Calvin Johnson | Mission Command Battle Lab Director

With the rate technology is exploding currently, how will the Army determine where to aim for 2035 and beyond?

“Imagine the art of the possible” was the theme for the concept development workshop Jan. 7-8 at the Mission Command Battle Lab in Fort Leavenworth.

Task Force Ignite, which is comprised of scientists from the Army Research Lab, was joined by concept writers from the Mission Command Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, and other stakeholders, including a member of the AI Task Force, to brainstorm the future of command and control. The goal of the workshop was to link areas of current and emerging scientific research to desired mission command capabilities in the 2035 and beyond timeframe.

The event began with a briefing on the purpose and future direction of collaborative efforts between the concept development and scientific research communities, followed by an overview of the status and projected way ahead for the C2 Functional Concept and required capabilities.

Following the briefings, participants executed whiteboard sessions decomposing three operational challenges derived from the C2 concept:

• Managing knowledge to facilitate collaboration, enable decision making and improve shared understanding.
• Enhancing command post scalability, modularity, mobility and survivability.
• Improving soldier proficiency and efficiency executing C2 systems.

Each topic was introduced and examined over the course of two days, led by a facilitator from ARL and recorder from the Battle Lab. Most began with an explanation of how the question affected either the tools, processes or systems. This led to connections to research projects in progress. While dialogue was slow to start during the first breakout session, it quickly picked up.

“So far, this workshop has been the quickest to integrate and start collaborating,” said Maj. Beth Agapios, member of Team Ignite from ARL and one of the facilitators. “In these workshops it can take at least an hour just to agree upon the right vocabulary.”

Traditionally, the way a new weapon or information system makes its way to the individual soldier spans a continuum that can take 10 years or longer. It starts out as a new concept, formulated by the experts at the various CDIDs, supported by science and emerging research. As the research matures, it is slowly transformed into a specific technology requirement.

After focusing on the near-term fight in the Global War on Terrorism for almost two decades, the linkages between mature technologies and requirements are relatively solid. Formal collaboration takes place and each informs the other. On the other hand, the link between the far-term science and future concepts has never been as closely tied because of the sometimes obscure nature of research.

With the creation of the Army Futures Command, and the subsequent reorganization and reformatting of major subordinate commands, an opportunity was opened to tighten the linkages between the two, now that they are more closely aligned. The Futures and Concepts Command is now right next to the Combat Capabilities Development Command on the AFC organizational chart. All that remains is to formalize the collaborative avenues between the two. This concept development workshop is a step in the right direction.

While the whiteboarding session was designed specifically to brainstorm only, some of the dialogue snaked through defining the problem, to describing the components of the solution, to envisioning how the concept might evolve.

One idea posed was the use of virtual reality as an operational rather than a training tool. For example, if a commander can meet and collaborate with a division staff through VR, is there really a need for a command post? At that point, is there a need to invest in a more “survivable” command post?

Tom Christensen, the deputy director of the Battle Lab, said he was very impressed with the collaborative spirit throughout the event.

“No matter what happens with the outcome of the workshops, the relationships we’re building will go a long way to help the Army get the capabilities it will need,” he said.

TF Ignite will return to the Battle Lab for another workshop in April, but this time it will be a writing workshop. Agapios joked that there would probably still be whiteboards involved, but said she looked forward to seeing how the concepts developed based on this week’s conversations.

All this dialogue will turn into the Science and Technology Annex for the C2 Functional Concept, a working document to guide future development efforts along the C2 Warfighting Function. The S&T Annex is commonly used to envision the “art of the possible” or what future capabilities the Army may require in 2035 and beyond. The Mission Command CDID, which is responsible for the C2 Functional Concept, will publish the document early in 2021.

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