The Army is transforming into a force that relies upon a single, integrated network, the chief information officer for G-6 (operational test command) said during a Tuesday, Oct. 11 LandWarNet seminar.
No longer will intelligence, fires, logistics, and mission command operate on disparate systems that, in the past, failed to facilitate communication with each other at critical moments.
"If you want to ride this network, you’re going to meet these technical standards we’re going to put out," said Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, the chief information officer for G-6, who moderated a panel of peers from different commands that are playing an integral role in the shift. The session took place at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington.
Not that the change is coming easy.
"As we were trying to put the network in, we [used more than] 20 different management tools," Lawrence said. "Impossible. We cannot work in this environment anymore."
Mission applications for the network will become commonplace – if they are not already – in classrooms, motor pools, orderly rooms, throughout the Army, Lawrence said, so that soldiers "can train as they’re going to fight."
One panelist, Brig. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, offered firsthand reasons why network integration is critical.
"The network is a weapon system. You apply lethal and non-lethal effects through it, and the commander does that to achieve effects and objectives," Flynn said.
Further, Flynn said, because the network is a weapon system, bandwidth is a class of supply. And commanders have to understand how to employ that class of supply through the network. It all must come together, he said, while commanders operate from command posts.
But training has lagged behind what Flynn called "material solutions out in front of us," with serious consequences.
Flynn described serving as a battalion commander in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004, and thinking at the time that "a big deal was GPS [a global positioning system]."
When he deployed again two years later under the new modular redesign of the force, Flynn said it took six months before he was "somewhat" familiar with the network tools he could employ.
"And I’m convinced – I hate to say this – I’m sure there were soldiers in my formation that were severely wounded or killed because of the things that I did not know about the network," Flynn said. "So we have some catching up to do. That’s why this is so important."