Army Consolidating Applications For Better Commonality, Interoperability
The U.S. Army’s Project Manger Battle Command (PM BC) is working vigorously to “collapse” the boundaries separating various applications from one another and to engineer a consolidated product line aimed at increasing interoperability between capabilities, such as fires, maneuver, sustainment, airspace management, and air defense, service officials said.
“We have a lot of systems in a command post. All of those systems make it very complex for the commander and staff to perform their critical functions,” said COL David Moore, PM BC, within Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical.
The BC Collapse Strategy consists of ongoing efforts to consolidate the tactical server infrastructure and develop two core software architecture frameworks from which future applications can be built, Moore explained. The two frameworks are BC Workstation, referring to the creation of a common software architecture, and BC Web, an Internet-based solution aimed at enhancing collaboration, interoperability, and analysis for users.
A Simpler Approach
Through BC Web, users will be able to access the operational capabilities of the PM BC systems through a Web-enabled environment.
“Battle Command Collapse is trying to simplify command and control applications. Over time I am looking to migrate each individual system into a common support structure, a common look and feel, and a common presentation for the commander and staff. The goal is to simplify the command post from a user’s perspective and reduce complexity,” Moore said.
For instance, under the current BC system, staff officers in the field often have to manually extract data from one system or application and re-enter it into another. When the BC Collapse Strategy comes to fruition, that will no longer be necessary; staff officers will more easily be able to access a common operating picture that includes a host of key BC applications and capabilities.
Much of the consolidation centers around an application called Command Post of the Future (CPOF), a command and control visualization tool that populates a computer screen with icons representing key combat-relevant information such as troop locations and moving map displays.
With common system approaches we are enhancing interoperability so that each system has a common look and feel, so I don’t have to sit on one application and do my logistics tasks and then worry about how I get that information over to my maneuver application.
CPOF is providing the foundation architecture for the BC Workstation, because it enables users to collaborate and share data in near real time, in turn enabling senior commanders the ability to review shared data with subordinate units. As the “collapse” strategy continues to evolve, Battle Command Workstation will contain even more information including fires, logistics, sustainment, and airspace management, Moore said.
“With common system approaches we are enhancing interoperability so that each system has a common look and feel, so I don’t have to sit on one application and do my logistics tasks and then worry about how I get that information over to my maneuver application,” Moore added.
Some current BC applications will collapse more quickly than others. For example, all of the logistics-related information available through BC Sustainment and Support System may not need to inform BC Workstation screens in the near future, whereas fires capabilities from the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System is expected to migrate to BC Workstation, Moore explained.
Tactical Airspace Integration System, a Battle Command application designed to de-conflict airspace for commanders, is also expected to collapse capabilities into BC Workstation, Moore said.
In addition, Army officials plan to merge BC infrastructure efforts with intelligence data collected by PM Distributed Common Ground Station-Army, an intelligence-gathering computer system. Army program managers and engineers are also consolidating the BC infrastructure with PM Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, a satellite network designed to link static command posts with vehicles on the move in real time.
“The idea is to bring together intel data with ops data as part of a common presentation,” Moore said.
- KRIS OSBORN is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.