Information Flow: Leveraging Network-Centric Concepts
This chapter points out:
The implications of Joint Vision 2020 (Department of Defense, 2000), future naval operational concepts, and the spread of advanced technologies and commercial information systems worldwide make it inevitable that joint forces, particularly forward-deployed naval forces, must move toward network-centric operations. In its report, Network-Centric Naval Forces: A Transition Strategy for Enhancing Operational Capabilities, the National Research Council (2000a), defined such operations as follows: “Network-centric operations are military operations that exploit state-of-the-art information and networking technology to integrate widely dispersed human decisionmakers, situational and targeting sensors, and forces and weapons into a highly adaptive comprehensive system to achieve unprecedented mission effectiveness.”
As also discussed in Network-Centric Naval Forces, forward deployment of naval forces (see Box 5-1) that may be widely dispersed geographically, the use of fire and forces massed rapidly from great distances at decisive locations and times, and the dispersed highly mobile operations of Marine Corps units are examples of future tasks that will place significant demands on networked forces and information systems. Future naval forces must be supported by a shared and consolidated picture of the situation, distributed collaborative planning, and battlespace control capabilities. In addition, the forces must be capable of coordinating and massing for land attacks and of employing multisensor networking and targeting for undersea warfare and missile defense. This capability for enhancing coordinated and massed attacks emphasizes the important role network-centric operations will have in improving adaptability (i.e., the ability to configure the force in ways that were not anticipated in advance).
Network-Centric Naval Forces makes a compelling case that the trend toward network-centric operations is inevitable:
One reason is the pull of the opportunity: The anticipated effectiveness of joint, networked forces is compelling. A second is the push of necessity: Threats are becoming more diverse, subtle, and capable. If they are to be discerned, fathomed, and effectively countered in timely fashion, increasingly complex information gathering and exploitation will be required. Also the diversity and geographic spread of potential threats and operations, many of which will occur simultaneously or nearly so, demand that forces of any size be used to their maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Another reason derives from the relentless advance of U.S. and foreign technology in both the civilian and military spheres: There will be no other way for U.S. forces to develop. Only a force that is attuned to and capable of harnessing the power of the information technology that drives modern society will be able to operate effectively to protect that society.
The comprehensive nature of network-centric naval operations envisioned in Network-Centric Naval Forces will lead to a new system structure, as shown in Figure 5-1. A structure that deemphasizes the one-way stovepipe flow of information that characterizes the current METOC system (see Chapter 2). When an approach that emphasizes lateral and parallel information flow is applied to information gathering and command dissemination, it may manifest itself in an architecture similar to that depicted in Figure 5-2.
INTERACTIVE INFORMATION FLOW
The previous discussion of the impact of network-centric concepts on naval operations implies that METOC operations within the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will be forced to adapt in many unforeseen ways. Today, every military unit is (or can be) equipped with a unique Internet protocol (IP) address, thus enabling innovative distributed sensor nets. It is likely that there are many sensors
BOX 5-1 Understanding the Role of U.S. Naval Forces
Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000-2035 (National Research Council, 1997) projected that future naval forces would continue to be required to perform tasks such as the following (Vol.#1, Overview, p. 3):
These tasks are not new for the naval forces and have changed little over the decades. However, advanced technologies are now spreading around the world, and burgeoning military capabilities elsewhere will, in hostile hands, pose threats to U.S. naval force operations. The most serious are as follows (pp. 4-5):
Future naval forces must be designed to meet these threats while maintaining the forward presence and operational flexibility that have characterized U.S. naval forces throughout history. This capability must be achieved in a world of ever-advancing technologies (particularly information technologies) available globally through the commercial sector and sales to foreign military users.
The study described the characteristics of future naval force operations as follows (p. 6):
deployed today that collect data that could be incorporated or “ingested” into a METOC data stream. Network technologies enable METOC to leverage other naval and joint battlegroup sensors and information. The command and control structure is hyperlinked, and hyperlinks are enabling interactive systems architectures, real-time adjustments to operating conditions, and rapid feedback on products and services.
