Army mobilized on Objective Force

The Army is using new training, acquisition and development techniques in an attempt to meet its aggressive timetable for fielding the Objective Force by the end of the decade.

The Objective Force is a strategy to develop advanced information technology tools, vehicles and weaponry to make the Army's armored forces more agile and lethal and better able to survive an all-out fight.

"The good news is that we have all the support of our leadership," said Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, during an Oct. 21 press conference at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. But the flip side of that is "we're not moving fast enough on transformation or getting capabilities in the field now."

Cuviello said that the Army is addressing training through its Advanced Distributed Learning program and other Web-based methods that not only supplement traditional classroom instruction but also serve to refresh soldiers already deployed.

And as the service increasingly adopts commercial technologies, training becomes easier on those systems than on the military-specific tools, Cuviello said. He added that the commercial strategy is also reflected in the Army's recent request for proposals, in which "you don't see a lot of R&D because we're hoping to save it all for procuremen

The Army has devoted 97 percent of its fiscal 2003 science and technology budget to the design and development of Objective Force, including Future Combat Systems, a key component of the effort. FCS will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to enable soldiers to conduct missions, including command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and indirect fire, and personnel transport.

The FCS lead systems integrator team, Boeing Co.'s Space and Communications Group and Science Applications International Corp., was awarded a $154 million contract in March and is tasked with coming up with an operational architecture that will link the communications components of systems so that the Army can determine platform requirements, Cuviello said.

"We don't know what the platforms are," he said. "We have an architecture to tie those together, but there's no meat to it," because such things as bandwidth and information exchange requirements have not been sorted out. "We can't tell if there's massive needs for each [ground or airborne] platform — . We don't know yet."

One thing that has been established is the importance of the Joint Tactical Radio System in FCS' future, Cuviello said. JTRS uses software-centric radios that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies. Radios in use today were designed to work in a specific frequency range, with each service using its own frequency.

"We know JTRS is the key to this thing — and will be embedded in all of these platforms," he said.

The Objective Force's intelligence capabilities will require synchronization with the other military services and national security agencies, and the problem there is not technological, but in establishing new tactics, techniques and procedures, said Lt. Gen. Robert Noonan Jr., deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

Noonan said he has been conducting high-level meetings with various intelligence stakeholders to explain the Army's needs so that policies can be changed in order to declassify information at a certain level and push it to a commander in the field as soon as possible, he said.

"It's a policy issue, not a technology issue," Noonan said. "My goal is Google with a clearance — to just get what I need for my portion of the battlefield" as opposed to current methods that flood commanders with superfluous data from numerous sources.

There has been some resistance from security personnel concerned with the implications of declassifying and sharing intelligence, but the feedback from leadership has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

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