Tactical Communications

Army building a marketplace for tactical comm equipment

Army outpost tactical communications

In support of its push toward seamless frontline tactical communications, the Army is creating a one-stop shop for tactical communications hardware.

The marketplace will fall under the umbrella of the Common Hardware Systems program office, which has for more than 25 years provided a portfolio of commercial technologies that meet the Army’s technical requirements.

As it does with other equipment, CHS will establish the technical standards—and a contract vehicle—for hardware used to support the Army’s Common Operating Environment (COE), the Army said. The COE is an initiative to provide the same operational picture throughout the ranks, from headquarters to soldiers on the battlefield, incorporating everything from geospatial maps to video and other sensor data from unmanned systems to mobile devices carried by soldiers.

The Army released its COE Implementation Plan in January 2012 and since then has conducted a series of exercises to test, improve and deploy tactical communications systems. Along with setting standards, ensuring interoperability and improving soldiers’ mobile-computing experience, the COE’s goals include shortening the time it takes to identify and deploy new technologies.

The COE, in turn, is part of the Tactical Network Modernization Roadmap and the service’s overarching Force 2025 goals.

The CHS program office will establish a contract vehicle to attract what it hopes are innovative solutions from industry.

"CHS will collaborate with other contract vehicles to manage a competitive, commercial off-the-shelf information technology marketplace that allows programs to procure common platforms in the most effective and cost-efficient means," said Danielle Kays, product director for CHS.. "The goal is to streamline the end-user experience for soldiers by providing a single look and feel that minimizes time and dollars required for training, while allowing units to focus on their mission."

The Army last awarded a CHS contract, CHS-4, in August 2011, at that time giving General Dynamics C4 Systems a five-year, $3.7 billion contract that covered hardware such as handheld devices, laptops, servers, network devices, peripherals and transit cases.

The next CHS offering will cover the hardware requirements of the COE’s six computing environments—data cloud, command post, mounted, mobile, sensor and real-time safety-critical or fires and missiles, the Army said.

The program office, which has been around since 1987, will conduct market research into current technologies before making purchases and said it works with vendors of all sizes, in part to influence the direction of new developments in technologies the Army needs.

"We help identify the technologies that are out there, empowering programs to make informed decisions in support of their requirements," Keys said.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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