Network-Centric Changes to the METOC Business Model
The end consequence of a network-centric business model is the movement away from stovepipes, away from hierarchical concepts of operation, tiered organizations, and closed processes toward an integrated network-centric working environment. This in turn requires that traditional information flow be modified so that the infrastructure supports the warfighter directly. These concepts are well expressed in the DOD (2001) definition of FORCnet:
FORCnet is the architecture of warriors, weapons, sensors, networks, decision aids, and supporting systems integrated into a highly adaptive, human-centric, comprehensive maritime system that operates from seabed to space, from sea to land. By exploiting existing and emerging technologies, FORCnet enables disbursed human decisionmakers to leverage military capabilities to achieve dominance across the entire mission landscape with joint, allied, and coalition partners. FORCnet is the future implementation of network-centric warfare in the naval services.
With the evolution of network-centric warfare and the increased availability of environmental information from distributed sources, the existing METOC business model for meeting one critical mission objective—enhanced warfighting
capabilities—will become obsolete as the current business model does not adequately address the warfighter’s needs. It does not facilitate close connectivity and fluid information exchange with the warfighter. It is difficult, therefore, to estimate the contribution of METOC warfighting products to improved capabilities.
The METOC business model for meeting the enhanced warfighting capabilities mission objective should be examined in light of e-commerce principles and network-centric warfare operational concepts. As discussed in Chapter 2, e-commerce principles reflect the changed relationship between a provider and his or her customer or end user, which has resulted from network principles introduced by Web technology. Customers (in this case warfighters) and service or information providers (in this case METOC) are now able and expect to have a dialogue about the nature of the product. Customization is now limited by the production process, not the customer interface. This review of the METOC business model should, therefore, be undertaken at three levels: customer interactions, networked sensors, and information fusion.
LEVEL 1 RECOMMENDATION
Level 1 adds a two-way communications loop to the systems architecture of METOC warfighting support products (see Figure 5-3). Today, the warfighter sees only the tasking and the report or product. The purpose of two-way communications is to improve the warfighter’s ability to influence and use existing products. By adding a two-way communications loop, the warfighter or asset commander can begin interacting with the process to improve timeliness, accuracy, and relevancy of the METOC product. Correspondingly, information from the warfighter/weapons system becomes available to the METOC provider. By adding chat rooms and software assistants between customers and the METOC provider, feedback is accommodated and user confidence improved. Feedback will also help synchronize data collections and assist the warfighter to assess his need for additional tasking. Finally, the end-of-mission synopsis of communications should be used to capture interactions and mine them.
LEVEL 2 RECOMMENDATION
The Level 2 system recommendation is to add methods for a distributed sensor network to the METOC business model (see Figure 5-4). This will increase
opportunities for multipurpose use of data collected by other platforms. It will also improve data interoperability and open the door for METOC to access and ingest data that were previously unavailable. This has the potential to benefit METOC by adding temporal and spatial resolution to the ingested data stream. Its implementation capitalizes on Internet Protocol/Transmission Control Protocol technology to address sensors across the battlefield.
Network-centric warfare, as it applies to environmental support systems, is another way of achieving a “massively parallel” system. Such a system demands that considerable discipline be imposed in systems design and protocol. While keeping the architecture as open and flexible as possible, it will be necessary to define the functionality of individual nodes in the system and to provide identification on individual packets of information so that they may be used whenever and however they are received by other elements of the system.
LEVEL 3 RECOMMENDATION
The recommended systems implementation at Level 3 (see Figure 5-5) is a full breakdown of the stovepipes by adding sensor-, object-, and decision-level fusion to the exploitation process. This will greatly increase opportunities for finding answers that are unavailable with the sum of individual reports. It will
enable a user to compute event outcomes in his or her own familiar framework. Breaking down the stovepipe, the user will be able to quickly draw inferences and suggest additional tasking. He or she will be able to make use of partially processed data as available and consolidate information. Fusion might be used to suggest additional tasking, inferences, and associations.
