The future of Project Manager Battle Command: A consolidated approach enhancing collaboration on the battlefield

PM BC looks to connect systems, facilitate better battle command decisions
By Col. David M. Moore and Laura V. Lind

Since 2009, Project Manager Battle Command, part of the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, has been moving toward collapsing its critical fires, maneuver, sustainment, airspace management, and air defense capabilities onto a consolidated Battle Command product line. PM BC is dedicated to supporting rapid delivery of capabilities to the joint land component Warfighter and ensuring units are effectively fielded, trained and supported.

Taking the goal of delivering rapid, relevant capabilities a step further, PM BC obtained feedback from system users to further understand limitations and challenges of the line of Battle Command systems. Current primary Battle Command products include: Command Post of the Future, Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), Battle Command Common Services (BCCS), Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System (JADOCS), Defense Readiness Reporting System-Army (DRRS-A), Battle Command Sustainment and Support System (BCS3) and Global Command and Control System-Army (GCCS-A). PM BC also procures a common hardware computing baseline used by a broad range of Army products and maintains oversight of the Single Interface to the Field, an uninterrupted field support service available to Warfighters.

PM BC has found that although each individual system performs well in the field, provides needed critical capabilities, and shares data with other systems, there are opportunities for improvement. Staff officers remain largely isolated, primarily due to the systems with which they operate. Interoperability and collaboration is typically achieved when Soldiers manually extract data from one system and physically re-enter this data into another system, which can be time consuming and inefficient. In addition, previously all software was blocked for a significant period while a collective capability was built, meaning that battle command software could be irrelevant at the time of delivery.

The Battle Command Collapse Strategy

To rectify these issues, PM BC launched the Battle Command Collapse Strategy to shift the disparate Battle Command family towards a consolidated Battle Command product line. This strategy is identified by two major efforts. The first major effort is consolidating tactical server infrastructure and unifying the tactical solution with the Defense Department's enterprise approach. The second major effort is to develop two core software architecture frameworks that provide an “architecture of record” from which future battle command applications can be built. Within the application effort, the two key components are development of a Battle Command Workstation and integration of capabilities into a Battle Command Web. These two major efforts, referred to collectively as “lines of operation,” are vital to significantly enhancing the ability of commanders and their staffs to effectively conduct collaborative mission planning and execution across a range of operations and the spectrum of conflict.

Also, as part of this strategy, PM BC found it imperative to deliver operationally relevant capability to the field in a timely manner. Thus, PM BC implemented a quarterly release process that informs Army decision makers when emerging capability is expected to be mature, its impact on interoperability, and the organization's method of force upgrade. By implementing 24 quarterly upgrades over the past three years across its product lines, PM BC assures relevant and operational capabilities are delivered to Warfighters while ensuring interoperability and synchronized fielding.

The Lines of Operation
Information Infrastructure

The first primary tier of the Battle Command Collapse Strategy is the consolidation of the server infrastructure. This approach implements the Army's GNEC strategy, which is an integrating construct to bring LandWarNet and battle command programs and initiatives into theater-based alignment and present a single operating environment for Army forces. For PM BC, aligning with this approach successfully leverages enterprise investments and will focus subordinate product offices toward providing specific warfighting development to reduce redundant, costly infrastructure and tactical server burden.

During the past year, PM BC made progress on the infrastructure piece of the strategy by initiating steps to consolidate the battle command infrastructure with PM Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T), the Army's current and future tactical network that will provide mobile communications for the Warfighter and Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), the premier globally networked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapon system. Currently, each of these servers is developed independently of each other. Taking these critical steps towards an integrated approach to data handling and infrastructure reinforces the strategy of unifying product deployment and sustainment.

PM BC’s approach to consolidating capabilities from multiple stovepiped systems onto a single server is expected to enhance collaboration by every measure. The Battle Command Collapse Strategy continues to take significant steps in enhancing product interoperability and consolidation through two core elements of the application framework: Battle Command Workstation and Battle Command Web. By adopting a model that supports innovation, values user feedback, and focuses on rapid delivery of capability, PM BC sets the conditions required for enhanced Warfighter effectiveness.

Two Core Elements of the Application Framework: The Battle Command Workstation

PM BC began the re-architecture of the current family of systems to create a common architecture, called the Battle Command Workstation. CPOF sets the foundation of this platform since it provides users with the capability to simultaneously collaborate and share data among operators in near real time. These features allow senior commanders to quickly review shared data simultaneously with subordinate units, improving overall battlefield awareness.

A second core element of this strategy is that the government will attain general purpose rights to the CPOF source code in the near future. By achieving this, PM BC plans to maximize the ability to compete foundation development and sustainment as well as discrete applications in a more open setting.

Battle Command capabilities such as the AFATDS’s Effects Management Tool (EMT) and BCS3 are in the process of collapsing onto the Battle Command Workstation. During 2010, PM BC deployed the first Battle Command Workstation to units as part of a network integration event to ensure it could meet the needs of the field. Based on the evolution of the Battle Command Workstation from an application to a broader development framework, future collaborative capabilities will be developed and deployed in this environment. Current plans include conducting deliberate estimates additional fires and air defense capabilities from JADOCS, completion of EMT, aviation command and control, and air defense planning to become part of the collaborative environment.

Battle Command Web

The Battle Command Web is a significant advancement in the Battle Command Collapse Strategy. Through Battle Command Web, users will be able to access the operational capabilities of the PM BC systems through a Web solution with the goal of providing users with enhanced collaboration, visualization, analysis and planning using a thin-client, or lightweight, Web-enabled environment. Battle Command Web is expected to reduce the hardware footprint, enhance efficiency for the Army, and increase the maneuver commander and staffs' ability to collaborate across a broad range of operations by extending operational information to any user with network access and a browser.

Based on the Ozone Synapse framework, Battle Command Web is a government-owned, open-source framework. It consists of a third party software development kit, user test and development capability, widget security checklist, widget and training style guides, marketplace hosting and community user support, which allow for a collective, integrated, single environment from development to deployment.

Long-term, Battle Command Web is expected to provide solutions in a single common framework, enabling optimal knowledge sharing, flexibility to innovate solutions and rapid delivery of capabilities for immediate use. In addition, it will support a responsive system engineering approach that aligns with short planning cycles, changing technologies, dynamic requirements, and urgent mission needs. Finally, it is expected to provide a platform that will increase opportunities and encourage modernization for third party developers and users.

PM BC has given the Army an evolutionary strategy that incrementally produces advanced capability while managing acceptable risk along this path. In addition to a cohesive strategy supported by the Department of the Army, PM BC has implemented holistic process improvements that deliver improved capability to better support Warfighters. On the battlefield, commanders assess operations and seek to exploit gains by reinforcing successful actions. The strategy and supporting processes that PM BC is implementing has provided the Army this same opportunity. Reinforcing Battle Command reinforces success.

About this Report

This special report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]