During recent testing of a new Army command post, soldiers said a new system, which is designed to provide a common picture of the battlespace, increased collaboration and would lead to faster operations.
The Army’s Command Post Computing Environment aims to consolidate disparate command post tools, programs and tasks and help the Army to react faster than the enemy. The Army’s Command Post Computing Environment is a web-enabled system that will consolidate current mission systems and programs into a single user interface. This includes programs such as the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR), Global Command and Control System-Army (GCCS-A), Command Web and Command Post of the Future (CPOF), to name a few.
The new system went to the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, held from Nov. 1-12, for an initial operational test. Feedback from the unit testing the system was largely positive. NIE along with the Army interoperability certification test are two critical examinations the system must pass in order to be fielded to units.
By consolidating systems, the system allows for “shared understanding faster so we can act faster than the enemy and to be lethal,” Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, told reporters during a visit to Fort Bliss. The 3rd Brigade is the test unit for the evaluation.
Members of the CP CE team from Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications Tactical have been integrating with the unit at their home station at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for months.
“We’ve definitely created more shared understanding because of the collaboration, because it’s more intuitive, because it’s web-enabled I can do things quicker with my subordinate units,” Sellers said. “I can start to move and get fast. ... Ultimately, speed can be very decisive, especially against our near peer threat on the future battlefield.”
The previous system, Command Post of the Future, did not allow for the same level of collaboration, officials said. Since CP CE is a web enabled system, soldiers only need a laptop to access the systems it provides. Previously, each function had its own system for a particular task such as intelligence or calling for fires. Now if a laptop breaks, soldiers can get a new one. Previously, Army personnel only had a certain amount of laptops with a system such as Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System.
The system’s interface has a common look and feel for all units accessing it regardless of location; in the command post, in a vehicle or even dismounted.
One official noted how the system could improve planning since all units can access the maps, documents and chat functions. Forces in the command post can share graphics on the map, documents or chat to forces in the field, allowing for unprecedented planning and situational awareness.
The eventual goal is to collapse over 20 systems into the computing environment so each system is just a drop down menu within the interface, preventing excess servers and stovepipeed systems that performed each battlefield function. The program’s key contractors include AASKI, ESP, Future Skies, General Dynamics, ManTech and BowHead.
A new approach to development
The Army’s new DevOps approach, used for CP CE, is designed to allow for more informed and agile development of systems as a way to keep up with the latest technology industry can offer.
“We did the adopt and modify. We took a [commercial off the shelf] product and modified that to make the capability delivery,” Col. Troy Crosby, program manager for mission command within PEO-C3T, told C4ISRNET in October. He noted that CP CE was tested by the 18th Airborne Corps, a “no kidding operational unit,” in April before bringing it to the Joint Warfighting Assessment in Europe shortly thereafter, all an effort to get real solider feedback before the initial operational test at NIE.
“We took the lessons learned from 18th Airborne Corps, we worked with 1st Infantry Division and they absolutely took it and ran with it. Again, even there, we learned some more, made some more adjustments,” Crosby said.
In the lab there’s just no way to replicate the type of scale, complexity, flexibility and ingenuity for how soldiers will use the kit in the field, Lt. Col. Shermoan Daiyaan, product manager for tactical mission command within PEO-C3T, told reporters at NIE. “We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly talking to these soldiers and adjusting.”
Daiyaan added that the culture within the Army is changing in regards to the new DevOps model..
“We hear fail often, fail early but sometimes they really don’t mean it. But the culture really means it,” he said. “The Army culture has changed a lot where we’re tolerant of it.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.