Air Force taps Brig. Gen. Luke Cropsey to head new integrated C3 battle management program

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall makes remarks during the Senior Leader Orientation Course at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 11, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Air Force leadership appointed Brig. Gen. Luke Cropsey to serve as the first integrating program executive officer for the department’s command, control, communications and battle management, or C3BM.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced the establishment of this new role and organizational restructure in a keynote address during the Air and Space Forces Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber conference on Monday.

Kendall noted that the reorganization was partially inspired by ongoing pursuits to tackle the seven “operational imperatives” he developed last year of capability gaps that the service must address to successfully deter aggression — and if necessary, defeat it.

“One of the findings of the operational imperative work to date is we have not appreciated the scale of the effort needed to modernize the C3 battle management in a [Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2)] context. Our efforts to date have not been adequately focused, nor they’ve been adequately integrated,” Kendall explained.

JADC2 refers to the Pentagon’s ambitious concept to connect all the military’s sensors, shooters and associated technology assets across land, sea, air space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. Kendall named Cropsey to this new position “as a result” of that newly-identified need for more focused and integrated efforts.

In this new capacity, Cropsey and his nascent program executive office “will also have responsibility for the Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS,” — the Air Force’s major contribution to JADC2, according to a press release published on Monday.

Cropsey will report directly to Assistant Air Force Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Andrew Hunter and work closely with Assistant Air Force Secretary for Space Acquisitions and Integration Frank Calvelli.

“He will have technical authority over the [Air Force C3BM] enterprise and take the lead in overall architecture and systems design, systems engineering, configuration management and interface control,” Kendall noted in his keynote.

Cropsey will also be the Air Force’s “interface” to the Office of the Secretary of Defense regarding technical developments associated with JADC2, Kendall added. To enable C3BM, Cropsey will also engage deeply with two officials recently picked to serve as the “operational requirements leads” for their respective services — Jeffrey Valenzia and John Olson — the secretary confirmed.

“To ensure that this critical effort to modernize [Air Force C3BM] stays on track, the service chiefs and I will conduct quarterly reviews of the integrated profile of [Department of the Air Force] C3 battle management programs,” Kendall said.

During a roundtable with reporters at the conference, Kendall said his previous research led him to the conclusion that “the most unsuccessful programs in the history of DOD are C3 battle management programs.”

Typically, such programs are broad, require interface across departments that do not want to accommodate others, and are complicated and ambitious, he said.

While a lot of work has been done to support JADC2 and C3BM broadly within the service’s Advanced Battle Management System team, Joint Staff and operational staff, there is a clear need to sharpen focus and integration between those entities, Kendall said.

“The way we’re organized right now, with separate PEOs and program managers, we really don’t have a single technical authority that covers across our [C3BM] systems,” Kendall noted. “[Cropsey] will be that authority. He will also have systems engineering responsibilities for the entirety of our [C3BM] — for both Air and Space Forces. So, he’s got to be the glue that ties them all together.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made during a roundtable with reporters at the Air, Space and Cyber conference.