Upgrade networks or suffer on the battlefield, generals warn

WASHINGTON — Maj. Paul Stanton flipped through his notebook.

He was sitting alone on stage during the final day of the Association of the US Army’s annual convention, held in early October in Washington. The Army officer had just been asked about remarks by the agency’s newly sworn-in chief of staff, Gen. Randy George.

“In constant transformation, he actually said the No. 1 priority and area of ​​focus is the network,” Stanton said, looking up from his notes and smiling. “Our Army senior leadership understands the importance of being able to get the right data to the right place at the right time.”

Stanton serves as both the commander of Fort Gordon and the Cyber ​​Center of Excellence, a Georgia school where troops are trained in everything from electronic warfare to communications capabilities. cyber business. The lessons there are becoming increasingly important — especially so, since the network named George is upgrading the Army’s most pressing modernization effort by citing lessons from the battlefields of Eastern Europe.

While sophisticated, secure connectivity has for years been a focal point for the service, alongside other priorities such as long-range precision fire, air and missile defense, and aviation, it hasn’t necessarily been as high-profile. Artillery, missile interceptors and helicopters have a strong presence. the invisible pipes and tethers that enable the exchange of military intelligence do not.

But that doesn’t happen minimize their importance.

“They provide the right prioritization, they provide the right guidance,” Stanton said. “They’re providing the right amount of resources in ways we haven’t seen historically.”

“Shoot, Move and Communicate”

As the US Department of Defense reshapes itself after decades in the Greater Middle East, it is taking a new stance formed by Russia, China and the dangers posed by their digitally savvy forces. Both powers, like the US, use powerful cyber weapons and pour money into military science and technology efforts.

As a result, networks that are insulated from hackers and capable of reliably connecting the front lines to headquarters, wherever they may be, are of the utmost importance, according to US military leaders.

The military in fiscal 2023 sought $16.6 billion in funding cyber and information technology projects, about 10% of its total budget. About $9.8 billion was allocated for the network. Another $2 billion was earmarked for offensive and defensive cyber operations as well as cybersecurity maturation.

“The character of war is changing,” George said at the start of his address to AUSA. “It’s changing rapidly because disruptive technology is fundamentally changing the way people interact.”

“Soldiers must shoot, move and communicate,” he added. “Technology should facilitate these fundamentals, not burden them.”

One need look no further than the Russia-Ukraine war for evidence, according to George, who said Moscow’s forces are dealing with the consequences of compromised networks and inconvenient command centers many times a day. In other words, aging connectivity and outdated outposts make for easy targeting.

US troops are now learning these lessons — just not “the hard way,” George said earlier at the conference.

“Antenna farms and endless server stacks are obvious and create an excessive electromagnetic signature,” the chief of staff said. “If we’re on the battlefield with huge operational centers, which are difficult to build and often supported by contractors, we’re going to get hit.”

George’s preference for the network and its aspects — security, reliability and flexibility — seem more like an evolution of earlier thinking than an entirely new paradigm, both Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, head of the Army Cyber ​​Command, and Lt. Gen. John O. Morrison, a top uniformed IT official, told C4ISRNET.

George served as the vice chairman of the army staff before assuming his current role.

“As vice president, the lead really led us in a direction to figure out how we simplify the network at the edge, make it resilient to a near peer, and build something that can actually move.” Morrison said on the sidelines of AUSA.

“Our entire modernization,” he added, “depends on a network that is secure, defensible and maneuverable.”

Bigger and better

The demand for network innovation comes as an Army focuses on divisionnot the brigade, as a unit of action.

The larger formation, consisting of about 15,000 troops plus firepower, is seen as better suited to a war against Russia or China, where battles will likely be spread over vast distances and require a level of self-sufficiency. Such expectations will put significant pressure on networks.

“Underpinning everything is a unique vision that the Army’s senior leaders have for the network. The network has to evolve, it has to be flexible, it has to be simple,” Mark Kitz, head of the Command, Control and Communications-Tactical Program Executive Office, told C4ISRNET. “To do that, we need to build into our programs the ability to achieve those three things.”

The office and other agencies in May introduced what is known as divisional network planning as a unit of action.

The initiative is intended to update communications arrangements moving forward and ultimately free soldiers under fire from reassign more complex networking tasks.

“I think the foundation of a lot of that is our ability to be flexible,” Kitz said, “and our ability to see the network as a living, growing, evolving set of capabilities, whether it’s applications or backhaul. [satellite communications]be it radios.”

“All of this has to evolve over time,” he added, “so we can leverage innovative technologies that we can retool and reconfigure based on how the Army wants to fight in the future.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration – specifically Cold War decommissioning and nuclear weapons development – ​​for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award winning photographer.

Read the original at Defence247.gr

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