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:
- Whether you have an existing network or are implementing one from scratch
- How many user profiles are expected to utilize the network and in what capacities
- What the entire scope for your network is, including location(s) and number of buildings
- What types of systems and applications will rely on network usage
- Any user priority levels
- The types of data that will be transmitted
- The level of security that is necessary for your specific industry and operations
- Your storage and speed and scalability requirements
- Impact on the business if the network has an outage
- The level of ongoing maintenance and support
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
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your network?
- What are the sources of any interference?
- Where are the areas of user density?
- Which applications are expending the most bandwidth?
- Where are the current bottlenecks and what device is causing them?
- Where are potential bottlenecks based on the upgrades being implemented?
- Are bottlenecks being impacted by outdated hardware, the number of users during peak times, specific locations of high density, or specific applications?
- Are there issues with equipment installation or network devices (e.g., routers)?
- Where can bottlenecks be freed up for improved performance and strengthened infrastructure security?
- Was one part of the network upgraded, thereby moving the bottleneck to another sector of the network?
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:
- Is your network’s bandwidth sufficient for your needs
- Do your goals require an upgrade
- A possible increase in the number of access points in your network infrastructure
- A cabling solution that can carry your network before it becomes obsolete
- Options to beef up security measures
- Explicit reasoning for the product design
- Technical capabilities of new devices and equipment
- Quantity, cost and availability
- Managed sustainment service information
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.
- Is the provider showing a true value proposition
- Is provider itemizing not costs
- What are long-term financial benefits investment is poised to bring?
- Cost of solutions to ramp up security
- Cost incurred from a single data breach.
- Faults in network performance
- Loss of capabilities your organization is equipped to deliver.
- Factor these components into your expense projections
- Consider value each provider proposes to deliver
- Evaluate potential so you can make the smartest investment.
Inventory of Hardware and Information Technology Assets
- What do you already have?
- What do you need?
- What’s there that shouldn’t be?
- Is there hardware on the network that is slowing things down?
- Is there anything causing security gaps?
- Is there any firmware that needs to be updated?
- What hardware and devices are running on your network?
- Which ones are unsafe or come with unnecessary vulnerabilities?
- Are there outdated drivers, or older software revisions
- Are you taking advantage of newer protocols or releases?