In a future of network-centric operations, C4ISR (command, control, communications and computers, combined with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) will underpin the success of joint and coalition forces.
On January 22, Vanguard hosted a one-day forum for the military and defence industry to explore challenges and opportunities in the application of C4ISR technologies. Lieutenant-General Stu Beare, Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) primary employer of joint C4ISR capabilities, delivered the keynote address. Below is an edited version of his presentation.
I’ll share with you an operational commander’s perspective on what effects and results we need from our C4ISR framework by covering the operational level need, the key challenges, and the opportunities we have to advance the C4ISR agenda – in particular in a period absent a major joint operation to act as a forcing function.
CJOC’s mission is to anticipate, prepare for and conduct operations. Each and every day, there are thousands of Canadian Armed Forces personnel standing on guard across Canada. These include search and rescue squadrons; troops assisting other government departments; Navy ready-duty ships on both coasts; immediate response units in each Army Division; Air Force aircraft ready to assert control of Canadian and North American airspace; and Special Forces postured for a wide range of immediate responses to the national security interest.
Even as our high-profile mission in Afghanistan winds down and our equipment and the last of our people return from the Disaster Assistance Response Team deployment to the Philippines, we still have hundreds deployed in 17 missions around the world.
The conduct of current operations is key, but so too are the other two verbs in the CJOC mission statement, anticipate and prepare, and the function of situational understanding that underpins all of these.
The operational need, then, includes our need to understand what is going on in the world, in regions where Canadian national interests may be affected and where there may be a military nexus. Understanding requires more than traditional intelligence gathering and analysis; we also need to understand the perspective and possible courses of action of our potential operational-level partners and other stakeholders.
Anticipating and understanding requires effective communication and information systems – and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems – to connect people, organizations and information.
The second part of the mission statement, “prepare for”, is all about collaborating, relationship building, partnering and planning – building the networks and championing the joint force and joint capabilities that enable preparedness – in advance of a crisis. Relationships with potential operational-level partners are most effective if they are established pre-crisis, so that when we reach out to our counterparts we know that they’ll take the call and that we are predisposed to trust each other and work together to our mutual benefit.
Preparing for technical interoperability with potential partners is obviously important, to ensure that our systems can exchange information. Equally important is the establishment of Canada-wide and world-wide command and control and support networks. We have command and control (C2) nodes and support infrastructure distributed across Canada; we are now working to establish the nuclei of C2 nodes and support hubs in areas where we might be called upon to conduct operations globally. These need not be overly significant: agreements for access and basing, a bit of communication and information system infrastructure, and on-call contracts for logistics support would facilitate potential operations in far-flung regions of the world.
As some wise man once said, you might be able to surge forces, but you can’t surge relationships, networks, access and trust. These need to exist in some form before a crisis response or contingency operation.
As the force employer for the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), I need to inform and shape the operational requirement for the joint force. The commanders of the Navy, Army and Air Force are the experts in their respective warfare domains and are charged with designing and building their respective capability packages, each joint or joint-enabled in its own way. My focus is on assuring our effectiveness in the global warfare domains – space and cyber in particular – as well as the joint enabling capabilities that allow tactical and operational integration of joint forces.
Key here is C4ISR. I am joined in those areas by the Chief of Force Development. Notwithstanding how we slice and dice our efforts and focus, it is universally understood that C4ISR is at the heart of the joint agenda.
As we enter a period of resource pressures, our need to anticipate and prepare for operations is greater than ever. Detailed, accurate and timely information exchange enables understanding. Understanding informs where and with whom we plan and prepare for operations, and assures that we are ready to conduct the full spectrum of operations – home and away.
I’ll describe two that are front of mind: sharing information and managing huge volumes of data.
We command and control the CAF primarily in the secret information domain. In the “Home Game,” short of a military attack on Canada, we’re always supporting somebody else’s operation, be it Public Safety Canada or provincial authorities. Other government departments and agencies typically operate in the unclassified information space. In the “Away Game,” we again support somebody else’s campaign, such as NATO or the United Nations or a coalition. Where the CAF contribution is a task force rather than individual staff officers, operations are typically conducted in a secret-multinational information space.
Our challenge is, how do we share information with our mission partners? We’re currently separated by networks, with cumbersome “swivel chair” interfaces or other procedural workarounds. The ideal is to have all information available to authorized persons, protected from unauthorized access, and seamlessly integrated across whatever information systems different organizations bring to the fight. In the meantime, I would be interested in solutions that make information interoperability significantly easier now.
The second challenge is the volume of data. We are developing and deploying improved sensors across the battle space in all operational domains – maritime, land, air, space, cyber – and in the global information environment. These are great capabilities, but how do we get the data to the warfighter and leaders at all levels? How is information presented such that they can understand what is going on and then make appropriate and timely decisions? Managing the volume of data, from the technical network perspective to move it about the battle space, and from the integration and presentation – human interface – perspective to enable command and control, is another significant challenge for the forces of today.
Chief of Force Development synchronizes and directs the delivery of joint enabling capabilities in the five-year and farther horizon. Within that zero to five-year timeframe, we have opportunities to address some of our joint C4ISR requirements, the incremental development and implementation of capabilities, as well as the experimentation and trial backdrop to inform future capability requirements and solutions. These are through training and exercises.
Commander CJOC is the CDS’s lead for joint and combined training and exercises. We are now into a rhythm of three major joint annual and biannual exercises: Exercise Determined Dragon, Operation Nanook and JOINTEX.
Determined Dragon is a joint headquarters exercise focused on the defence of North America in all five domains, synchronized with, and complementary to, exercises conducted by NORAD, US NORTHCOM and US STRATCOM. It rehearses our plans and contingency plans for the defence of Canada and the continent.
Operation Nanook is the annual CAF exercise of deployable capabilities to conduct operations in the North, working with and in support of other government departments and agencies. It advances our agenda for providing for the defence, safety and security of Canadians in the North, and the affirmation of our sovereignty;
JOINTEX is the CAF exercise of joint and service component deployable capabilities for expeditionary operations in a multinational context, up to and including full spectrum operations in all domains, with international and interagency partners, and with the CAF leading multi-national forces – like we saw in Afghanistan.
All three events provide the opportunity for the joint force and the Joint Ops Command to “play it out” before we “live it out” and all have a force development component. They enable the development and validation of contingency plans, act as forcing functions to develop and confirm doctrine and operating procedures, and allow us to identify capability deficiencies, and to demonstrate the art of the possible – especially in the rapidly evolving world of C4ISR.
As the CAF program permits, CJOC can introduce into service critical joint enabling capabilities within the five-year horizon. If you think that you have the affordable and immediate solution to some of our challenges in the joint C4ISR realm, then you may want to get involved in those joint training events.
As volatility, instability and unpredictability grow, so too must our efforts to anticipate and be prepared to execute our mission, and so too must our ability to establish the relationships, partnerships and the networks they require to deliver the necessary situational understanding. There are lots of challenges in joint C4ISR, but there are opportunities as well, including within training and exercises. We welcome and truly appreciate what you bring and do to improve our capabilities in this critical area.