By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 24, 2014) — Soldiers who have used the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, both on and off the battlefield, say that with adequate training, it’s an intelligence game changer.
Sgt. Troy Thatcher is one such user and proponent.
While deployed with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan, he was a junior analyst on a tactical intelligence ground collection team. He described how DCGS-A helped make his unit’s mission a success.
Thatcher, then a specialist, went on daily patrols with the infantry, where he gathered intelligence. He then uploaded that data into DCGS-A, a system he said he used effectively.
At the time, he said he thought he was playing just a small part in the intelligence-gathering process and he didn’t see the “big-picture” view of the system.
Later, he learned that his data, when processed using the tools within DCGS-A, provided one of the many important pieces of the intelligence picture. He said DCGS-A conveys critical battlefield snapshots to brigade, division and corps commanders to aid in their decision making.
Thatcher added that software tools within DCGS-A enable the analyst to format their information in any number of ways and that data to commanders can be presented in easily-understood formats, including tables, graphs and charts.
Today, Thatcher works on DCGS-A geospatial-intelligence integration, training and development in Melbourne, Fla. He said he now shows others how valuable their inputs are to the intelligence gathering system and he thinks that helps motivate them to want to better understand and use it.
The key to being able to use DCGS-A easily and effectively, he emphasized, is to have proper training.
While proper training ensures successful use of DCGS-A, not everyone gets the same training opportunities and problems inevitably arise, he said.
Sgt. Gregory Galperine, another DCGS-A user, said when he deployed to Afghanistan as a fusion/targeting analyst with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Div., his unit didn’t receive all the training because of the high pre-deployment operations tempo.
As a result, he said his brigade commander authorized the use of other commercial software. However, he said, DCGS-A was still the underlying architecture or framework for the intelligence gathering system used.
When Galperine returned from Afghanistan, he got the DCGS-A training that he missed out on. As a result, he was able to design a two-week field training exercise for his battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C. He said that exercise provided valuable training for his junior analysts.
Galperine said that training with DCGS-A is ongoing, however. Like marksmanship training, he said, DCGS-A requires a refresher now and then “because if you don’t use it, you can lose it.”
Galperine explained that training for DCGS-A can be divided in two parts. First, users learn the “buttonology” portion. That includes learning the tools and what buttons to press to make things happen. Soldiers also learn the military intelligence aspect, which includes getting DCGS-A to produce the desired result from all the intelligence data gathered.
Intelligence data ingested and processed by DCGS-A comes from multiple sources, including Soldiers on patrol, aircraft, and manned and unmanned sensors. The DCGS-A system connects and manages these intelligence-gathering resources in a networked grid that spans the globe. Soldiers use its fusions servers to process intelligence data and support multiple mission objectives.
DCGS-A manages streams of information flowing back and forth throughout the “enterprise,” and additionally has access to and uses information provided by similar systems in use by sister services. When needed, DCGS-A also interacts with intelligence systems used by partner nations.
With DCGS-A, intelligence now “resides on shared servers so everyone can access the same baseline of information,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Adrian Robertson, an all-source intelligence technician at Project Manager DCGS-A, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Robertson, who has been doing military intelligence for 19 years in the Army, said in the past, intelligence systems had their own unique data feeds and repositories. In many cases, systems couldn’t communicate with each other. He termed it “stovepiping.” With DCGS-A, that is no longer the case.
During a deployment to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Div., Robertson used DCGS-A and described it as a “revolution in military affairs,” because of the automation DCGS-A provided compared to the previous legacy systems he had experienced in his career.
While Robertson said DCGS-A is not perfect, he said he has noticed significant improvements since he first started using it, and stated those improvements are mostly driven by feedback from Soldiers in the field.
His team of contractors — former Soldiers who used DCGS-A while deployed themselves — see the feedback every day, and he said they incorporate a lot of it into new software releases.
There are several ways, he said, that feedback is processed. Besides the after action review mechanisms that are in place following training, Soldiers can also access the DCGS-A User Forum, where they can ask questions, provide feedback to help other Soldiers, or share new ideas.
