DOD plans a Quantum Leap with new capabilities

'We no longer have hours or days' to coordinate data, Defense's John Osterholz says.

Olivier Douliery

Two network-centric initiatives are designed to boost the speed and interoperability of intelligence gathering and dissemination

The Defense Department will field a pair of network-centric initiatives in Iraq to help post-war efforts.

The two programs were among 13 prototype initiatives DOD tested last month to improve intelligence gathering and dissemination.

Soldiers will see an immediate benefit in deploying Basic Language Translation Services and the Collateral Space initiative, said John Osterholz, DOD's director for architecture and interoperability. The translation service provides for rapid interpretation of memos, newspapers and other documents. 'You scan it in, and there is a real-time translation back to English,' he said.

The Collateral Space offers data stores and enterprise services. It is ready to receive content, Osterholz added, which means 'we now have for the first time the capability to search the data holdings we have on our' Secret IP Router Network.

The initiatives were tested as part of DOD's Quantum Leap exercise. The demonstration took place at several military facilities, including the Defense Information Systems Agency in Falls Church, Va.; Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in Charleston, S.C.; and McKenna Military Operations Urban Terrain Site at Fort Benning, Ga.

DOD manages the 13 programs as a portfolio, funding joint military intelligence program research, testing, development and evaluation efforts to accelerate the Web-enabling of the applications, said Marian Cherry, DOD's horizontal fusion portfolio manager.

The focus of the program is to implement the Global Information Grid architecture, the department's effort to establish a worldwide IT infrastructure, Cherry said.

'The sum of the capabilities is much larger than the [individual] capabilities,' she said.

Horizontal fusion

The 13 initiatives use Web portlets'programs that respond to requests from users'and online foreign-language translation and computing services to develop a view of tactical operations for real-time collaboration and situational awareness, Defense CIO John Stenbit said.

Stenbit said the demonstration successfully tested a concept called horizontal fusion, in which data is integrated from multiple sources so users can make decisions quickly. Stenbit called the exercise critical for DOD to have the 'intelligence-sharing needed to fight emerging threats of asymmetric warfare and terrorism.'

Osterholz said the term horizontal fusion grew out of the data-sharing shortfalls following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. DOD needed to be able to mine data so that warfighters got information they needed without having to wade through useless data, he said. 'The department collects huge amounts of data, but tends to capture it within a bureaucracy or stovepipe,' Osterholz said. 'The liberation of that data is what we're trying to do.'

Deputy Defense CIO Priscilla Guthrie agreed. Currently, intelligence analysts collect, process and analyze data before pushing it out to users, she said recently.

'People ought to be able to pull the picture that they need,' she said. 'We need to save the data and allow people to pull the data they want when they need it.'

The Quantum Leap exercise is crucial because successful net-centric warfare depends on warfighters getting quick access to command, control, communications and intelligence data, Osterholz added.

'The assumption is that we no longer have hours or days to coordinate between the sensors, the shooters, the communicators and the logisticians,' he said. 'Today, they need visibility of their challenges, and they need it now.'

DOD launched the horizontal fusion portfolio in January, and the work will continue through 2008. The department has received $80 million for the first round of initiatives, Osterholz said. Next August, DOD will host Quantum Leap 2 to test new initiatives.

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