C2 Systems: No Longer a Proprietary Issue
by Andrew Nugent - VP of Command and Control Systems for Sentek Consulting - Monday, 23 June 2008.
Truth be told, defense contractors are in a good position to help this drive this transformation, provided they can move quickly and cut through the typical internal bureaucracy. Many of these firms have top-tier employees with decades of operational and technology experience. This first-hand knowledge is essential in understanding the issues and obstacles in current C2 environments. To make this shift, such companies and their team members must avoid being overly protective of their proprietary systems, but rather leverage their collective abilities - and form new partnership and alliances with component providers - to develop robust and scalable platforms. A change in business model may be required; one from technology manufacturer to system integrator and value-add reseller.

Within The Next Decade

Historically, discussions of this nature were largely academic; more for strategic planners than for current contracts. New initiatives and procurements are starting to be implemented and impacting many companies in the process. While proprietary systems will still be called upon for systems such as ruggedized military weapon and mobility equipment, the next 10 years will likely see the transformation away from selecting vendors to develop proprietary C2 systems from the “ground up” in favor a more commercial, off-the-shelf integrated systems procurement model. This shift will also bring with it new players in the C2/Defense space; firms that are able understand and integrate non-development platforms with relative ease and adaptability, and are not focused on the long term sustainment contracts that have historically been associated with custom development efforts.

This trend will also benefit non-defense environments, such as law enforcement and first-responders. Transportation and emergency services operations will also see value in migration to commercial platforms. As the innovation, rapid deployment and cost savings benefits are recognized, the adoption of “commodity component-based” systems will be exponential. Agencies will have the opportunity to learn from past deployments of similar platforms by others to navigate past obstacles and risks in their implementation. Make no mistake – the evolution away from “purely” proprietary C2 systems to ones incorporating more commercially-available products will provide long-lasting benefits to the industry and well as the taxpayers.

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