In effect, the forum, which stood up about a year ago and is hosted by the Ground Intelligence Support Activity, has become a community for the users where ideas can be driven from the bottom up. System engineers monitor the forum and respond to technical questions.
Robertson said he’s impressed with the creativity of today’s breed of analysts, who he said thrive in their outside-the-box thinking and are more technologically savvy than ever before.
Thatcher shared some other examples of innovative solutions junior analysts provided, including a creative way of getting a TV feed to interface with other systems in DCGS-A. That solution was incorporated into the system.
Innovative solutions can be shared and incorporated in a matter of hours. A junior Soldier really can make a difference, Thatcher said.
Thatcher said user feedback was responsible for an important system-wide update that is being rolled out called “Hunte.” Hunte, he said, is replacing the Griffin software, which he said users complained was too complex and difficult to use.
“You can ask any analyst who worked on both systems and they’ll tell you there’s a huge improvement from Griffin to Hunte,” he said. “And it won’t stop there. The PM is constantly collecting and testing feedback to look for ways to incorporate it.”
Training and education are what most concerns Thatcher. He explained that even the best system won’t work unless the user has the necessary knowledge and expertise.
The Army’s goal, Thatcher said, is to get everyone’s training completed before they go to the national training center or joint readiness training center. He added that this is becoming more doable as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues and battle formations stabilize.
The biggest challenge now, Galperine said, is getting the word out to commanders that the training is necessary and time needs to be allotted for it.
“It comes down to command emphasis,” he said. “Leaders must seize the opportunity.”
He said it’s also up to his own team and every analyst to get the word out to their leaders that the training is valuable. He said they must also explain how success in using DCGS-A can ensure mission success.
Galperine said that with proper training, Soldiers can develop “muscle memory” with DCGS-A, where usage becomes automatic, similar to the muscle memory a Soldier acquires with his or her rifle.
“Commanders and MI leaders also need to start incorporating DCGS-A into daily operations to mitigate training deficiencies,” Robertson said, “Several units are already doing this.”
Besides incorporating new software and solutions into DCGS-A — which is still in the developmental stage — plans are already underway to incorporate national strategic guidance into its framework, Robertson said.
The Army’s strategic vision now calls for full-spectrum operations, he said. Engineers and technicians are developing new programs to meet anticipated threat characteristics like force-on-force.
One new application currently fielded with Hunte, the Threat Characteristic Workcenter, will help build order-of-battle charts and better track conventional units in the hybrid threat environment, he said.
But ultimately, Robertson said, the success or failure of DCGS-A boils down to good leadership. Leaders must give analysts the time needed to train, and commanders must take ownership of the system.
Army educational outreach to build science, technology, engineering and math talent helps grow the workforce of tomorrow
By Mr. Jeffrey D. Singleton and Ms. Andrea Simmons-Worthen
The Army employs more than 800,000 military and civilian personnel, 96,000 of whom occupy science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM) positions, according to Defense Manpower Data Center classifications. Of that 96,000, more than 16,000 are world-class scientists and engineers within the Army’s 16 laboratories and research centers. These scientists and engineers develop leading-edge technologies and advanced capabilities that give our Soldiers, the Army’s greatest asset, the decisive advantage in the face of our adversaries and keep them safe from harm.
Broadly defined to include jobs such as technicians that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, science and technology (S&T) occupations make up 21 percent of the nation’s workforce, and that percentage is increasing steadily, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The Army and the nation have a growing need for highly qualified, STEM-literate technicians and skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, logistics, management and other technology-driven fields.
But the need for STEM literacy—the ability to understand and apply concepts from science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to solve complex problems—goes well beyond the traditional STEM occupations of scientist, engineer and mathematician. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that in the next decade, 80 percent of jobs will require STEM skills, yet only 16 percent of college students pursuing bachelor’s degrees will be specializing in STEM fields.
Emerging mission requirements further complicate the challenges for the DOD STEM workforce. Multidimensional and cross-disciplinary STEM competencies are essential to supply technical talent in our research centers for emerging fields as well as to provide STEM-literate talent for the research and analysis work that the Army does continually across every field. In other words, the Army must prepare human capital for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented. The success and sustainment of this STEM infrastructure depends on the STEM-literate community to support innovation, further adding to the demand for STEM talent and accentuating the STEM challenge.
