COMMAND & CONTROL: C2 in the CF – Are we on the right track?
Nov 15, 2006

There is no doubt that warfare has changed over the past 30 years and will continue to change.

Looking Back
When I joined the CF in 1972, the emphasis was on dealing with our cold war adversaries behind the Iron Curtain. The Navy’s focus was anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic, and operations in Europe were the mainstay for the Army and Air Force (we were all wearing green in those days). In Canada, we had just been through the events of October 1970, the War Measures Act was fresh on everyone’s mind and I recall we were taught how to assist government in Aid to the Civil Power as part of basic training. Over the ensuing years, concepts and doctrines have come and gone and advances in technology evolved to what came to be known as a revolution in military affairs. One thing that has remained constant is the requirement for effective and efficient command and control of operations. As we continue to move into the information age, the ability to leverage existing information technologies to create information superiority on the battlefield is an obvious advantage.

C2 in the 1990s
I have been involved in command and control processes and capabilities at the operational/strategic level for most of the last 15 years. I joined the relatively new Joint Staff in 1992 as a member of J3 Plans; in those days, desktop computers were just coming into common usage. The daily morning Pre-Daily Executive Meeting or Pre-DEM as it was known, was conducted in the balcony of the National Defence Operations Centre and situational awareness was provided to the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff using an overhead projector and Perspex or acetate slides. Down on the floor of NDOC there were several rows of desks, all ­facing a wall fitted with sliding maps of the world and the Canadian AOR. Command and control of operations at the strategic level was conducted much in the same as it was in operations rooms during World War II. The most common strategic means of sharing information and issuing orders was the telephone and record ­message traffic.

Not long after I arrived in NDHQ we were all using Word Perfect and the operations briefings were done with Harvard Graphics. Word and Power Point were adopted several years later. When I left the Joint Staff in January 1997 the exchange of information by phone was less common as we all learned to use email and share files as attachments. By the time I returned in 1999 the Environmental Commanders, CAS, CMS and CLS had established themselves and their staffs in Ottawa. The Navy had always been at the forefront of using technology for situational awareness as a result of having capabilities like LINK 11, CCS 280, ADLIPS and the US Navy’s JOTS system on board our ships in the 70s and 80s. Not surprising, when the Commander of Maritime Command shifted his pennant to NDHQ he brought with him the MCOIN system to maintain his situational awareness. Within the Maritime Staff we were exchanging email with the coastal headquarters on a classified network.

At about the same time the Joint Staff started to use its own classified network system, initially known as JC2IS and eventually renamed as TITAN. In my two-year absence NDOC had been converted to NDCC and the Command Centre was a hub of computer terminals and a knowledge wall connected to a number of networks at various security levels. The Joint Staff Action Team (JSAT) was conducting daily Intel and Operations Briefs in a newly commissioned JSAT Room. Over time, the briefing evolved from Power Point to a web based capability on the classified network known as Command View. The credit for this progress goes largely to the efforts of Colonel Bernie St Laurent who oversaw the transition of the NDOC to NDCC and the foresight of Captain (N) Darrin Knight, as we adapted his vision of information sharing and net enabled operations to NDCC.

C2 Today
While significant progress was made on C2 developments and Classified Network (CNet) capabilities at the strategic/operational level in the late 1990s and post Y2K, we are still far from having a fully integrated operational C2 Capability.

There are serious shortcomings in the support provided to CNet, and the infrastructure is badly in need of re-capitalization. The CF Command and Control Information System (CFCS I) Project has delivered a great deal of functionality to users, but the original goal of delivering TITAN as a fully integrated joint C2IS has not been achieved.

Much remains to be done in terms of integration of the existing MCOIN, AFCCIS, TITAN and LCSS sub-networks. Each of these systems operate a variety of applications and is supported separately.

The migration to the Defence Software baseline has achieved some degree of integration of service networks, but the requirement for different operating systems by different segments of the Global Command and Control System that has been adopted as the core situational awareness tool, has created additional challenges. Much of the existing infrastructure has been in place for 4 or 5 years. The network as reached its limit of about 5000 users in terms of capacity. There are a lot of useful situational awareness tools on the network, but very few people know how to use them. The use of Chat/IP War as a means of information sharing is more common, but we are still hamstrung by the lack of a message handling system that is imbedded in the C2 Network. The army is still using a system that is incompatible with the remainder of the command network capabilities.

Working in Joint Force Development over the past few years, I have come to realize that a military C2 system is, in many ways, similar to a major combatant or a weapons system. At the risk of being a bit too simplistic, in order to be fully operational at all times, just like a warship, a plane or a tank, a C2 system needs daily constant maintenance, upgrades and periodic overhauls and change-outs of major components like engines and gun barrels.

A C2 system is not just a bunch of computers and servers that you buy off the shelf, plug in, hook up to a network of copper or fibre optic cables and away you go; it is a system that must be managed as a capability from cradle to grave. It needs life cycle managers and a dedicated support team that are available 24/7 to make repairs or do routine maintenance. This is where the CF needs to focus some of its resources.

The other thing that I have come to realize is that unlike a Frigate or a CF-18, a C2 system cannot be expected to have an in-service life of 20 or 30 years. Information Technology components, of which C2 systems are built, have a service life of 3 to 5 years. In order to maintain compatibility with our Allies, the hardware and software components often require upgrading on a 18 to 24 month cycle. These factors all have to be taken into account when developing the Capability Management Framework to support the CNet.

Where to Now?
As I depart the Canadian Forces after 34 years in uniform, we are embarked on a process referred to as Transformation. We have established four new commands and a new Strategic Joint Staff. While there were some pretty rough patches in the road after disbandment of the DCDS Group, most of the building blocks to support the Chief of the Defence Staff’s transformation vision are now in place and the CF is ready to move forward. I think we all agree that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, deserve nothing but the best when it comes to equipment, training and leadership. After a significant hiatus, the federal government is about to invest in new technology to support operations and the CF is about to embark on a major renewal of existing capabilities and acquisition of some new technology. The CF is poised to purchase strategic and tactical air transport, new vehicles, search and rescue assets, a fleet of Joint Support Ships and various other capabilities. The one thing that will make these purchases all worthwhile, in my mind, will be an investment in strategic and operational level C2 capabilities such as the Integrated Command and Control System (IC2S) Project and the Joint Infor­mation and Intelligence Fusion Capability (JIIFC) Project. A distributed sensor information collection capability is another capability that I see as critical to the success of the new CNet. Without a modern, secure, reliable and flexible command and control capability all the other capability improvements will be for naught.

Tim Addison retired from the CF in September 2006. During his 12 years in NDHQ he served on the Joint Staff, the Maritime Staff and in Joint Force Develop­ment. A member of the Joint Staff Action Team for over 7 years, he was involved in the planning and execution of numerous CF operations and contingency events. He was the Detachment Commander of the Joint Information and Intelligence Fusion Capability Detachment in 2003/04 and just prior to retiring he was the Project Director for the CF’s Command and Control Information System projects.
© FrontLine Defence 2006