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The future of war is necessitating more soldier-intuitive systems

June 29, 2017 (Photo Credit: Rodney Speed/Army)
Projected changes in battlefield dynamics are one factor contributing to the Army’s push to make systems more user-friendly to the average soldier in the field.

As military leaders discuss how future operating environments and all domains of warfare will be contested and congested by adversaries, the armed services acknowledge they cannot operate as they did in relatively permissive environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade and a half.

Those environments involved large forward-operating bases, which some military leaders have referred to as sanctuaries. “We’re not going to be operating in an environment like we have for the last 15, 16 years with forward-operating bases — basically sanctuary — when we’re going against a near-peer adversary,” Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence, said June 28 during a media call. “We’re not going to bring a whole lot of contractors.”

As such, soldiers will have to operate systems and kits in congested and contested environments under duress, when they're stressed and exhausted, Morrison said.

Within the context of future operating environments and so-called multi-domain battle, adversaries will look to threaten logistical supply lines, creating an environment in which units may have to pack up and move every couple of hours.

No longer can all units rely on highly skilled personnel or a logistical backbone to move and repair equipment. “Part of the challenge, again because our technology is complex … a soldier may not have all the technology” know-how to run a particular system, according to Liz Miranda, director of the Integrated Logistics Support Center.

Going forward, the key to solving complex problems is that the solutions must be intuitive, capable of being employed and can be integrated, Morrison said, adding that the integration piece is critical because the Army can’t afford to have stovepiped systems.

The Cyber Center of Excellence recently wrapped up its second Cyber Quest exercise, where members of industry presented emerging technology solutions to get at Army-identified operational gaps in the cyber and electronic warfare space. At this exercise, soldiers test and play with kits in an operational scenario with the hopes of determining how these solutions might inform future requirements, doctrine and operational concepts.

Morrison told reporters that one of the most important aspects of the exercises was that the kits were fielded by actual soldiers who provide feedback. “Getting these capabilities into the hands of folks that would actually be employing them … is the critical component coming out of any kind of experimentation along these lines,” Morrison said. “If systems cannot be operated by soldiers, then it’s a wasted effort. It’s got to be something that can be employed, intuitive and is integrated.”

Helping the decision-makers

The Cyber Quest exercise also helps provide a path forward to help commanders understand and visualize the highly technical and nonphysical domains of cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, both of which are an identified maneuver space.

“As we enter into an era of multi-domain battle … the commander has got to be able to understand and visualize what’s happening in each of those operational environments. It’s absolutely critical,” Morrison said. “There’s got to be something the commander can look at very, very quickly and understand in simplistic terms what his defensive cyber posture is. What is really happening in the electromagnetic spectrum? Is it just interference, or is someone trying to apply an operational effect?”

Just as it is for soldiers, Morrison said solutions must be intuitive for commanders so they can figure out and understand what is going on in their battle space and how it might impact their maneuver.

He added that a brigade combat team's battle staff attended Cyber Quest so they could better understand how to organize themselves and decipher how to operate across all five domains of battle, “not just simply land maneuver.”
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