to fail, and there is no hope of unlimited resources. The combination of innovation and new technology is therefore critical to maintaining the competitive logistical advantage that U.S. forces have enjoyed since World War II.
The NDS focuses on investments needed to improve the ability of forces deployed abroad to maneuver against an enemy and ensure that the posture of those forces (how they are arrayed in theater) has resilience (the ability to sustain losses and remain effective). Not explicitly addressed in the NDS but fundamentally implied is the equally daunting challenge of winning the “home games” by having the critical military–industry partnerships and dedicated infrastructure that serve as the preparation and launching pads for our forces. technical support for contract maintenance, and the ability to replace warfighting platforms that are well beyond their service life, be it ships, aircraft, or major land-component systems (tanks, artillery, reconnaissance vehicles, personnel carriers, radars, ground vehicles, etc.).
When the instability of funding that results from continuing resolutions and an inability to pass budgets on time is added to these challenges, one can see that the problems confronting the industrial base are magnified at a time when they most need to be reduced so that our ability to supply the force is responsive and resilient.
Maybe counterintuitively, a constrained ability to build “new iron” (ships, aircraft, and major ground weapons systems) actually increases the logistics burden and budget because the cost of maintaining older systems necessarily increases.
The problem is made worse by the complexity of dealing with both old and new technologies in a single logistics enterprise. Add to these challenges the reduction of skilled manpower in the active and reserve forces, the increased difficulty of retaining seasoned military personnel, and a decreasing number of civilian and contractor artisans in the logistics workforce, and the need for modernizing the logistics force, from training to developing new concepts, becomes even more obvious.
Modernizing “home game” infrastructure must also include improved, state-of-the-art ranges and maintenance facilities, which are critical to supporting the readiness of new platforms that are being acquired in every service.
Such facilities must also be made resilient in the face of network security challenges, now a common feature of modern conflict. Integrating simulators and virtual reality capabilities into range design will also help to reduce the logistical impact of home-station training and generate much-needed efficiencies in major range training opportunities while also improving overall warfighting readiness.
The hybrid logistics attributes are a mixture of legacy and evolving technologies. They are delivered from the sea by means of modern connectors, platforms, processes, and concepts with the flexibility to enable multi-domain fires and maneuver. They are innovative in concept design and practice, with a command and control architecture that is guarded against cyber and electronic warfare threats, and data-driven through predictive analytics.
They also are applicable across the entire U.S. military from the strategic level to the tactical level. Ultimately, the effectiveness of any logistics capability is determined at the tactical level, but sustained success at the tactical level requires effectiveness further upstream at the operational and strategic levels.
Success at the operational level requires integration of logistics capabilities contributed by all entities involved in military affairs, to include service, coalition-partner, interagency, private/commercial, and host-nation capabilities. The operational integration of these various capabilities provides the linkage between the tactical and strategic levels.
Logistics survivability upgrades can achieve reduced targetability of the logistics force through development of manageable electronic signatures, a reduced logistics footprint, and improved distribution with reduced static inventory. Static inventory is distribution moving at zero miles per hour, and anything that is static on the modern battlefield has little chance of remaining survivable.
The ability to make the force more survivable requires both technological improvements that reduce the need for large footprints in bulk liquids and ammunition and refocused training and logistics concepts. Technologies such as additive manufacturing, improved man–machine interfaces, and advanced robotics will contribute significantly to improved survivability. Ultimately, change must ensure both speed and reliability of logistics systems that build trust from the tactical level to the strategic level. Improvements in munitions and energy systems will directly improve the speed and reliability of the force and, thus, its logistical survivability and effectiveness.
While not a new consideration in designing a force for tomorrow that remains relevant today, the development of integrated, agile, technologically advanced, and effective logistics systems that drive efficiencies into every corner of the military is increasingly essential in today’s dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing national security environment. The shift in our military focus to competing in an era of great-power competition demands an even greater understanding of logistics and highlights the breadth of the requirement to support the entirety of the force in innovative ways, from training in the United States to deploying far from home.
Whether the unit engaging the enemy is in the air, on land, at sea, or in space or cyberspace, it must embrace innovation in logistics that not only integrates new technology, but also innovates in the “hybrid” environment of old and new in order to retain our military’s true advantage as the world’s only force that can “prevail in conflict both today and well into the future.
Focused logistics will provide military capability by ensuring delivery of the right equipment, supplies, and personnel in the right quantities, to the right place, at the right time to support operational objectives. It will result from future improvements in information systems, innovation in organizational structures, reengineered processes, and advances in transportation technologies. This transformation has already begun with changes scheduled for the near term facilitating the ultimate realization of the full potential of focused logistics.
The Air Force is especially vulnerable to threats because of its reliance on prepared airfields. While the service can overcome some disadvantages with long-range bombers, a war in which missiles knock out American air bases and prevent the ability to launch and recover short-range fighter jets is unlikely to end well.
Agile Combat Employment ACE is an operational concept that leverages networks of well-established and austere air bases, multi-capable airmen, pre-positioned equipment, and airlift to rapidly deploy, disperse and maneuver combat capability throughout a theater.
Paired with aircraft fueling, arming and limited maintenance activities, ACE expands the number of bases from which air forces can generate combat sorties. Through cross-major command initiatives and coordination, ACE has evolved to produce multidisciplinary support personnel, expanded to recurrent use in exercises and served as a foundation to further interoperability.
Access to airfields must be expanded. The ability to “pick up” and move at a time, and to a place, of the combatant command’s choosing is markedly diminished. In turn, capability in theater risks becoming static and could make for easy targets.
Procurement of pre-positioned equipment must be accelerated. To reduce theater airlift requirements, it is imperative to pre-position equipment that airmen will need to support forward aircraft. This is particularly true in theaters that lack well-established multimodal networks.
But procurement timelines for these materials are often lengthy. For example, full fielding of deployable air base system kits is not expected until 2026. This will be protracted further for regionally based cluster pre-position kits, which have yet to receive funding as part of the Air Force’s latest budget request.
If troops cannot posture these kits in a timely manner, America’s air forces may risk moving to insufficiently outfitted locations — a result that would adversely impact ACE execution.
Planners should assess the role and capacity of airlift. Airlift will invariably incur a heavier burden to execute ACE. Needed to carry the crews and cargo supporting fighter aircraft from one location to the next, transport assets prove integral to this concept’s agility.
However, given the fleet’s high demand, it is smart to evaluate whether it could sustain ACE across a contested environment. This examination should account for current and future demands to fully identify air mobility limitations. The findings would serve to determine the right mix of airlift and whether requirements exist for an airframe not in the inventory.
