The Pentagon wants to spend $11.9 billion on network warfare systems in fiscal year 2021 — a 17 percent increase over the previous year and the largest such request in more than a decade.

“The Department is well underway in transforming and developing new concepts for the conduct of future joint military operations to achieve full spectrum dominance," defense leaders wrote in documents laying out the Pentagon’s FY2021 budget Feb. 10. "This overarching goal to defeat any adversary or control any situation across the full range of military operations is achieved through a broad array of capabilities enabled by an interconnected network of sensors, shooters, command, control, and intelligence.”

This is the sixth consecutive budget cycle that the DoD has requested more funding for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems (C4I), with the goal of full spectrum dominance. At $11.9 billion, the request is $1.7 billion more than the $10.2 billion the Pentagon requested for FY2020. The larger funding is part of a push for significantly increased research and development funding in FY 2021 by the Pentagon.

What’s described as “theater combat C3 and services” makes up the lion’s share of this part of the budget request at $6.7 billion, with technology development coming in a distant second with $2.5 billion. Those figures are up significantly from the fiscal 2020 request when the Pentagon asked for $5.9 billion and $1.6 billion respectively. After that, $1.1 billion is for base communications, $1 billion is for information security and assurance, and the final $0.6 billion is for automation.

C4I systems entail a disparate group of programs, including communications gear, night vision equipment, data processing equipment, fire control systems and more. Among the programs highlighted in the Pentagon’s budget materials are the Army’s Tactical Network Transport Modernization in Service, the Handheld Manpack, and cybersecurity.

The funding request would include about $530 million for the Army’s Tactical Network Transport Modernization in Service budget line, which ensures ongoing satellite and line of sight connectivity with improvements to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) system. That funding will be used to complete the fielding of on-the-move networking to two the final Stryker brigade combat teams. The prime contractors on the Tactical Network Transport program are General Dynamics Mission Systems, Envistacom and L3Harris.

The budget request would also cover $579 million in funding for handheld manpacks radio. Those funds will be used for an open competition for Leader and Manpack radios, ultimately providing “up to five Brigade Combat Team LR and MP radios, support equipment, fielding, non-recurring engineering, and platform vehicle integration.” The prime contractors on that program are L3Harris, Thales Communications Inc. and Collins Aerospace.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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