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Changing the Face of Modern Warfare

C2Core Solutions are flexible across all warfighting domains.

The defense industry is often blamed for being slow and cumbersome. We are rightly criticized for hiring behemoth defense contractors who are great at the decades-long processes of building ships, tanks and aircraft, but who are poorly postured to apply the agility, speed, and talent necessary to produce modern software. The outcomes of today’s and tomorrow’s conflicts will leverage the abilities of our military hardware, but will completely rely on the speed and capability of the software and communications required to C2 these assets. This has produced a current trend to look towards Silicon Valley for overnight solutions. At the same time, there is little recognition that government imposed acquisition processes discourage innovation and slow the software process. In addition to prolonged acquisition cycles, the government highly desires to own the resulting products and source code, and pay low fees – the exact opposite of a typical Silicon Valley business model. Further, such stopgap measures can result in unique solutions that only solve an immediate problem and may not scale to a larger conflict nor satisfy the broader user community, impacting standardization and creating additional costs in the form of interoperability and training challenges.

Technological solutions for many MDC2 problems exist today, but continue to be hampered by both organizational and acquisition mindsets. Embracing best-of-breed solutions now, coupled with an open-architecture concept will allow us to grow and meet the MDC2 needs of the emerging battle-space instead of starting over with a long acquisition process, and an accelerating list of requirements.

C2Core is an operational technology suite that enables MDC2 across multiple warfighting domains, within a common technology baseline. It provides enterprise-level capabilities that allow each domain to remain in separate database models, or be combined into a single, integrated, temporal database. This allows C2Core instances to be spread across disparate domains, with each node able to communicate with other nodes, or operate where all parts of the MDC2 effort are co-located. C2Core provides both thick and thin client implementations, with 2D, 3D, and 4D visualization capabilities. For both inter-node and external systems communications, it provides enterprise web services supporting both REST and SOAP connections, and provides standard interfaces in XML, ATO/ACO/OPTASK LINK USMTF formats, CTO, AO COI, Joint METOC Broker Language, and many others.

With a robust C2, domain-agnostic core, C2Core is easily adaptable to include many new emerging domains and operations. C2Core is actively used for daily operations in both kinetic and cyber mission planning domains, in both theater-level and global operations, and by US and allied militaries.

We need to begin encouraging flexible software designs that can be applied to multiple problems and domains. Over-specification of requirements for a singular problem results in solutions that cannot be re-purposed in other domains. Compounding this is the fact that current testing procedures often flag additional capabilities as extraneous and count against the system instead of embracing the enhancement. The ability to reuse and repurpose software and architecture should be a driving factor in investment decisions.

Rapid prototyping and experimentation is not new, although the “idea” seems to occasionally reemerge under different labels. In the early 2000s, the USAF operated Battlelabs, chartered to work with end users to find near-term solutions to technical problems. They were later defunded, despite several dramatic successes. “JEFX” experiments yielded large-scale successes during that timeframe and were utilized to try out new technologies and processes. Capability providers made changes during the events to meet emerging requirements, and in effect execute today’s agile DevOps concepts. Processes have since locked down rapid software modifications such that DevOps is nearly impossible. We need to return to an experimentation, or demonstration focus, and support rapid development at large scale, bringing developers and operational users together.

Just as we need iterative development processes to become the norm, combat planning needs to evolve into a more iterative process, relying on and exploiting temporally accurate data, rather than deliberate pre-planning that is frozen days or weeks in advance, and based on aging situational data. Emerging machine intelligence capabilities have the promise of greatly facilitating human planners. This can let us think at a higher level, easing the time consumption of mundane tasks.

We need to develop more advanced, resilient, and distributed communications networks to allow MDC2 environments to share information smoothly. Our current tendency is to lock down every bit of communications, computers, and software, making it nearly impossible for fast, efficient, and transparent communications. Keeping up will require accepting some operational risk, or we will suffer from continued stovepiped actions between domains.

We need to break down cross-service and cross-domain political barriers. Each service has its own take on MDC2 in parallel, but diverting in purpose and impact. We must be willing to take on more technical risk to keep up with required technological revolution to merge domains. Our information assurance focus should be at the infrastructure level — not every individual application. Automation should be implemented to shorten the time for accreditation — security must become agile as well.

Our enemies do not take years and years to evaluate all potential risks of a particular implementation. They’ve adopted the common commercial mindset long ago that technology is throw-away. Solutions shouldn’t be in use for decades. We need smaller, lighter, faster solutions that can come and go as operational needs evolve.

This article was written by Marcus Featherston, Executive Vice President, Mission Solutions, for Polaris Alpha (Colorado Springs, CO). For more information, Click Here.

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