The Army’s tactical network modernization team has committed to introducing new capabilities every two years, ranging from low-Earth orbit satellites to mission command applications, starting with a plan to purchase the first set in 2020 and to be fielded in 2021.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, told attendees at a Wednesday AFCEA event the original modernization plan lacked a definitive design approach, leading to transition toward an incremental delivery strategy required to build out the future tactical network.

“The halt, fix, pivot strategy was a pretty good narrative for a little while. It gave us some time to kind of garner our resources and figure out where we wanted to go. We realized that halt, fix, pivot were a good set of buzzwords and it was a nice tagline, but a tag phrase isn’t enough to deliver a capability. You need a plan,” Bassett said. “We knew collectively that we were going to have to take a different approach, in fact, an incremental approach in order to deliver capability over time.”

Bassett said the previous strategy of halting ill-fitted programs, fixing current efforts and pivoting to emerging technologies was helpful to starting the modernization overhaul while not necessarily pushing the effort toward routinely building in available capabilities that incrementally build towards the 2028 network vision.

“I can’t see all the way out to 2028 in terms of technology, but I can see to 2021. I can see that pretty clearly. If it’s not already developed, you’re probably not going to deliver it to me in time,” Bassett said.

Capability sets will now be delivered every two years starting in 2021, and include technologies such as edge devices, NETT Warrior tools connected by advanced waveforms, gateway devices, new Link 16 capabilities and new mission command applications.

The Network CFT will also hold a technical exchange meeting with industry at the end of May in Nashville to discuss test plans and detail initial plans for each of the capability sets.

“Think hard about which capability set you think you’re capability aligns best to, and where it fits within out tactical network design. We want to do better communicating that design so you can understand where it fits,” Bassett said.

The first iteration of the new strategy will include a series of experiments and tests with technologies this year, then purchasing tools in 2020, followed by fielding in 2021.

“About a year from today, we’ve got to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the Army’s money on this capability set. And we want to be confident by the time we get there that it’s all going to work together,” Bassett said. “We have until early 2020 to get after the meaningful experiments that are going to inform our final set of design choices.”

A new focus has been placed on gathering soldiers’ feedback on new tools through a series of smaller-scale experiments rather than a single large event like the Network Integration Evaluation, which the Army ran for the last time this past October (Defense Daily, Nov. 1, 2018).

“We may not have a single thing we call the ‘Network Integration Evaluation’ that represents that brigade-level experiment at Ft. Bliss, but we want to leverage the sum of all the events to get soldier feedback,” Bassett said.

Bassett told Defense Daily the Network CFT is currently working with the 508th Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, with plans to scale that out to other units starting this fall.

Officials are planning to eventually work towards a schedule fielding one capability set as they’re working through the detailed design review for the subsequent one and conducting science & technology research on the third, according to Bassett.