The growing demand for STEM competencies, the global competitiveness for STEM talent and the unbalanced makeup of STEM fields have led to President Obama’s call for an all-hands-on-deck approach to the STEM challenge. Developing a highly competent STEM workforce requires partnerships among government, industry and academia. The Army makes a unique and valuable contribution to the national STEM challenge by providing access to its world-class technical professionals and research centers for students and teachers.
The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) manifests the Army’s STEM education strategy to ensure enduring access to highly qualified U.S. talent. AEOP provides a coordinated portfolio of STEM programs across S&T commands as well as government, university and industry partners. It offers students and teachers a collaborative, cohesive array of programs that effectively engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent from kindergarten through college, thereby exposing students to STEM careers in DOD.
Using the Army S&T workforce as mentors (either directly or through a near-peer mentor model), as well as our laboratories and research assets, the Army strives to build a diverse, well-prepared, STEM-literate talent pool to supply current and emerging workforce needs. This strategy, directed by HQDA, allows the Army to capture measures of success, identify program gaps, leverage resources and defend a sustainable STEM infrastructure.
A STUDENT’S STORY
A young scientist’s experience illustrates the powerful potential of AEOP.
Saumil Bandyopadhyay, a freshman at MIT, didn’t wait until graduation from Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Va., to begin developing novel technologies for use by cutting-edge organizations.
Bandyopadhyay became interested in optical processes in semiconductors at a young age, after reading about photodetectors and their use in lifesaving applications such as car-collision-avoidance systems, mine detection, night vision and missile defense. After learning about the challenges of making infrared photodetectors, he set out to solve one of the problems: to create a photodetector that could work at room temperature. He immersed himself in research over two summers. Bandyopadhyay’s dedication to the problem, several days a week, resulted in four peer-reviewed journal publications (he is lead author of two) and a provisional U.S. patent for his discovery of a novel photodetector.
His research—under the mentorship of Dr. Gary C. Tepper, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University, where Bandyopadhyay’s father, Supriyo, is Commonwealth Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering—led to a new capability: a universal photon and particle detector built with semiconductor nanowires that can operate at room temperature and detect the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Its infrared detectivity is at least 10 times higher than that of other state-of-the-art equipment.
Bandyopadhyay focused on making his detector ultrasensitive, rugged, reliable, inexpensive and mass-producible. Potential applications include detection of buried mines, monitoring of global warming, radiation therapy and homeland security.
In all, Bandyopadhyay spent an estimated 1,600 hours on the project, all before his senior year. He immersed himself in research starting in seventh grade, including several years at the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center in Alexandria, VA, through an AEOP high school internship initiative, the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program. He plans to major in electrical engineering and enter a career as a scientific researcher. By supporting Bandyopadhyay with the mentorship and facilities to expand his knowledge and allow him to explore solutions, we have capabilities today that we did not have just a couple of years ago.
While every student who takes advantage of AEOP’s programs isn’t necessarily a Saumil Bandyopadhyay doing cutting-edge research in middle school, exposure to the STEM field and STEM professionals is critical to growing the next generation of STEM-literate young men and women who will form the Army’s workforce of tomorrow.
Looking at the STEM challenge, John W. Gardner, former U.S. secretary of health, education and welfare, captured it best: “We don’t even know what skills may be needed in the years ahead. That is why we must train our young people in the fundamental fields of knowledge, and equip them to understand and cope with change. That is why we must give them the critical qualities of mind and durable qualities of character that will serve them in circumstances we cannot now even predict.”
For more information on the AEOP, go to www.usaeop.com. For more information on the STEM challenge, see the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report “STEM”; and “An Interim Report on Assuring DoD a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce,” by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council.
MR. JEFFREY D. SINGLETON is director for basic research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology (DASA(R&T)). He holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering from West Virginia University and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. Singleton is Level III certified in science and technology management and Level I certified in test and evaluation.
