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Achieving the Integrated Systems Concept
Keynote address by Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of defense (command, control, communications and intelligence), Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International Technet '96 Convention, Washin, Tuesday, June 04, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 51-- Achieving the Integrated Systems Concept U.S. military forces are operating in a changing world accelerated by political forces, economics and technology. Global missions range from humanitarian relief to peacekeeping and a broad spectrum of warfighting contingencies.


Volume 11, Number 51

Achieving the Integrated Systems Concept

Keynote address by Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of defense (command, control, communications and intelligence), at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International Technet '96 Convention, Washington, June 4, 1996.

In recent years, the C4I [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] community, like the larger commercial community, has experienced a series of changes that force a re-examination of basic ways we conduct our business. Diminishing resources along with downsizing (or "rightsizing") have required us to look to technology for innovative solutions. Our military forces now operate in an environment characterized by a more rapid pace of change than at any time in history -- a pace accelerated by political forces, by economics and by technology.

We face enormous challenges of staying current on developments globally and being prepared to rapidly respond with military forces in a world of uncertainty and diversity -- sometimes within hours and places where we have no permanent presence. The operations we undertake may span a wide range of missions -- from humanitarian relief to peacekeeping to force engagements, across a broad spectrum of warfighting contingencies. Dealing with these situations requires complex configurations of our forces, systems and capabilities.

Increasingly, such activities involve coalitions with other nations' forces, further complicating our operational and systems architectures and raising security concerns. To maintain our battlespace dominance, we must leverage the enabling technologies that give us precision forces and weapons, and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and systems. C4ISR's impact on the revolution in military affairs finds its niche in the evolving concept of knowledge-based warfare. I'll briefly discuss this concept and its dependency on information access and sharing through information systems interoperability.

To operate successfully in this changing world, our warfighters need an awareness of the battlefield which allows them to make decisions faster than the enemy -- the central premise of knowledge-based warfare. Knowledge-based warfare is based on the principle that knowledge is not just a support function; it is inseparable from military capabilities, as important to military success as the weapons systems themselves. The new paradigm is to treat C4ISR as a combat function.

On the surface, this may not appear much different than what was said in past years. However, rapid changes in information technology now offer different and certainly greater implications for using information on future battlefields.

We can no longer afford to produce sophisticated weapons and then as an afterthought figure out how to get information to commanders to make these weapons work more effectively. Commanders don't need to be flooded with all available information -- we must get the right information, with the right degree of detail, delivered to the right decisionmaker at the right time. Warfighters need "decisionable information." Information must be available "inside the enemy's decision cycle." This means that information must be obtained, processed and disseminated fast enough so that our own forces can act before the enemy can react.

Information technology can lift the "fog of war" from the individual unit or even the individual combatant. If knowledge of the battle space can be accessed at the lowest echelon, we empower our forces to act faster, with more certainty and initiative and with more power and effectiveness. Finally, new information can allow our forces to act across the spectrum of an enemy's warfighting systems with relentless, high-tempo capabilities precisely and effectively applied to bring the enemy to its knees or hold it hostage on the battlefield or even serve as a deterrent.

How do we change our ways of doing business to take advantage of the new information technology?

We need to drive technology to provide the data collection, analysis, fusion and processing, and information dissemination systems which are critical to achieving a common picture of the battle space. In my humble view, we cannot continue to have the C4 community and the intelligence communities going out in an uncoordinated fashion if we are to achieve the common objective of delivering timely information to the warfighters. I just had to throw that hit into the hopper as it is still an area of deep frustration to me that in at least one branch of our services the intel [intelligence] folks seldom depend on the signal folks to provide communications services. Trojan Spirit [Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal] is but one example of that.

Some folk will tell you that this results in unnecessary duplication and will point to Operation Joint Endeavor as an example of that fact. But let's not get hung up on that at the moment. I will be watching the lessons learned coming out of Joint Endeavor to see if the duplication is documented or just washed over. The bottom line is more communications systems/terminals and operators were deployed than was really necessary to meet the overall requirements.