BENEFITS OF IMPROVED INFORMATION FLOW: AN EXAMPLE FROM UNDERSEA WARFARE
Chapter 2 discussed the types and limitations of METOC information as applied to undersea warfare (USW). Although USW is only one of many mission areas for which network-centric operations will enable better interaction between METOC and its warfighter, it is discussed here in greater detail to provide a concrete example. The following section, therefore, discusses how some of these limitations may be addressed, in part, by improved information flow via tactical decision aids (TDAs) intended to aid operational commanders. For passive systems there are two major environmental concerns for estimating SE (signal excess) for a sonar: TL (transmission loss) and beam-level ambient noise. Predictions of TL are now done with SFMPL and PCIMAT or with narrowband solutions to the wave equation that can handle range dependence. The environ-
mental database is supported by MODAS and geoacoustic products such as GDEM. Ambient noise levels use several databases—HITS for shipping densities, ANDES, and DANES. While good for regional predictions in deep water, ambient noise can be very dynamic if near shipping and fishing, local biological noises, and weather-induced levels. Active systems rely on scattering strength measurements.
The fundamental question is how environmental information and TDAs are now used. Summarizing the experience of many users, including officers, it must be stated that there is not a high degree of confidence in the predictions because they often do not agree with the measurements. There are several possible reasons for this:
The current TDAs are not robust and do not handle uncertainty and sensitivity to environmental data well. Robustness, sensitivity, and uncertainty are basic research issues and not simply a question of more detailed surveys.
SFMPL output and PCIMAT output are not easy for a nonacoustician to use and understand.
There are acoustic propagation modeling issues, especially for bottom-interacting paths and reverberation.
There are gaps in the databases for important regions.
Ambient noise models are not adequate.
Another concern is that uncertainty is not adequately captured or portrayed; thus, in many instances the operator will develop a false sense of security when using them.
Once predictions are proven to be unreliable, overall confidence is eroded. As a result, operators may lack confidence in accurate predictions, where environmental conditions and adequate data yield predictions with acceptable low degrees of uncertainty. Prediction codes are just one of many components in the decisionmaking process. Nevertheless, if progress is to be made in exploiting environmental data, this issue must be addressed as the operator views it (i.e., through his sonar) and not as a tabulation of environmental variability. Acoustic uncertainty is what really matters for sonar, not environmental variability. Presently, there is a very large gap between what the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) perceives as the capabilities of its prediction tools and what the users and operators perceive. The interactive and parallel communication that lies at the center of network-centric operations would greatly enhance the role of user feedback, even on submarines, where interactions must, by their nature, be intermittent.
For submarine operations there are several issues where environmental information is not being provided or used as well as it could be. The first is that in discussing this with submarine commanders there seems to be a disconnect between what NAVOCEANO perceives and what the submarine commanders
perceive. NAVOCEANO provides predictions that are stated to be good to ±2 dB; however, operators, based on practical experience, do not share this level of confidence. Some of this can probably be attributed to the cost metric used for establishing the fidelity of TL in the prediction codes.
Use of environmental information is two sided. First, TDAs, which can be used easily and which contain some insight into the complexities and uncertainties of acoustic propagation, are needed. Producing a number for TL is not very useful in itself. What is useful is to understand how it can be changed by how a submarine commander operates his submarine. On the other hand, submarine commanders need to invest time for feedback with NAVOCEANO and devote time for training in the use of the tools. Right now there is an unacceptable gap between the two.
One glaring omission in these bases is that data from other Navy sources (e.g., Office of Naval Research [ONR] experiments are not routinely used, even though they probably have the best environmental controls when done). There are many issues yet to be resolved before there can be high confidence that a beam output that the submarine uses is well predicted, even if TL is only approximately correct.
The importance of improving prediction tools cannot be understated. Recommendations include the following:
The gap in perceived expectations must be reconciled. This can only be done with joint participation by NAVOCEANO and OPNAV, with the emphasis on actual sonar performance attained and that predicted.
