In new report, Army details network modernization plans

February 2, 2018

By Courtney McBride

The Army, in a new tactical network modernization strategy, says it will streamline its network, harden it against a wider array of threats and enhance its mobility and ease of operations.

The report, which was delivered to the House and Senate Armed Services committees Feb. 1 and obtained by Inside Defense, fulfills a requirement in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation bars the Army from spending 50 percent of its FY-18 funding until the report is submitted.

According to the strategy, the Army network today “is too complex, too fragile and not sufficiently mobile” for a contested environment against a peer adversary. It also isn't interoperable with joint force and foreign partners.

The service faults the traditional requirements development and acquisition processes as barriers to speed, innovation and affordability, and maintains that rapid prototyping and adaptation of commercial and joint force technologies will mitigate these challenges.

WIN-T

Notably, the service says it doesn't plan to abandon the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. The Army will cease procurement of WIN-T Increment 2, its on-the-move capability, after FY-18, but lays out a timetable for “continuing modernization and sustainment” of WIN-T Increment 1, which provides at-the-halt connectivity and is fully fielded across the force.

A planned capability insertion in FY-20 is designed to reduce the size, weight and power demands of WIN-T Increment 1 through virtualization, reduce maintenance requirements through component replacements and bolster cybersecurity by incorporating technologies employed in WIN-T Increment 2.

Halt, fix, pivot’

In the document, the Army details its plans to “halt, fix, pivot” network modernization, introduced in a September request to reallocate FY-18 funding.

Procurement of the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio and Maneuver Control System will be halted and their funding redirected toward “higher-priority network modernization efforts.” The service will cease procurement of WIN-T Increment 2 for its armored brigade combat teams, Army National Guard multi-functional brigades and all functional brigades. The units will retain WIN-T Increment 1 “until next-generation tactical network transport solutions [are] fielded.”

The service will continue to purchase WIN-T Increment 2 for infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams in FY-18, while incorporating the recent findings of the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation.

Further upgrades are planned for Blue Force Tracker 2, with science and technology efforts slated for completion in or after FY-20.

The service lays out additional goals, including development of a common operating environment to simplify Army mission command systems and accelerated procurement of “efficient power generation and distribution systems.”

The strategy cites an ongoing effort to develop assured position, navigation and timing capability. Project TITAN, a combat vehicle-based quick-reaction capability developed collaboratively by the Rapid Capabilities Office and the program manager for PNT, is slated for an initial operational assessment in FY-18.

The Army is dedicating increased funding to procurement of defensive cyber tools and “accelerating repairs to and modernization of the enterprise network infrastructure.”

The strategy leans heavily on the cross-functional teams established by senior leaders to pursue their top modernization priorities, positing that their use will shorten the acquisition time line and foster development of more capable systems.

Through the CFTs, collaboration among industry, soldiers and commanders is meant to provide “real-time operational feedback” that can be used to develop the next iteration of the network. The service aims to spend $180 million on “demonstrations, experimentations and rapid prototyping” during home station training and combat training center rotations “beginning no earlier than April 2018.”

During FY-18, the Army intends to “explore initial prototyping and assessment of a joint/coalition gateway capability” such as MOJO or TRAX, enabling the flow of network traffic.

Further priorities include modernization of Army radios, such as the FY-18 procurement of handheld prototypes providing Link 16 connectivity and plans for future upgrades to high-frequency radios.

The service is pursuing enhancements to cyber situational understanding, with a materiel development decision and analysis of alternatives slated for FY-20.

Research and development and science and technology efforts related to the network now have “a near-term focus on automation and intelligence, resilient communications, and situational understanding of the electromagnetic environment,” the document states. Following a review by the Research, Development and Engineering Command and Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center that employed a near-peer adversary’s electronic warfare capability as its “pacing item,” the Army has elected to divest S&T efforts that fail to address cyber and EW threats.

Citing the extent and urgency of the network challenges, the report notes that the Army under secretary and vice chief of staff are now tasked with oversight of the network modernization effort.

The strategy divides its implementation plans into near- and far-term objectives. Near-term goals, considered achievable within 12 to 24 months for “high-priority units,” focus on delivering interim solutions to “improve command post survivability and mobility; integrate tactical network transport; provide a mission command application suite that resolves incompatibilities between echelons; improve radio and network survivability against electronic warfare and cyber threats; and increase joint/coalition interoperability and access to joint fires and close air support.”

Following experimentation with and demonstrations of the interim capabilities, the Army aims to ascertain “which existing solutions -- commercial, Joint or Special Operations Forces -- are sufficient to adopt as they are; which solutions are attractive but require further adaptation; and which gaps will require S&T or more complex development efforts by industry or government partners.”

Ultimately, the goal is to field a modernized network across the Army.

IDA report

The Army’s strategy references and promises to be guided by the findings of a study conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses, which found the service's network insufficient to address its operational needs.

The service details recommendations in the IDA study, commissioned by the Pentagon’s director of cost assessment and program evaluation pursuant to the FY-16 NDAA, and its plans for compliance. These recommendations cover improvements to governance and requirements development, streamlining of architecture and adoption of more advanced technologies.

The strategy outlines the Army’s plans to address its network’s vulnerability to cyber and electronic warfare. These include pursuit of “resilient communications solutions”: bolstering the anti-jam capabilities of the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) waveform and Network Centric Waveform. Additionally, the service is investing in electromagnetic signature reduction and spectrum obfuscation and pursuing the development and use of “non-traditional waveforms.”

The Army describes the measures it is taking to enhance resiliency through the addition of communications paths, from experimentation with air-to-ground radio networking, upgrades to the Nett Warrior handheld computing systems and wider fielding of the TRILOS radio and potentially the TROPO radio.

The service’s work on assured position, navigation and timing also is intended to mitigate the vulnerabilities laid out in the IDA report, with a phased approach beginning with Project TITAN and incorporating a broader requirement for A-PNT over the near, mid and far term.

Finally, the Army explains its efforts to use “identity and access management and automation of software patching and system provisioning” to bolster network resilience in a contested environment.

Planned improvements to cyber and spectrum situational understanding include providing commanders with a common operating picture, for which requirements development is slated to conclude in FY-18; capability drops for the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool; employment of additional sensors; and S&T investments to provide cyber situational understanding in Grey Zone environments.

The Army aims to increase its use of automation to reduce vulnerability, seeking to make the network capable of determining the optimal communications system in a given setting.

Reserve and Guard

The strategy emphasizes the importance of “interoperability and compatibility” across the active Army and reserve components, and outlines a plan to upgrade the mission command hardware and software across 400 total Army units by FY-19.

The service plans to “pure-fleet” the Joint Battle Command-Platform, providing “a common cyber-hardened platform across all components.”

Spending plans

An appendix to the report details “the decision points that led to the requested changes to the FY-18 President’s Budget.” The strategy cites four lines of effort.

The first, a “unified mission command network,” includes a $209.1 million increase for the tactical network technology modernization-in-service funding line; a $20 million increase for defensive cyber operations tools; $102.4 million for a new funding line, situational information transport; a $52.7 million boost to rapid prototyping; and $25 million for protected satellite communications.

The Army did not request funding changes to the common operating environment.

To address interoperability, the service sought $22.4 million more for signal modernization; $20 million more for tactical battle command; and an additional $10 million for the Small Airborne Networking Radio.

Finally, the command posts focus area includes increases of $10 million for Command Post Integrated Infrastructure and $15.8 million for intelligent power.