An information technology investment area to assist us in achieving this common picture that I spoke of prior to the diversion includes developing a more precise, multidimensional, common reference system which accurately correlates sensor data with ground truth and which is capable of being rapidly updated.

In other words, commanders (and the precision munitions they employ) need a good map of the ground that shows every terrain feature and structure in excruciating detail. Such a reference tool may be the starting point for everything else that is subsequently known about the battlefield.

Another investment area involves improved modeling and simulation capabilities, such as our ability to model and predict the effects of our actions on the enemy.

This quick summary of knowledge-based warfare gives us a hint of the changes that must occur if we are to take best advantage of information technology to support our warfighters.

Addressing the challenges of achieving information interoperability in the department involves four key principles. First, we need to work towards a corporate integrated data base that enables true sharing of information and data. We need to work the releasability of classified information to our allies and coalition partners harder than ever before as we are finding that sometimes it can be a two-way street with others having platforms that are as capable as we might bring to the operation.

Second, we must exploit benefits that can come from rapidly emerging collaboration tools and capabilities.

Third, doing our jobs more efficiently and economically of necessity requires that we interoperate more effectively in joint operations amongst ourselves and with our allies and coalition partners.

Fourth, we must capitalize on the dramatic and rapidly expanding capabilities and technologies being developed for the Internet. We are finding in the military and in the commercial sector that most of these capabilities are directly applicable to intranets. Intranets translate to military applications and systems such as the GCCS [Global Command and Control System], and I will say more about this later.

I'd like to discuss some of these areas and touch upon some technology implications.

Our vision for C4ISR includes a distributed, electronic, multimedia integrated corporate information data base, consisting of the full spectrum of information needed by both decisionmakers and warfighters. This integrated information data base would enable information sharing across the C4ISR community, providing users and producers with information on demand.

The integrated information data base must consist of a wide variety of published multimedia materials that once generated can be reused and combined and tailored to precise information and presentation needs. Access to the integrated information data base must be through a simple and consistent interface to provide users with complete, timely and accurate information when and where needed, regardless of where the information resides.

Attaining these capabilities will require overcoming some challenges. The increased use of multimedia information objects will tax the communications infrastructure. Access to a single, integrated information data base that contains material of varying classification levels will be a particularly difficult security challenge. To take full advantage of this integrated information data base, we need advanced tools and formats for accessing and exchanging information between and among individuals and organizations.

Specifically, we need an integrating framework for collaborative computing that focuses on interpersonal communications. Such a framework is essential to support the full range of formal to ad hoc human interactions interoperating within the same environment. This capability is not yet available in today's commercial collaborative tools.

This framework would also provide an infrastructure for the integration and contextual use of emerging collaborative capabilities, ranging from basic e-mail and chatter through the more sophisticated -- audio and video conferencing, shared white boards, group authoring and shared applications. The framework also includes incorporating information and tools sharing into "virtual environments" or "conference rooms," enabling unprecedented levels of collaboration among geographically dispersed individuals and organizations.

Consider the implications for enhancing battlefield awareness (e.g., a "common battlefield picture") if such collaborative capabilities could be fully developed and exploited.

To take advantage of the global integrated information data base of tomorrow, we must strive now to become more interoperable. We cannot continue to give lip service to this critical issue. Now is the time for action and total commitment. Our goal is to learn to fight as one virtual force. No one see the need for this more than Dr. [William J.] Perry our SECDEF [secretary of defense] and [Army] Gen. [John M.] Shalikashvili, our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Interoperability is the critical enabler, and it has become more and more elusive with time. When the Army Air Corps existed, I do not recall interoperability being as difficult as it is today with each service determined to do their own thing. Before the Air Force was broken out as a separate service, there were no interoperability problems between the Army Air Corps and the Army Ground Forces.

As a matter of fact, we did not begin to see the interoperability problems between the Army and Air Force until the advent of the Vietnam War. The problem was built between the Korean War and the beginning of the Vietnam War. Being an old-timer as I am, I just had to toss that comment into the hopper because that's the way I have seen things during my time.