The problems of robustness, sensitivity, and uncertainty need attention from NAVOCEANO and within both the basic and applied research communities of ONR.
There needs to be much greater awareness of the chain of oceanography to acoustics to signal processing in the development of TDAs. OPNAV is replacing the legacy sonars with modified commercial off-the-shelf acoustics (ARCI) systems.1 Future environmental information needs to match the requirements of the ARCI systems.
Methods for incorporating the outputs of in situ sonar to provide feedback on the quality of TDA predictions need to be developed.
Address the problem of the appropriate scales of environmental data needed for operational sonars.
Develop methods for archiving original acoustic and environmental data acquired from ONR experiments. (This is fundamental especially in areas such as the South China Sea where NAVOCEANO’s access will be limited.)
An analysis of the current information flow between the METOC community and its customers suggests there are areas where the existing information flow appears to be inadequate or mismatched to user needs. Based on this and previous National Research Council studies, it appears that, by leveraging network-centric business principles in these areas, it is likely that uncertainty can be substantially reduced and/or that accuracy and timeliness can be improved. The greatest benefits of network-centric business principles are derived when (1) improved spatial and/or temporal resolution can substantially reduce uncertainty, (2) confidence in the outcome can be improved through information fusion, (3) the METOC process can rapidly respond to additional or modified tasking, and (4) the risks and uncertainties in outcomes can be stated in the user’s framework.
Two major findings can be derived from the information flow analysis. First, the current METOC information flow for its two primary missions, Safe Operating Forces and Enhanced Warfighting Capabilities, is generally a one-way stovepipe; the customer requests and receives a product but has no intermediate data access or visibility into the process.
This one-way stovepipe process works reasonably well for delivery of global gridded model output and for general forecasting services derived from model output. However, for a variety of reasons, stovepiped information flow is substantially less effective for products designed to enhance warfighting capabilities. Warfighters and weapons systems require tailored products, and they require them rapidly and/or at higher spatial resolution, especially when changing military and environmental conditions need to be predicted on a compatible timescale.
The second finding is that there appears to be an impedance mismatch at the interface between METOC products designed to enhance warfighting capability and the end-user weapons systems. Although responsibility for this mismatch may rest with the warfighter, it is recommended that the METOC community take aggressive action to address it. If left with the warfighter, a solution may be developed that does not optimize the use of environmental information to reduce the warfighter’s uncertainty.
It is recommended that network-centric business principles be applied to the METOC information flow for products intended to enhance warfighting capabilities. Network-centric operations will enable uncertainty of outcomes to be quantified and to be presented to the end user in his context. Network-centric operations will also enable uncertainty to be reduced by increasing data sources,
enabling fused decision logic and integrated rapid response to changing environmental and military conditions.
As discussed in Network-Centric Naval Forces, the implementation of network-centric operations does not start from a zero base. The naval forces are faced with transforming today’s systems—including “legacy” subsystems, new ones entering service or under development for future service, and also elements of subsystems of other services, national agencies, and possibly coalition partners—into new, all-inclusive systems. All of these subsystems and their components must be able to operate together, even if they were not originally designed to do so. All must be accounted for in devising network-centric concepts of operation and in designing the systems that will support them.
One of the greatest problems in shifting from today’s platform-centric operational concepts to tomorrow’s network-centric operational concepts is being able to ensure interoperability among the subsystems and components of the fleet and the Marine forces as well as joint and coalition forces. The forces can operate to their full potential if all subsystems and information network components can operate smoothly and seamlessly together. In the current context “interoperability” does not necessarily mean that the characteristics of all subsystems and components must match at the level of waveforms and data formats. Interoperability means that the subsystems must be able to transfer raw or processed data among themselves by any means that can be made available, from actually having the common waveforms and data formats to using standard interfaces or intermediate black boxes enabling translation from one to another.
Ensuring interoperability will be a very complex and technically intensive task involving network protocols, data standards, consistency algorithms, and many other aspects of networking design as well as numerous procedural matters. The subsystem mix will evolve and will be different from the one that exists today.