Defense Speak Interpreted: What Does Convergence Mean to Defense?

How can a simple term like “convergence” be confusing, even at the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army? Webster’s dictionary defines convergence as “1. The act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity,” and “4. The merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole.” Perhaps that last definition gives you a clue as to Defense programs for “convergence,” since my February 2020 column on JADC2 and my June 2020 column on C4ISR.

I think I have referred to the Army’s Futures Command1—stood up on July 1, 2018—in some of my other Defense Speaks columns. To link this to convergence is to get an idea of the six pillars of the Army Futures Command:  

  1. Long-range precision fires
  2. Next-generation combat vehicle
  3. Future vertical lift platforms
  4. A mobile and expeditionary Army network
  5. Air and missile defense capabilities
  6. Soldier lethality

While much of the Army is focused on “being able to fight tonight or tomorrow, Futures Command is deliberately focused on future needs—artillery, tanks, helicopters in the first three pillars above. Of course, there is the needed coordination between all these future weapon systems, and even the other service branches.  

Project Convergence to the Army is an extended field maneuver utilizing all the communication-based information between each new weapons system. That is, getting all the new weapons platforms working to play team warfare. Convergence has its roots back in a legendary wargames event in the Army—the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers at Fort Polk. Then, the U.S. was not yet involved in WWII, but had seen the offensive power of the German Blitzkrieg in action in Poland and France. The Army was about as unprepared as those countries were for blitzkrieg, but had the luxury of time to improve communications, start developing new weapons, and plan better tactics.  

The first Army Project Convergence was in late 2020 at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona (and here you thought the Army was sitting still during the COVID problem in America). The key elements being tested were all electronic in nature: artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robotics in the air and on the ground2

But the Army has a much more ambitious test planned later this fall, October 12 to November 10. Instead of just being at Yuma proving ground, the tests will run simultaneously at different bases. This time, there will be seven key elements instead of the three in 2020. And this time, Army will be inputting to the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) for all services. The 2021 activities highlighted the electronics component in these use cases3:

  1. Focus on maintaining joint all-domain situational awareness, including tapping space sensors in low Earth orbit.
  2. A joint air-and-missile defense engagement following an enemy missile attack.
  3. A joint fires operation as the force transitions from crisis to conflict.
  4. A focus on semiautonomous resupply.
  5. An experiment with an artificial intelligence- and autonomy-enabled reconnaissance mission.
  6. Essentially replay Edge 21, an Integrated Visual Augmentation System-enabled air assault mission, but with enhancements. IVAS is a heads-up display worn by soldiers that provides situational awareness.
  7. A mounted AI-enabled attack.

This will not be exclusively Army; the Air Force, Navy, and Marines will have a presence, especially with their systems that have sensors to feed information to the Army. Missile Defense Agency will do some data coordination for Convergence 2021. 

Not all the DoD coordinated tests have been total, or even partial successes. Last October, just about the time the Army was running the first Convergence, Defense ran a war-game to simulate a battle over the island of Taiwan. The “red” team studied up the traditional Department of Defense tactics and quickly defeated the “blue” team by knocking out the “blue” team network access. The disjointed blue team “failed miserably,” in the words of John Hyten, the vice-chairman of staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Much of the 2020 wargame has not been disclosed, but the traditional concept of “gathering ships, aircraft, and other forces to concentrate and reinforce each other’s combat power also made them sitting ducks.”4    

And, if you thought that Project Convergence 2021 was a stopping point, think again. Army Futures Command is already thinking about 2022. Until December 1, 2021, they are soliciting the public for technology that might be demonstrated next year, including:

  • Sensor
  • Effect (kinetic/non-kinetic)
  • C2 (Maneuver, Fires, Intel)
  • Protection (EW, Physical)
  • Communications (SATCOM, Aerial, Terrestrial)
  • Assured PNT
  • Robotics
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Medical
  • Sustainment
  • Autonomy
  • Cloud Computing
  • Planning 

References 

  1. United States Army Futures Command, Wikipedia.com.
  2. “US Army’s critical missile defense system will play role at Project Convergence,” Aug. 10, 2021, defensenews.com.
  3. “At next Project Convergence, 7 scenarios will test American tech against adversaries,” Sept. 7, 2021, defensenews.com.
  4. “’It Failed Miserably’: After Wargaming Loss, Joint Chiefs Are Overhauling How the US Military Will Fight,” July 26, 2021, defenseone.com.

Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and is retired after 12 years as a senior engineer at (SAIC) supporting the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He was elected to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2012.

 

From  https://armyfuturescommand.com/convergence/

In summary, keep your ear to the electronics scoreboard, especially where Defense items are announced.   Perhaps you can help keep score about what is working what has to go back to the  electronics drawing board to help integrate massive sensor information, firepower, and battlefield status into a world class information system vital to our country’s security.  

 

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2021

Defense Speak Interpreted: What Does Convergence Mean to Defense?

09-14-2021

How can a simple term like “convergence” be confusing, even at the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army? Webster’s dictionary defines convergence as “1. The act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity,” and “4. The merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole.”

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Decoding the Military’s COCOM

08-10-2021

Have you ever followed Defense activities around the world and been confused by terms like CENTCOM or SOUTHCOM? Who’s in charge of worldwide Defense activities—just “a big guy at the top” or regional commanders? How do Army, Navy, and Air Force stay coordinated around the world in various geographies?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: POM—Explaining the Process for Defense Budgeting

07-13-2021

Anyone hanging around Defense programs will have surely heard of the term “POM.” Most of the connotations I have heard say that if you have a POM or will get “POM’d,” your program is “skating on solid ice.” That led me to infer that if you were in the POM, your program was established. But why and how?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The U.S. Has a Space Force—JEDI Knights Next?

06-08-2021

Does the U.S. Department of Defense's JEDI contract mean it's going into a Star Wars production? Sorry, no Stephen Spielberg this time. Sorting out the good guys and bad guys in this cloud computing scenario.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense on Legacy Weapons Systems

05-11-2021

As “Defense Speak Interpreted” readers have surmised, the weapons systems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are under review, both with President Biden and with the Congress now in control by Democrats. But “weapons systems of yesterday”? In the fast-paced consumer electronics world, “legacy” never comes up.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Industrial Base Evaluation

04-06-2021

So, what is an “industrial base” to the Defense Department? And wouldn’t we expect a “battle plan” from Defense, not an “industrial strategy”? We want to review the Defense Industrial Strategy in the January, 2021 Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment section of the Department of Defense.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: So, What’s a JADC2?

02-09-2021

The term JADC2 was prevalent in the late 2020 debate about the National Defense Authorization Act. It is a new way defense is using electronics to shape battle strategy. JADC2 is Defense Speak for “Joint All Domain Command and Control.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it, but what does that mean?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Your Best Friend is a Skyborg?

01-15-2021

Suddenly the term “Skyborg” is popping up in Air Force publications, and if you are an Air Force pilot, your future best friend may be a Skyborg. To understand the concept behind the term Skyborg, we need a bit of weapons strategy for the Air Force.

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2020

Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s a VITA?

12-15-2020

Ever wonder how military electronics users could swap out circuit cards rapidly and keep their defense systems running? What about a “hot swap” of a circuit card that was questionable? How would defense depots keep enough unique circuit cards on hand to maintain the various systems in times of heavy use? The Department of Defense started to worry about those issues over 30 years ago and has helped private industry develop a highly sophisticated set of standards for circuit card input/output (I/O) to make quick change possible.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Intel Is Now Making a ‘SHIP’

11-10-2020

Perhaps you recently saw that Intel was awarded a contract for a SHIP by the U.S. Department of Defense. However, this one will not float on the water since SHIP stands for state-of-the-art heterogeneous integration prototype. Denny Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Rad-Hard Electronics