Finally, the Air Force must broaden its training to create multi-capable airmen. Due to finite capacity to rapidly shift support personnel worldwide, the Air Force is training airmen to take on roles outside of their traditional jobs. This effort reduces the logistics tail required to project combat power.
So far, multi-capable training has been developed and executed by various major commands, and Air Force has begun crafting a program baseline. To build on this foundation and produce multirole airmen from the outset of their military career, incorporating the new training standard into applicable technical schools would aid in growing the requisite skills needed to compete in tomorrow’s fight.
Importance of Small-team Distributed Logistic Operations
In practice, commanders and their staff plan for activity ‘two-down’. For a combat brigade this means a focus upon coordinating the efforts of combat teams that are usually allocated to a battlegroup. A brigade can only generate so many combat teams based on its company or squadron level headquarters elements. Within the battlegroups, commanding officers group armoured troops, infantry platoons and other capabilities together.
A range of additional enablers are often attached to these combat teams at different times for a specific task and purpose. These groupings are not templated, but usually reflect teams established and practiced during training prior to battle. From this mix of combat teams the brigade commander establishes battlegroups, based around a battalion or regimental headquarters.
The services now concentrate much of its sustainment capability at the formation level with battalions and regiments possessing small integral echelons. Logistic capability is allocated to battlegroups to support tasks in a similar way as combat forces when they are assigned to combat teams and battlegroups.
There are two ways in which this allocation occurs as defined by duration, distance and threat. In the first, combat service support (CSS) capability is allocated for a set time or battle phasing. Alternatively, the brigade headquarters provides coordination and sets control measures which allow CSS capability bricks to independently navigate the battlefield to allow the sustainment of forward combat teams.
It is possible modularity could be taken further with logistic teams of platoon size the basis for CSS ‘capability bricks’ within a combat formation. This means that a CSS battalion commander like peers from combat units would need to generate small and capable platoon-sized ‘replenishment teams’ to include:
Proficient distribution teams, transports sections, and transport troops that can group and regroup to achieve the distribution effect across the battle space.
Technically qualified and proficient forward repair teams and forward repair groups to maintain and repair brigade equipment across the battle space.
Bulk fuel section, ammo sections, and warehouse platoons capable of defending, holding and preparing combat commodities for distribution.
Logistics command teams that can command and employ any capability brick allocated to it.
Replenishment teams could operate in direct support to combat teams. To achieve this level of dispersal in a formations logistics capability would be difficult for reasons of control, but technology could assist future logistic commanders. In the near future, enabled by a range of new platforms, replenishment teams should possess the ability to communicate, provide their own protection to some extent and have sufficient situational awareness to navigate a complex battle space, and most importantly, protection and weaponry stay alive.
As a CSS commander at any level, it is a sobering thought to realise you command a high value target and a physical vulnerability of the formation. This is especially the case if logistic capabilities are centralised and made static in large positions. There are ways to mitigate this risk, but it is likely dispersed, but mutually-supporting platoon-sized CSS capabilities, is the best way for sustainment to be assured without tempting an enemy with a large logistic target.
Moving in small packets, below detection thresholds if possible, and responding with overwhelming firepower if required should become the norm for logistic elements. In applying this concept, losing a replenishment team to enemy action will pose a significant problem for the combat team being sustained. However, considered in the context of a non-dispersed formation, such a loss would seem minor in comparison to losing either a company-level CSST or the Brigade Maintenance Area or Support Group.
How can the formation staff execute this concept and give the brigade its tempo? It won’t be an easy task. With a set number of Combat Teams and replenishment teams available to a brigade, coordination and control measures become central to their effective and efficient use. ‘Road space’ must be managed efficiently as CSS elements will routinely move forwards and rearwards as the battle moves back and forth.
Intermixed in this movement, combat teams will leap frog in tactical bounds; requiring replenishment at various intervals. Further rearwards bulk commodity movements and distributed, and continually moving, ‘Logistics Nodes’ will very quickly stretch the ability to sustain tempo. Managing this complex battlespace will require the best out of the formation staff.
Logistics Teams must ‘think smaller’ when considering the use of logistic capabilities. Future wars and operating environments, particularly in littoral or urban domains, will require logistic units to operate independently, and most likely in platoon-sized elements supporting combat teams in combat. Just as members of the combat arms need to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to operate in a dispersed battlefield, so too will logistics teams.
Transferring what was once a regimental echelon sustainment task to formation level logistic units will require them to develop a different approach to generate capabilities that are suitably structured to interact directly with combat teams so to effectively sustain the brigade.
This requires more of logistics teams who must understand the building blocks of the brigade and the mechanics of how combat teams move, fight and execute tactical tasks. This will enable them to better visualise and plan sustainment requirements. Doctrine should guide them in developing such an understanding.
Undoubtedly seeing it, exercising it and simulating it will lead to better outcomes; logistics teams must practice the concept regularly in collective training. Furthermore, logistic commanders must trust junior logistics officers to command and fight logistics capabilities in the battle space. Logistics teams have been reluctant to do this in the past, and is a culture that must change.
Changing old approaches to logistics to focus upon small-team operations will better prepare logistics for the requirement to be responsive and agile. Coordinated effectively with the formations battle plan, small-team operations will better support the Brigades’ tempo and contribute to it winning the land fight.
Capacity of Logistics Enterprise
It may seem that it is easier to build up logistics forces, and support organisations, than it is to have combat forces at battle disposal. This is because it is generally easier to procure equipment for logistics purposes than it is for combat forces, there is assumed familiarity between logistics operations and industrial activities which suggests that any conversion between the two is relatively simple, and there is always the possibility that the commercial sector can be turned to overcome any deficiencies there may be in organic logistics capabilities.
.If military forces are to be responsive, fully trained and equipped, logistics forces must be available; processes ranging from strategic activity to tactical action must be coherent and well-practiced. A combat force without efficient and effective logistic support is ineffectual and, in the end, a waste of organisational effort.
At the root of logistics readiness is the bond between acquiring and maintaining military capability to have it available, and the establishment of a logistics process which enables or constrains its use operationally. The acquisition process, and military capability management typically executed by Service headquarters, limit the combat forces that can be created and made available.
However, it is logistics capabilities and practices that limit the forces that may be actually employed on military operations. The combat unit that is formed and given the latest technology, best armour and capable of overmatch against any possible adversary will be ineffective – undeployable in practice – without a logistics system capable of sustaining it.
Logistics readiness is particularly vital for those militaries that are expeditionary. Not only do robust logistics capabilities define the capacity of a military to project force, these same capabilities underwrite the ability of a military to respond quickly, affording them time to overcome the distance there may be to the operational area.
