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The Holy Grail of DoD IT

Assessment on the User Defined Operational Picture

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There’s nothing COMMON about the operational picture any more! We are currently in the throws of change – shifting a legacy force structure capable of fighting two strategic wars at one time, to a leaner, more agile force projecting power through “expeditionary warfare”.  As we adjust to this significant refocus, the idea of a Common Operational Picture needs to be reevaluated.

It used to be SO important to make sure that the picture seen on the Flag Ship matched the picture seen at the Shore Site, and a great deal of resources went into building the very capable family of systems known as the Global Command and Control System. A beautiful client framework developed and was capable of syncing across our functional and geographical boundaries to provide a common picture that everyone could trust.

DISA’s plan to transition to Joint Command and Control (JC2) (the SOA version of GCCS-J) modernizes this program.  A series of elegant web applications have been developed to capture this rich client capability for the distributed force.  However, did that distributed force really NEED that full view?  And was that nice picture, so pretty at HQ’s, including all the information needed by the user?  What if the user needed to add something simple?  How hard was that!

udop 250x168 Assessment on the User Defined Operational Picture: The Holy Grail of DoD IT

An example: when the terrible tsunami in Japan crippled TEPCO’s nuclear power plants and threatened the safety of citizens, the COP needed to have an overlay showing the Nuclear Particle Level and the Wind and projected Nuclear Fallout zones at locations/times. The users in Japan (both US and our coalition partners, the Japanese Self Defense Forces) had a defined need. Getting this “mashed” into the existing COP was very difficult and took some creative (and time consuming) IT work.

A major adjustment is required as we redefine what is needed in the Operational Picture to provide our expeditionary forces with a User Defined Operational Picture (UDOP).

How do we do this?  Obviously, sharing a common client infrastructure is important, where appropriate, to save time, training, security requirements, logistics, etc.  Common methods for administration and maintenance are also appropriate as the centers are updated and new data sources are accessed and configured. From this we develop the trusted and secure data that we need to fill our operational pictures.

At the user level, functionality must be located at the level needed by the user and must include sources of interest to the user. Users need to be allowed to organize and define their own C2 applications. They need lightweight single purpose web applications based on the same trusted data source that can be deployed quickly to enable expeditionary forces.

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is Founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC, a technology research and advisory firm providing fact based technology reviews in support of venture capital, private equity and emerging technology firms. He has extensive industry experience in intelligence and security and was awarded an intelligence community meritorious achievement award by AFCEA in 2008, and has also been recognized as an Infoworld Top 25 CTO and as one of the most fascinating communicators in Government IT by GovFresh.