In a recent post, we noted that the Army seems to be beginning to understand what a future war will entail (see, “Army Gets It”). In particular, the Army seemed to recognize that, in combat, communications and networks would be significantly degraded and that equipment design should focus on the bare minimum rather than the ultimate possible. This is an incredibly important point and I give the Army full credit for recognizing it (we’ll see whether they act on it, or not!).
As described by Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, head of the Army’s network Cross-Functional Team in a Breaking Defense article,
“Instead of optimizing the network to provide the best user experience in normal circumstances — the current standard — you optimize it to provide acceptable performance in extreme circumstances.” [article’s emphasis] (1)
This is worth restating … We need to design for the bare minimum acceptable performance and design it in such a way as to ensure that minimum level is met regardless of circumstances. We need a bare minimum baseline level of performance that the enemy cannot hinder.
Yes, we can also design in greater performance and, if circumstances permit (the enemy’s countermeasures aren’t present or aren’t as effective as anticipated), then we can enjoy the enhanced performance. The point is that we can’t train to, and become dependent on, a higher level of performance. We need to train to the bare minimum.
Hand in hand with designing to the bare minimum acceptable performance, we need to test our designs to the maximum extent possible. ComNavOps has harped on this and will continue to do so. The typical scripted, simplistic tests that currently pass for operational testing have to be dropped in favor of the most difficult tests we can devise because that’s the level of difficulty we’ll face in combat.
We need to make every effort to break our own designs so that we can learn how to build them so that the bare minimum acceptable performance is available no matter the circumstances.
That networked cooperative engagement type of capability sounds great on paper but will it function in combat? Let’s get our best electronic warfare aircraft to plan and execute an attack on a Navy surface group. Let’s give them access to every spec and secret of our networking so that they can take advantage of weaknesses. You can bet
has all our specs and secrets and
will do exactly that. Let’s see if the
group can establish and maintain a coherent tactical picture and a functional
network in the face of that kind of attack.
If not – and I doubt they can – then we need to define the bare minimum
acceptable performance and ensure that it is so secure that nothing can disrupt
(1)Breaking Defense website, “Can’t Stop The Signal: Army Strips Down Network To Survive Major War”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.,