A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, N.C. Dec. 5, 2015. During this exercise the unit conducted maneuvers as a mechanized infantry company in preparation for upcoming operations.
Enabling C2 for Tomorrow’s Marine Corps, Today
Marines around the globe, both in garrison and forward deployed, require a networked C2 environment that is ready, responsive, and resilient. The ability to C2 in these dynamic times remains the focus. The Marine Corps must strive to build C2 agility and enhance readiness throughout the Marine Corps. In order to maintain an operational edge over adversaries, the Marine Corps must accomplish rapid and responsive approaches to future C2 challenges.
As stated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in the Marine Corps Strategy for Assured C2 there are four critical characteristics the C2 environment/network must possess:
1. Unified – Multiple disparate networks lead to excessive complexity and slow mobilization and deployment. The post Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) construct does not serve the purposes of deployed Marine Corps forces. We need one network with common standards, services, and security across the Marine Corps today.
2. Resilient – Marines operate in C2-contested environments. We must not become overly reliant on any single method or technology [e.g. Satellite Communications (SATCOM)]. Instead, we must master the basics while exploring options for survivable systems.
3. Interoperable – All elements of the Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) must be able to quickly collaborate and communicate across common hardware systems and platforms. All information exchange requirements must be accounted for and warfighting functions synchronized. We must also ensure secure and reliable connections with our Joint and Coalition Partners.
4. Expeditionary – Our ability to operate from the sea is a key component of our readiness. Limited space and bandwidth require innovative methods (hardware and software) to integrate with the Navy. We must extend shipboard networks and leverage airborne C2 assets.
In achieving these characteristics, the Marine Corps will break the old network paradigm. This will decrease reliance on static data networks, stove piped applications, and large bandwidth transmission systems to exercise C2. Not only will this improve our efficiency it will reduce our vulnerability to our adversaries, who will surely target these centers of gravity. The next network, or “Objective Network” will leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate data processing and dynamically adapt to the environment. Ultimately, this will optimize performance and increase resiliency. The objective network will also revolutionize how information is processed, shared, and presented; providing commanders the relevant information they require in a timely manner, increasing our tempo.
The Marine Corps Strategy for Assured C2 is an essential step toward achieving initiatives such as the Objective Network. The Strategy removes the distinction between garrison, shipboard, and field networks; we will truly train as we fight. The Marine Corps requires a single, assured C2 capability to provide enhanced information exchange for training, planning, and deploying. Leveraging the latest technology standards and processes will provide a common computing experience anywhere the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operates, on every type of computing endpoint used by Marines.
The Marine Corps also requires assured information exchange across all warfighting functions for improved decision making. This is especially important as Marines expand their Information Environment Operations (IEO) capability and capacity while standardizing Information Management (IM) processes.
In order to realize this, the Marine Corps’ vision is supported by three goals:
Transforming MAGTF C2 is realized via the interoperable and resilient Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN). The Marine Corps cannot meet the demands of the future warfighter with separate networks designed for “garrison” and “field” operations. The need for greater mobility and rapid deployment render our current C2 construct grossly inadequate. Understanding the MCEN is best done via the required components and conditions as depicted in Figure 1.
Unification is the term used to describe all actions associated with moving from legacy systems, processes, and organizations to a modern MCEN. Key actions include domain and data center consolidation and elimination as network sprawl has led to increased costs and risk to the network. Vestiges of antiquated directorates, centers, and nodes no longer serve the purpose for which they were created and now complicate command relationships. This has blurred the unity of command to specify Commander responsibilities and authorities to support the operations and defense of the MCEN and MAGTF C2. Finally, processes, such as Information Technology (IT) acquisition, must continue to mature to meet the speed of change in this dynamic setting.
Cloud services are needed to move applications and associated data to the point of need. Old “reach-back” models are too slow and are most susceptible to service outages during times of network segregation, especially at the tactical edge. Cloud services also are a crucial component to our mobility strategy both in warfighting and business (e.g., recruiting) operations. Finally, the cloud and our tactical services oriented architecture enable our budding Ready Data Environment (RDE) by creating secure and accessible repositories to share information.
