With the dual-hat responsibility of being the Army’s chief information officer and leading G-6, the Army’s communication and C4 division, its new head intends to focus heavily on the latter job.

"I want to make sure that I pay close attention to the G-6 role," Maj. Gen. (promotable) Bruce Crawford said at TechNet Augusta on Thursday in his first public remarks since assuming the role Aug. 1 from retired Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell.

“I’m of the opinion that one of the major lifts for me as the G-6 and chief information officer is ... I won’t call it a pivot because you’ve got both CIO responsibilities and you’ve got G-6 responsibilities, but I am going to orient and I am going to focus on the G-6 responsibilities because that’s where a lot of our people are,” Crawford added. ”That’s where the young, hungry captains and lieutenants are. That’s where the sergeant is, and that’s where the warrant officer lives.”

Following his remarks at the Augusta, Georgia-based conference, he told C4ISRNET there are several roles for the G-6 from a war fighter’s perspective. One involves ensuring the personnel with the proper skill sets are serving in the appropriate roles.

“One of the big jobs of the G-6 is to make sure — especially down through the grade of major and captain — that we are putting the right people in the right places,” he said. This will involve more than hosting a forum, he added — there must be a solid relationship.

The target audience here, he added, is Army officials in charge of C4 — or command, control, communications and computers — Training and Doctrine Command, Materiel Command, and Forces Command.

Crawford noted that he will need to know and understand their problems and challenges in order to better serve them, especially at the tactical level. Instead of talking about the enterprise as its own separate entity, he added, he has to be able to articulate the impact of the enterprise at the tactical level as the area he can most help the 6s.

The Army network

The Army officer also emphasized how the network should work for the soldier, not the other way around.

The network — namely the Army’s tactical battlefield network known as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T — has recently been subject to significant criticism, especially from Capitol Hill, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., calling it a “debacle.”

[Lessons from WIN-T: Buying smarter to avoid obsolescence]

The Army, under the direction of the chief of staff, is currently undergoing a top-down review of its network.

Crawford noted there has still been no decision from senior Army leadership on the future of the service’s network.

Crawford explained that the network must be viewed as a weapon system and all of its mission areas should be evaluated to get at the network the Army needs vice the network it has. These mission areas include intelligence, business, war fighting and enterprise.

In terms of network characteristics of the the Army is seeking, Crawford said it should be simple and intuitive; ready, available and resilient in all environments; expeditionary, mobile and capable of voice, data and video on the move; and it has to enable the soldier to observe, orient, decide and act.

From a technical standpoint, the network has to have a process of mitigating electronic signatures, Crawford said.

“I have seen credible reports that WIN-T has ineffective line-of-sight communications, is not survivable, is too fragile to survive in a contested environment and has an electromagnetic signature so loud that it practically would call for enemy artillery on the top of users’ heads,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has said.

“So as we’re putting all this capability out in the battlefield, we’ve got to leverage the intellectual curiosity and capability of industry in addition to our own … because I happen to know that [the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center] is doing work right now to reduce some of the electronic signatures of our radios and our command posts,” Crawford said. “But we’ve got to make sure we get after that, especially given some of the direct fires, cyber, indirect fire, electronic warfare capability that our near-peer threats have developed.”

Doug Wiltsie, the director of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office, said at the same conference commented on the current network review: “As we move out of one type of conflict into what we believe are one or two very different types of conflict, we’re making adjustments to that.

“Remember that the threat gets a vote.”

Let this review play, he added. This review needs to be done, he said, especially given new technology the Army wants to field, where the threats are driving the types of geographic regions in which the Army expects to fight. 

“One of the things the Army is going to have to wrap its head around is: Does everybody need the same capability?” said Gary Martin, program executive officer for Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, who spoke alongside Wiltsie.

Martin added that the service performs technology refreshes every few years and is just completing one.

“Next year we start the next cycle. The Army’s huge,” he said, adding that to give a new capability to the entire service takes a long time.

The real issue the Army must address, he said, is whether everyone needs to be equally equipped. The force will have to balance how long it takes for a new capability to touch the entire Army versus trying to spin out more quickly and get at portions of the service. However, this model raises concerns of variations across the force that could lead to compatibility issues between units and in training.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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