Army program keeps watch on commanders' networks

Operational Data Collection and Analysis program monitors systems with vital battlefield information

In the era of digital warfare, conducting combat operations is kind of like driving a car: all the systems have to coordinate on the move. The electronics and communications systems that comprise the networked brigade are like the drive train of an automobile, functioning together as a whole for forward movement.

"Each component has a unique functionality, but work in concert to enable the warfighter," said Kim Ploskonka, chief of the Army Systems Engineering Branch at the Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). "We need to ensure, from the network perspective, that all the systems can interoperate in the theater and under stress."

To accomplish that, CERDEC's Operational Data Collection and Analysis program (ODCA) monitors and manages Army networks, detecting potential problems that could bring down network connectivity critical to combat operations.

"The network is the commander's eyes and ears for all his assets, whether that's a Humvee or a soldier," Ploskonka said. "ODCA monitors the health and status of the brigade, helping with situational awareness and relaying location and satellite information. We can identify the issue and characterize it, then optimize for network availability."

Initiated by the Army CIO/G-6 Office to support the expeditionary Army at war, ODCA is the non-intrusive mechanism -- meaning it doesn't interrupt network activity -- used to collect operational network data in the field, then analyze the data to see how networks react to different scenarios, such as use at a home station versus use in combat, according to Ploskonka. It also analyzes network data like chat communications and message traffic. The system highlights problems that could interfere with effective network management and assures security, she added.

"Without the network, the commander can't make the informed decision he needs to make," Ploskonka said. "This tool provides full understanding for informed decisions."

To that end, ODCA uses modeling to troubleshoot for various "what if" situations, such as the introduction of new systems to the network or distress scenarios. "This way, we can work to proactively predict network issues," she said. "It's about network survivability, and that's a big part of the Army."

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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