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HMSPA address to the Military Communications and Information Systems Conference

Major General Gus McLachlan, AM, address to the Military CIS Conference, Canberra, Wednesday, 11 November 2015.

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Thank you to the organisers for convening this conference again this year. I have spoken at the event before in my joint role as Head Joint Capability Coordination when I spoke about the need for greater joint integration of military CIS and asked for industry help bridging the gap between our bespoke service systems in the current generation of technology and for us to commence moving toward open architecture solutions in future acquisitions.

I am pleased to report that you have been listening and together with the Air Force, under the banner of Project Jericho, we have commenced the journey to bridge the gap between our systems. We are exploring what I call “Rosetta Stone” capabilities that convert one data link format to another to reduce the need for re-engineering complete systems and we are optimistic this will enhance joint integration in a practical way.

On the open architecture front, industry has presented us our first opportunity to test this idea with the Integrated Computing System (ICS) on the Hawkei vehicle. This represents the move of the land platform into the era of the “glass cockpit” in which all the functions of the vehicles and CIS capability are managed through a single common crew interface. We hope to extend these successes into our armoured vehicle acquisition and in future upgrades to our helicopters. The advice I am receiving is that the engineers in the room are not the problem in moving to an open architecture approach but rather the lawyers. All I can say to the lawyers is that I understand IP protection is important but you you will be able to sell me more of your equipment if you can demonstrate it is open to the applications of other industry partners.

So is this forum important to me? Yes. I am delighted to now shift my attention to Army issues in my current role as Head of Army Modernisation and Strategic Planning, though under the current Army leadership team we understand that Army issues must nest in joint priorities.

I want to leave some time for questions so I will press on.

Many of you will have heard me speak before so you will know how important military CIS is to the modernisation of the Army. Our modernisation priority remains our mission command systems and approach. I use the term mission command in this forum intentionally because this modernisation process is about more than the digital backbone of our CIS tools.

We are aiming to create an Army that can take advantage of digital technology to achieve decision superiority. That is to ensure our forces are in exactly the right place and time to achieve an advantage over our adversary. Our systems and training need to focus on generating a tempo advantage over an adversary, being able to orient and act faster than the enemy and apply the human advantage we possess when we can get our soldiers into the fight.

This also requires that we can access the strategic ISREW resources available to Australia as a benefit of our FVEY relationship with the US and the increasingly capable enabling capabilities in the other services. Without access to these systems we “return to the pack” of small Armies trying to achieve advantage through investment in platforms alone.

Picture an F35 transiting over a land battlespace hoovering sensor data such as artillery or rockets flying through the air – information that would be particularly helpful if you are that target of that fire. At the moment this information hits more than one air gap in its passage to the Army element under fire - causing delay in notification and risking introduction of inaccuracy in data transfer. We must do better than this.

In the Army the transformation to a modernised mission command approach is more than a technical challenge. I still get asked why a battle staff can’t send their 70 page pdf OPORD over their digital battle management system. My answer is that you do not require a 70 page OPORD when you embrace a modern mission command system. To take the next step in this journey we will need to move from analogue staff duties in the field to digital staff duties – a guide about how to optimise the settings on your BMS to achieve the most effective use of your bandwidth, about how to enable two way interaction and collaborative planning and process to facilitate our culture of decentralised decision making.

This in turn must lead us back toward smaller, more agile HQs that can be protected from incoming fire. Instead of pushing enabling staff forward we will reach back to higher HQs on strategic systems for enabling advice and planning.

On the technical level, we view the way ahead as very much a journey with our industry partners. Army does not have all the answers to the problems of the contemporary operating environment and we are keen to listen to industry ideas and innovation. The days of Army submitting a set of requirements and waiting for an industry solution to be delivered 18 months or 2 years later are over. I hope that you recognise that we are seeking iterative conversations and capability developments with our industry partners and we are taking every opportunity to have these conversations.

We have confirmed our strategic relationship with ELBIT / ELSA. We have developed with them the best terrestrial mesh network in the world, we have security accreditation to operate our TORCH BMS on the FVEY secure network and we will take an important step to confirm interoperability with our US allies at a Network Integration test exercise in the US next year. Our deployed tactical network is carried over the best digital radios available from Harris and Raytheon and we look forward to our range extension capability increasing using satellite and network capabilities from Boeing and our other new partners under project 2072 2b.

ELSA and Thales are working with us to confirm the potential of the open architecture on the Hawkei vehicle which will give us the ability to reduce cabling, power usage and peripherals on the new vehicle and to create opportunity for expansion of capability into the future with minimal disruption. Collaborations like this are not always comfortable but the Army will no longer accept bespoke systems that can’t be integrated. We expect a similar approach in the L400 development process and I one day hope to be able to back cast this ICS functionality into other vehicles such as the Bushmaster.

I know a consistent message from industry to Army has been make your needs and requirements clear – well here it is: Army will continue to pursue a federated and integrated C4I system that can accommodate or upgrade component systems to maximise our operational effectiveness and decision superiority.

Another of our Army priorities is increased communications resilience. We expect we will face a future environment in which space is contested: whether through local jamming of things like the GPS satellites or though strategic level attacks on space based communications facilities. Our mesh network is simple and robust and provides a good basis for development but we know we have more to do to confirm our ability to achieve PNT in a contested space environment. PNT resilience will be an increasing theme in Army acquisition.

Like the other services the Army needs support in the development of our ability to store and analyse data. While our systems are unlikely to hoover as much data as the F35 the ability of Unmanned Air Systems, electronic intelligence and attack tools and even our counter IED systems to generate large amounts of data is increasing. This data is useless unless it can be accessed and analysed.

Our young intelligence analysts now have considerable operational experience. They are from the google / wiki generation and they demand more than a centralised push model of intelligence distribution in which analysis occurs in an agency in Canberra. They expect a post and pull approach to information where decentralised decision makers shape their own information requirements. This challenges our current structure and approach. We need the ability to distribute and analyse data in a deployed environment. We need an identity management system that allows cross domain search capability while providing the security protections needed in a post Snowdon world.

This short speech has focussed pretty much on Army’s immediate needs – move beyond stove-piped proprietary systems, achieve integration with the other services and coalition partners and adopt an open architecture approach on land platforms. In the future our systems must be all these things and more. The next generation of Army command and control systems must get smarter. We need to move beyond one dimensional images on a screen to systems where the icons have depth and where agents or algorithms are helping with our decision making. Tank example. Fires example. I know this type of agent technology is available now and I want it in the land environment to make the decision making process for tired and stressed soldiers easier.

In order to stay within my time allocation I will leave discussion about simulation and cyber for question time.