Militaries rarely assign logistics readiness issues as their highest priority to resolve. Instead they are typically consumed with ensuring that the elements at the forward edge of the operational area are as ready as practicable. But if compromises are made with regards to the preparedness of the logistics ‘system’ as a whole, or the logistics process is inefficient or ineffective due to poor practices and inadequate logistic discipline across the military, the readiness and preparedness of any unit destined for operations will itself be compromised.
Operational reporting consistently identifies forces as having culminated as a consequence of system-wide logistics failures that may have been otherwise prevented. Less well known are the times in which senior commanders have had to make choices on which forces they chose not to deploy based on the readiness of the logistics forces and the logistics process more generally. In strategic decision making, where logistics becomes the ‘arbiter of opportunity’, if not the arbiter of choice, and the true measure of whether a military is ready for combat.
Weapons, weight and sustainment in the multi-domain battle are required to support operational combat power in multi-domain battle. This is a well-known, historically proven, trend. However, there are measures which can be taken to reduce this effect, or eliminate it in some areas.
It is possible to create a lean ‘tail’ capable of adaptively responding to operational needs in spite of logistic demand. However, without comprehensive planning, there is every likelihood that inefficient operations can result in a ‘tail’ that monsters to a force-compromising ‘iron-mountain’, or a ‘tail’ so austere that it invites an inconvenient force culmination in battle.
Logistics is rarely just a Logistics Team problem. Very few logistics teams, in low tempo, will ever be responsible for the strategic procurement decisions upon which logistics demand is based. However, they must be consistent advocates for demand reduction and management.
This is not as simple a task as it first sounds, because many proposed solutions have a habit of challenging the assumptions made by force designers; designers who have a tendency to assume logistics abundance in an operational setting, or, alternatively, fail to fully consider logistic demand as a planning factor at all.
Platform efficiency strategy is one logistics teams have the least ability to influence outside of describing logistics costs to key decision makers in the acquisition process. Platform efficiency is the application of technology to minimise the amount of logistics support required to deliver and sustain a capability.
Technology will be transformative, but it is a long-term solution typically reflected in multi-decade procurement processes. But some land forces have only just recently introduced new combat capabilities. This means the opportunity to influence platform efficiency will be very limited for some time yet.
Another strategy for reducing logistics demand – force efficiency – is an option that can be implemented now. Force efficiency refers to initiatives which require fewer force elements to achieve a desired effect. In developing Army Stryker-capability, for example, the organic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance available to brigade combat teams, coupled with precision fires, complemented and enhanced the capability of the medium-weight properties of the platform.
In this case, you might say force efficiency didn’t deliver operational effectiveness – at least in terms of the operations that the Stryker would subsequently find itself in. But we must be reminded that the combination of modern armed, and increasingly cheap, UAV’s supported by surveillance capabilities and guided weapons offer forces firepower with little permanent presence on the ground and logistics cost as a consequence.
In terms of logistics-specific activities there are other force efficiency opportunities that can be undertaken. Adopting common components, ammunition and other items, and standardisation across coalition boundaries greatly simplifies supply between likely partners. Collectively, and in an operational environment, there may be possibilities to share capabilities and prevent the unnecessary duplication of effort.
Elsewhere, the modularisation of vehicle components, supported by information systems that better predict maintenance requirements, has been touted as offering opportunities to improve force efficiency. Implemented effectively, this approach limits the need to forward position maintenance personnel with most deep repair occurring rearward but you might see a maintenance problem as one of distribution. Self-offloading distribution vehicles, or more effective ways to store and package supplies, also exemplify a force efficiency strategy.
Force efficiency can also be improved through conceptual and doctrinal means. At the macro level, land forces – as part of joint forces – can achieve greater efficiencies by removing duplicate functions, or if demand can’t be reduced, sharing functions to create greater opportunities. This approach is a cornerstone of the multi-domain battle concept, a natural evolution of joint operations.
Doctrinal approaches to logistics that move away from constructs of logistic elements are devolved and owned at the lowest level, to those where modularised logistic capabilities are surged to support particular missions and tasks for limited time periods, also offers the prospect of improving force efficiency.
Rethinking assumptions about who ‘owns’ what in the battlespace, and the logistics control methods such as ‘lines’ or ‘levels’ of logistics support must be part of future logistics transformation efforts, as well as land forces which tolerates the inevitable periods where limited logistic support must be directed away from one unit to another to support combat operations.
Closely aligned to force efficiency is personnel efficiency. An example of personnel efficiency, where less personnel are required to do a particular job is given example by logistics and combat force personnel ‘mixing’ tasks such as armoured fighting vehicle operations and maintenance. Noting the training burden and competency risk it imposes, some small military units extensively cross-train limited logistic personnel.
There is no reason the skills possessed by personnel from logistics or combat arms cannot be similarly transferred between one another in such a way. Technology can also support personnel efficiency. Examples include modernising ‘logistics information systems’ and ‘common operating pictures’, both of which promise to improve supply chain performance to enhancing the capacity of logistics teams to respond to emergent tactical requirements.
The last strategy presented here is mission focus. For many militaries who have transitioned their forces to enable a consistent, rotatable amongst available combat elements, readiness cycle the term mission focus is not always apparent. Mission focus refers to the specialisation of formations for particular tasks thus avoiding the costly logistics capabilities that might enable the formation to be prepared for all tasks, or those tasks which might be perceived as unlikely. But there are inventive ways in which land forces can be structured appropriately to achieve mission focus without abandoning preparedness-based force design methodologies.
Temporary allocations of modularised logistics capabilities based upon emerging operational requirements is probably the best-known method and should be rigorously applied in future attempts to transform land forces. Even so, land forces should always be prepared to abandon force design models which are based upon an assumption of being able to ‘do it all’ when the need arises, and prepare logistics capabilities accordingly.
Logistics is an end-to-end process, and although land forces may seek to reduce logistics demand through a variety of comprehensive strategies, their work can be undone by a failure to properly integrate their planning with other activities and change programs elsewhere
Plans must be built for logistics teams to more efficiently support combat capability and a structure must be formed, for it will be their lot in the operational environment to advise, if not resolve, numerous challenges which come from increased combat power.
It’s a problem if substantial improvements in combat capability now being seen in land forces are curtailed by the supply shortages, maintenance limitations and distribution constraints that are so very routine in war
Commanders will always exploit success as far as their logistic capability will allow, so much so that they may willingly bring severe logistics risk on their force to win. To prepare land forces for such occurrences, logistics teams must be professionally active and understand tactics and concepts implicitly to shift weight and through adapting their own practices ensure the force remains steady for its ultimate test.
