Photograph: U.S. Department of Defense

Doing more with less: An industry perspective on the C4ISR market

June 14, 2016 Courtney Hacker

Lockheed Martin is ranked number 1 on Bloomberg Government’s BGOV200, a list of the top federal contractors. We spoke with Dr. Rob Smith, Vice President of C4ISR in Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training (MST) business area, about the greatest challenges for industry, technology gaps he sees emerging and improvements in the way the government purchases.

What do you see as the greatest challenges for C4ISR in the coming years?

The bottom line is doing more with less – and that means developing new and affordable technologies so customers are equipped to make the right decisions using the right data at the right time. Consider…

  • Shifting threats reinforce the need for more intelligence.
  • Operations on the battlefield and in cyberspace require higher-quality intelligence products, produced on a rapid timeline.
  • Machine to machine capabilities aid in real time situational awareness, predictive analytics, and decision making.
  • More convergence of systems means better decisions, but also vastly more data from a rapidly increasing number and variety of sensors.

At Lockheed Martin, we’re working to develop these next generation technologies and to implement them in thoughtful, affordable ways that help our customers meet their challenges – now and in the future.

What technology gaps do you see emerging? How do you anticipate industry providing solutions for these gaps?

In an ideal state, analysts would search for information 20 percent of the time, and spend 80 percent of the time on analysis based on cueing from automation. Right now it’s just the opposite, too much time is being spent on searching for the right information, and capabilities are not being fully utilized creating a large gap in the potential of the capabilities that are available. Hypersonic threats greatly reduce situational awareness and response timelines, which makes swift analysis of sensor data critical for decision making and timely response strategies. To close this gap and allow for faster, smarter decision making, Lockheed Martin has been creating sophisticated automation and Artificial Intelligence tools.

Industry must work with customers to identify where exquisite systems and capabilities are really needed and offering lower cost alternatives for other systems when possible. In addition, we’re working to address these technology gaps through open architectures, automation and globalization.

  • Open architectures allow new capabilities to be added without significant marginal cost. Modular architectures allow for rapid customization of mission systems across various platforms. The use of common architecture elements also saves customers development costs. With this type of “plug and play” architecture, we are able to quickly roll out technology upgrades and ensure the latest innovative solutions are in use.
  • Automation and machine to machine decision making facilitates real time and better decision making by the person in and on the loop. To deal with asymmetric threats, there is an inherent need for sense making and pattern/trend software. Systems can make rapid connections between people, places, and things to help intelligence analysts understand seemingly disparate relationships.
  • Globalization refers to bringing together systems that had historically been separate. For example, we need to be able to quickly recover archived intelligence data to use it in current analysis. We need to integrate operations and intelligent systems across multiple domains. We can also help the customer improve mission planning so we don’t unnecessarily duplicate collections – this leads to more efficient use of sensors. We’re also helping to address the need to share information with coalition members. This means we must ensure there are multi-level security options that can automate the release of data in a secure way.

What C4ISR capabilities and solutions does Lockheed Martin provide to the Defense Department?

ISR is the most requested capability of combatant commanders and intelligence is increasingly seen as the most important warfighting discriminator for the U.S. and our allies. However, the volume of data being generated is in the petabytes and increasing at a staggering rate. To reduce the “data to decision cycle”, Lockheed Martin is continually advancing ways to collect, process, analyze and disseminate this data in near real-time. Here’s a look at what we’re doing to get the best information to the right decision maker at the right time.

  • We’re focusing on software that automates the intelligence cycle, predictive analytic capabilities, multi-INT fusion, and analysis and correlation that provide the ability to predict future events based on probability. We are developing ways to integrate and augment current systems with more advanced technologies to gain a more accurate intelligence picture.
  • Our teams are incorporating our core fusion capability with a complementary combat identification capability that derives a threat ID based on kinematic and other observable characteristics from ISR capabilities. This direct link into the combat system enables immediate decisions and responses to address threats.
  • We are converging command and control (operations) and ISR (intelligence) systems, we’re able to provide customers with a comprehensive C4ISR picture. We have integrated air operations with missile defense systems to create a truly integrated air and missile defense system that gives commanders a view of everything that is happening in the battlespace. For example, our Command Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) is what we like to call the brains of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, advancing connectivity among systems like space, air and ground based sensors, Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), Aegis Ashore and the Aegis Combat System on naval ships, and interceptors such as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). C2BMC will be integrated into the Missile Defense Agency’s Long Range Discrimination Radar, a central part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

What could the government do to improve the way it purchases C4ISR goods and services?

There will always be pressure on both DOD and industry to provide capabilities at a reliable, reasonable cost. In many instances, we’re seeing a shift from “exquisite” capabilities toward “good enough” capabilities.  It’s imperative that industry partners closely with the customer to determine how to meet requirements at a lower cost – it comes down to managing risk. Industry must continually work with DOD to understand the focus of an acquisition, so the proper contract type is selected in the best interest of the mission.

Industry, with open communication with the Government, needs continued open dialog throughout the process of selecting and approving internal research and development investments to focus on solving the most important capability gaps. Threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and come from all domains – space, land, air, maritime and cyber. It’s crucial for industry to keep moving forward in their efforts to develop systems to counter these threats.

In relation to ISR, there are more data sources being connected to systems. Industry needs to work with the Government to build and buy smarter systems to take advantage of the amount of ISR data and continuously work to reduce the costs of analyzing that data. The ability for cross domain information sharing is imperative to take advantage of previous investments and assets. Across Lockheed Martin, we are proactively connecting our wide variety of platforms to provide customers with new capabilities to transfer information to those who require the data to decision makers.

Through stronger partnerships among industry and the Government, we can continue to develop sophisticated, reliable systems that evolve as user needs evolve. It’s an exciting time to be in C4ISR.

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