The Pentagon and military services are expediting an effort to foster more cross-domain interoperability between networks operating on the Distributed Common Ground System intelligence database.
The system, known as DCGS, gathers, integrates and organizes information from more than 500 sources for analysts looking to interpret combat data, assess terrain information, receive SIGINT feeds, monitor sensor input and collect other kinds of ISR information. The system is used widely among the military services and other government agencies that share intelligence.
At the same time, developers want to harness both government and private sector innovations to improve upon some of the segmented or stove-piped information generated by the intelligence database.
As a result, the current cross-domain effort seeks to secure and exchange intelligence information across various military service systems and within individual networks and databases themselves, program managers and developers explained at a Jan. 13 Northern Virginia Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association event.
“We want a cross-domain solution capability,” said Capt. Mark Kempf, DCGS-N (Navy). We need to create a way to manage information across enclaves – from top secret all the way to unclassified, he said. “Merging this from an analyst’s perspective is going to be critical.”
Kempf explained that this effort, aimed at helping analysts access all the pertinent information, should include data-tagging to ensure that data can be successfully exchanged both vertically and horizontally across and within networks utilized by DCGS.
“We want an agile development process where we pull in pieces and work within the processes so we can develop technology more quickly,” said Kempf.
Jim Pettigrew, Special Operations Forces Program Manager, Mission Support Systems, emphasized that data-sharing across networks is of particular relevance for their forces, given that they operate in more than 60 countries at any one time.
“We operate on several networks. It is critical that we have the trust to move data between networks to better inform decision makers,” Pettigrew added.
This means using network data-sharing and organizing techniques to implement better filtering processes for operators to give them timely access to the proper intelligence resources.
“Information agility is the key to success, so we are really providing the right information at the right time to the decision maker at all echelons,” said Pettigrew.
Facilitating this effort means developing and acquiring algorithms and computer programs able to “auto-cue” analysts about intelligence they need to know or prioritize, including auto-target recognition, movement sensors and other methods of discerning impactful intelligence.
“A machine can tip me as to what may have been important in a certain area,” said DCGS AF Col. Kristopher Gifford, HQ USAF A2C.
An essential impetus behind cross-domain operations is an effort to help joint military operations improve effectiveness by connecting otherwise disparate information networks and intelligence sources together in a seamless and accessible fashion.
An Air Force drone, for instance, may want to quickly pass targeting information or combat video feeds to a supporting ground unit – a process improved through a system such as DCGS designed to help gather organize and relay information of that kind.