MS. ANDREA SIMMONS-WORTHEN of Camber Corp. supports the DASA(R&T) as a senior program analyst. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Eastern Washington University.
- Previoulsy published in Army AL&T magazine (Jan-Feb 2014 edition).
Assessments enable commanders to optimize energy, operational effectiveness
By Edric Thompson
When it comes to power and energy, Army research and development (R&D) continually seeks to develop solutions to increase performance, reduce consumption, increase efficiency and ensure power availability. However, the benefits of innovation cannot be leveraged to their fullest potential if the power grid is not set up properly, which may lead to redundancies, waste and safety issues. Unfortunately, in theater, this is the case more often than not.
In August 2012, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC) electrical engineers Noel Pleta and Jennifer Whitmore deployed to Afghanistan in support of Project Manager Mobile Electric Power (PdM MEP) where they served as power assessment engineers on a team responsible for assessing and improving the energy stability of forward-deployed units throughout Afghanistan. What they found were conditions so poor that they had to overhaul several combat outposts (COPs) and village stability platforms (VSPs) just to lay a sound power and energy foundation before implementing the new operational energy plans.
“Many of the COPs were on their last leg of generator power causing them to shut down their sustainment of life support systems and focus on the tactical support systems. We found that backup power for tactical operation centers [TOCs] wasn’t consistent. If the TOC goes down, the mission is compromised as well as the Soldiers’ safety, and that’s a priority. That’s why it’s so important to do it right the first time,” said Pleta.
The assessments, which included a detailed layout of the area, the state of current power sources and power consumption rates, allowed them to tailor optimized power grid plans, design new distribution systems, replace legacy systems with more efficient equipment, fix electrical issues that posed safety concerns and implement energy improvement plans that supported quality of life measures such as dining facilities and latrines.
“We need to view energy requirements as a commodity and focus more on decreasing demand in addition to the efforts to increase supply.”
For 13 years, the CERDEC Command, Power & Integration (CP&I) Directorate has used its in-house government expertise in support of PdM MEP to perform approximately 100 power assessments, both inside and outside of the United States, for the Army, Navy and Marines. This work has supported TOCs, COPs, VSPs, combat support hospitals, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) platforms and technologies and other military tools that require power.
During this time, CERDEC CP&I has developed a unique set of assessment capabilities and methodologies that not only inform commanders, but help them to design, build and implement optimized tactical power grids.
“Successful missions require us to consider energy from planning through execution. Power assessments enable commanders to improve operational effectiveness by understanding how to optimize power requirements,” said Edward Plichta, Power Division chief for CERDEC CP&I.
“Knowing how much energy Soldiers need is important, but we also need to know where the redundancies and unnecessary drains exist. We need to view energy requirements as a commodity and focus more on decreasing demand in addition to the efforts to increase supply,” Plichta said.
ASSESSING POWER NEEDS
Power assessments begin with a detailed data collection process that includes a site survey of all the equipment. CERDEC CP&I works closely with PMs and units to gather requirements—such as power distribution systems, layouts, wiring diagrams and existing and projected equipment and assets—and combines these with manufacturer data to help determine their power profile. This aids in producing solutions with right-sized generator sets and optimized environmental controls, which are particularly important as environmental control units consume 60-70 percent of all energy used at a COP or forward operating base (FOB). Analysts use the assessments to generate a database that can be referenced and adjusted to the solution set or assessment if further optimization is required.
AutoDise, a planning tool jointly developed by CERDEC CP&I and PM MEP, enables commanders to plan more efficient grids by allowing them to generate virtual before-and-after layouts of COPs, VSPs and FOBs. The user enters relevant data—such as the number of tents, servers and anything that uses power—and the software projects the overall power and fuel consumption per hour.
“It can also determine power distribution configurations, the cables that would be required for wiring and whether units are utilizing the existing generator set properly,” Pleta said. “We’re training instructors at Fort Lee [Virginia] so they can teach Soldiers and generator mechanics on how to use this unique capability in theater. Meanwhile, we’re beta testing version 7.0 now and hope to release the upgrades next year.”
