18th Annual C4ISRNET Conference

Published: June 10, 2019


The C4ISRNET 18th Annual Conference was held at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View in Arlington, VA on June 6, 2019. The theme of this conference surrounded modernizing the Army’s and DOD’s tactical network through commercial IT capabilities to improve network functionality and security in the coming years due to the increasing threats which is the result of rapid technological advancements from adversaries. The primary agencies were the Department of the Army (DOA), Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Air Force (AF), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Department of the Navy (DON) as well as some vendors which included PacStar, GPS Source, Crystal Group and ManTech. A few panel members included:

  • Dr. William Conley, DOD
  • Joseph Welch, Army
  • Col. Rob Ryan, Army
  • Charlie Kawasaki, PacStar
  • Shawn Barnes, USAF
  • LTG James Pasquarette, Navy
  • Chad Hutchinson, Crystal Group

According to Lt. Gen James Pasquarette, since 9/11, the Army and other military agencies have put a priority on near term readiness and man power while putting modernization which was at the forefront onto the back burner. During these last two decades, Russia and China have been implementing modernization programs in an effort to reclaim a competitive advantage. Due to the return of great power competition, the DOA as well as other military agencies are switching gears and will be focusing on modernization as opposed to near term readiness. The DOA in particular stated that they plan on modernizing all aspects, not just new kit for warfighters.

Lt. Gen James Pasquarette stated that it’s imperative that the U.S. achieves overmatch capabilities not because we want to go to war, but rather it acts as a deterrent. In the next decade, there are many large procurements builds between FY2022 and FY2028. It’s estimated that $109 million is being allocated to robotic combat vehicles in FY2020 and $470 million between FY2020 and FY 2024. Another $3.1 billion is designated to Improve Bradley Acquisition System (IBAS) between FY20 and FY2024. In the future no organization will be going into a fight alone, therefore being able to coordinate, communicate and collaborate is vital to the success of the warfighter. In the short term, capability set 21 will be working to provide an integrated tactical network along with more robust satellite communications. According to Aaron Mebust, “Some technologies are overkill, but it’s better to have overkill today, then wait 5 years for something that is optimized”. That being said, having overkill technology in a sense is a step in the right direction in terms of optimizing coordination, communication and collaboration.

Due to the fact that technology is a commodity and U.S. adversaries have access to the same or similar modernized technology, it was asked how the U.S. plans on maintaining its advantage. The U.S. military, specifically DOA said they plan on focusing not only on their internal partnerships but also its vast amount of international partnerships as well. In addition, the access of data which according to Ken Rice has not been capped yet is another reason why the U.S. will maintain its unique competitive advantage.

It was also asked what steps the DOD is taking in order to enable new players. The DOA stated that the Army Futures Command (AFC) which begin back in 2018, embraces the value of academia and industry on a weekly basis. The whole idea is to involve industry more as well as academia so that they take full advantage of what there is to offer. The AFC has 6 main priorities which include:

  1. Long Rang Precision Fires
  2. Next Generation Combat Vehicles
  3. Future Vehicle Lift Platforms
  4. A Mobile and Expeditionary Army Network
  5. Air and Missile Defense capability
  6. Soldier Lethality

In the past the Army’s model for obtaining a specific capability would be to bring it to industry and have them build it. Currently, the DOA is looking to change the model in which they obtain new capabilities and how to integrate them. They are more so interested in industry displaying a different and possibly more effective and efficient way to fight. It’s vital that the U.S. continues to outpace any adversaries by investing in R&D and modernizing warfighter equipment, but doing so is expensive. While modernized technology in itself is expensive, integrating it is can be even more expensive. Ideally, they want to integrate it only once. The Army is trying to increase competition in order to obtain and integrate modernized kit in order to drive down costs.

In conclusion, to fully have a competitive advantage, leadership has envisioned a future in which naval, air and ground forces can communicate seamlessly. In an effort to achieve this advantage, the U.S. military will be focusing on modernization versus near term readiness which places a high amount of pressure on commercial vendors to innovate rapidly for military use which is imperative in order to restore their competitive advantage.