Foreign Affairs Live: Modernizing the Military

Washington, D.C.



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5:30-6:00pm | Check-in & Welcome Reception

6:00-6:05pm | Welcome & Introduction

Janine DavidsonSenior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

6:05-6:35pm | Keynote
The Honorable Heidi Shyu, 
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology

6:45-7:45pm | Modernizing the Warfighting Network for the Future Force

The defense acquisition reform debate takes on an even more critical role in the current budget environment. What is the best and most realistic solution to reform the acquisition process to meet the needs of the warfighter and ensure accurate budgeting and proper oversight?

Integrating our military using a cohesive C4ISR strategy is one of the most important issues facing the United States defense community. How can we maintain technological superiority despite operating a patchwork of coexisting warfighting infrastructures? Our speakers will talk about their visions for an efficient and effective approach to networking the military in the face of constrained budgets, more sophisticated adversaries, and the pivot to Asia.


General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army
Michèle FlournoyChief Executive Officer, Center for a New American Security
Greg WenzelExecutive Vice President and Lead, Digital Solutions/C4ISR, Strategic Innovation Group, Booz Allen Hamilton

Moderator: Janine DavidsonSenior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

7:45-8:30pm | Networking Reception

Articles on C4ISR

By: Steve Soules 

Steve Soules is an executive vice president in Booz Allen Hamilton’s Defense & Intelligence business leading the firm’s C4ISR initiative.


The Challenge

The U.S. military’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems, while the best in the world, are nevertheless operating well below their full potential. Stove-piped systems make it difficult—and sometimes impossible—to collect, analyze, and disseminate critical threat and operations information or obtain a complete, single view of the battlefield. Defense leaders struggle to address these issues, but find themselves hampered by acquisition processes that inadvertently perpetuate the problems.

This challenge stems largely from the mindset that requires a C4ISR systems design to meet narrowly defined, specific mission requirements. Though very well suited to their intended purpose, these systems lack the inherent ability to share information or interoperate seamlessly with systems outside their mission space. As opportunities and requirements for collaboration grew, these systems expanded and morphed through modifications, typically by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that built them using proprietary technology.

The propriety-systems approach is an efficient way to achieve the original objective. However, because each C4ISR system was developed in relative isolation, each has its own unique infrastructure, operating-system software, software services (e.g., security, reporting), data, and custom mission-specific software. Moreover, as operators fielded these systems and increasingly integrated them into military operations, expectations and demands on the systems grew significantly. The next logical step was to pursue options to integrate after the fact. Unfortunately, as the efforts to better connect the individual systems expanded, the challenges inherent to using proprietary systems surfaced. 


A Better Approach

Warfighters and the organizations that support them need “integrated C4ISR,” in which individual pieces are designed as part of an enterprise system from the start. Although OEMs can integrate and upgrade their proprietary systems after deployment, the costs are high and the capabilities still fall short of the seamless interoperability required for contemporary warfighting missions. Moreover, the complex interfaces used to integrate stove-piped systems can create vulnerabilities that degrade security.

Five major features comprise an integrated C4ISR system:

• government-owned open architectures and standardized interfaces

• agile, incremental delivery of modular systems with integrated capabilities

• collective forums that bring together operators, acquisition professionals, and engineers to support agile development of solutions tailored to operational and technical requirements

• designed-in cybersecurity to infuse solutions with organic, unified, and multilayered defense

• enterprise-oriented culture

Acquiring integrated C4ISR requires a new approach, one we call Enterprise Integration. Enterprise Integration brings together three major disciplines and their communities: engineering, operations, and acquisition. Programs will need enhanced capabilities in all three areas to build integrated C4ISR on a foundation of open architectures, agile development, modular construction, and common hardware, software, data, and infrastructure.

Although Enterprise Integration requires news skills and expertise, it does not require a wholesale reform of acquisition rules or processes. In fact, it is consistent with the thinking of top defense and military leaders and has a highly successful record of accomplishment in a number of current C4ISR programs. The required adjustments in acquisition and programmatic policies, processes, and leadership are levers that are already available to mission-critical programs such as C4ISR.


The Benefits of Integrated C4ISR

C4ISR systems operating as part of an overall network benefit the defense enterprise in many ways. Enterprise Integration will enable rapid insertion of new technologies while stimulating innovation and expanding the industrial base. It will also help government and military organizations build and deploy C4ISR systems that can share and analyze large quantities of sensor and intelligence data, quickly and easily, using secure, interoperable networks and communications.

Developers make interoperability part of the design from the outset, while enforcing standards across all C4ISR programs. This approach allows vendors to plug innovative solutions into the common infrastructure. It also facilitates agile development, making new technologies easier to incorporate into developing systems. Enterprise Integration also provides numerous mechanisms for bringing together operators and engineers to ensure that the systems are user-friendly and built to meet operational needs. This approach significantly strengthens security as well because, like interoperability, it is built into the system, rather than bolted on after deployment.

Acquisition costs drop over time due to greater efficiencies in technology insertion, component reuse, and system integration. Overall, adopting an integrated C4ISR approach will help develop and field systems that improve situational awareness and decision-making, offering warfighters unmatched superiority over current and future threats.


