C4ISR: The Power of Dialogue
Mar 15, 2007

C4ISR (Command, Control, Com­muni­ca­tions, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) is a broad and diverse subject which, at its simplest level, is about allowing in-theatre commanders to have access to timely information so they can make immediate decisions. Whether the ­‘theatre’ is land, sea, air or a joint/coalition environment, the objective of the command & control solution remains the same; to provide the right information to the right people in time for them to do something effective with it.

The support and expansion of real-time system solutions that are critical to the enabling of Network Centric Operations has been an ongoing challenge for a variety of reasons. Access to information about emerging technologies, closed architected solutions that require heavy investment in order to benefit from emerging technology is a stumbling-block that is further complicated by a difficult procurement process – one that inadvertently seems to actively work at keeping industry and government widely separated. Alternatively, business leaders believe that combined cooperation of the public and private sectors is where the crux of the solution exists.

The Defence Industry provides solutions to multiple military C4ISR issues around the globe, and often have the insight and lessons learned from delivering on other programs. Whether it’s the WATCHKEEPER UAV program for the UK, or the German F124 Frigate program, companies have expended time, energy and money incurring and implementing lessons learned for their global markets.

Improving dialogue between industry and government can provide clear benefits by allowing faster implementation of new C4ISR technology into the field. By integrating the most successful processes from our allies, and cross pollinating best practices between government and military departments within Canada, improvements can be made to the procurement process – giving the war fighter an improved command & control and weapon capability. This is an increasing theme among industry partners, given that industry is, some would say, “the fourth pillar” of Canada’s defence capability.

The nature of war has changed. The enemy is mobile and our warfighters must be connected to strategic and tactical aircraft, along with weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in order to successfully engage time-critical targets. The requirement to share knowledge between sensors and radars and information from other government departments is becoming equally critical to both deployed forces and homeland defence forces. Mobile, ad hoc, secure networking is required to achieve this connectivity for land, air, and maritime forces.

To bring modern technology to the theatre of operations in a timely manner requires an adjustment in approach to developing and leveraging information superiority. Some adjustments to allow government to benefit from their industrial partners include: an increased awareness and understanding of current and emerging technologies to keep the real-time systems current; a procurement process that brings modern technology to the theatre of ­operations in a timely ­manner; and a coordinated government approach.

The ability to procure ‘right at your finger-tip information,’ with advanced technology within a meaningful timeline is a tough nut to crack in the current Canadian government procurement environment. This environment of ‘paranoia’ to work with industry in a coordinated fashion has evolved, over time, as the result of unrelated incidents that led to the growing emergence of an “us versus them” mentality between government and industry – and, on occasion, an “us against them” mentality between government departments. There is a strong argument that suggests the lack of understanding of industrial capability makes it exceedingly difficult to write requirements, get sign offs, assure funding, procure and then deliver new technology to the field in a timely manner. In some cases, programs have made it through the procurement process, but have not delivered to their potential due to the time lag between ‘desire and delivery’.

In July 2004, the UK MoD announced that Thales UK had been selected as the preferred bidder for the Watchkeeper Tactical Unman­ned Air Vehicle system, to provide its armed forces with Intelligence, Surveil­lance, Target Acquisi­tion and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.

Over time requirements have repeatedly delayed progress through the procurement process in order to ensure the fairness of the competition in order to avoid industrial law-suits and CITT (Canadian International Trade Tribunal) challenges. And yet, the parallel challenge of educating and informing government project staff who needed to map their requirements was largely ignored. This inability or unwillingness to access industry openly minimized opportunities to educate government teams that were tasked with finding meaningful solutions to their problems.

Leverage Technology through Increased Industrial Cooperation
Government is faced with the need to structure requirements to meet the current stated deficiency, but also to ensure that upgrades are planned and achievable as technology progresses. This ensures the government isn’t handcuffed to old technology, and that requirement definitions don’t inadvertently ‘future proof’ the new solution from evolving requirements. Therefore, it is clear that having a meaningful and ongoing dialogue with industry helps to make DND a smart customer.

In the C4ISR arena, the advantages of improved dialogue between the Crown and Industry include the ability to tap into emerging technology that supports Network Centric Operations Warfare. For example, increasing the capacity of current networks over existing or legacy solutions would allow for the better network performance. In addition, new technology in a cash-strapped environment could re-use existing wiring of a platforms database, eliminating the need for re-wiring or adding new wiring.

