Innovative Collaborative Community Helps Warfighters Connect the Dots

January 2010
Topics: Sensor Technology, Radar, Command and Control
Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) systems, which use Doppler radar and sensors for tracking ground-based targets, are in widespread use in active combat theaters.
command and control center

"Think of the kind of air picture that people have seen for years," says Varley Wrick, a MITRE multidisciplinary systems engineer and associate executive director. "With ground moving target indicator [GMTI] systems, you can capture that information on the ground. You can literally connect the dots. What you find are pockets of activity that can be exploited to engage and disrupt the enemy."

GMTI systems, which use Doppler radar and sensors for tracking ground-based targets, can now be found in widespread use in active combat theaters. The results have been highly impressive. GMTI, although still relatively unknown to the public, has been hailed as a powerful data source for helping to keep warfighters safe in the field.

Meeting a Compelling Operational Need

MITRE engineers have contributed to a number of GMTI projects, including enterprise architecture, sensor and platform design and development, algorithms, and tools for GMTI analysis and forensics. The rapidly evolving forensics capabilities continue to enhance GMTI's operational value.

"MITRE has been a pioneer in using GMTI forensics data," Wrick says. "It started with a recognition of the idea that if an analyst looks at the historical data, he or she can see patterns emerge."

As GMTI has become an increasingly important asset in recent years, questions have emerged over the best ways to use, store, and disseminate the data to provide the best advantage to warfighters during active combat as well as post-mission. "How do you warehouse the data, build a communications architecture for using it, and figure out the best ways to use it in real time?" he asks. "These are the issues the stakeholders are facing."

Key Intelligence Source

To help initiate a discussion, in 2006 MITRE invited a wide range of stakeholders to participate in a collaborative, knowledge-sharing group known as a "community of practice" (CoP). The goal of the initial meeting was to address ongoing issues faced by a broad array of GMTI providers and consumers and to improve the GMTI enterprise as it has become a key intelligence source. Stakeholders included representatives from the Navy, Army, Marines, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Air Force and its Electronic Systems Center (ESC), and other organizations.

Since its initial meeting, the CoP has grown to include approximately 350 members. The involvement of senior military members in the CoP reflects a growing consensus about GMTI's value to the warfighter. "There was a collective realization that the entire GMTI tasking-production-dissemination-warehousing chain, which links data producers and consumers, was a critical enterprise capability that needed to be cooperatively managed," says George Rebovich, director of MITRE's Systems Engineering Practice Office and a member of the original CoP launch team.

Members take turns hosting quarterly meetings in which they solve problems in working groups dedicated to data warehousing, experimentation initiatives, training, and other areas. To help raise awareness among senior leadership in the Department of Defense and intelligence communities, the CoP recently created an O-6 Steering Council ("O-6" designates the rank of colonel in military terminology).

In addition to working with external stakeholders, MITRE staff spearhead a number of research and collaboration initiatives. In fact, as many as 30 or more staff from MITRE's Department of Defense Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence FFRDC participate in the CoP from numerous geographical locations. The wide-ranging collaboration promotes diverse technical insight. "The fact that this group is of interest to so many of our customers makes it a unique opportunity for MITRE to have influence at the enterprise level," says Eric Koerner, MITRE's director of integration for the ESC Battle Management Wing, who serves as one of the leaders of the CoP's GMTI planning group.

"We've Evolved"

Since it was initially formed three years ago, the group has continued to evolve its activities. "In the early days of the CoP, we simply shared insights," says Wrick. "Now we've moved on to tackling community-wide problems. We've evolved from information sharing to being more proactive. For instance, the military had not set up a formal process for storing GMTI data, and now the CoP as a community has put together detailed requirements for this, resulting in a more methodical process."

As existing stakeholders continue to call for advanced GMTI capabilities, the community continues to grow. Recently a new stakeholder was added: the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) Task Force, which is an Office of the Secretary of Defense organization responsible for rapidly delivering new ISR capabilities to Iraq and Afghanistan. In conjunction with the ISR task force, the CoP's O-6 Steering Council is working on several initiatives to make the collected GMTI data available to a broader set of consumers.

Ultimately, the CoP's aim is to develop joint service and agency strategies to produce, distribute, and exploit GMTI data to support MITRE sponsors' operational needs. "We'll have achieved several of our near-term goals within the next year or so, but the CoP's work will likely continue for some time," Koerner says. "We'll consider our work a success when the CoP can go away—when it's clear it's no longer needed to connect the data producers to the consumers."

—by Maria S. Lee

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