Establishing Communication between Logistics Teams and Commanders
An effective and robust dialogue is just what logistics teams need to achieve with their commander.
Why the need? Logistics Teams must understand the motivations of their commanders, and in return, their perspective must be reflected in their commander’s understanding of the operations.
This applies in low tempo where materiel and personnel must be ready and prepared for operations. However, it should go without saying that the dialogue is even more fundamental during high tempo operations. Without an effective dialogue between commander and logistics teams, operations and logistics planning requirements risk becoming unbalanced, with logistics and combat elements potentially ‘unhinging’ each others operations at a time they should be working effectively together.
Before any operational dialogue can occur, we should consider what the commander and logistics teams should seek to understand. The commander likely wants to know several things: Is this plan doable or not? They have a plan and they just need a yes or no as to its feasibility. They don’t necessarily need to be provided with tons of calculations although the most will want some sort of evidence to your conclusion, especially if your answer is no.
When is the battle going to end? And restart? In an ideal world, formations would be able to operate forever over unlimited distances, with logistics quietly sustaining the force. Commanders get this is not realistic, if for no other reason than they get that their people need to sleep at some point. They want to understand when or where they need to pause, and at what point they can resume their preferred activity.
How much is this going to cost me? Be it time, money or tactical opportunities logistics will cost a commander and his plan. What is it, can he afford it and what is he giving up to be sustained?
Logistics teams are seeking answers to key questions: What are you thinking of doing? As logistics teams, there is a lot of difference between the ‘fight tonight’ and the ‘fight tomorrow’. It is too late for the ‘fight tonight’ to be influenced by a logistics team, the right stuff must already be in the right place, right now, because there is little opportunity to change plans. The ‘fight tomorrow’ is key business for the logistician.
What opportunities are there to reset the battle? As much as sustaining in background is desirable, fleeting opportunities in the lull of the fight must be taken to enable the force to recuperate itself. Identifying, along with operational planners, when these opportunities might be taken by consulting the commander will be vital to enabling the force to reset and recuperate.
With an increased operations tempo and cuts to budgets and force size, military contractors have shifted from supplemental to operational necessity. Contract support in both garrison and contingency environments is now not only common, but also expected by commanders.
With this excess, however, has come increasing dependence on contract support as well as a decrease in utilization of organic military logistics both on and off the battlefield. The result is a growing military logistics experience gap, presenting readiness challenges for future battlefields on which contract support may not be a viable option.
At some point, the money that enables contractor support will vanish or the military will be asked to fight in locations where contractors cannot follow. Proper balance between contract support and organic logistics forces is imperative to ensure ability to meet the future demands of a multi-domain battlespace.
While contractors do not participate directly in executing or planning military operations, they do fulfil needs essential to combat operations, and those needs seem to have grown over time. In particular, during periods of increased restrictions on the presence of military forces, reduced force numbers, and increased operations tempo, the Army turns to use contractors. With manpower limitations and increases in combat demands, Army leaders use contractors to provide logistics support to allow the military to focus on their kinetic missions.
Many operational commanders would much rather fill their ranks with combat forces instead of force sustainers. With contractor utilization becoming more commonplace on the battlefield, commanders began expecting similar support at home during exercises. During large-scale military exercises, it is typically less labour intensive for the military to outsource things like chow halls and transportation of equipment.
It saves headaches and late nights for the planners and sustainers, making it an easy choice for them to support. Unfortunately, these challenges are precisely the point of exercise training. This is the time for sustainers to practise their skills so they become capable and confident in their ability to accomplish their mission.
While contractors are an essential component to sustaining the Army, the US military desperately needs to set a new organic-to-outsourced logistics balance if it wants to ensure readiness for future conflict. Future conflicts will be not only be more complicated, but more complex, with land forces fighting in dispersed locations to create effects in multiple domains, while defending against multi-domain attacks. This environment requires a more agile and dynamic organic-to-outsourced logistics balance.
The question is how to determine the right mix of forces and contracted support to complete a mission in the most effective and efficient manner. Often, contracted logistics support may be the easiest choice. However, it is not a perfect fit for every mission and it does not provide the right solution for all skill and manpower shortages it is employed against.
Like all things, when the military uses contract support in military operations, leaders need to evaluate the risks and benefits of each decision. Using a contractor does not ensure the desired performance in the same manner as using an organic Army asset. A key consideration in finding balance is recognizing that the Army and the contractor have inherently different interests. Army leaders must not forget its current and future core interests, balancing today’s logistics demands against maintaining a force capable of sustaining itself on austere future battlefields.
In addition, having the ability to use contract logistics support does not release sustainers from being able to perform their mission-essential tasks. For the Army, the three sustainment warfighting functions are: logistics, personnel services, and service support. All other warfighting functions (mission command, intelligence, movement and manoeuvre, fires, protection, and engagement) depend on their successful accomplishment in whatever threat context the Army is engaged in.
Logistics Teams must find a balance between organic and contract-provided support that does not compromise the Army’s future logistics capabilities. Forces must revitalize the ability to support and sustain future operations while balancing the fiscal responsibilities of using contractors with the readiness benefits of maintaining organic logistics capabilities.
In part, this means decision makers must roll back the mission and guidance creep and opt for increased utilization of organic logistics functions. Above all, logistics teams must emphasize the importance of re-developing the processes, procedures, techniques, and training at the tactical level. Organic sustainment must be challenged and empowered to experiment, advance, and refine their skills during exercises just as their battlefield counterparts do.
One of the primary reasons cited for Army increasing use of contract support is “the need to compensate for a decrease in the size of the force and a lack of expertise within the military services.” In order for the Army to decrease spending on operational contracts and continue its global coverage, the military would need to increase instead of drawing down and fill the knowledge gaps they have created.
There is no argument that Army requires contract support to enhance its capabilities, especially when actively engaging in numerous roles throughout the globe. However, creep in both contractor mission and guidance on their utilization is eroding the Army’s logistical core competencies and degrading requisite skills and knowledge. Having the ability to use contract support to ease logistics operations does not release logistics teams from being able to perform their mission-essential tasks.
In future expeditionary operations, especially due to multi-domain considerations, it is unlikely the Army will be able to rely as heavily, if at all, on the abilities of contractors. Logistics teams must have confidence in their ability to execute sustainment missions without contracted support.
Sustainment does not just appear on the battlefield, or even in the area of operation. Without exercising the action of sustainment with organic logistics elements, the capability will continue to erode until the US military is unable to support itself in the future fight. The contractor logistics easy button may not be available on future battlefields; so it is time the Army prepared for the hard work of sustaining the fight in that emerging context.
