Understanding the distribution of friendly, enemy, and neutral forces and facilities and the nature and significance of the environment they occupy is key to what the Joint Chiefs of Staff described as battlespace awareness in Joint Vision 2020.1 A shared awareness of the battlespace among allied military forces is considered to be a force multiplier that is recognized as both highly desirable and difficult to achieve. Before data can be meaningfully shared, data must first be obtained and then rendered into a usable form—in other words, information or knowledge. Efforts to collect, assimilate, analyze, and disseminate information about and predict the nature, distribution, and intent of enemy forces have long been the focus of a large and complex intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance effort. Efforts to collect, assimilate, analyze, and disseminate information about and predict the nature and significance of the environmental character of the naval battlespace, though less well known, have been the focus of a complex meteorological and oceanographic effort referred to within the U.S. Naval Forces as METOC.
There are striking similarities between intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data gathering and METOC data-gathering efforts. For example, the availability and accuracy of information provided to military decisionmakers in
Joint Vision 2020 (JV 2020) is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s vision for how America’s Armed Forces will transform in order to create a joint force that is dominant across the full range of military operations. It calls for achieving full spectrum dominance focused on four operational concepts: dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics, and full-dimensional protection as enabled by information superiority, innovation, and increased joint, interagency, and multinational interoperability. January 31, 2003 (http://www.dtic.mil/jv2020/jvpub2.htm).
the past have been uneven, causing leaders at various levels to view its value with some skepticism. In many situations, military strategists and field commanders “planned for the worst” and concentrated as many resources as possible on achieving an objective, in order to overcome uncertainty through overwhelming force. In the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century, “blunt force” warfighting tactics have necessarily and thankfully been augmented, if not replaced, by what in contrast are surgically precise strikes. The longstanding need to minimize casualties among friendly forces and noncombatants has, in turn, dramatically reduced the margin for error. Under such circumstances, the need for accurate, reliable, and timely intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and related environmental information (i.e., total battlespace awareness) is even greater. Although few military planners would trade knowledge about the distribution and intent of enemy forces for improved environmental understanding, failure to acknowledge the importance of environmental conditions has played a role in many failed military operations that were otherwise well planned and executed.
To aid in the development of an investment strategy to enhance the value of METOC contributions to battlespace awareness, the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) requested that the National Academies undertake a two-year effort to:
develop a framework process that can be adapted by U.S. Naval Forces to prioritize what data should be collected and how the data should be managed, what new models should be developed and what improvements should be made to existing models, which data fusion and value-added products should be developed to effectively and efficiently disseminate environmental information to naval units;
identify those segments of the process that would benefit from targeted research (e.g., specific ocean processes or general areas of uncertainty); and
prioritize the proposed improvements by identifying which actions are most needed and achievable as well as those that are most likely to make a significant and positive impact.
Although the similarities between intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, and environmental characterization are numerous and the opportunities for synergy are significant, the focus of this report is on how best to enhance the environmental information component of naval battlespace awareness. Over the past 300 years considerable effort has gone into understanding and characterizing the naval environment. The emphasis has been on reducing uncertainty about the conditions that naval forces face, since it is uncertainty that affects planning for desirable outcomes. In the most recent decades the development and implementation of complex weapons systems have largely been driven an increased need for precise environmental information. Although all-weather
weapons systems are being developed, understanding the effect of any variety of environmental parameters on weapons system and platform performance will remain an important component of tactical decisionmaking for the foreseeable future.
The current METOC enterprise and its predecessor organizations have brought the U.S. Naval Forces high-quality environmental information that has served them well in peace and in war. However, as the Department of Defense transforms its force structure to meet the challenges that now face the nation, METOC must also examine how it will support the future. New approaches will be needed to provide METOC customers with information and knowledge more rapidly, anywhere, and at any time. This will require new ways to collect the necessary data, new ways to analyze those data to create and present information, and new ways to deliver or make available that information worldwide to advantaged and disadvantaged users alike.
