American Forces Press Service
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., July 25, 2012 - An intelligence effort being advanced by each of the military services is promoting more complete intelligence analysis, better collaboration across the services and faster delivery of actionable intelligence to support combat operations.
Each military service is developing its own version of the Distributed Common Ground System, a Defense Department-directed initiative to create a common framework for analyzing and sharing intelligence, reported Army Col. Charles Wells, project manager for the Army's system.
This state-of-the-art battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance architecture will enable analysts from every service to take data from multiple military and government sensors and databases and compile them into a single, easy-to-access format, he explained.
DCGS-Army, already fielded in Afghanistan as it undergoes operational testing and evaluation, provides a glimpse into that intelligence enterprise.
"It brings together data from all the sensors," Wells said, regardless of whether they're based in space, on aircraft or on the ground -- even biometric data collected by a soldier at a local forward operating base -- and incorporates it into a single platform.
"All of this comes into the same system, in the same display," he said. "This allows Army analysts to see connections that they could never see before. They can do a very powerful analysis, because they see the entire picture."
Fueling that powerful analysis is cloud technology. DCGS-Army represents the military's first tactical deployment of a cloud node, which brings enormous storage and computing power to analysts' fingertips, explained Army Col. Edward Riehle, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's capability manager for sensor processing.
"What the cloud brings is the ability to very easily conduct analysis, and to very easily present the terrain, the weather, the enemy situation simply and easily," Riehle said. And because the system is able to process massive quantities of data at speeds unheard of before introduction of the cloud -- some 60 million text reports in less than a second -- it's able to provide a far broader operational picture.
As developers work to make the system more intuitive and user-friendly, Army analysts in Afghanistan are giving it high marks. They're using it to post data, process ISR reports and distribute information about the threat, weather and terrain to all components and echelons, Wells said.
And with benefit of the cloud, they're able to conduct far more extensive analyses based on intelligence reports filed, not just in recent months or years, but since 2003.
"Analysts are able to make connections they would have never been able to make before," Wells said.
The result is improved situational awareness for commanders in the theater, who can task battle-space sensors and receive intelligence from multiple sources, and for troops on the ground whose lives depend on complete, accurate data.
"What this does is make our forces more agile," Wells said. "It makes the commander on the ground much more agile and effective than his adversary."
By providing a more complete data picture, it also helps commanders make better-informed decisions, he said. "The fog of war is our tactical commanders' greatest challenge, and this is a tool that helps cut through that fog of war," he said. "Commanders can turn to their intelligence analyst and make more effective decisions and ultimately, be much more effective."
"This system is empowering our intelligence analysts to answer those important questions for the commander, which in turn helps mission effectiveness," echoed Riehle. "And there is no doubt a correlation between good intelligence and support to a commander and saving lives."
Based on an operational ground test recently completed at Fort Stewart, Ga., the Army hopes to get the green light to take the system servicewide beginning this fall.
The Marine Corps is interested in Army's use of cloud technology and ultimately could partner with the Army to apply it to the Marines' own distributed common ground system.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is applying its own system to produce intelligence collected by manned and unmanned ISR aircraft and other sensors. Similarly, the Navy its installing its own DCGS systems at multiple ground sites and on large-deck ships, with plans to ultimately also equip all destroyers and cruisers.
As these systems take shape, Wells said, they will go a long way toward improving the military's intelligence processes. "The real power of DCGS is very powerful analysis and very powerful collaboration," he said. "It's a big step toward incorporating analytic products through a common framework."