Army Signal Corps marches efficiently into the 21st century

New equipment, advanced training, cyberspace role will modernize force

The U.S. Army Signal Corps is in the midst of major organizational and personnel changes. The organization’s Gulf War-era structure is being modernized to support modern distributed and networked operations. To achieve its goals, the Signal Corps is focusing on acquiring new lightweight, automated equipment and upgrading the skills of its soldiers.

One way the Signal Corps is moving into the 21st century is through the micro-cyber initiative. As it currently stands, the Signal Corps’ structure is still designed to conduct traditional combined arms operations and primarily support forces from the battalion level up, said Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, commanding general of the Army Signal Center of Excellence and chief of signal for the Signal Corps.

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Under the micro-cyber initiative, the new force structure retains the capability to support major combined arms missions, but it also focuses on wide-area security and providing communications for deployed forces at forward bases, Lynn said at 1105 Media’s Defense Systems Summit Sept. 7 in Arlington, Va. Signal Corps personnel will also support more tactical forces at the company level and below, he added.

However, one of the challenges will be to provide that extended service with current or perhaps lower levels of personnel. “If you can’t add people, then you really have to take a hard look at your equipment,” Lynn said.

In revising how it supports Army forces in the field, the Signal Corps is looking at commercial technologies that can provide equivalent or better services but weigh less and require fewer service members to operate. For example, Lynn said the Army’s standard troposcatter communications system weighs 9,000 pounds and requires several vehicles to move. The service has identified a commercial system with similar performance that only weighs 600 pounds.

The service is also looking at smart phones and other handheld devices to provide soldiers with voice, data and applications. By selecting new equipment that requires fewer soldiers to operate it, the Signal Corps can support the Army more efficiently, Lynn said.

Besides investing in new equipment, the Signal Corps is investing in its workforce. The Army is focused on educating a new generation of signal personnel capable of solving cyberspace-related communications issues. Lynn said the service is replacing its draft-era training mentality, which instructed soldiers on how to operate a single system, with a flexible, educated view of networked systems that allows soldiers to think outside the box.

To support that approach, the Army has created several new Military Occupational Specialty categories, such as cyber warrant officer and network defense specialist. The service is also educating signal officers in areas such as network theory with the goal of making them experts in their specialties, Lynn said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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