Posted: September 22, 2017 4:55 PM

General: Marine Corps Needs Speed in Fielding C4 Systems

By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps faces significant challenges in meeting the requirements of handling data with its current command, control, communications and computers (C4) systems, given the rapid pace of change in technology that is outstripping the ability to properly handle and process data.

“The Internet of things is exploding,” Brig. Gen. Dennis A. Crall, director for command, control, communications and computers at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, told an audience Sept. 21 at the Modern Day Marine Exposition. “Almost everything is connected. What is not exploding is the size of our networks and the ability to through-put. There is a mismatch that needs to be managed and understood. While the end-items are being developed, there is little consideration of how they will behave on the network.”

Crall gave the audience other related points for the Corps and the defense industry to consider.

“We have to take a look at is how those networks behave on the tactical edge versus in garrison,” he said. “On the tactical edge, you get less through-put, more uncertainty, bigger challenges, [and] more austerity, yet you take this Internet of things, put them on a network that already is finite, and then stress that network down to its minimum condition, and you have a perfect recipe for failed expectations if it’s not managed properly. So, we’re taking a look at how we tie these together, and we make sure that, while we maximize that through-put, we also temper and tame the wild west of end-use device and applications.”

Crall said the Corps is “on the cusp of a data explosion. We deal with more data and more complex data than we’ve ever dealt with. If we don’t learn how to manage that properly, if we don’t take advantage of things like artificial intelligence or cognitive computing to move through that space, we going to be in a difficult press to make use of or sense of the information we do garner.

He pointed out that handling and storing classified information at such volume and speed is a challenge.

Crall also called for a shift in focus for investments in C4 systems.

“Mobility is the new norm,” he said. “Most of our money goes to the static solution.”

He said “there no longer is a separation between business and warfighting applications. The recruiter out there needs a mobile platform as well. Signatures [of recruits] need to happen on the road in real time. Real-time reporting, rather than reporting later. The new office is the forward office, both in our warfighting capability and in our business capabilities.”

Crall emphasized the need for speed in development and fielding of C4 systems.

“Incremental improvement was great 10 years ago,” he said. “With the speed of IT, if you’re not a venture capitalist, you almost can’t compete in this space. … We’ve got to have a much faster OODA [observe, orient, decide, and act] loop than we do. … We’ve got to move to a new capability in lockstep, not piecemeal.”

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