FCS spinouts under new program
The 10-year-old Future Combat Systems program, seen as integral to the Army’s move to network-centric warfare, will cease to exist under new plans advanced by Pentagon brass. Much of its technology would still be deployed through various spinouts, but the immediate future is hazy.
The spinout efforts are proposed in a new program called the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization, but the complexities involved in negotiating contracts for that could slow development.
The spinouts are due to begin in 2011. But the massive amount of work needed to restructure the FCS contracts will likely generate delays, Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, told a congressional panel at a May 21 hearing.
The timelines also might be affected by closer congressional oversight of the Army’s modernization programs. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the House Air and Land Forces subcommittee who called the hearing, promised tighter control, saying it was imperative that the Army and Congress not repeat the same mistakes that led to the problems that hampered FCS in the past.
The decision to end FCS came a month after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he planned to cancel just the manned ground vehicle component of the $160 billion program.
Spinouts will include unmanned aerial vehicles, unattended ground sensors, and the networking equipment and software that tie all of the various components of the program together. Existing brigade combat teams are now slated to get this spinout technology, which under FCS was intended only for future brigades.
Following the May 21 House hearing, it’s unclear how development of the technology will proceed. Abercrombie expressed his desire for elimination of the lead Boeing/SAIC integrator role in favor of a number of separately funded programs that different prime contractors lead.
Defense acquisition officials also seem to favor that approach.
A May 21 press conference at which Defense Department officials were expected to issue a memo for the new program acquisitions was abruptly canceled. At press time, that announcement was still pending.
— Brian Robinson
GAO sounds alarm on GPS fleet
In the wake of a Government Accountability Office report that raises concerns about Air Force management of the Global Positioning System program, Air Force and industry officials defended the viability of the system.
Because of delays in launching the next generation of satellites, GPS IIF, GAO cautioned that there might be a gap in GPS service as existing satellites fail. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is providing GPS IIF to the Air Force.
In a May 7 hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry James, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, admitted that the current fleet of 30 satellites — made up of GPS blocks IIA, IIR and IIR-M — was aging, and some satellites were operating at less than full functionality.
“However, we have taken operational steps to mitigate the impacts of potential satellite losses to ensure continued support to warfighters and the global community of users,” James said. Some of those steps include maintaining six more operational satellites than required and keeping three more satellites as off-line backups.
GPS IIF comprises 12 satellites scheduled for launch between 2009 and 2011. The program was held up because of design changes late in development.
Boeing has taken aggressive steps to address technical issues with GPS IIF, company officials said in a statement. The design changes “are in the final phase of implementation and a fully integrated satellite (Space Vehicle 1) has already successfully completed the thermal-vacuum test program — the most stressing system-level test,” the officials said. A second satellite, Space Vehicle 2, was shipped May 6 for compatibility tests. “We are on track to deliver SV1 to the Air Force later this year for the first IIF launch,” Boeing officials said.
At the same time, the program to create the next generation of GPS satellites has reached one of its first major milestones. The industry team developing the Air Force’s next-generation GPS satellite, GPS IIIA, successfully completed its preliminary design review May 22.
The GPS III team, with Lockheed Martin as lead contractor supported by General Dynamics and ITT, won a $3 billion development and production in May 2008 to produce as many as 12 GPS IIIA satellites, with the first satellite scheduled for launch in 2014.
The next-generation GPS IIIA satellites will deliver significant improvements over current GPS space vehicles, including a new international civil signal on the L1C. frequency and increased M-Code anti-jam power with full earth coverage for military users.
— Sean Gallagher
Air Force moves to software service model
The Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, is preparing to move its personnel support applications to a “software-as-a-service” model hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency.
The AFPC effort is the largest program to use the DISA private cloud system for human resources management thus far. It follows a similar, though smaller scale move by the Army HR system, said Col. Glenn Rattell, AFPC director of personnel data systems. “This is going to be a DOD-wide effort,” he said.
DISA will host the Air Force's personnel customer service and self-service applications, from RightNow Technologies, at its Defense Enterprise Computing Centers, which RightNow will maintain in a similar fashion to its privately hosted SaaS offering.
The Air Force currently uses an on-site installation of RightNow Technologies' RightNow CRM to handle an Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network-based Web self-service system for airmen and civilian employees of the Air Force. The service is used to manage personal information changes and office requests, and supports a call-center application for agents at AFPC.
