The Army is well into efforts to modernize its networks, including by upgrading at installations around the world, collapsing networks in favor of an enterprise approach and standardizing IT. But now officials are pushing out the results of those efforts, connecting forces on the ground regardless of location and integrating strategic and tactical communications.
The focus on IT modernization and standardization means that soldiers can land anywhere and plug right into the network—at least, that's the goal. The result is a smaller footprint in the field, added capacity at home and more efficiency and effectiveness everywhere.
"What is required in your network, in a system that connects platforms, formations, as well as posts, camps and stations? The goal is to achieve expeditionary, uninterrupted mission command," BG Bill Burleson, director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence at the Army Combined Arms Center, said Feb. 11 at an AUSA event in Arlington, Virginia. "That's what it's about, and integrating that into a common operating environment. These network capabilities must be assured, interoperable, tailorable, collaborative and accessible at the point of need. This enables expeditionary mission command, expeditionary maneuver from multiple locations and projecting power across all domains."
MG John Morrison, commanding general of the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, highlighted the significant progress the service has made toward reaching those goals in a short period of time. Joint regional security stacks already are operational at four U.S. locations, with more expected to go online in Europe and southwest Asia by the end of the year.
"We've worked aggressively over the last year in our regional cyber centers to standardize the base capabilities that each one of them provide so that units can move around the world and it's not like they transition from theater to theater—it's a completely new experience," Morrison said. "We've now standardized our operations across all theaters so literally you pick up from [the continental U.S., or CONUS], deploy to any theater in the world…and plug back into the network. We have much more work to do with that, but standardizing the way we operate, standardizing the way we think and then standardizing and implementing those procedures so commanders understand is absolutely foundational to what we're doing."
Morrison said that over the last year his team has helped support more than seven named operations, and none of them involved the troops taking their full network capabilities with them.
"Almost every instance was distributed, where a portion remained at home station and had to be connected to a much smaller forward footprint—yet the commander wanted the same capabilities he would have had as if the whole staff was there," Morrison said. "Engineering that and bringing that together is forcing unprecedented collaboration between strategic folks and tactical folks to bring those capabilities together…it's forcing us to change the way we think, but it's absolutely the right thing to do."