When leaders in the command post began to send direct messages to their team leaders during a recent exercise, it came as a surprise to some in the field and raised a new question: Is there such a thing as too much information?
Army brass is now granted access to data in real time. This includes troop movements down to the minute, and while that sounds useful, in some instances, soldiers find it isn’t always being used effectively.
“It was almost like, they would ping us, and higher echelons that have no business pinging us would direct message us … ‘Hey, why aren’t you moving? What are you doing?’ Why is my brigade commander messaging one of my soldiers about what he’s doing right now? It’s just unnecessary,” one platoon leader told C4ISRNET, describing an experience during a 2017 rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
“You get mad when the internet is not as fast as you want as you want it; [commanders] get mad when those balls [on the map] aren’t as fast as they want it,” another soldier said.
All commanders see on a map is a dot; they don’t always know what’s going on with that dot on the ground, the platoon leader said.
These accounts come from the introduction of new technologies as part of the Army’s tactical network modernization. As capabilities improve to include unprecedented situational awareness, the Army’s mission command doctrine must evolve as well.
Officials told C4ISRNET that the Army can’t field new capabilities without also changing doctrine or tactics, techniques and procedures so it doesn’t have inundated commanders trying to micromanage lower tactical echelons.
Those responsible for modernizing the network are working together with the Mission Command Center of Excellence to ensure doctrine matures alongside new technologies introduced to units.
This Army-wide approach is to development is more holistic — one that simultaneously involves the Army’s materiel community procuring systems, the network cross-functional team working on experimentation and future requirements, the doctrine community and the test units themselves. This process provides the necessary feedback on the systems and challenges, technically and practically.
The Mission Command Center of Excellence has a team called the Mission Command Network Integration directorate, which plans, coordinates, synchronizes and manages “science” activities associated with mission command of the network.
Maj. Gen. Doug Crissman, head of the Mission Command Center, told C4ISRNET that while this group works for him, its efforts are in direct support of the network cross-functional team tasked with helping to “inform the requirements end and help fill in some of the gaps that the network [CFT] may have.”
The Mission Command Network Integration effort has led to the mission command network implementation plan, Crissman said. This describes how the service is creating an Army enterprise network strategy to deliver mission command capability in the future, driving the direction that the network CFT is headed with its network roadmap and its delivery of the capability sets every two years.
“Mission command is not the opposite of micromanagement. Mission command does not mean there’s no control and that you’ve completely decentralized your operations,” Crissman said. “Mission command means a leader or a group of leaders apply the art and science of command and control of an organization and they apply the appropriate amount of command versus control relative to the situation. Some situations will require more control than others, but it’s all based on trust.”
Learn more about the Army’s progress improving current network offerings in our eBook “Understanding the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.