WASHINGTON — Months after the U.S. Army completed its largest networking and technology experiment in Yuma, Arizona, Army Futures Command officials say the lessons learned from the event underscore the value of aligning data and network standards across the joint force.
More than 110 pieces of cutting-edge tech were tested and studied last year at Project Convergence 2021, producing useful information and other insights to be applied in the near future. The process further “reinforced the importance of standardizing approaches and communications to maximize the efficiency of Joint operations,” according to a recap shared by the command Feb. 22.
Officials made similar points last week during a conversation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. Both Lt. Gen. James Richardson, the acting commanding general at Army Futures Command, and Col. Toby Magsig, the Army’s deputy exercise director for Project Convergence, on Feb. 16 referenced data as “the new ammunition,” highlighting its worth as well as its potentially devastating applications.
Reducing or eliminating the many obstacles data must traverse as it flows from team to team, service to service, is critical to developing a military capable of besting the toughest opponents, they suggested.
“Without access to and the ability to share, parse, understand and recode data, we’re going to be sort of left fighting how we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” said Magsig.
Because the fight of the future is going to be so different to that of today, reforms must be made, Richardson said. Parochial habits need breaking. New standards need setting. Stovepipes need disassembling.
“We don’t want a translator anymore, or a cross-domain solution. Going forward, we want to be connected from a standards and a data perspective and a message format perspective,” Richardson said. “It sounds simple, but that was the ‘aha moment.’”
The quick passing of information and decision-making between once-incompatible battlefield players — a concept known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control — has been a Department of Defense goal for some time now, with each service taking their own approach to implementing it. Project Convergence is the Army’s contribution to JADC2. Likewise, the Navy has Project Overmatch, and the Air Force has the Advanced Battle Management System.
Project Convergence 2022 will involve U.S. allies, a first for the so-called “campaign of learning.”
“When you look forward to PC ‘22, it’s not just the U.S. as a joint force. It’s our combined joint force,” Magsig said. “So, taking our closest allies and partners, being able to pass data seamlessly, being able to have that trust in the data that we pass so that you know an Australian shooter might feel very comfortable off of a British sensor or a Canadian C2 network.”
The next iteration of Project Convergence is expected this fall. It will incorporate artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, robotics and common data standards and architectures, according to Army Futures Command.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.