CERDEC CP&I engineers then generate and implement an optimized solution set that includes the AutoDise layouts, equipment lists and fielding plans—all of which can be adjusted as needed. Everything from before-after configurations to the types of equipment on site is documented and rolled up into a report that is given to the unit, providing the commander a full record of system layouts should he choose to the duplicate system.
But a power assessment is more than just a method to estimate the power consumption of tactical operations centers, platforms and systems; it’s a capability that uniquely positions the R&D community to help the Soldier, Pleta said.
“Power assessments allow engineers first-hand experience to see how equipment is used in the field versus how folks in the lab think it is going to be used. They also provide a more accurate load profile that helps in projecting fuel savings and other theoretical calculations. We feed this documentation back into the R&D process so we can chronicle efficiencies, gauge fuel savings and determine the size or type of grid needed,” Pleta said.
Since 2012, CERDEC CP&I has supported PM MEP forward power assessment teams in rebuilding 31 COPs and 35 VSPs in theater. As a result of CERDEC team efforts with PM MEP, COPs and VSPs are using more energy efficient generator sets, which has reduced fuel consumption across the fleet by 21 percent . Units are able to log energy and fuel consumption, track maintenance frequency and note trends.
“The smaller bases in theater sometimes have poorly managed power sources and improper or unsafe electrical distribution. The equipment modifications resulting from CERDEC-supported assessments have led to significant savings in acquisition and operational savings during this period. In one example, a COP that was totally dependent on aerial resupply saved 93 gallons of fuel per day. This is equivalent to 42 air drops of 800 gallons each. CERDEC personnel were critical to the successful completion of this PM MEP effort,” said Christopher Bolton, chief for PM MEP’s Technical Management Division.
CERDEC CP&I will continue this critical support and provide immediate in-theater solutions as well as continued PM support in this area.
CP&I engineers have also extended power assessments to the Soldier in order to collect information regarding the actual individual and squad requirements during a mission. Using these data points as a performance baseline, CP&I engineers will identify redundancies and areas where consumption can be reduced.
“We’re uniquely qualified to examine the suite of C4ISR devices that the Soldier requires, and we see a gap where we can provide value added by conducting power assessment to validate those requirements,” said Jonathan Novoa, power management thrust lead for the CERDEC CP&I Power Sources branch.
As with the small base power grids, the Soldier power assessments will be used to develop novel solutions to lessen the overall Soldiers burden.
“We’re looking for ways to manage and decrease the power draw of that equipment through intelligent load management and enhanced situational awareness. We want to enable our Soldiers to make energy-informed decisions on the battlefield so they can manage the availability and consumption of energy on their person just like they currently do with food and ammunition,” Novoa said.
(Tara Clements contributed to this article)
By Ray K. Ragan
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Jan. 30, 2014) – The Army’s Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) recently conducted a large scale technology demonstration of a new radio waveform here.
“We wanted to conduct a full scale, by that I mean an Army brigade’s worth, [demonstration] of radios exercising [and] characterizing the performance of the wideband networking waveform,” said, Joe Sweeney, test engineer for the Army’s Product Manager, Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (PdM MNVR).
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing.”
MNVR is a radio system that provides a robust, large-scale networking capability within a large unit, like an Army brigade, from the Soldier to the senior leaders. During the demonstration, a new radio waveform was shown capable of both data capacity and the ability to handle many network users. The demonstration showed the waveform was able to communicate between a smaller unit, like a company, and a much larger unit, like a brigade.
“This amounted to 88 radios in ground platforms and one radio in a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter,” explained Sweeney.
To support a demonstration of this scale, EPG was selected because it offers 1.6 million acres of testing space through the Buffalo Electronic Test Range and its accessibility to radio spectrum. EPG is a favorite among testers in defense and commercial industry because of its access to radio spectrum in a very quiet radio spectrum environment.
“We needed an area with the ability to deploy vehicle assets in a large representative geographic area with a lot of allowable bandwidth. We also needed a site with established test capabilities—by that I mean testing networking capabilities,” said Sweeney. “EPG provided all of that.”
