Brigadier General Randal A. Dragon

INTERVIEW

Army makes mission command-on-the-move key goal of NIE

Demonstrating mission command-on-the-move is a key goal of integration exercise

Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon was named commanding general of the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas, this summer. Just prior, he was deputy commanding general for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., and deputy commanding general, U.S. Division-South for Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn.

Dragon recently sat down with Col. John Morrison, LandWarNet/Battle Command director, and Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg to discuss this fall’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE)12.1 at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and mission command-on-the move.

DS: We’ve been discussing lessons learned from this past summer’s NIE, and some of the networking gaps you’re looking to close in this fall’s NIE and the two exercises planned for 2012. What would be some of those gaps?

Dragon: Well, there are two main ones. The first that I can see is mission command-on-the-move ... the ability for a command element leader to be able to command on the move.


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DS:

Do you mean the physical hardware associated with being able to do that?

Dragon: Absolutely, as well as the doctrine, the organization, the training, leader development and everything that goes with that. So certainly we’ve got materiel solutions, but we also have to look at the entire spectrum of what we call DOTMILPF, or Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leader Development, Personnel, Facilities.

The second one is connecting the soldiers on the ground and the small unit leaders with digital applications, so that they can actually access information and also transmit orders.

DS: Such as the work being done in the Connecting Soldiers to Digital Apps program?

Dragon: Yes. I think what is most important is that we’re focused on these capability packages or capability sets. For instance, right now our focus for the 12 series, 12.1 and 12.2, is to establish and refine our Capability Set 13/14 and the basis for that is Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2. [Editor’s Note: Capability sets are part of the Army’s process for managing network capabilities as a cohesive portfolio and synchronizing all supporting activities. The Army expects Capability Set 13/14 to produce a five-fold increase in network capability, with at least 20 brigades eventually receiving fully integrated network equipment suites.]

DS: So the initial on-the-move capability that is WIN-T Increment 2 will be much more prevalent in NIE 12.1?

Morrison: Yes, Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical has done a great job of moving it to the left, so we’ll have pretty much a brigade slice out there. The brigade headquarters and two of the maneuver battalions will have WIN-T Inc. 2.

There’s a third gap that I’ll be remiss if we didn’t talk about, and that’s the integrated network baseline. So if you took a look at what we did in 11.2 [this past summer’s NIE], it was like our network strategy before…a hodgepodge and ad hoc multiple technologies that we didn’t really integrate it in any sort of fashion.

Starting with 12.1 is when we really start getting after baselining that architecture. Now, WIN-T is a key piece of that, but there are other vendors that will be coming in with mission command-on-the-move capabilities that also fit inside that architecture. That’s the model we want to set up. We want industry to come on in, and as long as they fit within our sandbox there’s nothing but goodness on it.

So it’s going to give us a real good chance to take a look at mission command requirements and various materiel solutions across the board. I just want to pull the string on one thing that Gen. Dragon said. We really are talking mission command on the move, and you mentioned it as just hardware. That’s really the easy piece. We can put a pipe onto a vehicle; we can figure that out.

The real hard piece is giving that maneuver commander the functionality that he needs to actually do mission command while he’s moving around the battle space. So one of the big things that we will start in the fall is we’ve established a requirement for common computing platforms.

We were out of sync. Let me paint a picture for you. Before we were going to have one program putting a computer on the vehicle; we were going to have another program putting a computer on the vehicle, and we were literally going to have a third program putting a computer on the vehicle. None of those computers were going to talk, and the only way we were going to do it was to establish a network on that platform, and then the commander would have to go from screen A to do one thing, screen B to do something else and then screen C.

Well, one of the lessons learned out of 11.2 is that this doesn’t work. Commanders were very frustrated having to look at multiple screens to get a different picture and then only in their brain bring it all together. So starting in the fall, we’re going to start collapsing those platforms. We won’t be perfect in the fall, but we’ll have Command Post of the Future and Tactical Ground Reporting on the platform, something that we haven’t had before. By the time we get to the spring NIE, which is really a dress rehearsal for what we want to field in ‘13, we suspect we’re going to be there.

Dragon: Barry, I’m going to go back and just double tap one thing that John said. And I mentioned a couple of gaps: mission command-on-the-move, and connecting the soldiers to digital applications. But just the name, NIE, helps you understand the picture. We have a number of technologies out there that have challenged us because each one operates independently.

What we’re trying to do is pull these things together so we can have a common platform and a common operating picture so that regardless of where you’re at, that application comes back in. Instead of having the soldier fuse the information together in his mind, you can actually use the applications you’ve got to get a fused picture and common understanding. Then you can decide what you’re going to do about it.

We’ve been resolving issues for 10 years now based on operational needs statements and other needs requirements in theater. We have handled those well, but we’ve handled them sometimes individually. So if you walk into a company command post you may find six or seven different screens that you’re looking at trying to figure out what’s going on in the environment and how do I affect it. So the basics for the integrated evaluation are to try to pull this together so that we can establish one common vision. That’s truly the bottom line.

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