General Dennis highlights C2 of networks at HRA

LEXINGTON, Mass. – Maj. Gen. Dwyer L. Dennis emphasized the importance of a command and control construct for networks during a presentation to the Hanscom Representatives Association Sept. 21.

The general, who is the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks program executive officer, referenced Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein’s speech at the recent Air Force Association conference. The Chief noted how C2 will be one of the main focus areas in the next year.

“The Chief is ready to kick off C2,” Dennis said. “This is an area we’ll be very involved in. It’s in the wheelhouse for Hanscom Air Force Base.”

Dennis compared the C2 initiative to previous work the Air Force did on sensors and processing, exploitation and dissemination, or PED. He mentioned how the Air Force kept buying and investing in sensors and then was slow to close on PED. Dennis added that is when now-retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, at the time Air Force deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, coined an expression about data falling on the floor because there weren’t enough analysts.

“There’s only so much bandwidth,” Dennis said. “And as you think about operations and support of A2AD [Anti-Access Area-Denial] in 2030, and this portfolio and the networks, aerial or terrestrial, there’s a blurring of the lines between administrative and operational networks. An area we need to pay attention to is the C2 of networks and all that data – and it’s all about data, whether from a cybersecurity or information flow perspective.”

He used the example of a 4th-generation fighter being an extended magazine for a 5th-generation fighter and whether there’s a way to understand what missile got launched and get to a point where the logistics systems know what resources need to be replaced and whether the production and delivery processes are properly flowing.

“I keep likening it to the same challenge as PED/ISR where there was insufficient investment (at the beginning),” he said. “Now we need to make sure we’re putting the same kind of focus, attention and investment in the C2 of these networks to enable agile and resilient operations.”

Another area the general highlighted was an infrastructure study for defense business systems. His organization has taken three enterprise resource planning, or ERP, systems, and is looking to put them on a path to a common platform, or common computing environment (CCE). Dennis said for ERPs, often 70 percent of the cost is the computing infrastructure.

“If we build the infrastructure, that’s usually the biggest challenge and where we take the most risk relative to busting the baseline,” he said. “We also wind up with unique, one-off solutions, where if we used an open system architecture, we’d get better value, have broader competition and stay more current.”

In addition, he mentioned the C3I&N organization is working on a path to the cloud and is looking at AF micro applications, such as Public Affairs websites, which are already forward-facing to a commercial audience.

“Why is this on a controlled server?” he said. “Why am I building out an infrastructure instead of getting to a commercial cloud and taking advantage of less pricey solutions?”

Dennis said the challenge to get to the cloud involves a “culture change.”

“Our policy, authorization, certification and authority to operate is based on us owning the hardware. We need to get past that,” he said.

He also talked about the complexity of the make-up of his organization, the programs that are under his portfolio, partnerships and successes, his priorities, and upcoming business opportunities.

“We don’t have a lot of ACAT programs; we have a lot that are legacy and sustainment, but they are critical components to future network operations,” he said.

Dennis added that they are looking to see if some should be ACATs, with a more enterprise-type approach, with known processes, appropriate oversight and accountability. However he doesn’t want to overburden his organization.

To the mainly industry audience he added, “Taking an enterprise approach from an industry perspective can be translated to a more transparent and better view of the opportunities as a formal program. It provides a broader and more comprehensive perspective than always working as small each’s.”