Many previous efforts by the National Research Council focused on specific environmental processes of concern to naval forces or advocated specific actions to better understand or characterize those processes. While some discussion of those issues is appropriate, this report focuses more extensively on underlying the philosophies needed to determine when and how to improve environmental information. Thus, understanding what effect uncertainty in environmental information has on the ability of U.S. Naval Forces to execute critical missions, what the cost of that uncertainty is, and identifying what efforts might reduce these emerged as a significant unifying theme in this report. In a very real sense, understanding when environmental knowledge is central to mission success, how “certain” that knowledge needs to be (and at what temporal and spatial scales) defines the business model that will serve to describe the framework for investment decisions. U.S. Naval Forces often have an intuitive feel for when environmental information is important to improving the likelihood of mission success. More difficult to quantify are the levels of uncertainty that transform missions with high likelihood of success into marginally successful or failed missions. Likewise, it is difficult to quantify an acceptable cost for reducing the uncertainty in environmental predictions.
The major findings and recommendations in this report are based on a business model approach to the METOC mission areas that encompasses allocation of investment and management of risk in order to:
ensure that environmental information is presented in a manner that conveys to the warfighter an appropriate level of confidence in its content,
ensure that efforts to enhance environmental information are carried out in a cost-effective manner that maximizes resources, and
create a system for information exchange that allows a high degree of informed involvement by warfighters.
DEVELOPING MORE EFFECTIVE METOC PROCESSES: NEAR-TERM LEVERAGING OF EXISTING PROGRAMS AND RESOURCES
Information about environmental conditions is developed from observation or inference. Understanding the nature of environmental processes provides the skill needed to determine when additional observations are needed to interpret past conditions to predict present conditions at a location of interest (e.g., provide information on beach trafficability for a denied coastline) or to build on existing information to draw inferences about conditions in the future (e.g., forecast weather over a carrier battlegroup three days in the future). The latter process is at the heart of traditional forecasting and has been greatly expanded by advances in the capability and capacity of computing facilities and remote sensing. Much work, however, remains to be accomplished if forecasting is to achieve the accu-racy and reliability needed at the temporal and spatial scales relevant to many naval operations, especially those taking place in coastal areas.
In the presence of perfect battlespace awareness, perfect tactical decisions are theoretically possible. Perfect environmental information, however, is neither achievable or even necessary in many instances. Furthermore, it will not be possible to obtain, manage, and disseminate environmental information at all scales of interest for all areas of possible naval activities in the foreseeable future. Like many entities with an operational focus, the naval METOC enterprise has evolved to operate on very short production cycles. At present, different information for various geographic areas of concern is distributed over multiple sources, many of which are identified by various METOC officers “in stride” as reports are developed for various customers in response to real-time requests. Success in this approach is largely dependent on the knowledge, creativity, and experience of individual METOC officers. Lack of a more cohesive or proactive approach to priority setting limits the METOC community’s ability to identify, evaluate, and acquire data and information from nontraditional sources during emerging crises. The METOC community needs to become both a supporter of network-centric operations and a beneficiary of those operations by being an active user of the networks being developed to support them. The METOC enterprise should incorporate network-centric approaches to enable easy and flexible interconnectivity among the individual METOC officers and with nontraditional sources of information. This should be done now to leverage the people and knowledge assets currently in place.
Special attention should be given to identifying the METOC contribution for nonroutine operations (e.g., evacuation of noncombatants, amphibious warfare, as opposed to activities such as ship tracking or air operations that occur on a daily basis and thus tend to be continuously evaluated and modified). Guidance for identifying broadly needed and significant information across multiple warfare areas should be derived from an understanding of the benefit of additional
information for reducing uncertainty versus the cost of improving the content and reliability of environmental information, whether through additional observations, improved understanding of the underlying physical processes, or more powerful forecasting tools that take advantage of both.
The availability of unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles, and their expanded capability to covertly collect intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information in denied areas using a variety of electrooptical and acoustic sensors, creates a largely untapped potential for the unintended use of such information to support the development or validation of METOC products or forecasts. The Oceanographer of the Navy and the Commander of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) should work with the broader community within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and elsewhere to expand efforts to make intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information and data with environmental content more accessible to the METOC community.
