The Army is standardizing its mission command software across the active and reserve component to simplify the network architecture of operational units.
Over the next two years, the Army will provide standard, updated mission command software applications to all 400-plus operational units in an effort to reduce network complexity, standardize training, allow swifter software updates and increase unit interoperability.
What will emerge after 2019 is the Army’s Common Operating Environment, which will consolidate about 12 legacy software and hardware systems into a single baseline configuration for all future mission command systems, according to Paul Mehney, a spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical (PEO-C3T).
“The rapid pace of deployments in the past 15 years has led to a significant increase in the Army’s mission command systems as units have requested additional capabilities,” Col. Troy Crosby, project manager for mission command, who has the lead for implementation of the fielding efforts, said in an Aug. 2 statement. “The Army is changing how it fields and sustains these systems, necessitating a move to a single baseline today, while we continue developing the next baseline as part of the Army’s Common Operating Environment effort.”
In May the Army G3/5/7 ordered all mission command systems present in tactical-unit command posts to consolidate to a single software baseline by the end of 2019. PEO C3T has plans to baseline 280 units within the next year and the remainder of the Army in 2019.
Army Reserve and Army National Guard tactical units will also receive the software and hardware improvements with careful coordination to ensure unit availability and training schedules are taken into account, Mehney said. Fielding will begin this month, with an aggressive timetable of 28 months for completion to the more than 400 total units from battalion through corps echelons.
The Army will employ a Unit Set Fielding model where capabilities are provided to a unit in a sequenced order until a complete kit is received. Because network capabilities require technical knowledge, training and support are provided throughout the process.
“Through unit set fielding, we typically touch between 80 and 100 units per year,” said Thane C. St. Clair, PM Mission Command’s materiel fielding branch chief. “The Army is asking us to do in two years what we normally do in a five-year process (as part of technical refresh). This is a key readiness effort, so we increased the size of our new equipment training team from 28 to 94 people to have the global reach to get the job done.”
Active Army, Reserve and National Guard units from across a region will be brought to a central site, usually a large installation, to accelerate fielding of the baseline systems. Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas, have been identified as initial regional target locations.
The greatest anticipated challenge with this initiative is the amount of unit training needed to familiarize signal, general purpose user and maintainers with the upgraded capability, St. Clair said. Balancing the training need with worldwide deployments, readiness exercises, permanent change of station moves and unit rotations will be a challenge.
Units stationed in the Pacific will receive fielding and training in fiscal year 2018, those in Europe and Southwest Asia in 2019 and those within the United States are scheduled for both years.
The new hardware and software that units will receive depend on the versions with which they were last equipped. If hardware can accommodate mission requirements and the latest software, it will not need replacement.
Over the last 16 years of war, multiple interdependent mission command software versions were fielded simultaneously to meet operational requirements. In some cases software baselines were specific to a mission or the region where a unit was deployed.
There are now as many as five laptop models and four versions of server stacks in tactical units across the Army. The baselining effort will consolidate the number of tactical laptops and servers to two versions of common hardware. This will ultimately enable end users to manage hardware sustainment and warranties easier while reducing the hardware footprint in the command post, PEO C3T said.