Today, I see four incremental interoperability stages.

At the basic level, we must be able to exchange single-medium products, such as text or maps, and collaborate using fundamental tools such as e-mail and chatter. We must also be able to perform a common set of functions and activities typically found within office automation products such as word processing, spreadsheets and image viewers.

However, even these most fundamental interoperability functions provide challenges. Due to acquisition practices and some existing commitments to legacy systems, even the ability to exchange a word processing file without losing some content between two organizations could be a risk unless both have the same software or software version.

We cannot endure such risks on the battlefield. Industry has yet to establish and provide data exchange standards for word processing which can stand the same rigor that vendors must follow, for example, in building interoperable network components compliant with transmission control protocol/Internet protocol interconnectivity standards.

At the next level of interoperability, users must be able to exchange and work with compound documents and data files, while working in a distributed systems environment. Through networked computers and interconnected networks, we are today providing the initial pathways for increased interoperability.

Unfortunately, much less has been achieved in providing users with applications which can share information dynamically and equally between organizations across this communications infrastructure. The information at this level must allow for heterogeneous forms, such as maps and associated overlays, which can be used equally and without translation across all applications. At this intermediate level, users also expect more sophisticated methods for conducting collaboration. The use of white boards, video desktop conferencing and shared displays are but a few of the capabilities which interoperable systems at this level must support and demonstrate successfully.

As we advance up to the next level, we must truly achieve the concept of integrated systems.

The commitment to shared data services and to common definitions for information-sharing will enable independently built systems to exploit this information without additional translation, remapping or needless duplication.

For example, applications dealing with intelligence must be interoperable across all the services without duplication of functions. Today, we achieve system information exchange at only the lowest level of interoperability, using simple message exchange formats such as USMTF [U.S. message text format].

We must raise our sights to the real target of common processes, systems, data and information -- to get the job done tomorrow.

Finally, at the highest level of interoperability, we must break down barriers to seamless information sharing. The establishment of a global, fully distributed, integrated information data base with an integrated application tool suite across all service and agency boundaries, and all disciplines and functions (C2 [command and control], intelligence, medical, logistics, etc.) should be our goal. In effect, this level defines our current vision for achieving universal interoperability for the entire C4ISR environment.

An area where industry is attempting to achieve increased interoperability is demonstrated by the World Wide Web. The advent of this technology, combined with the global network of networks, or the Internet, has made a wide variety of multimedia information available to government, industry and home users. Netscape appears to be on the right track and the fast track to get us there. Users all over the world have almost instant access to a vast range of information that is as widely distributed as the user base.

This new technology applied in industry and government in private networks called intranets has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we do business. The ability to create, manage, access, share and exchange information effectively so that decisionmakers and warfighters are able to get the right information at the right place at the right time is vital to our ability to operate as a cohesive warfighting team.

Intranets such as the Global Command and Control System will enable us to fully exploit these great emerging and evolving commercial technologies while providing the necessary degree of [information security] to help protect our systems from attack and exploitation. Some encouraging initiatives demonstrate that we're correctly aimed toward achieving this vision in the department -- our C4ISR efforts in Joint Endeavor provide many examples.

Today, we are only in the initial stages of incorporating this technology into the ways in which we access, exploit and exchange information within the context of knowledge-based warfare. We still have a very long ways to go. The GCCS and Intellink are only the beginnings.

As we move forward, the department will continue to look to industry for innovative technology solutions and encourage accelerated efforts, particularly in the area of wireless communications. The digital environment of tomorrow will be as challenging and new to us as the telephone was to our predecessors. Information is a precious commodity that in isolation has limited value.

Conversely, information that is part of a shared integrated information data base, accessible by a wide user base that can collaborate, has tremendous value. The rapid pace of technological advance, coupled with an unpredictable world situation demand that we pursue this goal with all deliberate speed.

We in DoD look forward to a continuing productive partnership with industry for innovative solutions that will enable us to meet the challenges of the future. Technologies are available for us to maintain the edge in knowledge based warfare -- we are only limited by our motivation and imagination in applying them.



Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at