Top 10 Requirements for Trial Operational Network Programs Seeking Ways to Keep Battlefield Data Flowing
Joint All-Domain Operations JADC2 concept provides commanders access to information to allow for simultaneous and sequential operations using surprise and the rapid and continuous integration of capabilities across all domains.
Current decades-old platforms cannot adequately leverage new technology; and the supporting structures to enable future C2 either do not exist or require maturation. DoD officials have stressed that a JADC2 architecture would enable commanders to 1) rapidly understand the battlespace, 2) direct forces faster than adversaries, and 3) deliver phase linked combat effects across all domains.
JADC2 envisions providing a network battlespace for the Joint force to share intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data, transmitting across many communications networks, to enable faster decision making.
JADC2 intends to enable commanders to make better decisions by collecting data from numerous sensors, processing the data using artificial intelligence algorithms to identify targets, then recommending the optimal weapon—both kinetic and nonkinetic e.g. electronic weapons to engage the target.
DoD uses commercial ride-sharing services as an example to describe its desired end state for JADC2. Ride-share services combine two different apps—one for riders and a second for drivers. Using the respective users’ position, the AI tool determines the optimal match based on distance, travel time, and passengers, among other variables.
The ride-share application seamlessly provides directions for the driver to follow, delivering the passenger to their destination. DoD has its own network requirements to transmit data to match riders and provide driving instructions.
JADC2 is not an easy endeavor. Sharing information across multiple security layers, harvesting data and then turning it into accessible, discoverable and transportable information is a challenge.
Army Network Exercise Tested Sharing of Targeting Data from Newest Weapons” Army is looking at the potential integration of all of our fires into a fires network. Currently, Army has one network, AFATDS, to pass data about ground targets to its offensive artillery units – howitzers, rocket launchers, surface-to-surface missiles.
Meanwhile, it’s developing a different network, IBCS, to share data on flying targets – incoming enemy rockets, missiles, and aircraft – with its air and missile defense units.
The two networks and the sensors that feed them must meet very different technical demands, since shooting down a missile requires split-second precision that bombarding a tank battalion does not.
But there’s also great potential for the two to share data and work together. For example, the defensive side can figure out where enemy missiles are launching from, then tell the offensive side so it can blow up the enemy launchers before they fire again.
While this year’s Convergence exercise focus on the Army, the service is already working with the Air Force to meld the two. “We have been in discussion with the Air Force for the better part of the year on how we integrate with the effort they have going on like live meetings on JADC2 [Joint All-Domain Command & Control] with all of the architects of ABMS.”
Those discussions made very clear to both the Army and the Air Force participants that “it all comes down to data and it all comes down to the architectures you build.
A common theme emerges from Army efforts to field several new communications technologies: for the foreseeable future, the service's comms programs are about pushing more data to and from the front lines in the face of increasingly aggressive electronic-warfare activities.
Two Army pilot programs aim to bring cloud storage closer to the front lines.
The goal of the first pilot, which operators have just finished testing, was to move training software from a fixed location into a cloud for use anywhere. That will be useful as the Army deploys its new Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS: augmented-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to review and retrain on different operations they’ve experienced.
The second pilot looks at virtual and container clouds — basically, smaller cloud environments within larger clouds. The objective is to sideline data that operators use only rarely, and prioritize access to more valuable data in environments where there is a lot of jamming and hacking.
The Army has built several prototype communication tools highlighting new prototypes in cryptography alternatives, as in methods for sending secure coms beyond traditional encryption, for tracking friendly military units (also in electronic warfare-heavy environments) and satellite communications tools that rely less on commercial, wideband satellite signals.
They’re also working with the service’s Future Vertical Lift team — manned and unmanned helicopters — to build wideband satellite communications gear that can “operate on our platforms through rotor blades.”
The Army is working with industry on prototypes for multi-orbit and multi-path (meaning in low-earth orbit, geo earth orbit, etc.) satellite communication tools, software-defined radio programs for the CMOSS standard, which refers to the modular open suite of software standards that allows for different military vehicles to share the same software platform, unified network operations, identity management, data transfer that’s less hackable or jammable, and techniques for converging disparate data sources into a common fabric.
Technologies have come out of the Combat Capabilities Development Command ready for wider, experimental use in the field include cyber situational understanding, application security, integrated tactical network operations, canceling interference for the TSM waveform, which is commonly used in tactical settings, and greater spectrum awareness “so we can see what our signature looks like and take actions to mitigate against that signature.”
Communications are a modernization priority since it provides the basis for sharing data between a wider array of Army robotic vehicles and device-carrying soldiers. It remains to be seen how well all of those Army pieces will connect to other services as part of the Pentagon’s new Joint All-Domain Command and Control networks.
To find targets for its new long-range weapons, the Army is experimenting with cloud computing and AI that can bridge the gap between intelligence networks and combat units.
It’s critical to get data on potential targets from intelligence systems to combat units fast enough to strike them with the new long-range artillery and high-speed helicopters now in development. Digitally connecting the widest possible range of “sensors” to “shooters” in this way is the focus of Army Futures Command’s Project Convergence experiment.
The types of data you want to access range from full-motion video to electronic warfare detections of enemy transmitters. Quickly pooling that many kinds of data, from that many different sources, will require heavy use of artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
“We’ve initiated two kinds of cloud pilots to help inform how we’re going to adopt cloud within the tactical environment, but that’s very different from implementing cloud in the benign environment of an Army base in the US.
When people say data is “in the cloud,” that means it’s on someone else’s computer, usually a massive server farm somewhere, that you can access remotely. No access, no cloud, no data. But frontline units can’t drag fiber optic cable behind them wherever they go. Tactical networks have to move data over radio transmissions, which can be disrupted by terrain – mountains, reinforced concrete buildings, even dense forest – or by enemy hacking and jamming.
Future exercises will require moving larger amounts of data over longer distances than ever before. “Our integrated tactical network is really being pushed to the limit so extending its range and capacity are high priorities.
“We’re going to be extremely challenged by the bandwidth of the network. That means you can’t dump all the data on a single, central mega-server and expect everyone to access it over long-distance links. Instead, you need to selectively decentralize the data, pushing at least some crucial subset of it all the way out to the frontline edges of your network.
“Data that we don’t access routinely, we can host inside the cloud. “Data we need to access more rapidly and on demand, we can put into edge nodes.”
