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RDECOM Supports BCT Modernization

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As the Army Materiel Command’s (AMC) technology arm and synchronizer for Brigade Combat Team (BCT) modernization, the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) is providing system of systems engineering support to enable a capability-based 21st-century Army. Essential to that major change in Army focus and structure has been moving from individual lab or center focus on specific platforms and systems to a collaborative focus on capabilities.

“RDECOM is leveraging the work we’re doing for PMs [program managers], urgent needs in theater, and developments in science and technology [S&T] to rapidly insert technology from our base into the force using the ARFORGEN [Army Force Generation] cycle,” Brig. Gen. Harry Greene, RDECOM’s deputy commanding general, said. “The Army is identifying what will go into the force over time, using capability packages and capability sets, which are two-year windows where we will update units going through the Reset phase of the ARFORGEN model with the latest equipment.

“We are supporting that effort by identifying what technologies are ready now for insertion in FY11 and FY12 and what will be ready for insertion in the FY13/14 packages and sets, then we’ll do FY15/16. We’re not the lead, but provide the technical expertise, as well as nominating technologies for insertion in those timeframes. We’re supporting execution of the first packages, beginning this October, and are an integral player in the definition of subsequent packages.”

Basically, capability sets and capability packages provide a methodology for the Army to manage change in conjunction with the ARFORGEN model, changing the Army from a force with different readiness levels among units of the same type to one with rotational readiness.

“In other words, we have units going through a three-phase process that increasingly raises their readiness cycle. And when they complete it, they start over again,” Greene explained. “That begins with Reset for a unit standing up or returning from deployment, then to training and then to availability, where they either deploy or are available to deploy. We’re trying to manage change while they are doing that, providing a set of networks and battle command systems – the capability set – and capability packages that provide increased capability for their next time through the cycle.”

Together, they define not only how the Army is being modernized, but how it maintains readiness as each unit moves through the ARFORGEN cycle.

A soldier drops a small unmanned ground vehicle (SUGV) over a wall during an assault exercise held at the Hal Cox ranch on White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The SUGV was used to search a building at the compound during the BCT integration exercise. U.S. Army photo by Drew Hamilton.

“That is very different from the past, where the Army managed change on an individual system basis. Now we manage change based on the ARFORGEN cycle and define capability packages and capability sets on a two-year cycle, so we can be more responsive. Units going through Reset in FY11/12 would have one package, which would be upgraded with changes in technology and needs on the battlefield. Those then would go to units going into Reset in FY13/14 and so on,” he added.

“So we’re not trying to modernize the entire Army at one time, but incrementally, adding capability as units come through that window every two years. That gives RDECOM the opportunity to take the technologies we are developing or are available commercially or internationally and insert them into units preparing to go into the fight on a much tighter turn than in the past. That also really makes it critical for us to get the system of systems engineering and horizontal integration right.”

Following cancellation of the Future Combat Systems (FCS)multi-platform, multi-year program to transform the force, the Army decided to move away from building a system or platform, then “hanging” capabilities on it, to identifying capabilities warfighters need, then how to insert those into new or existing platforms.

“From an RDECOM perspective, that involves looking horizontally across the many parts of the command and bringing them together. There are any number of ways to get a given capability, so where once we focused on individual systems and the capabilities derived from those, now we look at the best way to achieve a capability,” Greene said. “That means taking a much broader view than in the past, looking at all the possible solutions to gaining that capability, and providing senior leadership with the knowledge to choose how to do that.

“So where capability was measured from an individual system perspective, now we measure it from a force structure perspective. RDECOM looks across all the possible ways to solve any capability gaps, then recommends the best technology solution. That is very, very different from how we once approached the problem, even within our own organization.

“The commanding general terms it aligning ourselves with the major wants and needs of the Army – lightening the load, joint future vertical lift, counter-IED, and much more – under the broad concept of BCT modernization. There really is not an effort going on today that could not be caught with the capability sets going forward.”

Rather than have a single R&D center do all the work on a solution based around a vehicle, munition, or Soldier equipment, RDECOM has now task-forced the command into system capability domains.

“While the solution may involve a vehicle or combat system, to get the entire capability, we have all parts of the command collaborating. That truly changes how we do business, from a focus on functional systems – tanks, munitions, aviation – to a focus on how to put a particular capability into a unit with an integrated solution,” Greene continued.