Expanded efforts should be included to remove unneeded or particularly sensitive nonenvironmental content, thus reducing security risk while making the environmentally relevant information or data acquired during intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts more accessible to the METOC community. At the same time, the METOC community’s ability to securely handle sensitive georeferenced material must be expanded. The METOC community should also seek to acquire its own unmanned platforms since concerns about security limit the availability of such collateral information. In addition, it is strongly recommended that ONR evaluate the potential for exploiting existing intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance sensors as dual-use METOC sensors. Assuming this potential is significant, the Oceanographer of the Navy and CNMOC should work with the DOD community to develop mechanisms to exploit this potential.
Particular emphasis should be placed on forward-deployed assets that are already under the control of theater commands. Data collection could be either specifically tasked or carried out while en route to other missions. Care must be taken that the primary missions of the intelligence, reconnaissance, or surveillance operations involved are not hindered or compromised, so that such dual-use activities are indeed cost effective.
As network-centric warfare (NCW) becomes an operational reality, enhanced computing and communications capabilities are changing the way the U.S. Naval Forces fight, communicate, and plan. Extensive e-mail and classified METOC electronic chat room traffic is already overtaking the formal Naval Message System and creating peer-to-peer linkages that are a radical departure from the hierarchical system that has been in place for years. Faster computers and high-speed data links resulting from the IT-21 initiative and the Navy-Marine Corps Internet program are accelerating this dramatic change in the METOC community.
The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and CNMOC should work with regional METOC commands to formally define a network-centric concept of operations that embraces peer-to-peer networking within the METOC community while preserving the security, flexibility, and timeliness that have led to the rapid growth in its use. The goal of formalizing this type of exchange should be to improve information content and its usefulness as a source of insight into user and customer needs (e.g., opportunities for data mining, frequency of various types of information requests, identification of systematic problems in information access) while encouraging continued and wider usage. Access to, and the transmission of, METOC data between ships and to shore facilities will be significant parts of the NCW transformation. Current efforts to incorporate network-centric principles into METOC operational concepts are only beginning to tap the vast potential that the network-centric operational concept offers.
EXPANDING METOC CAPABILITIES: LOGICAL NEXT STEPS
Existing capabilities for data collection, storage, and dissemination can produce voluminous bodies of information with varying amounts of useful content. The sheer volume of available information is already posing an unforeseen challenge as the METOC community and the warfighters they support struggle to match useful information to key users. The Oceanographer of the Navy should ensure that CNMOC, the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Command (FNMOC), and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) jointly develop a strategic plan for data acquisition over the next 10 to 20 years that prioritizes geographic regions of focus; incorporates an understanding of the limits of environmental information currently available to the METOC community for various regions; and evaluates such technologies as distributed databases, advanced information data-mining techniques, and intelligent agent technology for enhancing environmental information for priority areas.
In addition to geopolitical considerations (which may be fairly fluid on decadal timescales), such a plan should be based on a thorough understanding of what environmental information is currently held or available and which processes or conditions will be of particular concern to various naval missions. Once an initial framework is established, CNMOC and NAVOCEANO should work with operational commanders to evaluate the adequacy of existing critical information (e.g., external variables such as bathymetry/topography, sediment type/land cover) and plan for filling data and information gaps.
Increasing bandwidth, while relaxing some constraints, will undoubtedly lead to further dilution of information content. As the locations of naval actions vary across multiple continents and adjoining seas, greater effort must go into developing mechanisms for rapid and efficient environmental characterization that
focus on providing the warfighter with targeted information with a high proportion of useful content while minimizing ancillary or irrelevant information. High-quality data are imperative precursors of high-quality information. The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy should foster efforts by ONR (by providing expertise and access) to develop and implement a system that promotes Optimized Environmental Characterization, keyed to action-specific war-fighter needs during various naval missions or suites of missions. Data and information quality are central.
