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Capability Set Production and Fielding: Enhancing the U.S. Army’s Combat Effectiveness

October 8, 2012

Today, people are always connected. Current smartphones, tablets and computers are user-friendly and compatible with one another, seamlessly sharing data and applications from one device to the next. But in today’s complex operational environments, such seamless connectivity cannot be taken for granted on the battlefield. At present, commanders must be inside a static tactical operations center (TOC) to access many mission command capabilities over the Army network, greatly limiting their freedom of movement. Soldiers sometimes encounter interoperability issues that interfere with unified land operations; with some non-integrated systems, Soldiers must log on and off of different technology platforms to share information. Those Soldiers at the lowest echelons—farthest from the TOC and closest to the conflict—can face delays in accessing the full range of information about their area of operations. That is about to change.

Starting in October 2012, the Army will begin to equip deploying brigade combat teams (BCTs) with Capability Set (CS) 13, the Army’s first integrated package of radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components. CS 13 provides uninterrupted connectivity from the static TOC to the commander on the move to the dismounted Soldier. It directly addresses 11 critical operational needs statements submitted by combatant commanders and offers Soldiers vastly increased capabilities to communicate and share information. Through unprecedented synchronized fielding efforts, CS 13 is on track to be fielded to up to eight BCTs (with priority to a forward-stationed BCT in Korea and to units deploying to Operation Enduring Freedom).

This capability set is the first fully integrated suite of network gear fielded as part of the Army’s new Agile Capabilities Life Cycle Process (or Agile Process), a fundamental change in the way the service delivers equipment to Soldiers. Rather than developing network systems independently and on their own timelines, the Army is integrating capabilities up front, testing them at semi-annual, Soldier-driven Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) and delivering complete technology packages aligned with the Army Force Generation cycle. As each capability set is fielded, the Army is developing and evaluating the next capability set via the NIE process.

This process allows the Army to assess capability gaps, rapidly form requirements, solicit mature industry solutions and perform laboratory and field evaluations. This unified approach permits the Army to buy the right amounts and types of gear for the BCTs that need them first and then modernize incrementally—instead of spending resources to develop technology that may be obsolete by the time it can reach the entire force. By fully aligning fiscal resources, requirements development and fielding through Capability Set Management, the Army is providing a greater depth of capability to more formations than was possible before.