“We have to spend some time to really understand how we want to deliver data and to whom, when, and where. “One of the things that we’ve been working on is expanding our Army commercial cloud provider services to edge nodes provided by the same vendor… How do you get that data in and out of a FOB [Forward Operating Base]? How do you get that on a plane? How do you move it around the world?”
Army is not trying to do all things in the cloud instead trying to figure out what are the things we can containerize right away.
Sorting all this data and moving it through the cloud requires automation. Today, moving data from intelligence collectors to combat operators is “a very labor-intensive process.
In the future it needs to start “doing that work in a much more digital way that’s a lot more seamless and easier to do at scale and at a distance.”
One potential solution: artificial intelligence. Army artillery units did a live-fire experiment with targeting data provided by two complementary pieces of AI software, Prometheus and SHOT (Synchronized High-Optempo Targeting).
“Prometheus is looking at all that intelligence imagery and being able to pluck out potential targets of interest, and doing it very successfully.” Prometheus’s output then feeds into SHOT “where we’re looking at how do we automate and use machine learning … to come up with the right information to address the attack guidance matrix so we can actually do effective calls for fire.”
Prometheus analyses satellite data, spots enemy forces, and sends targeting data to shooters. The artillery corps is working on a complementary AI called SHOT (Synchronized High-Optempo Targeting), which will take targeting data from Prometheus and other sources, match it against the commander’s priorities and an Attack Guidance Matrix stating which types of targets are best attacked by which types of weapons. Then SHOT will output an automated call-for-fire, something missing from this year’s exercises.
AI is still young and “brittle,” Its machine-learning algorithms need to be trained on much more data before they can reliably detect a wide range of targets in a wide range of environments, not just the open desert.
Experiments in what’s called Joint All Domain Command & Control, like the Army’s Project Convergence and the Air Force’s ABMS “on-ramps,” aim to automate that process by transmitting data directly from machine to machine. The vision is that spy-satellite photos and other reconnaissance information flow into artificial intelligence software, which spots concealed foes far faster than human analysts can, picks priority targets and sends precise targeting data to whatever friendly unit is best armed and located to strike, be it an aircraft, ground-based missile launcher, or other weapon.
“Can we actually look at the intelligence community to help feed us tactically and provide us tactical data for deep fire targeting with long position fires?
“And then the last piece of this, which we will address probably on the follow-on phase is BDA, how do we do battle damage assessment?” “How do we use machine learning to determine that my effects actually were effective?”
There’s no one master algorithm that can solve all of these different problems. “There’s no one-size-fits-all machine learning capability out there,” We’re on the verge right now of a big wave of machine learning capabilities coming out of industry…. Can we actually put multiple machine learning methods into the architectures?”
But no amount of new technology will be enough without the human element. Success will also take policy, procedural, and even cultural changes to streamline coordination between intelligence networks.
“Policy and data governance, at scale …. whether it be at the enterprise level, or the at the tactical level-- that is a gap that continues to challenge us at least every day
Some critics take a skeptical approach to JADC2. They raise questions about its technical maturity and affordability, and whether it is even possible to field a network that can securely and reliably connect sensors to shooters and support command and control in a lethal, electronic warfare-rich battlespace.
Critics ask who would have decision making authority across domains because traditionally, command authorities are delegated in each domain rather than from an overall campaign perspective.
Top 10 Network Tools Establish Posts to Find Troop Location Faster and Improve Situational Awareness
Army has been experimenting with breaking up and dispersing its forward-deployed command posts to make them more survivable.
Army leaders have been concerned about the survivability of command posts that are placed close to battle zones. A series of experiments started to break command posts up into a series of dispersed nodes. This is a different approach to previous efforts that had the command post all in one place, but concentrated on tearing it down and packing it up quickly before an enemy attack.
Combatant commanders can choose the best option based on the circumstances. “Command posts are incredibly important to the Army formation. “However, they're in a tough spot now with needing to do the complex operations they will need to do in the … multi-domain operating environment where they will also be under a lot of stress from adversary capabilities to try to target and destroy them.”
Network modernization is one of the command’s top priorities along with long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, air-and-missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Other technologies tested included protected satellite communications, cyber defense, soldier-to-soldier communications and hardened waveforms.
The idea was to geographically disperse a single command post into separated nodes to make them harder to find and allow them to fare better against an attack if they are targeted. The main problem was maintaining connectivity.
“As we disperse the command post, the people physically disperse apart and they get farther from their data and services infrastructure that they're used to working with.” The project worked on providing continuity of mission-essential functions through data resiliency and data replication so the information that the users need at their platform is there for them should they be disconnected from the other nodes.
The Army used new communication technology to transport the data to the nodes. The experiment sought to discover how far it could extend, if the wireless tech functioned in a military environment, and "what needs to be changed to enable that. To add realism, the experiment transmitted data using current command post software.
As far as the number of nodes and how far they can be dispersed, those are the kinds of questions the Army is trying to figure out the answers to. “We're helping to further that discussion, inform those requirements, and in this case provide the science and technology … first step toward better dispersing the command post.”
Meanwhile, the experiment did not offer any new technologies to mask the command posts’ electronic signatures, but had a goal not to add any new signals that could be detected by adversaries.
In the future dispersed command post concept will undergo a series of operational field tests where soldiers can provide feedback. They will integrate the dispersed command post with the command post integrated infrastructure program of record, which will be the new command post’s technological backbone.
Dispersion won’t be the only way you would employ your command posts in the future, but that will be one more way that you can achieve a more survivable posture when needed and still have an effective command post.
Whether that is at the battalion, brigade or division level is “yet to be determined. At a minimum, division-level and below, should have coders there in uniform, not contractors, fixing the computer problems that we have, the computing problems that we have, the communication problems that we have, the aided target recognition problems that we have because the enemy will evolve, they will change and if we don’t have the rapid capability to correct or to counteract what the enemy’s trying to do to us, well, then they’re going to be able to make decisions faster than us and that is totally unacceptable.”
“It was very complex and took us weeks of hard coding. “What was really, really powerful was when we identified something that wasn’t working …we had the computer expertise on station to recode the algorithms … to make it better on the spot.”
When dealing with a “living, breathing, thinking threat, we have to provide capability that can be able to adjust on-the-fly at that pace. But having coders on the battlefield isn’t simple because networks have to be configured so they are secure and such a possibility will still require a hard look at tactics, techniques and procedures.
“There are things that we can do with open systems architecture,” which means the we need to own the data. Often what folks get focused in on is the ownership status and as long as we control the interfaces, we can provide things like a ‘Pep Boys toolkit’ so that soldiers out on the edge can have a developer’s kit.”