A significant component of the METOC enterprise, in terms of both fiscal and human resources, is devoted to data collection. Understanding how new data collection, as opposed to use of archived data or numerical extrapolation or interpolations, improves the content of environmental information (reduces uncertainty) should be a key component of targeted data acquisition. Since data collection resources are limited and because the cost of data acquisition in denied areas can be very high, methods for establishing data collection efforts and the research and development that support data collection platform development should be focused using objective criteria. The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and CNMOC should invest in the development of formal and rigorous methods for identifying high-priority data needs that are specific to the platforms and missions to be involved in any potential naval action. Determination of the cost of uncertainty, and a focus on data collection efforts that result in the greatest reduction in total cost of uncertainty, should be given priority at ONR and the Office of the Oceanographer.
Asset allocation should be based on achieving improvements in the most significant parameters of interest. Such an effort will need to be based on a rigorous understanding of critical thresholds for platforms and systems involved in, as well as the spatial and temporal variability of key parameters and the operational tempo associated with, each mission or suite of missions.
At present, there is insufficient continuity of responsibility and feedback for maintaining databases and models. In addition, there is inadequate exchange of data or information collected or managed throughout the Department of the Navy. The Oceanographer of the Navy should clarify the various areas of responsibility and assess the performance of such databases and models, and the tactical decision aids that rely on them, focusing on their value for individual mission areas. In other words, the value or adequacy of a specific database or model may vary by mission or project, but information collected for a specific mission or project may still be of value to unintended users. Furthermore, at present, there is insufficient use of datasets collected by other federal agencies and academia. CNMOC and FNMOC should expand efforts to identify data of value and work with ONR to develop methodologies for evaluating those data and bringing them into existing METOC systems. Once expanded capabilities to access data and information from a variety of sources, whether from within DOD, academia, or other nongovernment sources, is established, an effort
should be made to develop and implement a system that permits rapid retrieval of environmental data collected in specific geographical areas.
The U.S. Marine Corps’ traditional role in expeditionary warfare and renewed focus on littoral operations involving the U.S. Navy continue to drive the need for environmental information in coastal areas where access is frequently denied.2 Efforts to improve secure, low-profile communications, reduce the risk to personnel in coastal areas from chemical and biological agents (either from the tactical deployment of weapons of mass destruction by enemy forces or the destruction of such weapons by friendly forces), and provide accurate assessments of atmospheric conditions during the planning and implementation of strike missions have placed a greater emphasis on coastal meteorology. This includes development of predictive meteorological capability at fine scales and intensive data gathering in coastal environments. Military operations in these areas require data in forward operations areas. UAVs are ideally suited for this and provide additional opportunity for data gathering on behalf of METOC. The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy should work with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and the operational commands to further develop and deploy atmospheric sensors on UAVs that will permit the collection of essential environmental information without impairing the intelligence, reconnaissance, or surveillance efforts they are largely designed to carry out.
Current efforts to model many littoral processes of importance are promising but not fully operational. Thus, needed predictive capabilities are not currently available. The Office of the Oceanographer should foster efforts at ONR and fund efforts at SPAWAR to integrate mesoscale models with local littoral models.
CHANGING ATTITUDES AND APPROACHES: A LONGER-TERM VISION
The philosophy and approaches used to supply METOC information to the fleet and Marine Corps can be described in terms of a business model (in fact, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, like the DOD and most federal agencies, have
already adopted this philosophy to some degree, as testified by the widespread use of such terms as “user driven” and “customer needs” in planning documents). The present METOC business model3 for providing global and mesoscale forecast fields is well defined and successful. However, the METOC business model for providing enhanced warfighting capabilities does not appear to adequately address customer needs. The current relationship does not facilitate close connectivity or fluid information exchange with the customer. Therefore, it is difficult to rigorously define the contribution of METOC to or its impact on improved warfighting.
