More than just a computer upgrade, the effort to update mission command network software and hardware across the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard is intended to simplify soldiers’ daily tasks.
The rollout, set to begin later this year, should impact some 400 units by the time it’s completed in 2019.
The past decade has seen units saddled with a heterogenous assortment of system profiles.
“While some units have the latest software upgrades, others do not,” said Paul Mehney, spokesman at Army Program Executive Office – Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. The result: interoperability issues, security concerns and sustainment inefficiencies. “This fielding effort is really about getting software and hardware standard across formations, which will lead to training, logistics and modernization efficiency.”
The Army’s strategy is to pare down over a dozen mission command network software and hardware versions to conform to a single baseline — a common hardware and software set that all units will receive. This should make for a simpler command post operating environment, streamlined network setup and improved sustainment.
Some of the systems covered under the unification plan include the Battle Command Common Services (BCCS) servers, Command Post of the Future (CPOF) software and client laptops, Global Command and Control System - Army (GCCS-A), Joint Battle Command - Platform (JBC-P), Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and other systems.
Today these systems are used primarily in the command post or operations center environments to manage missions and operations. They control the common operational map, fires missions, logistical tracking and awareness, and situational awareness data.
The push to better coordinate these diverse systems aligns with the Army’s ongoing efforts to rethink the computer-systems profile of its command posts.
“Lessons from ongoing conflicts around the world tell us it’s imperative that we increase the mobility and streamline the footprint of our command posts,” Gen. Robert ‘Abe’ Abrams, commanding general, U.S. Forces Command, said in an Army news release. “We have to make our command posts more effective, mobile and survivable.”
The Army has set an aggressive timeline for itself, with plans to upgrade more than 200 units in 2018. A normal year would see only a third as many units receiving upgrades. One way to meet the mark will be to establish “hub” sites across the country that will serve as central locations for equipment fielding and training. Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Hood, Texas, have been identified as initial regional locations.
The Army also has increased the number of training instructors from 28 to 94 in support of this effort, and planners also are looking to customize training in order to speed deployment.
“Units that have had newer software will naturally receive less comprehensive training than others on older versions,” Mehney said. “Tailored training will save time and resources and enable a better end product for the soldier.”
By setting a common baseline, planners hope to simplify systems maintenance, for example, by making it easier to push out security patches in a unified and automated fashion. Soldiers moreover should have an easier time managing systems operations as they shift between different units.
“Soldiers will have the same mission command application experience with the same versions and look and feel of software applications across all tactical units,” Mehney said. “This means soldiers will have to train less when they move from to a new duty station or between echelons in their unit, because they will already be acclimated to the mission command applications.”
The Army also anticipates needing less hardware, as previously stovepiped servers and laptops are empowered to serve multiple systems. “This should lead to a decrease in logistics and sustainment costs and also make command post set-up and tear-down easier, aiding in unit mobility,” Mehney said.
The software and hardware upgrades come in response to a directive issued this spring by the Army’s G3/5/7’s organization, which called for tactical units to consolidate to a single software baseline. Units stationed in the Pacific are slated to receive fielding in fiscal year 2018, while those in Europe and Southwest Asia will get upgrades in 2019. Units in the United States will see upgrades in both years.