'User jury' helps Army improve future battle command system
- By Paul McCloskey
- Dec 04, 2013
The Army is adding a sometimes overlooked step in its process for improving battlefield technologies: performance feedback from soldiers who will use the systems under fire.
One of the latest projects to undergo the infantry review is the Joint Battle Command-Platform, which the Army calls the principal command and control system for providing Army and Marines the tactical data necessary to achieve “information dominance over the enemy.”
JBC-P technologies encompass hardware, software and network management systems to support integrated situational performance on the battlefield, according to the Army.
In a recent three-day “user jury” at Ft. Benning, Ga., 90 soldiers used JBC-P in realistic scenarios to send text messages, call for medics and plot enemy movements; afterward, they provided feedback on the user interface, screen size, graphics and other aspects of the system.
Staff Sgt. Scott Harrison, who used an earlier version of the system in Iraq to track enemy positions and spot improvised explosive devices, said the end-user session is a great way to exploit end user experience with the technologies. "I think it's brilliant that they're using soldier feedback to develop JBC-P," he told the Army media service.
"We're the ones with our feet on the ground and who see it every day and use it every day,” added Staff Sgt. Charles Marvel with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
According to the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, soldier feedback has led to the addition of several features to JBC-P, including touch-to-zoom maps, a Google Earth-like interface and drag-and-drop icons.
Slated for fielding this fiscal year, JBC-P will continue to incorporate feedback from the user juries as well as from ongoing operational evaluations at the Network Integration Evaluations, or NIEs.
The Army this month is holding NIE 14.1, the sixth in a series of field exercises that also incorporate soldier feedback to improve and simplify network systems.
"Because we have to strategically conduct these user juries in between NIEs, it allows us to get two different flavors of feedback on a frequent basis," said Dan Dwyer, senior program integrator for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager.
"We work collectively to ensure that evolving systems such as JBC-P meet the warfighters' needs by delivering integrated solutions toward the most critical gaps and then validating these capabilities and requirements with the user."
Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.