The Department of Defense has a “web of networks” problem: Reliance on the Joint Force’s current warfighting network, SIPRnet, has driven the combatant commands to create more than 80 distinct information-sharing systems. Because these systems are not integrated or interoperable, rapid digital communication at the speed of mission need between the Joint Force, commands and the nation’s allies is not guaranteed—a clear and present danger to multinational mission capabilities, rapid integration of assigned forces, and combat effectiveness at the tactical edge.
HII Mission Technologies, a global, all-domain defense provider, is developing a materiel solution to consolidate the complex web of networks into a single, DOD enterprise framework known as the Mission Partner Environment (MPE) Future State. This will modernize mission partner information sharing, providing data exchanges at machine-to-machine speeds to support human-to-human collaboration and decision-making. The Secretary of the Air Force’s Mission Partner Capabilities Office is leading the effort to deliver DOD MPE capability.
“MPE is really a capability framework,” said Lee Davis, a senior program manager for Mission Technologies’ Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space business group. “It’s a software-defined digital environment that allows and enables secure, global information-sharing capability between the Department of Defense and its mission partners, to include our foreign allies and partners, to enable coalition operations.”
HII is approaching the MPE as a solution to a system-of-systems challenge that will improve “decision superiority,” allowing commanders across the joint force—at all echelons—to achieve their decision cycles much faster, share digital intelligence products in real time with foreign mission partners, and replace today’s manually-intensive processes, such as developing air tasking orders (ATOs).
That starts by taking the fight off a U.S.-only network, Davis said, because “tomorrow’s fight is a coalition fight.”
“Enter Mission Partner Environment as a sensor-to-shooter enabler,” he said. “In the [MPE], that coalition battle staff will be digitally connected … on the same network, enabling them to generate products at digital speeds as opposed to manually sharing products, and thereby [they can] achieve decision superiority. In other words, getting that [air tasking order] out in mere minutes, certainly not hundreds or thousands of hours.”
Davis said the MPE will break the traditional mold of sharing capabilities between the U.S. and its partners. Instead of “bolt-on fixes” for allies, the MPE will provide two game-changing advantages for coalition warfare.
The first is what Davis calls “common technical requirements,” a set of interoperability standards that will be “baked into” the MPE acquisition strategy from the outset and agreed upon between participating partner nations.
The second key advantage is scalability. Davis said the MPE is designed with “plug-and-play interoperability” from the expeditionary level to the enterprise level. The MPE will eliminate today’s industrial age net-centric roadblocks by providing a data-centric architecture, a more modern and cyber secure approach to delivering information at the speed of mission need.
“Whether I’m a warfighter in CONUS in a training environment, or deployed on a U.S. naval ship in an area of responsibility, or even offshore at a forward operating base, I can get access to that network and its data to meet my mission need,” Davis said. “The architecture is going to be built to accommodate information age levels of data volume we see now … across the entire architecture backbone, all the way from a CONUS location … to the tactical edge.”
HII recently took full responsibility for operating and maintaining the DOD’s Pegasus network, a secure information-sharing network between the nations in the Five Eyes Alliance. This is an important U.S. coalition capability that will eventually transition to an MPE-compliant Enterprise Management Framework.
The Air Force and DOD stakeholders are still defining the MPE future state. Beyond simply building the program’s architecture, the migration and integration process must be mapped out to avoid interrupting current operational capabilities at combatant commands. While the timeline is being determined, Davis said HII is busy gearing up for the revolutionary transition and proposal response to the anticipated government MPE solicitation.
“We’re building out our industry partner ecosystem [and] capitalizing on the engineering and architecture work that we’re currently doing,” he said, “so we can remove those [information data silos and the web of networks issue] from that future architecture design.”