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CHIPS Articles: Follow the Roadmap to Training C4I Capabilities Not Systems

Follow the Roadmap to Training C4I Capabilities Not Systems
By Rita Boland, PEO C4I - October-December 2018
Logistics experts at Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) are on a mission to change how the Navy trains its information technology and cyber work forces by answering the question—“How do you train capabilities?”

“We’re changing the way the Navy prepares Sailors to use C4I assets by evolving from a focus on single systems to a focus on the intricate, interconnected, overarching warfighting system,” said Sean Zion, assistant program executive officer for logistics (APEO-L), at PEO C4I. “We’re working across Navy Information Warfare Sailor rates, plus we’re breaking down organizations’ cultural boundaries. We actually have a written, distributed plan for training to capabilities, which we’ve never had before, and we’re executing it right now.”

That plan is the C4I Capabilities Training Roadmap 2018-2028. It establishes a starting point for this new approach as well as milestones and goals for C4I training that maximizes Information Warfare (IW) readiness and performance. The roadmap explains what gaps in training the PEO and its partners have discovered as well as near-term, mid-term and long-term plans to address these shortfalls.

This fundamental change in C4I training has a two-fold purpose: to improve Sailors’ ability to operate and maintain their systems; and to advance the PEO’s overarching goal of moving toward a capabilities or system-of-systems (SoS) approach to C4I acquisition, fielding and sustainment.

Currently, Sailors learn about the systems they have to manage at the stand-alone equipment level. They are not taught how their specific program or system fits within the IW capability area or how to troubleshoot across the capability as a whole. As a result, when they encounter a loss of functionality, fleet Sailors often cannot troubleshoot beyond their individual system. Instead, they require additional troubleshooting time and outside technical assistance support to correct compatibility and interoperability problems across the shipboard network or Tactical Data Link — further degrading C4I/IW mission readiness and operational availability. The goal of the PEO is to prepare Sailors to seamlessly and effectively manage the capabilities as whole to ensure maritime superiority.

Gary Ford, deputy APEO-L at PEO C4I, explained that unlike commercial groups that can build and install complete local area networks, in the Navy, individual programs are functions or parts of a system that are created on their own before becoming a critical component of the warfighting capability when fielded. Support products, to include training, previously focused on how to maintain the “box” and how to operate the sole-system function. They did not address the operational employment of these individual systems as part of the larger warfighting capability. One intent of the new roadmap is to ensure Sailors learn to think critically across systems to configure, troubleshoot and maintain capability during degraded operations or in denied environments.

Changes will be made to initial training courses for the various Sailor IW ratings as well as to the training warfighters receive once they join or are established in the fleet during post-installation and sustainment training events. C4I systems are intricately complicated. Yet, students often only receive specific training once. Without reinforcement, those skills are lost. The C4I Capabilities-based Training Roadmap looks to build in repetitiveness and proficiency and to tie together the fleet deployment and Navy schoolhouse training processes.

PEO C4I’s training revamp will focus on the IW operational pillars Assured Command and Control (C2), Battlespace Awareness (BA), and Integrated Fires (IF), with Assured C2 serving as the first focus area. The other two will follow, with a long-term plan to go to scenario-based instruction and learning. PEO logistics officials also are working to participate in the C4I training portions of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) process to further advance the effort, seeking to include end to SoS instruction into pre-deployment exercises Navy-wide.

“There is huge potential, if we get this right, to improve C4I training end-to-end,” said Zion. “There are many different schoolhouses, many different ratings and many different OPNAV sponsors. No one is in charge of all C4I training. No one knows how to trouble shoot the entire group of systems. We’re working through all the people, places and processes that need to agree to make this successful across the fleet and to bring everything online by 2019.”

Another critically important piece of making training more valuable is increasing the amount of it offered virtually. To reach the fleet, non-traditional methods of learning must be made available through different technological means. Various simulators and digital learning modules across platforms, systems and networks are and will be implemented to offer IW Sailors more flexibility and the ability to access training more quickly.

To reach that potential, advocates of the new training will have to build a consensus among a variety of stakeholders, from those who will give the training to those who will sponsor it. PEO C4I, and the various challenges the training community currently faces, are driving the conversation. There are hundreds of systems and dozens of stakeholders that all must come together under the new construct to ensure success when implemented.

Part of convincing everyone to work together means demonstrating the value of investing now for a big payoff later. PEO officials are meeting with other stakeholders to explain where gaps exist and what needs to emerge for success. They are putting together a potential C4I Capabilities Training Forum to inform and promote the roadmap. Prospective invitees include representatives from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), OPNAV N2/N6 Information Warfare, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Fleet Forces Command, Naval Information Forces, Commander Naval Surface Forces, Commander Naval Air Forces and OPNAV N96 Surface Warfare.

Stephanie Tharp, a product support manager who is working with APEO-L to change training on tactical networks to the new capability model, said one of the big questions is how long this new approach will take to develop. “It will take longer at the beginning to create this new curriculum,” she said. “But in the long run, we’ll see significant time savings in implementation and in troubleshooting across the fleet. We’ll see increased fleet self-sufficiency. That’s what Sailors want, and this will help them move toward that.”

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MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 14, 2015) Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Alex Mullis, from Sanford, Fla., conducts CANES backup training for Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58). Laboon is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks/Released
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