Information Sharing in the Next Engagement

Always On - Preparing for the Next Engagement
Command and Control – Information Sharing in the Next Engagement

By Warren Suss

Today, warfighters face a range of dynamic and complex missions. To be successful, our forces, including coalition partners, must have the information, situational awareness, and tools to operate in rapidly changing environments no matter what the situation or threat. The lynchpins are agile, responsive command and control (C2) capabilities built on the enterprise infrastructure.

As a principal component of the DOD strategy, DISA’s efforts are focused on building a set of capabilities and services guided by the objectives of net-centricity. Future C2 will leverage a net-enabled environment with attribute-based access to services in dispersed locations and designed to minimize bandwidth consumption and maximize survivability. Building the C2 capabilities and services must be done with recognition that the cyber threat is real and that warfighters operate in a highly contested battlespace.

Agile, responsive, on-demand C2 is a force multiplier that improves the warfighter’s ability to manage the battlefield. This will be accomplished through the implementation of a joint C2 architecture that provides access to relevant information, collaborative tools, and data as enterprise resources. DISA is responsible for leading the development of the joint C2 architecture, which will be used to guide the evolution of capabilities. This architecture focuses on establishing joint C2 as part of the net-centric DOD by exposing C2 functional and data services to other communities while making maximum use of existing and evolving enterprise and non-C2 community services. An enterprise-based integrated, joint architecture and adherence to data standards will facilitate rapid, seamless, and distributive collaborative information exchange. This integrated joint architecture and associated joint standards will facilitate interoperability and support diversity of vertical and horizontal information flows thus creating a virtual collaborative environment for the warfighter.

However, we can’t continue to deliver C2 capabilities using the processes developed for large-scale weapons systems acquisitions. Recent congressional and DOD reports have highlighted the need to evolve to smaller projects and more agile processes that can produce timely and relevant C2 capabilities. By using an approved, jointly developed C2 architecture that exploits an enterprise infrastructure, capabilities will be produced in small increments that include interactive user participation throughout the process. This agile approach enables developers to keep emerging technical capabilities synchronized with rapidly changing mission requirements.

Joint C2 capabilities in the DOD will evolve through incremental, collaborative development, testing, and delivery processes that are implemented by DISA and the military services. DISA, as a part of the testing community, is working with the testing community to establish and implement an interoperability testing approach, which ensures that capabilities will achieve the objectives of the targeted environment. As the operational sponsor for joint C2, the U.S. Joint Forces Command ensures warfighter requisites are accounted for throughout the entire process.

Capabilities developed and recently fielded via the Global Command and Control System – Joint (GCCS-J) and Global Combat Support System – Joint (GCSS-J) were major steps in the migration from tightly coupled, client-server-based systems to more loosely coupled, services-based, net-centric capabilities that deliver the type of speed and agility needed.

GCCS-J, DOD’s joint C2 system, is an essential component for successful implementation of the operational concepts of dominant maneuver, precision engagement, and full-dimension protection. GCCS-J provides the foundation for the exploitation of service-unique C2 systems and information in the joint, interoperable environment. GCCS-J provides a fused picture of the battlespace within a modern, information environment that is capable of meeting joint warfighter needs. GCCS-J incorporates the core planning and assessment tools required by combatant commanders and their subordinate joint task force commanders while meeting the readiness support requirements of the services. To achieve this, GCCS-J provides situational awareness, imagery exploitation, indications and warning, collaborative planning, course-of-action development, intelligence mission support, and real-time combat execution capabilities. The capabilities provided by GCCS-J are needed to accelerate operational tempo and conduct successful military operations in the modern warfare environment.

The GCSS-J is the system for the joint logistics warfighter. GCSS-J is a logistics “one-stop shop” of capabilities via single sign-on access to a wide range of tools and data. Combatant commands (COCOMs) have the ability to customize capabilities, such as watchboards and reports, to meet individual requirements in support of their operational mission. GCSS-J Increment 7 used an agile development methodology to deliver capability faster than the traditional 18-month block-delivery time frame. The agile model is comprised of a planning phase between the operational sponsor and the program management office in which requirements in the form of “user stories” are allocated to a “sprint.” Multiple sprints, often three to four, comprise a release with each sprint being a 30-day development cycle. After each sprint, an assessment by functional subject matter experts is conducted to ensure that the capability is on track with user expectations and acceptance criteria.

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To be effective, an agile model of this type requires early and frequent participation by all stakeholders, including the operational sponsor, the material developer, and the operational and information-assurance test communities. Since March 2009, the implementation of this agile model has enabled DISA to deliver five major releases of capability to the joint logistics warfighter. This is the type of speed needed.

Information sharing across many domains is also an important requirement. Commanders must operate in environments that enable them to rapidly and effectively share information with mission partners operating across  all engagements. This will require better collaboration with the military services, coalition partners, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

DISA provides standard MNIS services and applications to address the need for multinational information sharing (MNIS) with allies and coalition partners, other agencies, and non-governmental partners. One of the programs in the MNIS portfolio is the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS).

CENTRIXS supports intelligence and classified operations information exchange and sharing up to the Secret Releasable level. The global environment is managed by DISA to serve and interconnect command elements. The command enterprises consist of servers, applications, and encryption systems that form essentially autonomous service environments. These interconnect command enclaves through existing regional communications networks for bilateral or multilateral access among cooperating nations and international organizations.

CENTRIXS capabilities support the U.S. Central Command’s effort in Iraq and its Afghanistan Mission Network. In the Far East, CENTRIXS systems serve as the conduit of operations for all major U.S.-Japan and U.S.-Korea exercises and contingencies, and CENTRIXS also supports political-military missions with secure communications for day-to-day operations.

DISA is now working to move information sharing to a net-centric environment based on appropriate policies, standards, and enterprise services. This will facilitate a dynamic exchange of information based on needs and the classification and releasability of information instead of the current approach with physical network separation. The new concept envisions an information-sharing environment enabled by social networking and related collaborative technologies.

Information sharing with coalition partners is critical, but so is collaborating, communicating, and sharing information with a broader or equally broad range of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.

An illustrative example of collaboration and information sharing that recently took place is Operation Unified Response, the disaster-relief effort in response to the massive earthquake in Haiti. The relief effort relied on DISA’s Defense Collaboration Online (DCO), Pacific Command’s All Partner’s Access Network (APAN), and a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation (TISC). Pacific Command hosted the TISC-APAN servers at the Pacific Warfighting Center in Hawaii. DISA and others provided engineering and development support, using the agile JCTD developmental process to infuse functionality for a “best of breed” framework.

This partnering enabled the Department of Defense to realize 168 enhancements to APAN to include enhanced capabilities like social networking and situational awareness. The power of these net-centric capabilities provided situational awareness, planning, and decision making and enabled and enhanced command and control through information sharing.

One of DISA’s strategic objectives is to provide effective, reliable, secure, agile, national and operational command and control and information-sharing capabilities that adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. DISA is committed to ensuring these capabilities are available for the next engagement through the implementation of a joint C2 architecture that provides access to relevant data, information, and collaborative tools as enterprise resources. This is something DISA cannot do alone. We are committed to working with our mission partners to integrate and synchronize the design, engineering, and provisioning of protected networks to enable enterprise services end to end and to provide command-and-control and information-sharing services built upon the enterprise infrastructure. Our partnerships with the military services, coalition partners, inter-agencies, and non-government organizations are integral to achieving these objectives.