“We’re trying to provide the Army with a number of things, from system of systems engineering support to an honest technology broker, a group they can turn to for a reliable and honest analysis that also can bring those technologies together. As part of that, we have reached out to a new cell being developed within ASAALT [Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology] doing system of systems engineering. We also are an integral part of the TRADOC [Training & Doctrine Command] team to determine what technologies we want and when those will be ready.”

RDECOM’s commanding general calls it the “Five Ps” approach.

“We’re trying to better align Army S&T investments to the campaign plan and the AMC strategic plan, which supports the ARFORGEN model, to get a better return on investment. One way we’re doing that is to look at what I call the Five Ps: People, Places, Purse [all resources, such as labs and dollars], Processes [lean out and improve], and Products to give us what we need for the operational Army,” RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Nick Justice said.

“To do that, you have to be able to track change over time, which is the real shift in every command in the Army, going from an Army that is forward deployed or in garrison and static to an expeditionary force that changes over time in mission readiness. It’s like going from plain arithmetic to calculus.”

And the vehicle carrying that change forward and ensuring it remains not only cutting-edge and fully interoperable, but also reaches the warfighter when and where needed, is RDECOM.

“Having an RDECOM means the engineering side and R&D will continue to grow as we stay up with the sciences that will empower armies in the future,” he continued. “We want to empower the Soldier and combat formations, unburden them of the tasks that consume so much time and slow them down on the battlefield, and provide solutions and products to protect those forces. And you can only do that if you stay on the cutting edge of science.”

Making that work with an Army that has been trying to transform throughout a decade of combat, only to have the heart of that transformation – FCS – abruptly canceled, has placed enormous pressure and responsibility on the still-new RDECOM and the concept of capability sets and packages.

“Currently these two efforts are not synchronized with one another, and they need to be, since they rely on one either. To ensure this construct succeeds, we are working with ASAALT and TRADOC to provide our systems engineering and domain knowledge to look not only at the technologies that are being transitioned in each package or set in terms of capability, but how things interact to give the Soldier an end capability,” according to Benjamin Foresta, a BCT engineer in RDECOM’s Programs & Engineering Office.

“The whole point of BCT modernization is to incrementally update the Army, but also get to a capabilities-based Army, moving away from just providing hardware or individual component capabilities that provide a few extra features to some, to a construct that provides the warfighter a capability that enhances their mission effectiveness.”

PM C4ISR OTM Army annual C4ISR bct modernization

PM C4ISR OTM executed the Army’s annual C4ISR system-of-systems, integrated capabilities event. The Event Final Report would provide a comprehensive look at how the Army’s networks and systems will operate in the future – enabling the future force, enhancing the current force and contributing to Army BCT modernization. U.S. Army photo by Colleen Leslie

Applying system of systems engineering then ensures the sets and packages are aligned to support one another.

“We work with both TRADOC and ASAALT on that, looking at what we are investing our S&T dollars in and making sure it supports where the Army is going,” he said, “and using our subject matter experts [SMEs] to support the system of systems integration of all components to make sure they meet the capabilities the Army is trying to get with their modernization strategy.

“BCT modernization is a big piece of what the Army will look like in the future, because modernization in the broadest sense really incorporates everything technology-, training- and material-wise you will have in the future. So while the current focus is on capability packages and capability sets, it also involves quick reaction fielding items, joint urgent operational needs [JUON] items like counter-IED technologies, and so on.”

Some FCS elements have been incorporated into BCT modernization, but the new approach involves both new platforms – such as the GCV [Ground Combat Vehicle] – and inserting new or improved capabilities into legacy platforms as well.

What survived from FCS were major components of increments 1 and 2 – the Class 1 UAV, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV), unmanned ground sensors (both urban and tactical), the common controller, and the armed robotic vehicle. Those are now under capability packages. The FCS network integration kit, meanwhile, has been moved into a capability set.

“Increments 1 and 2 of FCS really were modernizing only a very small part of the Army, while the capability sets and capability packages use the ARFORGEN process to touch the entire Army via ARFORGEN. Every unit that comes in from Reset will be incrementally modernized, so in that sense a lot more of the Army is modernized through BCT-modernization than FCS, which had been scaled back to modernize only nine brigades in its first three years,” Foresta explained. “This is a dramatic change, because the Army decided not just to provide some brigades advanced capability, but looked to modernize the entire Army, bringing them up to a networked capability. In many ways, BCT-modernization is a lot more ambitious than what FCS was doing.

