The Army Capability Integration Center (ARCIC), led by Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, supports the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in designing requirements and developing strategic and operational direction for the service. (Mike Morones/Staff)
The Army Capability Integration Center (ARCIC), led by Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, supports the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in designing requirements and developing strategic and operational direction for the service. Sometimes called the “Army’s think tank,” ARCIC also helps combatant commanders evaluate capabilities they need to equip troops in the field.
ARCIC plays a central role in developing and supporting the Army’s plans to modernize its force and to develop doctrine regarding new threats and capabilities. One big initiative has been the twice-yearly Network Integration Evaluation (NIE), which fields an entire brigade combat team at Fort Bliss, Texas, to test and evaluate new concepts and technologies. Key to NIE is the WIN-T network, which can connect dismounted soldiers in the field with higher headquarters, allowing them to push images, text and intelligence back and forth quickly.
Q. Army leaders have been very public about pushing forward with a modernization and reset program while trying to keep it within budget constraints. Can you talk a bit about the plan?
A. It’s not finalized yet, but our approach to modernization really has three aspects. It’s got a near-term aspect in which the [WIN-T] network is involved. That is in the POM, [Program Objective Memoranda, or five-year plan]. We also have a midterm aspect, outside the POM, let’s say between 2020 and 2030. We found there are areas where the Army has operational overmatch, and as we’ve examined them we know, based on what our adversaries are doing, that there are areas in which we will lose operational overmatch in the future. We must be careful that we don’t lose that overmatch, so that means we have to look at our investments in science and technology.
There’s also the long term, the deep future, 2030 to 2040. We believe that, in the deep future, we’ll need to fundamentally change the nature of the force, and that would require a breakthrough in science and technology. Right now our force is roughly one-third tooth and two-thirds tail, so as we decrease the size of the Army, you may end up reducing one-third tooth and two-thirds tail, but what if you could slide that fulcrum? Maybe it’s one-half to one-half. The point is you get to keep more tooth, more folks that actually conduct operations on the ground.
Q. You’ve been conducting the NIE since 2011, and have sent Capability Set 13, which consists of a communications network, smartphones and other computing technologies, to Afghanistan. How is NIE going to change now that US troops in Afghanistan are heading for the exits?
A. During the shift from Future Combat Systems to where we fielded this to Afghanistan, the NIE became very focused on Capability Set 13 for use in Afghanistan. But while there are some huge advantages of using that network [there], it might not work in other operating environments. The NIE is not focused solely on Afghanistan any longer, but instead on where, as an Army, are we going in the future.
Q. What’s next for the NIE?
A. The network is still our No. 1 modernization priority. We know that when the nation next decides to commit the Army, we won’t do it alone. You’ve watched us for years work on talking to ourselves in the NIE. But what about our Navy and Air Force brothers and sisters? So we designed the [fall 2014] NIE to have a joint and coalition aspect. The 1st Armored Division headquarters will act as a Joint Task Force, and the Marine Corps will have an entire simulated [Marine Expeditionary Brigade] participating, but with a battalion of Marines on the ground. The point is to see how we can operate doing a joint early entry operation. We will have a British brigade headquarters participating as well.
Q. So it will be more about training than evaluating new equipment?
A. On this round it’s not going to be a big material thing; it’s going to be an operations thing. How do the British and the Americans figure out how to work together operationally? We’ve got joint signatories, like the Bold Quest event, which will be done concurrently with the NIE. At some point in the end, all of these things [the NIE, the joint and international participation and Bold Quest] are going to come together since we’re all out there anyway, and we’re going to combine them and see how we do this as a joint and combined force. We have some specific objectives, one being looking at the joint integrated air and missile defense picture, which is absolutely critical. Also personnel recovery, fires and mission command. There will be a division headquarters in command of every NIE from now on — this is a training opportunity, and the training aspect will be more of a focus from here on out.
Q. What about the cost of the NIEs going forward?
A. There will be more and more virtual and constructive training work done in future NIEs. You know we’re very concerned about how much the NIEs cost, and we’ve worked to decrease the cost. This last time we did a lot of constructive, but you’ll see more virtual happening in the future. Constructive is kind of like a computer game; you move icons around. Virtual is when it’s a simulator, like an Apache or tank simulator. We’ve already evaluated in Afghanistan and are going to make adjustments to our structure for manned-unmanned teaming with our aircraft and our Shadow UAVs; we’re already doing that. Well, on the ground, we’re not far behind that. You can do all of that virtually.
Q. How have you gamed out the possibility of an adversary hacking the network?
A. The network vulnerability was tested by the Army Research Laboratory. The 1st Information Operations command is the arm of Army cyber Command that evaluates network vulnerabilities. With each NIE, they have gotten more and more involved.
Soon we hope to have our own cyber center of excellence as we convert the Signals Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon. Ultimately, Fort Gordon will become the home of US Army cyber Command; there’s going to be lots of synergies there, but the point of it is there is a cyber [opposition force.] My first NIE I had a real problem because, in 2011, it was so basic, we just wanted to see if we could talk to each other, and I had to talk with Army Test and Evaluation Command and said, “we’ve got to coordinate this better, you’ve got to stop shutting the network down; we’re trying to learn how to make it talk.” We’re beyond that now.
Q. When a unit is deployed, at what level will the Army protect the networks? Division-, brigade-level or can it be pushed even lower than that?
A. If we’re talking about defense of the network, there are cyber defenses in the brigade, and they operate against basic network-intrusion stuff. That’s on the defense side. When you go to the offensive side, we probably won’t talk about that. In our unclassified cyber concept white paper, we believe that in the future there is a need to have local cyber offensive effect. Now, does that mean a team comes from Army cyber down to the brigade level? Those are the kinds of things that venues like the NIE will help take the concept and let you try it out.
Q. The Army is adding a third maneuver battalion, along with engineer and fires assets, back into the brigade combat team. How is that going to look in future operations?
A. Part of the Army 2020 effort is that we know we have some shortfalls in what we did with modularity. We did not want to go to a two-battalion brigade in the first place. We had to increase the Army by some 70,000 troops and we had to have more brigade headquarters in order to increase the dwell time so we could rotate them into Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q. What was the process like to decide to go back to the battalion?
A. We assembled our brigade commanders at Fort Leavenworth for a week, and we had 20-some different scenarios through all phases of operations, phases zero through five, and we had the brigade commanders give their judgments on their effectiveness. We tried different types of organizations. For example, we would use a Korea scenario since that’s one of the logical scenarios of existing war plans that we have. As brigade commanders would fight [with two battalions] and then would fight with the restructured organization, we would assess the effectiveness and the risk of each of the formations. So the analysis to produce the evidence behind changing the structure of the brigade combat team came from that effort in 2011.
Q. What lessons are the Army working to internalize from actions and deployments in places like Libya, South Sudan and the Central African Republic?
A. The Asymmetric Warfare Group was assigned to TRADOC about a year ago. Like the Rapid Equipping Force, it’s one of the organizations that we created [during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] to make up for the fact that our system is too slow. When the Asymmetric Warfare Group was initially assigned to TRADOC, I didn’t think it would work, and I stand corrected. The reason why it works is that they don’t work for me, they don’t work for [Lt. Gen.] Dave Perkins at the Combined Arms Center — they work directly for the commanding general, so they’re independent actors. They are essentially the Army’s global scouts, and they are in Africa, they’re in Afghanistan, and they bring back the lessons from the field. Soon we hope to have a decision on the Rapid Equipping Force. Post-[supplemental wartime funding], we can’t afford not to, and we’ve argued that it needs to become part of TRADOC, but it also needs to be an independent actor.