Then as the threat, information and sensors change, “whatever the process may be, they can tailor that based on their mission without having to go all the way back to the factory of the industrial original equipment manufacturer to make that change.”
Having such a capability is “well within the art of the possible., “We have to think through the configuration management just to make sure that we continue to keep our systems hardened on the battlespace.
For future battlefield operations, speed is the name of the game. The side that can make decisions faster has the advantage .A new, AI-enabled effort can give operators the ability to detect, identify, process and engage targets quicker than ever and at longer ranges than before.
The Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, or TITAN, offers frontline forces, as well as headquarter commanders, a resilient tactical ground station capable of rapidly sifting through massive amounts of incoming sensor data to find and track potential threats. TITAN can connect to the future Joint All-Domain Operations enterprise, an all-domain, interconnected network to plan and execute operations in a synchronized, collaborative and streamlined manner.
“The goal of TITAN is to link Army commanders at all echelons to timely intelligence data, speeding up the data-to-decision timeline. “Today’s systems limit timely access to the intelligence information needed to engage in the ‘deep fight’ – distances greater than 200 miles.”
Paratroopers communicate using the Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) during a battle drill to clear buildings during a live fires exercise.
When paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s First Brigade Combat Team landed in the drop zone during a night jump, it took leaders 45 minutes after hitting the ground to locate about 90 percent of their formation.
For contrast, at an exercise early last year, the commander of that brigade didn’t achieve 75 percent accountability of formation until the second day of the exercise.
That’s one of the major improvements that’s coming to three more Army brigades as part of Capability Set ’21, a new set of network tools that will be fully fielded to the First Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd.
The exercise provided a solider touch point opportunity for the Army's Integrated tactical network (ITN) teams, made up of Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical and the Network Cross-Functional Team, to hear what soldiers thought about Capability Set ’21.
And leaders from the Army’s tactical network modernization team received some important feedback: the technology works, but the training needs improvement.
“It does what we thought it would do, which is increase situational awareness up and down. “That’s the critical thing … we don’t know where people are on the battlefield unless we can talk with them. Now, we can see them and that just speeds up processing.”
That’s good news for the Army as it’s set to deploy Capability Set ’21 to three more infantry brigades. The effort is working to provide a resilient tactical network to enable faster communications and data transfer to enable multi-domain operations (MDO) or Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
“Our obligation is very simple: we have to make this work. And if it doesn’t, MDO, all-domain and everything else, is a pipe dream.”
The network tools fielded to brigades significantly improve communications, but that soldiers need improved training with the batteries and additional cables.
A major difference maker is Capability Set ’21′s End User Device that works in tandem with the soldier’s radio to broadcast their location to all other users across the formation, as well as provides mapping capabilities. On average, the new “revolutionary” capability allows commanders to see his formation 45 minutes to two hours, much improved from last year and a “game changer” when it comes to fighting battles.
We have to resource those companies, troops and batteries in the fight mainly through fires, whether that’s Army indirect fires, or its joint aircraft. If they aren’t visible and there isn’t a real-time data on where they are, then they can’t be supported. And so now we can support them faster more quickly and bring everything in closer to get that into the fight.”
The devices also allow soldiers to mark enemy positions and broadcast that information back through the rest of the formation. Shared understanding and increased situational awareness across the formation will save lives, and the EUDs increase both by an “untold variable , because the capability eliminates the game of “telephone” played between the brigade commander and soldiers spread throughout the field.
Another Capability Set ’21 technology, known as the Variable Height Antenna, a tethered drone flying a TSM radio, successfully extended communications by several kilometers further than a standard, ground-based antenna would reach, the exercise found.
These capabilities are a critical component of the Army’s work evolving its network into a mesh network that gets away from line-of-sight communications and uses individual radios as nodes that extend the range of the network to allow soldiers to talk to each other beyond line-of-sight, across the battlespace.
“We can always talk to the lowest radio to the highest radio because we have this mesh network and in ITN terms, that’s game changing for us. It is moving us beyond line of sight, so for the first time, and that beyond line of sight is movable and fixable.”
While the devices provide greater situational awareness, during the exercise the location data wasn’t coming in with specific identifiers for what dots representing locations meant. But, in a way that highlighted the DevOps approach that the Army is taking to the modernization of its tactical network, the software was updated during the exercise because the vendor was in the field.
In addition, the Army discovered some linkage challenges between the radio and device, finding that the radio and device would lose the link between them if they were switched off. Leaders in the field want the devices to connect automatically so soldiers don’t have to connect them together themselves.
A new approach to training
But one major challenge Army tactical network officials learned from talking to soldiers using the equipment on the ground was that the training process for teaching soldiers how to use the equipment needed to improve.
The radio and EUD are connected together to broadcast location information, but soldiers were trained to use the devices separately. But since the devices need to be used as a system, leaders learned that the soldiers needed to be trained on how the system works.
“What needs to happen is soldiers need to be trained with the equipment as they are worn and functions as an overall network because everything affects everything else.” depending on the terrain.
So while classroom training on the devices is important for the soldiers to learn the technology, they also need to learn how to use the technology in the field and how the terrain can affect it. The big takeaway was adjustments to training.
“It needs to be as hands on as possible. You need to get in the terrain and actually test the radio. The classroom won’t cut it just because it’s no longer programming the radio and walking away.”
These new capabilities also mean soldiers must carry more batteries and more cables with them. The team identified a couple issues with battery life, one that requires training soldiers different configurations to optimize battery life. The other battery life problem was addressed through a firmware update by the vendor. Several Army personnel in the field also noted that soldiers needed to be taught best practices for cable management.
Soldiers “weren’t experts on how it’s powered or how to manage cables and that’s not a fault of the paratroopers. That’s a fault with the way that we were addressing training.”
As the Army perfects Capability Set ’21 and moves forward with Capability Set '23, its next iteration of network tools, it will continue to rely on the feedback of soldiers to ensure that technology works, while being simple and intuitive enough for the user.
“The beauty of it is that feedback we’re going to get because soldiers right now has a really good idea that’s going to make this better? And that’s the feedback we’re really looking for.”
Top 50 Considerations Assess Network Design Projects to Make Selection Poised to Return Positive Results
“Commanders on the front line need to quickly identify and assess threats to their forces. “To do that accurately, they need a system that can rapidly collect and fuse data gathered from every available sensor – regardless of domain – and quickly share the information with them. The goal is to speed up how fast data moves from sensor to the executing platforms, such as aircraft, artillery or jamming systems.”
Getting all these systems to work together over such distances is hard enough within a single service like the Army. Getting different systems’ technology to trade data is harder still. That’s true even for an aircraft like the F-35, which is so packed with advanced electronics and data-fusion software.
