IT/Networks

How the Army’s new PEO C3T boss views network modernization

It’s certainly busy at the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical.

The office is currently working to procure its new set of network tools, known as Capability Set ’21, while simultaneously preparing Capability Set ’23 for its preliminary design review next year and going through the early stages of planning for Capability Set ’25.

In addition, PEO C3T, which is tasked with tactical network modernization, is under new leadership. Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, formerly program executive officer of the Army’s PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, took over June 1, after now-Lt. Gen. David Bassett took over the Defense Contract Management Agency.

At PEO IEW&S, Collins oversaw the efforts to integrate sensors and sensor data to give soldiers a better overview of the battlefield. His work at PEO IEW&S, where he worked closely with PEO C3T and the Network Cross-Functional Team, also focused on the Joint All-Domain Command and Control and the Multi-Domain Operations concepts — work he will continue focusing on at PEO C3T.

Collins discussed his priorities and goals for PEO C3T in an interview with C4ISRNET.

C4ISRNET: What are your priorities as you take over the Army’s PEO C3T?

Brig. Gen. Robert Collins: We’ve established a very rigorous and methodical two-year capability set cycle. It’s got a series of increasing capabilities over time from Capability Sets ’21, ’23, ’25. And really, as we increase our networking capability from intuitive to expeditionary to increasing capacity, keeping a kind of a laser focus on lethality portions of sensor to shooter, and as you kind of heard about from Joint All-Domain Command and Control.

One of the things that I would certainly underscore that I’ve carried from my past position into this position is we here are acquisition professionals. We will continue to underscore acquisition, discipline and rigor within our programs. And what I mean by that is we’re certainly given a healthy amount of resources to execute our programs and to make sure that we are doing things such as acquisition strategies; establishing baselines; we’re doing experimentation with rigor and data collection; and things such as developmental testing, operational tests prior to procurement so that we’ve got the best of capability, the best value and the highest-performing kit for our Army soldiers.

The other thing I’ll underscore is we do this with continuous industry feedback and involvement. And when I say industry, I’m talking more than just your traditional, your nontraditional. And so we do a continuous outreach with industry, and I’m very proud of that. And not just traditional industry days, but other one-on-ones and allowing them to bring in and demonstrate and then probably, most importantly, I would tell you across this whole process is soldier involvement, soldier touchpoints, and really capabilities and requirements driven by soldiers and acquisition process that informs soldiers.

They, at the end of the day, are helping us shape these investments that we’ve got.

Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, left, recites the oath of office before becoming the head of Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. (Joanne Gallagher/Army)
Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, left, recites the oath of office before becoming the head of Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. (Joanne Gallagher/Army)

C4ISRNET: As you move from capability set to capability set, what do you want industry to know? What are some areas that stand out to you in terms of where industry can help?

COLLINS: There are some significant opportunities. We’re going to continue to be open. We’re going to continue to be competitive, and I need them to be agile and adaptive. And when I talk about opportunities, when I look across what we have going on with Multi-Domain Operations, we’ve got the addition of cyber and space. And that is a tremendous opportunity within the industry to help us as we start to pull those into the domains and orchestrate: How do we fluidly move in and out of, and have operational advantage, in those domains?

We look to link where we can have any sensor link to any shooter through any C2 node, and do that at the pace of combat. There’s going to be linkages and artificial intelligence and machine learning. So there’s opportunity there.

Where we’re a little unique from our commercial counterparts as we operate in this environment: We’ve got to work in a contested, congested, disconnected, intermittent, limited-bandwidth environment, and we have got to do it in an expeditionary nature. And so those are opportunities for industry. How do we operate in that unique environment, and in such a way that it’s small and expeditionary and we can move at pace? Those are certainly some of the opportunities with industry. And we will continue to have open and transparent dialogue with them.

Even as far as capabilities at ’23, we’re getting ready to host our next technical exchange where we look for them to come in with ideas that we can, they can submit areas for us to assess, and then we’ll continually iterate that, assess, and then put it into our design review process to see what’s available, what’s mature and what’s ready. And then continue to iterate that over time.

C4ISRNET: What did you learn as program executive officer at PEO IEW&S?

COLLINS: I think my experience being on the intelligence, electronic warfare and sensor side has given me an appreciation of the types of information that will traverse our networks. [I’ve kept an eye on] sensors that are looking deep [and] opportunities with other agencies [and] the types of data that are collected that have to move across the network, have to be synthesized so we can inform decision-makers. I think that’s been very valuable.

C4ISRNET: At PEO IEW&S you focused a lot on Multi-Domain Operations. How does that translate to your new role at PEO C3T, one of your partners in your last position?

COLLINS: When I look at network modernization and opportunities, I see an opportunity with MDO. Certainly space and cyber are tremendous opportunities. Cyber in and among itself is a domain that not only is an area we need to watch from [a] “how do we collect data from an intel” [perspective], “how do we organize ourselves from a defensive posture” and “where there may be opportunities in the competition element.”

I think space, too, is an area. One of the things on the network is to make sure that we can operate at distance and beyond line of sight. So I think MDO has got an opportunity. I look at sensor to shooter; the network doesn’t necessarily exist for just removing data. It exists to help decision-makers make decisions and get them information and link sensor to shooters, so I think that’s a tremendous opportunity. I think continuing to refine our ability to be expeditionary and make sure that this kit can, at any place, anytime when the nation calls, we can put communications into austere environments and it can operate, even if the environment includes things such as limited communications.

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