U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Commander, GEN Raymond A. Thomas, III, USA, and its Acquisition Executive, James H. Smith, provided the opening remarks to a packed conference hall on the afternoon of May 22, at the 2018 iteration of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC).
General Thomas focused his remarks on what he characterized as the largest technical challenge facing SOCOM—leveraging information and data management to maximize its contribution to rapid decision-making in support of SOF operations.
One crucial piece of leveraging technology to inform SOF operators is ensuring a strong SOCOM network. General Thomas expressed his strong concern about protecting it. “We are fighting and surviving in a very challenging environment … and they are testing us,” he said. While doing everything possible to protect the network, SOF must be able to “go old school,” he said, and operate in environments without access to the communications and information network.
General Thomas cautioned that while commercial solutions are contributing more and more to SOF capabilities, they are also available to U.S. adversaries, including non-state actors. “The threat is increasing as our privileged domain access to technology is gone,” he said.
Foreshadowing the specific SOCOM Program Executive Office (PEO) Briefings that will take place over the next few days, Acquisition Chief Jim Smith identified twelve specific areas of USSOCOM focus/concern and provided specifics on where solutions are needed from industry:
- Assured communications, with low probability of detection and intercept, capable of operation in enclosed spaces, especially needed in multi-channel, high bandwidth communications.
- Assured Maneuver of forces, including fire support is required in all environments. System relevance in highly-contested environments is paramount.
- Biomedical Advances are required to support: stabilizing troops for extended durations; austere trauma treatment; vital sign awareness/monitoring; telemedicine; improving sleep quality; enhancing cognitive performance; reducing injury; and expediting recovery.
- Counter-IED/UAS to address asymmetric attacks controlling the RF environment in order to detect and defeat the threat and “get after the network” once the threat is defeated. Solutions must be man-portable and highly mobile.
- Expeditionary ISR systems with small runway-independent launch-and-recovery UAS with dual-sensor (HD FMV, EO/IR, EW, SIGINT) capability to accurately locate targets, including those Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS).
- Expeditionary Logistics solutions that are resilient and agile, delivered on-time, right-sized, and that provide access to remote and austere sites.
- Hyper-enabled operator via the provision of tactically relevant, decision-quality information at the front lines. SOCOM wants to turn data into user-actionable information by utilizing potential advances in enabling communication, computing, sensing, cognitive interfaces, and advanced autonomous aids.
- Next Generation Military Information Support Operations at the front line. SOCOM seeks solutions that are demographically and culturally adaptive, operate in multiple spectrums (microwave, IR, etc.), and provide real-time feedback (biometrics, patterns of life).
- Next-Generation ISR that can Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, and Analyze without owning the air domain. In the space domain, while SOCOM has a cubesat program demonstrating communications, it is starting to look at payloads to support Find and Fix targets.
- Precision Munitions with low CEP (Circular Error Probability), no collateral damage, ability to loiter (and continue or mission abort exactly where and when required), ability to divert off-target, and the capability to launch from air, land, and marine platforms.
- Precision Navigation and Timing that is GPS-independent. Advances are needed in GPS-free navigation, precision munitions, and communications.
- Signature Management and control in the thermal, radar, audio, visual, and near-IR spectrums. SOCOM also seeks solutions to manage digital presence, leverage social media, and to provide resistance to biometric tracking.
DSJ will report next on industry solutions to address these USSOCOM needs.