Deployed troops and decision makers could soon have command and control capabilities on their cellphones or tablets.
Officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency are stepping up how they provide those capabilities by integrating cloud, tactical and mobility options.
The growing emphasis on high-tech command and control is the result of demand for on-the-move communications and operations — a reflection in the battlefield of a commercially based, mobile lifestyle in the civilian world where any piece of information is available anytime, anywhere.
Unlike in civilian life, though, battlefield communications are subject to frequent network outages and austere situations. That’s a key problem DISA leadership says they’re working to address in forthcoming contracts and programs.
“The challenge going forward is the cost of operating multiple servers around the globe, independently … there’s no good visibility, cybersecurity is difficult and it’s expensive to maintain,” Terry Carpenter, director/program executive officer, DISA services development told reporters at DISA’s annual Forecast to Industry Nov. 6. He added that DISA already has transitioned logistics capabilities to the cloud, and officials are looking to replicate that success with C2.
“How do you make sure that when somebody gets disconnected from the network, that individual war fighter can get to what they need? Building the extensions to allow the services and others supporting the combatant commanders to provide that capability in a more agile, more cost-effective way that supports that disconnected operation is really important to us.”
At DISA the bulk of command and control capabilities are provided by programs like the Global Command and Control Systems-Joint for situational awareness, Joint Planning and Execution Services and the Global Combat Support System-Joint for logistics. But future plans center on a web-based, cloud-enabled environment delivering command and control capabilities, according to Terry Carpenter, director/program executive officer, DISA services development.
“The tactical piece we’re enabling is that level of power in a smaller box. We need that piece to go forward when you’re disconnected; you’ll be able to operate to speed for the needs of the war fighter,” said Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, DISA director.
“We’re looking at those command and control systems and starting to design those to live in a mobile space so we can use them on the mobile platforms we’re using, whether that be a tablet or phone. We see that as what war fighters are going to be carrying around, so we’re moving toward providing those C2 options in mobile platforms, as opposed to the older architecture of some server somewhere.”
The linchpin in the future of DISA’s dismounted, mobile command and control is the agency’s work in mobility and secure, commercial devices. The agency already is responsible for running the largest mobility management program in the Defense Department with more than 100,000 users across various levels of security classification, according to Jacob Marcellus, mobility program manager.
DISA leaders hope to translate that access to mobility into access to command and control in the theater. Chief among reasons why: It’s what troops want.
“We’ve definitely seen an increased demand for mobile access to the data,” Carpenter said. “Some of this demand goes along with the fact that these commercial devices that [we’re using] in the mobility program at DISA are allowing us to get to higher levels of classification and get access to that on the road or on the front line. That’s a tremendous piece.”