“It’s also less risky. FCS was doing a lot of moderate- to high-risk development right up to the point of user testing and fielding, while this construct is looking at what items currently exist as COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] and GOTS [government off-the-shelf] and programs of record. So it doesn’t involve FCS-type development, which had to be produced and then delivered, but rather looks at what currently exists or is in the pipeline that is promising that can be put into capability packages and capability sets to be incrementally added.”

Another major change that RDECOM is making to better support the Army and modernization as a whole has been the creation of System Integration Domains (SIDs) and Technology Focus Teams (TFTs).

The SIDS – Air, Ground, Soldier, Effects, C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications and Computers for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives) – serve as the command functional leads for technology integration and engineering solutions within a domain to optimize commonality, reduce complexity and life-cycle costs, and manage technology transitions and integration.

The TFTs – Lethality, Protection, Network, Sensors, Power & Energy, Mobility & Logistics, Human Dimension & Training – provide a comprehensive view of technologies and programs within their technology focus areas. That is accomplished by creating a network of experts – including engineers, scientists, and Soldiers (with applicable Military Occupational Speciality experience) – from across RDECOM, TRADOC, the intelligence community, other DoD and Army S&T organizations, other government agencies, industry, and academia.

Together, they enable a horizontal integration of expertise across RDECOM.

“The TFTs are focused on particular areas of technology, with the idea of having an expert who can serve as the honest broker on technologies with applications across multiple systems so we can make the smartest technology investments for the Army,” Greene said. “The SIDs are centered around types of systems, focused on integrating technologies recommended by the TFTs onto particular systems or programs we would be supporting to provide capabilities into the Army down the road. It really is a much more task-organized structure across the command.

NIKs will be installed into mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, MRAP all-terrain vehicles, HMMWVs, and other Army tactical vehicles. The NIK allows equipped vehicles to pass data, including such things as imagery with soldier-inputted annotation, voice, and both friendly and enemy position data from any of the information systems, into the network. That information can be shared across the network by other NIK-equipped vehicles. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.

“For the Army, that means we will be able to support the networked, interdependent Army we are developing, as opposed to integration on individual systems developed relatively independent of each other. So we have gone from a focus on individual systems with fusion done by humans in the loop to a digital Army with a number of fusion tools and interdependencies among systems. And that is a completely different Army.”

The new structure provides a framework to look at problems holistically, with all RDECOM domains working together to incorporate what each knows about different technologies to achieve an Army-wide capability resolution.

“It is really an evolution in how we did business. The individual centers existed long before RDECOM stood up five plus years ago, but support for ASAALT and TRADOC had been ad hoc and very domain or technology focused. In the past we’ve always provided SMEs to the Army, but today, organized under the TFT/SID construct, it is not just one center or lab but experts from across all Army domains, making sure what goes forward is a right-sized solution to the problem set,” Foresta said.

“The TFT/SID structure is a way to look at ourselves and make sure we are no longer thinking as individual centers but as a single command. And by changing how we work internally, it also changes how we do business externally, which greatly helps the Army.”

According to Justice, all of the changes related to RDECOM and BCT modernization reflect the change from a 20th-century Army, in which individual Soldiers carried only basic gear and a weapon little changed since World War II, to an increasingly high-tech 21st-century force.

“What has happened in the past nine years of war, almost non-stop from our first entry into Iraq, could not have happened without technology,” he concluded. “And it is almost intuitively obvious the Army has to stay on the cutting edge of technology, which leads to a growing importance for investment in S&T to meet the demands of bringing simulation, live training, and experimentation together with the complexities of a networked battlefield. When you put that all together, you have a high-tech force that is really effective on the battlefield.

“RDECOM in the future depends, broadly, on what AMC becomes. It is no longer about just transporting supplies and maintaining equipment to sustain an army in the field. It also is about making sure you are developing, staying on the cutting edge, improving reliability and sustainability, and taking the burden of logistics away from the operations force. So we have an ever-growing mission, reaching so deep into the op force that it will shape and change the way we sustain that force. And it will change AMC and how we view logistics. You almost have to call it logistics engineering – what is required in engineering to sustain the force.”

This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: The Army’s Premier Provider of Materiel Readiness, 2010-2011 Edition.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...