The new, DECC-based platform will allow RightNow to maintain the software centrally, and upgrade the software quarterly as it does for its customers using its own private data center. The Air Force will be able to bring on additional licenses for customer service agents as required, instead of purchasing a block of licenses in advance.
Rattell said the benefits of switching from a local installation to a DISA-hosted “cloud” version are twofold: “It gives us a [continuity of operations] or a backup capability that we currently don't have” and it allows “us to take advantage of the latest versions of the system, to really provide better service to our airmen.” The RightNow partnership with DISA also means that the applications have already gone through Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process.
Testing of the DECC-hosted version of the software is to begin in June, Rattell said.
— Sean Gallagher
Gains made on intelligence integration
The U.S. intelligence community is making progress establishing standards and shared technology infrastructure, said information technology leaders from across the country at the 2009 DoDIIS Worldwide Conference held in May.
Each of the major U.S. intelligence agencies has developed separate information systems to support different aspects of national security, from clandestine operations to electronic eavesdropping and domestic law enforcement, according to conference speakers. Now their focus is to achieve better integration and eliminate unnecessary duplication to avoid intelligence-sharing failures such as those associated with the 2001 terrorist attacks and save money.
When asked what her agency was doing to eliminate its reputation for not sharing intelligence, CIA Deputy Chief Information Officer Jill Singer said, “I think the reputation is not deserved.” She noted that finished intelligence is published on an agency Web site, with different versions for the secret and top-secret networks. The CIA is also leading the development of data centers built with a common security architecture that multiple intelligence agencies will use.
Meanwhile, Singer said the CIA must be vigilant against counterintelligence threats. “When you come to our data, we have to be absolutely sure we know who you are,” she said.
Trust is a fundamental problem: Each agency employs professionally paranoid network security professionals who don’t know how much to trust their peers at other agencies. Thus, there's a need for standardization. “We need to have a more common understanding of our security posture,” Defense Intelligence Agency CIO Grant Schneider said.
Prescott Winter, associate deputy of information integration to the Director of National Intelligence, said there had been significant progress on shared standards for interagency e-mail, using a classification tool supplied by the CIA. Agency leaders are steering overall planning to ensure “that this architecture is informed by real needs and driven by real uses,” he said.
Speakers at the conference represented the DIA — the event’s government sponsor — CIA, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, FBI, Homeland Security Department and the U.S. intelligence community umbrella group.
— David Carr
Mattis: C4ISR must empower small units
The evolving nature of threats to the United States and its allies will require more flexible forces and the delivery of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities at a much lower level than before.
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of the Joint Forces Command, expressed that vision in his keynote address May 12 at the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the Naval Institute.
“The bottom line is that we will not face wars with clearly defined beginnings or clearly defined ends,” Mattis said. “We’re going to have to protect our people from manifold threats. It’s up to us to orchestrate a great rethinking of how to defend” them.
Mattis said the Defense Department will institutionalize the advancements made in irregular warfare operations without impairing its ability to fight more conventional conflicts. DOD must find ways “to maintain our strategic superiority while building a force that can fight irregular threats,” he added.
“The irregular threat is large, but interstate warfare is still a possibility,” he said. “It’s not an either/or. We cannot bifurcate the enemy threat.”
“No fire team on the ground should not be able to pull down joint intelligence and joint fires,” he said. In the emerging model for joint operations, junior noncommissioned and commissioned officers would have access to information and authority to call for support from other combatants in ways that previously might have only been available to larger units.
Mattis cited that requirement as part of a need for a military force that can break down into small teams for operations for irregular warfare and then come back together for larger operations.
In addition to empowering small units, Mattis said, DOD must continue to improve its ability to work with allies and coalition partners. “We must have a coalition-friendly command and control and approach to operations,” he said.
He outlined the roles joint forces will face: combat; security operations; engagement with other nations, including civilian affairs operations; and reconstruction. “We can’t just go blow it all up and walk away,” he said.
Mattis also said joint forces must know how to operate in the absence of technological tools. “Our communications links are going to be cut more often than not. We must assume that they are going to go down.”
The nature of the conflicts in Iraq has created a generation of DOD leaders who never had to worry about such challenges because of the enemy’s lack of signals intelligence and the United States’ information dominance on the battlefield, he said. The military cannot afford to assume that it will have that kind of dominance in the future, he added.
— Sean Gallagher