3 Things the Military Wants You to Know from the C4ISRNET Conference

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This year’s C4ISRNET Conference made it clear that electronic warfare is changing. So much so, in fact, that according to William Conley, director of electronic warfare in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, “electronic warfare has a legacy connotation.” Technological advances simply have outmoded the term as the military heads into an information-dominated battlespace.

What that means is that innovating to keep up with these titanic changes in command, control, communications, intelligences, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) is paramount to maintaining our military’s superiority over any would-be adversary. In remarks earlier this year, General Gus Perna, commander of the Army’s Materiel Command, remarked that, “There can be no persistent overmatch without constant modernization and there could be no real modernization without quality research and development,” underscoring the integral role that modernizing communications tech plays in our military’s long-term superiority.

It was this issue that both government and industry attendees addressed at this year’s C4ISRNet Conference. In sum, military leadership left three main points that people should take away:

“Information is a fundamental element of warfare”

It was abundantly clear that the secure transmission of C4ISR data across the battlefield is a top priority for the Department of Defense.

From William Conley’s proclamation that even the military’s terminology needs to be updated to accommodate the changing battlespace, general officers from across the services came to the C4ISRNET conference bearing news of changes that their branches have made to better pursue information warfare. Navy Rear Admiral Parode, Director, Warfare Integration Directorate, highlighted the Navy’s rechristening of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command as the Naval information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWARSYSCOM), fully expressing its mission—and the Navy’s recognition of information as a warfare arena.

The Army has similar views. “The network is key in how [we] want to fight in the future,” Lieutenant General James Pasquarette, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, told the conference.  Of all of the Army’s priorities, building a robust information network is arguably the most fundamental. “The network is the one that if you don’t get it right, it could be…a lot of wasted effort on all the others.”

“Innovation is a team sport”
Modernizing the tools of information warfare requires constant development and research though, and it is for this reason that Steve Butow, the space portfolio director at the Defense Innovation Unit, compared the military’s collaboration with industry partners a “team sport.” This is because groundbreaking innovations in communications technology ought to be applied to solve national defense problems and solve them faster than if the military has to solve them on its own.

What COTS solutions need to be widely interoperable

In integrating commercial off-the-shelf solutions (COTS) into the military network, military leaders stressed that the time for “one-off” command-and-control information solutions “could be numbered.” According to Colonel Troy Crosby, project manager for mission command at Program Executive Office of Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, the Army may implement a common information operating environment across the entire organization “in the very near term,” meaning that any COTS solution that is to function in the Army of the future needs to work across the entire domain, not just in the one instance that it was conceived for.