“We want all the intelligence we can get. “We want to access all the sensors that we can get.” But the Army’s learning it doesn’t need to overload the network – and soldiers’ brains – by sending everyone every piece of data. Instead, the AI needs to be smart enough to send each user only as much information as they need: While an intelligence analyst might need high-res pictures of the target, for example, a cannoneer might just need the right coordinates to shoot at.
“The information needs to go to the right command post at the right time and in the right level of fidelity. We’ve got to respect the network, and we can’t overwhelm it with everything.”
While technically feasible, “we’re struggling to implement the concept because of the way we built our data structures, our pipes, etc., inside DoD. Our links and nodes structure is not really built for cloud-based structures and moving data around like that. We still like direct feeds. We like firewalls.”
There has to be a redesign of how the Pentagon manages its data as well as policy changes to manage security and configuration control.
“The real problem isn’t as simple as, ‘Hey let’s just make sure it’s any sensor, any weapon.’ It is to really make sure that you’re getting the data that’s needed to the right assets. And sometimes it’s to the display console, making sure that data is on the table.”
We put a bunch of devices in their hands and, after they came up, the exact same command and control, the exact same toolset, with the exact same access, all of the power that they had in the command center was now in their hands as a tablet. They could do command and control anywhere. We’ve never done that before.”
That entailed giving commanders access to both classified and unclassified information together on one device, moving information that was once only available in a command center to a thin, handheld computer.
“So think about that common data layer, think about communication as a service. So we’ve talked about infrastructure as a service with integrated combat system – think about comms as a service where I have multiple data paths that I can send traffic based on precedence.
The system will route that data accordingly to get it to achieve the end state in that fire control loop because of the precedence, not because of some prescribed first in, first out, last in mentality.”
So this is a key idea of the tactical grid to allow us to have multiple data paths working at the time and route the messages to try to present options for those multiple sensors.”
“When you lay the data strategy out and you really go to the principles inside of it, what you’ll see even down to the vision statement is it really is about creating operational advantage and efficiencies. The operational advantage puts JADC2 right at the heart of the data strategy and it was designed to be that way.”
Requirements to Deliver on Commander’s Request to see Intelligence Assets on one Updating tracker led our team to address the hardware, software, and contractor resourcing that makes this type of tracker possible. It’s not that the technology didn’t exist; it just didn’t exist in the conventional Army due to the projected costs of acquisition and integration.
Our requests for converter kits were consistently denied at higher echelons and the system manufacturer warned us that attempting to convert the legacy system could irreversibly harm its functionality.
This applies beyond the intelligence warfighting function—it could also inform the acquisition or retrofitting of systems to improve mobility. The Army’s commitment to MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) uniformity is evident. With slight variants, it is likely that a Stryker BCT in in one theatre will have essentially the same equipment as a Stryker BCT in another, despite drastic differences in home-station operating conditions.
Right now, the process is restrictive, empowering some units to achieve “shooter’s preference” while hindering others with contractually obligated, decade-old technology. These bureaucratic procedures can and should be modified.
The recommendations made here—reducing footprints, rethinking bandwidth needs and interoperability, and enabling tailored acquisitions—do not represent a significant departure from the original mandate to improve Army headquarters’ mobility and survivability in the transition to large-scale combat operations.
However, the inability to solve the structural problems arising from the retrofit and replacement of legacy systems is a risk to both the mission and the force.
Even something as seemingly trivial as connecting to the wrong port can create wider problems. And then there are the much bigger questions that the Army cannot answer yet. How much data, about what, does any given commander really need to make the right call in combat? What data do some units need but not others? What unneeded information is just cluttering up the network?
“What we’re capturing here…is going to drive our design goals” for future systems. “It’s been a great forcing function to get all the teams working together.”
What we really want are standards systems that are built with a well-defined, clear interface to some kind of standard. It makes this job of on-demand interoperability, much, much, much simpler.”
There is a desire to craft common data standards and common data protocols as well as ease integration. “Those things are hard at first, but as you start to lock those into places you start to build momentum and can go faster.”
When the time comes to make some changes to your network capabilities, and you’re tasked with evaluating network design proposals aimed at delivering the most suitable, cost-effective solutions, it’s important to make sure you’re not overlooking any essential factors.
If you don’t know exactly what you should be looking for from a prospective provider, the process is going to become complicated and frustrating, and you’re unlikely to end up with the outcomes you’re expecting.
A network upgrade or implementation project affects your budget and your operations, so you want to make sure that you’re considering all necessary components and enabling a smooth undertaking with a provider that's fully equipped to meet your needs. The best way to prepare for this effort is to educate yourself.
Consult this outline of key network design proposal inclusions to determine which provider can deliver the most value and fulfill all of your requirements.
From initial network assessment and site survey to full implementation and ongoing maintenance, a network design proposal should lay out a full timeline of expected events and roll-outs. A provider’s ability to carry out these plans and services in a reasonable time frame, one that minimizes the burden or impact on your daily operations, will be a key factor in your decision-making process.
Ultimately, the task of deciding how to move forward with your network implementation can be a complex and overwhelming one. The choice regarding which provider can best meet your needs requires a dynamic, multifaceted approach. Get expert advice and information about how to ease this process and make the best decision for your organization.
Analysis and Problem Identification
This section is the foundation of the entire project, as it shows an understanding of the reasons why you need a network design in the first place. A prospective provider can’t begin to map out where your network should be headed until they completely comprehend the details surrounding your current situation.
Unless the provider has a complete view of these components, you may end up with inaccurate quotes or expend lots of wasted time and effort. Make sure the proposal reiterates an awareness of the following issues:
Upgrading Existing Networks
It’s essential for the provider to complete a full network assessment to perform an even deeper audit of your network needs, including identification of capabilities and shortcomings
Based on the provider’s analysis and problem identification, they should be able to outline recommendations and proposed solutions. This section may also offer a diagram of the proposed network design, illustrating how the provider plans to create an infrastructure that will support your stated needs and address the challenges exposed in their network assessment
In order to execute a network installation or upgrade, various products will need to be purchased and employed. Whether old equipment needs to be replaced or new products are needed to fulfill a requirement, there should be an explanation of recommendations for you to consider.
The action items in this section will vary depending on your specific situation, but some of the ones you will likely need to take under consideration include:
With all of these recommendations, proposed products and provider man hours comes the cost of doing business. This is the area your high-level decision-makers will be most interested in, as they’ll want to see a return on the investment.
Inventory of Hardware and Information Technology Assets
Site Visit Executive
Provides Periodic Updates Operation Status