Improving Technology while Improving Dialogue (U.S. Example)
The Hanscom Air Force Base, Electronic Services Centre (ESC), is responsible for the C4ISR capability for the USAF. Several years ago, the ESC embarked on an improved pro­curement approach for handling emerging technology, because, like Canada, improved technology was available in the market place, but the USAF was struggling to implement it in a timely fashion.

At a CADSI Outlook conference in February 2004, Dr James Cunningham, Executive Director, ESC, Air Force Materiel Command, Hanscom AFB, briefed Canadian Industry about these challenges. He described how Hanscom worked with industry to more quickly implement technology in the field. As executive director, he was the senior civilian responsible to the commander of an organization comprised of more than 10,000 military, civil service and contract support personnel, and an annual operating budget exceeding $4 billion. He indicated, to those attending the C4ISR Outlook, that the changes initially began with cultural changes, plus an improved appreciation that the defence industry should be invited to work in tandem with their defence partners. Protecting the war fighter should be the common goal.

Under Dr. Cunningham’s direction, Hanscom AFB worked hand in hand with the New Horizon’s Symposium (in cooperation with AFCEA), where every ­program in the U.S. equivalent to the Canadian Defence Capability Plan, was briefed to industry – complete with budgets, contacts, schedules and target objectives. To generate industry dialogue, some programs are briefed even before they have budget approval. This 3-day ­program also included opportunities for companies to come forward and in one-on-one closed door environments demonstrate and discuss the program and their solutions with the program officers. This allowed Hanscom decision makers to make recommendations, and incorporate the newest capabilities that were emerging or in the market “off the shelf.”
Ultimately, including industry as partners improved their entire process and as a result they were able to bring new technology to the field in less than 3 years.

Improving Technology while Improving Dialogue (CDN Example)
There are signs in some Canadian programs that this tide is shifting towards improved and open dialogue. Late last year, the HCM-FELEX (Halifax Class Modernization, Frigate Life Extension) PMO initiated an Industry Working Group in order to better understand industry’s ability to deliver HCM-FELEX to the fleet. This complex upgrade includes a new command and control solution (with multiple sub-projects), new weapons and sensors, and work on the hull and systems that will allow the ships to sail until 2030. The objective of the Working Groups is to engage industry in the mid-life modernization of the frigates in order improve the efficiency of the procurement process, and to achieve the first scheduled refit of the first ship in 2010. This is a major capital Crown project, and the Navy project office, led by Mr. Paul Hines (DND) and Mr. John Schmidt (PWGSC), recognized the need to be efficient and consultative.

These Working Groups have held multiple meetings and industry working groups in order to discuss the detailed evolution of the impending SOI (Q) (Statement of Interest (Qualify)) for HCM-FELEX including; requirements, capabilities, specifications, the SOW and schedule of the Crown’s options. This IPT Working Group, with representation from DND, PWGSC, Industry Canada and the international industrial community, has collaborated to ensure the Crown releases an RFP that industry can respond to with minimal risk to the Crown, and to industry. The PM has acted as the Chairman of this committee and has two industry co-chairs; one industry partner representing the CSI (Combat System Integrator) industrial capability and one industry partner representing the Shipyards. Through the co-chairs, industry can pass their concerns/comments and recommendations directly to the PMO, and receive quick responses.

During this process, the Crown has been able to identify risks and determined three key criteria of each risk: probability, impact and exposure. Probability indicates whether the risk would occur, the impact of such a possibility, and the exposure of the government to overall risk. A fourth column was developed, called mitigation. With the help of industry, the Crown has been able to greatly reduce their program risk by working with industry in order to develop mitigation strategies before competition.

Ultimately, improving capability in the field is about allowing in-theatre commanders to have access to timely information so they can make immediate decisions. Including industry earlier in the procurement process, results in a more efficient process with an improved understanding of the problems and various solutions.
Louise Mercier, Government Relations Director for Edgewater Computers, is the current Co-Chair of the C4ISR Outlook Program for CADSI, and Founding member of WIDS.
©  FrontLine Defence 2007