The Path Forward

C4ISR is a weapons system that works best when integrated. Enterprise Integration builds systems in which interoperability, technology insertion, operator insight, and security are inherent characteristics of agile and efficient acquisition processes. In taking on the responsibilities of an Enterprise Integrator, acquisition organizations will need to expand their capabilities in the areas of engineering, operations, and acquisition.

Budget and force structure reductions loom on the horizon, while threats continue to grow increasingly sophisticated and dangerous. Integrated C4ISR is a force multiplier that enhances mission capabilities and enables warfighters to meet growing requirements, despite anticipated cuts. Moreover, Integrated C4ISR significantly improves situational awareness and decision-making to give warfighters a decisive battlefield advantage. 


The above is Sponsored Content from the May/June 2015 Issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine from our Technical Partner and Underwriter Booz Allen Hamilton.


Other Articles

In First Speech as Army Chief, General Milley Sets the Tone

By Janine Davidson

Defense In Depth, Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. military does not pick its battles. “As America, we have no luxury of a single opponent.  We have to be able to fight guerrillas and terrorists all the way up through nation state militaries.” His is a reminder, in other words, that Army readiness must remain full spectrum readiness.

'Force of the Future': career flexibility, fewer moves

By Andrew Tilghman

Military Times

August 30, 2015

The so-called "Force of the Future" reform package aims to yank the Pentagon's longstanding one-size-fits-all personnel system into the Information Age by sweeping away many laws, policies and traditions that date back as far as World War II.

The key to C4ISR mission success:  Commercial Networks

By Dave Powers, retired special forces senior sergeant

C4ISR & Networks

August 21, 2015

Looking ahead, Milley said he sees a number of ways to decrease costs and increase productivity.  The first is to cut overhead, not just in the Army but throughout DoD, he said, adding that acquisition can be both costly and wasteful.  The services chiefs “are responsible for and held accountable for linking the requirements” but should have an “increased role… with respect to the resources and decisions of actual acquisition.” 


July 29, 2015

“The NDAA gives greater authority to the military services to manage their own programs, and enhances the role of the service chiefs in the acquisition process.”

“As many of you know, these proposals have been the subject of some controversy in the press. In particular, there have been concerns on our proposal to transfer milestone decision authority for a limited set of programs from the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, or AT&L, to the services. Let me be clear. This proposal is about aligning authority with accountability. Service leaders that are responsible for identifying requirements and setting budgetary resources must be responsible for ensuring that acquisition programs deliver on schedule, within cost, and perform to expectations. And when they fail to do so, they must be held accountable"

Odierno: More Acquisition Power for Chiefs

By Aaron Mehta

Defense News

July 20, 2015

"I am on the record saying the chiefs of staff of the services absolutely have to have more involvement in the acquisition process," Odierno said. "I believe that we have practical experience and understanding of how you apply the programs we're using, and I think we should be more involved in the process. So I absolutely believe in that."

He also dismissed concerns that changing the acquisition authorities could result in weakened oversight of major programs.

"I also believe that there are some levels of oversight that should be given back to the services — not completely, we need oversight from OSD — but I think there is some that should be given back to the services," he said.

Congressional Spotlight on Acquisition Reform

By Aaron Mehta

Defense News

June 28, 2015

Both the House and Senate Armed Services committees included acquisition reform language in their National Defense Authorization Act bills. It's a focus the issue has not had for some time, and presents perhaps the best chance in years for a shift in the weapon procurement process — a process that senior Pentagon leadership openly talks about as too slow.

So what's driving that focus on acquisition reform in 2015? Experts point to a perfect storm of global threats, shrinking budgets and changing technologies.

‘Worst Time’ For McCain’s Buying Power Shift To Services: Kendall EXCLUSIVE

By Colin Clark

Breaking Defense

June 22, 2015

“The thing that bothers me the most about the SASC bill is that it destroys my ability to lead. I’ve been really trying hard to lead from this office for five years. And that act will destroy my ability to lead the department in acquisition because it will move decision making to the services. They will be able to ignore me and it will send a very, very strong message to the departments that I am not in charge anymore,”

DEFENSE ACQUISITIONSAssessments of Selected Weapon Programs

United States Government Accountability Office

Report to Congressional Committees

March, 2015

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Foreign Affairs LIVE: Modernizing the Military brings together leading experts and practitioners for a high-level examination of the challengers, misconceptions, and opportunities related to finding the best approach to achieving real defense acquisition reform and improving performance of large scale defense acquisition programs.

Watch highlights from the event below:

An estimated $65 billion was spent in 2014 on Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), reflecting a significant and growing component of U.S. defense spending. Driving spending is the need to update infrastructure to address emerging threats and incompatible systems that were acquired out of immediate wartime need rather than strategy. An efficient and effective approach to networking the military for tactical communication in preparing for an exectuing global operations is essential to national security. How can this be achieved in the face of constrained budgets, more sophisticated adversaries, and the pivot to Asia?

The Integrated C4ISR Viewpoint from our Technical Partner and Underwriter, Booz Allen Hamilton, is accessible here.

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