Chiarelli: Network must cover more than the battlefield

Top official argues for widespread deployment

TAMPA, Fla. — While the Army is expanding its view of the value of networks, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli warned that it can't just be a battlefield asset. The network vision must also encompass networks at installations and training centers in the United States, in brigade and battalion classrooms, and at home stations.

Chiarelli, speaking Aug. 4 at LandWarNet 2010, said that the intent of the network is to provide all soldiers with the ability to get whatever information they need anytime, anywhere in the world.

“I’m encouraged with the progress being made in a number of areas,” he said. “A few weeks ago I visited White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to see the large scale networking demonstration ... It was absolutely incredible. The next step is to do the necessary testing and assamble a network capability package as quickly as possible that can then be sent to Afghanistan to address numerous communications challenges in that particular theater of operation.”

That demonstration employed Warfighter Information Network - Tactical Increment 2 technology, Joint Tactical Radio System radios and network integration kits, he said.

Chiarelli didn’t see a “perfect network” in action at White Sands, but he said that wasn't important. What mattered was that he saw certain, selective capabilities that were mature enough to satisfy immediate requirements down range, and that the Army is actively using its operational needs to break through the bureaucratic process.

That’s been a long-time issue for the vice chief of staff, who voiced the need for wide-scale changes that must be made to the acquisition process in order to break the cycle where it takes six years or more to bring a new capability to the battlefield. .

“We need to ensure we’re doing everything we can to avoid impeding processes ourselves, whether by stubbornly enforcing outdated processes or allowing unnecessary redundancies,” he said. “The goal of these is to eliminate redundancies to ensure that funds are properly programmed, budgeted and executed to yield the most value to the Army.”

Among the lessons learned, according to Chiarelli, is the current procurement of commercial radios and its impact on the Army’s long-term networking strategy.

“In particular we recognize the need to reconcile our legacy radios with [commercial off the shelf] radios and future radio systems,” he said. To address this we are in the process of developing overarching network strategy to better guide our way ahead. The key is incremental improvements and a set of common operating procedures to let the network accommodate a growing variety of systems and capabilities.

“The network represents the centerpiece of Army modernization efforts, and success in this critical endeavor can only be achieved if we all work together to develop developing, build common operating procedures, and identify redundancies or outdated requirements.”


About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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