What does it really mean to be expeditionary? The word has been invoked frequently of late, often as shorthand for the kinds of missions expected of an Army shifting away from prolonged ground conflicts.Expeditionary is more than a buzzword. It encapsulates a different mindset: a force ready to be task-organized and deployed on short notice to austere locations and capable of conducting operations immediately upon arrival. This new paradigm is a substantial break from the way the Army has done business for the last decade-plus of war. It also has significant implications for the way we train and equip our forces—especially when it comes to how soldiers communicate.In expeditionary maneuver, we can no longer expect a hulking tactical operations center to serve as the “information brain” for mobile and dispersed combined arms operations. We don’t have the luxury of waiting until boots hit the ground to establish situational awareness and exercise Mission Command. It is impractical and ineffective to ask our soldiers to adjust to one user experience at home station, another while en route, another once deployed and still another when operating with coalition partners.Instead, we need to empower these globally responsive forces with agile command posts that readily scale, adapt and move with changing conditions. We must enable uninterrupted Mission Command across home station, en route and in deployed conditions with connectivity that is available upon immediate entry and then matures within a theater. We need to provide users a common, intuitive experience across echelons, formations and phases.This vision is known as the Mission Command Network and was collaboratively developed by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology communities. It is the blueprint now shaping the doctrine and communications technologies that will be delivered to soldiers between today and 2020. It will be critical to the Army’s success in achieving our expeditionary expectations.Fight on ArrivalWhen the soldiers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions parachuted into Normandy on D-Day in 1944, they had little awareness of the environment they were about to enter. They had never seen their objective, and what they did know came from grainy and outdated aerial photographs. Dropped several miles off-course, the initial forces spent hours trying to find their location and then planning their assault before they could become fully effective.While today’s precision drop technology can better direct troops to their targets, there is still a significant knowledge gap between when soldiers depart and when their boots first hit the ground. Recent wartime operational needs statements have reinforced that constant situational awareness throughout changing environments is key to commanders’ ability to dynamically adapt and succeed. The Mission Command Network takes on this challenge, providing capability solutions for en route and early entry operations that will enable expeditionary U.S. forces to truly fight on arrival.The Enroute Mission Command Capability, which began fielding to the Global Response Force at Fort Bragg, N.C., in May, is a transport-plane integrated communications package providing military Internet access and Mission Command capability for in-flight soldiers. Commanders will plan missions while onboard an aircraft with uninterrupted situational awareness from garrison to theater. Soldiers will receive real-time operational updates and watch surveillance video of upcoming drop zones before their parachutes ever open. This uninterrupted connectivity gives U.S. forces situational awareness of an objective nearly equal to that of the enemy, eliminating much of the confusion that can surround an initial assault.Once on the ground, soldiers must be able to move immediately with initial communications and expand operations as additional forces arrive. That requires early entry capabilities that are lightweight, mobile and adaptable to swiftly changing circumstances. Informed by operational needs statements, the Army is looking at commercial technology to field “jumpable” satellite dishes smaller than a briefcase, which can be set up and on the air in less than 10 minutes to connect small detachments and teams to the Army’s network backbone.Another forthcoming capability, the Mobile User Objective System, uses Navy satellites and Army radios to provide smartphone-like connectivity for disconnected and dispersed joint users in challenging urban, jungle or mountainous terrain.Providing robust, reliable network communications during these early and constrained stages of an operation improves the security and foundation of follow-on operations and widens the aperture of expeditionary missions the Army can undertake. The demands of en route and early entry operations remain as intense as they were 70 years ago, but arming our soldiers with more information gives them the time and resources to go do what they do best.Command Post 2025Today’s typical brigade command post includes hundreds of feet of wires and cables, temporary flooring to protect the cables, stacks of transit cases, and several cumbersome tents. It often requires an entire day and a platoon of soldiers to assemble. It is five times the size of the brigade command post designed for Force XXI, the Army’s signature digitization effort that began in the 1990s. While much of the growth is a result of the Army’s move to modular and more autonomous brigade combat teams, it is also due to the steady expansion of equipment across multiple programs of record as well as the recent operational mindset of operating from fixed bases.Recognizing that this complexity is a hindrance to expeditionary operations, the Army continues an effort to transform the command post into a well-honed weapon system—no longer an anchor but an integrated enabler that is more than the sum of its parts. As part of the Mission Command Network, the Command Post 2025 concept shrinks the command post footprint by introducing mobile and scalable capabilities that can support connectivity across all phases of tactical operations, forms of maneuver and doctrine.Command Post 2025 is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It will include a