10-13-2020

Have you ever seen electronics described as “rad-hard,” or radiation-hardened, and wondered what that meant and how that was done? Did you like me just assume that “rad-hard” and “expensive” were synonymous? Did you think that this was a Defense Department term since they deal with nuclear weapons? Denny Fritz explores this and more.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The Defense Innovation Unit

09-22-2020

Many of Denny Fritz's columns are about new defense technologies and innovations, but what about an organization with “innovation” in its name? Here, he describes the history and purpose of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), as well as some of its programs.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Unpacking the NDAA

08-25-2020

What is this NDAA stuff you keep hearing on the national news all the time, and why is it important to PCBs? Denny Fritz explains what is going on with the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes programs and lays out the priorities and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA

07-14-2020

A June 17 article announced a supply chain award of $10.7 billion to eight defense companies for semiconductors. Dennis Fritz explains how the Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA) administers this contract and keeps the technology secure.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: C4ISR

06-16-2020

Only the U.S. Defense Department would lump together seven concepts—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—into a single acronym: C4ISR. Denny Fritz explains how C4ISR has been called the “nervous system” of the military.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s an RCV, and What Do Electronics Have to Do With It?

05-12-2020

In "Defense Speak," RCV does not stand for ranked-choice voting, a remote control vehicle, a riot control vehicle, or a refuse collection vehicle, although the second one is close; it stands for a remote combat vehicle. Denny Fritz explores this concept and its defense applications.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Why Is Defense Hyper Over Hypersonics?

04-14-2020

Perhaps you have noticed that the term “hypersonics” is now a buzz phrase in a big part of the Department of Defense research effort. What does hypersonic mean, and why is so much work needed in this weapons field? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Be Prepared for CMMC

03-24-2020

If you are a current or future Defense Department contractor or subcontractor, you need to be prepared for the next cybersecurity requirements coming online during 2020. This is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, in Defense speak. Dennis Fritz explains how there will be five levels of cybersecurity requirements for various amounts of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) you handle, with increasing requirements from one (least) to five (most).

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2019

Defense Speak Interpreted: The Continuing Resolution

12-10-2019

The topic of the continuing resolution (CR) has been sneaking past other hot Washington topics, such as impeachment, candidate debates, and why the Redskins are so bad. Dennis Fritz provides an update concerning a CR and the 2020 fiscal year.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Executive Agent

11-12-2019

After reading my previous column, you may have realized that electronics packaging technology development came from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. One of its core responsibilities is the assignment of “executive agent” for PCBs and electronic interconnects. But what is this “executive agent” thing, frequently shortened to EA? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: PCB-related OTAs from NAVSEA Crane

10-29-2019

In my previous column, I described how Other Transaction Authority (OTA) projects were speeding up the development of new technology for the Defense Department. Much of this improvement has to do with the speed of contracting and the less restrictive selection and payment process involved. Specifically, I would like to call out projects under the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Other Transaction Authority

09-19-2019

DIU grants contracts under a joint OTA and a parallel process called commercial solutions opening. Most of the five DIU focus areas depend on electronics: artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space. At the end of 2018, DIU had funded 104 contracts with a total value of $354 million and brought in 87 non-traditional DoD vendors, including 43 contracting with DoD for the first time.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DARPA ERI

01-29-2019

DARPA ERI stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Electronics Resurgence Initiative. This tongue-twisting acronym is the latest Department of Defense (DoD) effort to catch up and surpass world semiconductor technology for the secure IC chips needed by advanced defense electronics systems.

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2018

Defense Speak Interpreted: PERM—Pb-free Electronics Risk Management

12-18-2018

In this column, we explore PERM—the Pb-free Electronics Risk Management Consortium. No, the group members do not all have curly hair! The name was chosen around 2008 by a group of engineers from aerospace, defense, and harsh environment (ADHE) organizations.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense Electronic Supply Chain Issues

10-18-2018

On October 5, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) highlighted issues with the release of the 146-page report “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” from President Donald J. Trump

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