Army takes the lead on Blue Force Tracking system

Army takes the lead on Blue Force Tracking system

Last week, the Army was chosen as service lead for Joint Blue Force Situational Awareness and was charged with devising a system investment plan and method to build a combined architecture that meets the requirements of Joint Forces Command's operational architecture for Blue Force Tracking.

With an August deadline, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council directed the Army to develop a joint funding proposal for tracking warfighters and weapons systems for fiscal 2006 through 2011.

On May 12, JROC also established an integrated team, led by the Army but including representatives from all of the services, to report to the Joint Forces Command. JFCOM will provide the Army with the operational road map and joint requirements for an interoperable Blue Force Tracking architecture. The team will then agree on an architecture and the technology needed to build the joint capability.

To build the joint architecture, the Army is evaluating all of the Blue Force Tracking systems now in use and will report any weaknesses in the systems to the joint command, officials said. Many of the systems were installed without an integrated, interoperable architecture, which would supply only a partial picture of the locations of enemy and friendly forces, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, commander of Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic, earlier this month.

The JROC proposal seeks to fix that problem.

'This is to bring all of the Blue Force Tracking devices together in a major architecture,' explained Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle, director of the Army's information operations, networks and space, during an interview with GCN today. Boutelle has been nominated to become CIO when Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello retires in July.

Blue Force Tracking software lets users see troop locations on monitors. Friendly forces are shown on a map in blue and enemy forces are in red.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, BFT helped to digitize the battlefield for ground forces, Boutelle said.

'That turned out to be a great multiplier,' he said. The service will take the lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and create a joint capability, he added.

But the Senate Armed Services Committee still needs convincing.

During a hearing this month, SASC said the military needs a new funding strategy to build a single BFT system to reduce friendly fire incidents, but it is not sold on the Joint Forces Command proposal.

'Although the department has designated the [Army] as the lead service for developing a blue forces tracking capability, the committee is concerned that the effort lacks urgency and is not fully endorsed by the other services or the U.S. Special Operations Command,' the panel wrote in its report on the bill.

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