modular, echelon-appropriate set of command post configurations tailorable to light and heavy units. A critical operational advantage of the new approach is that it will enable corps and division main command posts to operate primarily from home station while deploying forward smaller “right-sized” formations armed with leaner mobile tactical command posts to deter and operate in multiple regions simultaneously. These new posts will be more agile than those of the past, tied to combat vehicles equipped with the Army’s mobile tactical communications network and corresponding Mission Command applications.To support these flexible, distributed command nodes and the corresponding training and doctrine, the Army is leveraging evolving technologies such as secure Wi-Fi, virtualized hardware, Web-based Mission Command applications and intelligent power as part of the Mission Command Network.Soldiers accustomed to a wireless experience in their own homes will recognize its power to change command post operations. Working in conjunction with the National Security Agency, the Army recently broke the barriers that previously blocked secure wireless and 4G LTE access to military networks. This solution protects information security while allowing posts to shed the numerous cables that would otherwise be required to connect each user’s computer to the network. It untethers commanders and staff from their workstations so they can access classified information from tablets and smartphones without the need for encryption hardware. It also eliminates the need for flooring to protect the cables, thereby reducing strategic lift requirements and speeding setup and teardown times.Soldiers will also see a major change with the shift to Web-based Mission Command applications. Rather than crowding the command post with multiple stovepiped systems for fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver—each with its own computer terminals, server stacks and other bulky infrastructure—the new Command Post Computing Environment delivers the same capabilities through user-friendly applications. Commanders will break free from the juggling act of mentally combining information from various screens, equipped instead with common views, shared data, shared maps and integrated services across all tactical Mission Command applications.These and other enabling technologies for expeditionary command posts are quickly advancing to the field, shaped by soldier feedback from Operation United Assistance in West Africa, the Network Integration Evaluation events at Fort Bliss, Texas, and pilot efforts underway with the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Infantry Division.Common User ExperienceWhen off duty, today’s soldiers choose a consistent user experience for their high-tech devices, often owning a smartphone, tablet and laptop that run the same operating system and provide a familiar look and feel. On duty, they have mostly encountered the opposite: numerous different information systems designed by different vendors to meet different standards. This variety increases the complexity of operations and requires extensive training.The Mission Command Network aims to change that by bringing tactical capabilities closer to what users experience with their integrated commercial devices. Through the sweeping Common Operating Environment (COE) initiative, the Army has created “system of systems” software standards that government and industry developers must build to. One piece of the COE, the Mounted Computing Environment, serves as the standard for communications systems inside tactical vehicles. It recently adopted the Android framework to make apps easier for developers to create and for soldiers to use.The “common” in COE extends beyond what soldiers see on the screen to the infrastructure behind it. By replacing individual system servers with a tactical cloud, the COE’s unified data capability will simplify the way soldiers share information across systems and echelons. For example, the task of moving graphics from brigade to battalion to company down to platoon leader previously required crossing at least three different systems, all with different designs and standards. That forced units to create workarounds that were often time-consuming and prone to user error. With the COE’s interoperability standards, those barriers between echelons are eliminated, enabling a more seamless flow of information.The Mission Command Network also streamlines interaction with coalition partners—a core element of expeditionary operations and the new Army Operating Concept. The COE will automatically label, redact and share information according to the data’s classification level, thus preserving cybersecurity while reducing manual obstacles to collaboration with other nations and agencies.To further increase the Army’s collaborative reach across organizations, echelons and locations, we are opening doors between the strategic/enterprise network and the operational network. This enhanced interoperability will provide deployed forces with reach-back connectivity to sanctuary locations for analysis and information products that in the past were available solely at the strategic level. It further reduces the need for on-site equipment and allows units to function as a more unified force when conducting dispersed operations. Integrating the strategic and tactical components of the Mission Command Network also enables distributed and realistic training as doctrine and standard operating procedures evolve, increasing readiness for potential short-notice deployments.Today’s Army is already engaged in expeditionary operations. Soldiers swarmed into Liberia to help defeat the Ebola virus. They advise and assist local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Stryker crews roll through Europe in a display of solidarity with our NATO allies. These missions, however, are just a small cross-section of what we may be called upon to execute in the future. Rising to the occasion will require reliable, intuitive and integrated capabilities that go beyond what we have in the force today. The Mission Command Network, built with the expeditionary paradigm in mind, will drive us to the new level of effectiveness needed to win in a complex world.