Applications have undergone fundamental changes in recent years and have proven to be highly adaptable and scalable in a wide setting. When poorly designed, applications tie up valuable computing resources and fail to work well in mobile settings. For example, limited bandwidth means slower performance and smaller devices lack display scalability. Standardizing the build, security and employment of this capability, in concert with cloud capabilities, ensures availability of data maximizing performance. Marines have shown prowess in developing these tools, and the Marine Corps is taking advantage of this bottom-up creativity.
Installation Processing Nodes (IPNs) and Tactical Processing Nodes (TPNs) allow the Marine Corps to “house” all critical C2 network components, e.g., cloud, applications, storage, and core services. When properly configured, these nodes reduce the number of redundant data centers and serve as the execution hub of advanced security applications. They also look and act the same, similar in fashion to a Marine Corps unit’s structure and Mission Essential Tasks (METs). This leads to better planning and execution of C2 requirements regardless of geographic location, since each IPN works in concert with the network, e.g., services, connections, security, and routing. Thus, IPNs deliver network “warm start” capabilities across the Corps, which currently only exist in specific areas supporting unique missions. Tactical Processing Nodes enable Marines at the tactical edge to have access to applications and information. TPNs allow for mobile and agile configurations to be employed through the use of cloud-based architecture. This can eliminate the need for building static data centers in the field.
C2 Diversity/Network Survivability ensures the ability to fight through a C2-contested environment, a near-certainty given today’s threat. For all the focus on the Internet of Things, innovative applications, and cyber-dependent weapons systems, it is easy to overlook the fact that these capabilities often are realized only when properly networked. Effectiveness is degraded or lost entirely during states of disconnect, making networks as important as the individual “things” that ride on them. To this end, our overreliance on satellite communication makes network survivability a high-value target to our adversaries. Investments in Line of Sight (LoS) and advanced Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) technologies and training are paramount, e.g., MUX, Troposcatter, and Free Space Optics.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility that must be “baked in” at all levels, from concept development to initial engineering design and throughout the entire lifecycle, guided by sound and innovative cybersecurity policy. Key to achieving this end-state is standardization as it allows better detection of compromise, e.g., baselining to detect anomalies and better deployment of defensive tools and measures – a “one solution fits all” versus numerous solutions that work against each other. Network unity of command to operate and service the MCEN is required to achieve a secure network for the best value.
Equipment to meet this challenge must be modern at the time of fielding and kept current throughout its lifecycle. For example, the Marine Corps must significantly reduce “owning” software and hardware in favor of “as-a-Service” arrangements where feasible (e.g., lease rather than purchase). This guarantees upgrades on a predictable basis and keeps pace with the never-ending security challenges exacerbated by outdated, legacy systems and applications. This is in no way a return to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) model, which was characterized as Contractor Owned - Contractor Operated (CO-CO). Instead, we will employ a “Government Controlled - Government Directed” model, which permits the provision of contracted goods and services, but in highly specific and flexible ways. The Marine Corps sets the terms and maintains control of how, when, and under what conditions these capabilities are realized. Finally, we must resist the “not built here” mentality and leverage capabilities already available if they meet our requirements.
Foundational elements that support this technical solution of MAGTF C2 transformation consist of Optimizing the Workforce (People and Training) and Practicing Information Technology Stewardship (Policy and Governance/Information Technology Value). The workforce, both military and civilian, must reflect current and future warfighting demands. Modernization of the 06XX Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is underway and will provide the appropriate structure and training the Marine
Corps needs to deliver the MCEN. The Marine Corps is conducting an enterprise-wide IT work force Zero-Based Review (ZBR) to ensure the best capability at the right value. Practicing Information Technology Stewardship ensures the Marine Corps counterbalances an appetite for technical solutions with maximizing investments and standards. Policy and Governance enforce the adoption of common processes and standards throughout the network, which ultimately increase performance, security, and interoperability while ensuring best value.
Conclusion: Marines must be organized, ready, and capable of rapidly deploying with the same information, systems, and weapons with which they train and prepare. The Marine Corps must build C2 agility and enhance operational readiness. Maintaining a secure, adaptable, and an innovative C2 environment ensures the preservation of a decisive advantage over any adversaries.