A Deliberate Exercise in Dynamic Data Collection Increases Speed and Efficiency

August 2012
Topics: Counterterrorism, Military Intelligence, Collaborations, MITRE's Systems Engineering Role
A two-part collaborative exercise shows that a new Air Force operations can be accelerated by combining a deliberate process with dynamic requests.

Two terrorist groups are under surveillance by Caruban government forces. One group is in the woods near the Caruban border; the other occupies the police station and bank in a small town in the mountains northwest of the country's capital. At the request of the Caruban government, the U.S. Air Force is conducting airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Two MQ-9 Reapers, an MQ-1 Predator, and an RQ-4 Global Hawk collect intelligence from high altitude.

While Caruba is a fictional country, the simulation described above uses real-world data. Currently this type of data collection is "stove-piped," a term that means you have limited ability to collaborate across service or organizational boundaries. Data flow is also limited, which is less than ideal if you need the information in real or near-real time. Faster would be better.

Faster and better is exactly what Ray Modeen's group showed in a recent two-part exercise in MITRE's Composable Operations Center Lab on the Bedford, Mass., campus. Participants included the 102nd Air Operations Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and Charles River Analytics, a company that develops computational intelligence software.

A Head-to-Head Comparison

Modeen is a systems architect in MITRE's Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance division. The exercise explored how an intelligence-gathering method called Deliberate and Dynamic ISR Management, or D2ISRM, could be improved and speeded up. "Deliberate" refers to methodically developing a collection plan over the course of a day or more. "Dynamic" refers to responding to ad-hoc collection requests as quickly as possible.

Greg Quinn, a MITRE principal information systems engineer, led the development group. The team played a crucial role by enabling the Air Force operators and Charles River Analytics to work together successfully. The team built the environment for integrating and demonstrating the D2ISRM software, including a chat translator, a data source framework, and the REACT simulation engine. The REACT simulation unveils the actions of the Caruban government forces in real-time over two hours.

D2ISRM is a collaborative effort sponsored by the C2 Constellation program at the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB. The effort is in cooperation with an Air Force Research Laboratory/Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

"Currently, as the operators receive various ISR requests, they have many different decisions to make—which assets have the right tools for the job, which assets are available at the time they're needed, and what is the best way to connect the dots on the map," says Perry Villanueva, C2 Constellation program manager. "With D2ISRM, we're trying to give them better tools to allow for some semi-automatic decision making that helps reduce stress and non-value-added work."

The two-part exercise involved collecting intelligence the standard, manual way and comparing it with a new method that uses Charles River Analytics' software, Perceptual Sensing and Information Displays (PERSEID). PERSEID speeds the ISR collection process by presenting options to the operator. The software integrates deliberate and dynamic capabilities, which, among other things, enhance command and control of ISR through decision-support algorithms.

Better by a Factor of 10

To make the simulation as realistic as possible, the participants from the 102nd Air Operations Group included a senior intelligence duty officer, operational duty officer, intelligence duty officer, and an airspace operator. This team is part of an Air Operations Center Combat Operations cell.

"Currently, an operator plans out perhaps 10 different scenarios incorporating various data, such as effective route planning, weather, if there are hostiles in a certain area, airspace restrictions and more," says Villanueva. "From those 10 options, he or she narrows it down to a subset to decide from. With PERSEID, we want the operator to be able to skip the part with the 10 options and be able to have it whittled down to the few best."

Throughout the exercise, large wall displays enable team members to see what others are doing and discussing. The displays include chat rooms, a PERSEID screen, and a common operational picture that shows an aerial view of the terrorist movements in Caruba. The real-time displays give team members time to analyze the situation and prioritize options more quickly.

By measuring and comparing the manual exercise to the automated exercise in the MITRE lab, the team showed that the D2ISRM software improved ISR operations by 10 times or better. In comparing the ad hoc automated method with the manual method of the previous day, one team member described the increase in efficiency as a "leaps and bounds" improvement.

A display showing time-to-target eliminates the guesswork of figuring out, for example, whether a Predator or Reaper in the same area would be the first to reach a target. "The time-to-target is a huge help because if I wasn't looking at the screen, I would figure the Predator would reach the target first because it's closer," said one of the operators from the 102nd. "In a tight situation, you want to get there faster, and the Reaper is actually the best choice in that situation."

Faster and More Economical, Too

Modeen notes that the collaborative effort between MITRE, the Air Force, and Charles River Analytics was an efficient use of public funds. That's because an SBIR program already paid for the PERSEID deliberate planning software. Modeen heard about the SBIR program a few years ago when he was working on an earlier research project, called Improved C2 of ISR.

"It was matter of making good use of taxpayer dollars," Modeen says. "With a modest incremental investment on the original SBIR contract we were able to deliver both a deliberate and dynamic ISR management capability to meet a warfighter need."

The next step is to install the capability as part of the Air and Space Operations Center Weapon System limited early install at Newport News, Va. Once a wider audience has evaluated it, the team's goal is to transition the capability to the military.

—by David Van Cleave


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