It is unclear whether the existing METOC enterprise reflects a strategic or unifying principle that can help the various component parts understand their relationship to one another and the overall goal of the activity. Providing specific advice for improving the overall performance of the METOC enterprise is therefore difficult. A review of various DOD and Department of the Navy guidance documents, however, does suggest that, in order to keep pace with changes now being undertaken by the operational Navy and Marine Corps, the METOC community needs to reexamine many of its core approaches in a more systematic manner. The de facto business model currently employed by the METOC community for providing enhanced warfighting capabilities should be examined and modified in light of e-commerce principles (e.g., peer-to-peer tasking and Web-enabled customer service) and network-centric warfare concepts of operations. This review should be undertaken at four levels: customer interactions; data collection, data fusion, and information management; sensor networks; and network-centric operations.
To move forward and remain state of the art in environmental forecasting and prediction, resources need to be put into the development of both observational capability and models of processes that operate over small areas or over short time periods. There is a critical need to improve feedback in data and prediction flow between METOC and the customer. Failure to do so will compromise the ability of METOC to move forward and provide reliable predictions. The METOC community must build on existing relationships to strengthen its ties to operational U.S. Naval Forces and to the academic community, especially in the area of data assimilative forecast models. Furthermore, steps should be taken to familiarize warfighters, METOC and ONR personnel, and the academic community with the challenges faced by, and the strengths of, each of these communities. The Oceanographer of the Navy, CNMOC, and the CNR should take steps to formalize efforts to transfer knowledge and experience among their respective commands and the academic community.
Although uncertainty in environmental predictions introduces costs in terms of increased risk and occurrence of failure or the costs of contingency plans or suboptimal tactics, the benefit of better information must always be weighed against the cost of developing it. The goal of the METOC community is the reduction of environmental uncertainty in mission planning and operations. The optimum investment strategy is that which reduces environmental uncertainty to the level necessary for a desired probability of mission success and no more. Measures of the cost of uncertainty are not linear but are strongly concentrated on critical thresholds and are weighted differently for different variables and also by the value of the mission. The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy should promote reduction in the cost of uncertainty as a measure of value, so that a sensible strategy for research and development investments can be developed.
For the research programs at ONR, the investment is not in augmented data collection but in the development of fundamentally better approaches. In contrast to the more applied METOC problem, there is no simple transfer function to equate the cost of research with expected return in reduced uncertainty. Thus, business methods for determination of the optimum rate and direction of investment cannot be readily employed. Instead, the cost of uncertainty provides an objective measure of research needs among many processes of disciplines that can drive the directions of research. Management wisdom must drive the decisions of funding rates and potential payoffs. ONR should continue and expand efforts to understand and quantify both uncertainty and the cost of uncertainty in military operations. Furthermore, research priorities should incorporate an understanding of the relative impact uncertainty has on various naval operations, so that research priorities map to areas where the cost of uncertainty is the greatest.
At present, the key to effective communication of environmental information to the naval commander lies with the attached METOC officer. These highly trained professionals play a complex role as synthesizer, filter, and interface. Increased use of advanced weapons systems (whose efficiency and effectiveness can be influenced by environmental conditions) and small naval units, such as Navy SEAL teams, that operate far from the fleet is changing the role of METOC. The growing need for integrated and organic environmental information systems to support weapons systems and small naval units will further stress a system that relies on interpersonal relations to maximize success. Furthermore, in order to more fully capture the benefits of improved measures of environmental uncertainty and the cost of that uncertainty, operational commanders need to more fully understand the accuracy of environmental information provided to them. The current naval concept of operations for understanding and assessing environmental uncertainty is contained primarily in the collective experience of METOC personnel, enhanced by informal and nondoctrinal infrastructures; thus, the quality and utility of environmental information will remain uneven and ephemeral,
paced by the posting cycle of personnel. The Office of the Oceanographer should work with U.S. Naval Forces operational commanders to introduce and explain the concept of environmental uncertainty and its value (including development of a common nomenclature for expressing uncertainty). U.S. Naval Forces in general, and the METOC community in particular, should take advantage of the concept of environmental uncertainty in more formal and recognized ways.