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Army looks to refine requirements process in light of network challenges

The Army is beginning to come to grips with and implement mitigation steps to correct vulnerabilities within its tactical network.

The current network “does not meet the operational requirements of our Army nor will it meet the current or future requirements based on the path we’re currently on,” Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the Army’s CIO/G6, told reporters at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington on Oct. 9.

“We further concluded the tactical network in its current state will not work in a highly mobile, contested fight against a peer adversary.”

One way the Army is getting after this problem, which Crawford described as an issue 16 years in the making warranting a one-year solution, is refining the requirements process.

The network and command posts were technical in nature and capabilities focused and built in the static, semi-permissive counterinsurgency environment. For the first time, the Army will be taking a threat-informed approach to writing requirements. Moreover, requirements were not integrated leading to incompatibility with other systems.

Crawford explained that one of the root causes in the past that got the Army to its current position was the fact IT requirements came from multiple sources and were not integrated. What happened over the course of time, Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence, said, is the Army had a bunch of stovepiped requirements coming out that ended up being stovepiped programs of record that had to be bolted together.

As such, the Army is going to start integrating all its requirements. In the past, Morrison explained to reporters, every Center of Excellence would have the ability to write a requirements document, get approved, get funded and they weren’t integrated at any level. Now all requirements will go through the Cyber Center of Excellence to the Mission Command Center of Excellence, be integrated at Fort Leavenworth — the home of the Mission Command CoE — and then passed on to the Army.

Another change to the requirements process will involve a periodic review of requirements throughout the life of a program to ensure they Army is “staying in line to what the emerging threat is or what the changing threat is,” Morrison said.

“This idea of a program of record is going to migrate to a standards of record kind of mindset,” Crawford said. “That allows us to take advantage of open architectures. It allows us to take advantage of other commercial and industry standard vice this program of record mindset that we’re going to field for 35 or 40 years in our formations.”

The current tactical network program of record — Warfighter Information Network-Tactical — has been criticized for costing $6 billion dollars only to now essentially be repurposed.

While not fully acknowledging that the Army will be doing away with these multimillion dollar programs of record, Morrison told C4ISRNET that they have to give themselves some wiggle room for adjustments.

In the past, Morrison explained, they would write a requirements document for radios, for example, and it would be expected that radio would field all the way to 2050. “We know that’s just not going to work. And, even more importantly, we know the threat will continue to evolve,” he said. “We have to put something in place where we go back in based off how the threat has evolved and do we have our requirements right and make smart, practical adjustments.”

“We can’t write a requirement today and think that it’s going to stand the test of time in seven to 10 years,” Morrison continued. “It just won’t work in this environment.” The Army will be looking at two- to five-year sprints to give them a two- to five-year window to come back in and grade their homework on whether or not they delivering capabilities to the force that are relevant and integrated.

Another related component and another piece of the Army’s overall network strategy involves an adapt and buy concept. This will allow the Army to integrate emerging technologies as industry innovates to “quickly integrate not to whole Army but in kind of a backwards compatible sense to parts of the Army to know whether or not this is something we want to continue to do and then continue to iterate,” Crawford said.

With that, experimentation will play a large role in informing requirements, Morrison told C4ISRNET, “so that we don’t write something that is either unachievable technically or god watch from what we really need.”

This experimentation will help them write the requirements they need from an operational perspective that will be less prescriptive on the technical side and more focused on fielding systems based off of soldier and leader feedback.

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