EPG, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is the developmental testing ground for the Army’s communication and network technology. Among test management, planning and reporting, EPG offers other rarer test requirements like radio spectrum and a varied geography, including mountains, valleys and plains.
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing,” explained Mark Butler, the test officer at EPG for the demonstration.
“Once you have a clean spectrum, you can add things [interference] to it, or degrade it, but you can’t take a noisy spectrum and clean it up, so that makes EPG unique in that aspect.”
According to Butler, EPG worked with PdM MNVR on other projects and tested for PdM MNVR as early as 2005. This creates the advantage of understanding the program and any unique requirements that a PM may have.
“I’m in a fortunate position, because the PdM [MNVR] brings me into their integrated product team meetings, and EPG was part of the planning staff from concept initiation,” said Butler.
We looked at the requirements between the different PMs [PdMs]. We came up with some of the things we thought the PMs wanted to see, figured how we could put that into a relevant environment to see how it [the waveform] works.”
To date, this demonstration was one of the largest that EPG conducted at Fort Huachuca. In addition to 89 ground and air-based radios, the demonstration also used 104 channels of the wideband networking waveform to show that the waveform was capable of handling a large unit communicating.
“It [demonstration] was a semi-realistic scenario,” said Butler, “we actually came up with a scheme of maneuver that made sense, from staging areas, moving out, your recon people going out, we had all the movements in place to what you’d expect across the range.”
According to Sweeney, EPG demonstrating the waveform was an important enabler for advancing the radio program.
“This was a real teaming effort with a lot of cooperation from the Army ground and aviation community,” he added.
By Claire Heininger
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The Army is introducing a more efficient process to produce the digital “glue” that ties together the network architecture for the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs).
The new method is not only faster, but also provides greater flexibility as the Army adds industry systems to the network baseline for evaluation and incorporates capability improvements for each NIE event. By automating key parts of the process used to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network, the Army is also setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks.
“We shaved off several weeks of production time while delivering a better result to support the NIE,” said Randy Young, the Army’s project director for Tactical Network Initialization (PD TNI), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “And it’s only a first step – what we’re doing for NIE will also be a proof of concept informing improvements to how Data Products are delivered and used across the force.”
Data products are a collection of mission data required to initialize the Army’s network, enabling the flow of digital information between different communications systems. PD TNI builds a unique Data Product for each Army unit, taking into account its specific mission, personnel footprint and mix of networked mission command systems.
Building data products for the NIE, however, poses a more complex undertaking than building them for a typical unit. While the Army’s usual 12-week production process was designed to deliver a complete, “set in stone” product – when the interoperability of a deploying unit’s network hinges on it, there is no margin for error – the NIE architecture is, by its nature, always changing. Systems are added to or subtracted from the evaluation list for a particular NIE. Vendors unfamiliar with Army network protocols need time to adapt their systems to Army standards.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks”
“The NIE requires a lot of flexibility because it’s an experiment, and also has systems from outside the Army connecting to the network,” Young said. “The network evolves over time as we get closer to each event.”
But the need for accuracy doesn’t go away – it is amplified, given that the NIE provides operational test data for programs of record, validates the Army’s network baseline for fielding and collects Soldier feedback on promising industry capabilities.
“If the data product is broken, there will be major issues at the actual event,” Young said.
For previous NIEs, the PD TNI team took the Army’s network systems architecture or “horseblanket” in NIE parlance, and manually translated it into the data products production environment by essentially re-creating a graphical depiction of the brigade network. Engineers spent weeks on quality assurance measures to ensure they accurately transferred the horseblanket and captured ensuing changes.
The new process, launched for the upcoming NIE 14.2, eliminates the need for recreating the horseblanket by automatically translating the horseblanket data into the production database. Once the initial legwork is complete, changes are detected automatically and can be pinpointed and implemented more efficiently. After the systems are aligned, the tool then automatically generates the address attributes and assigns them the internet protocol (IP) addresses required to actually communicate over the network.
Together, these changes allow PD TNI to produce accurate data products for an NIE in less than 12 weeks and better accommodate the need for flexibility.
“It allows us to start the build later, and for future NIEs we’re aiming to get even faster,” Young said.
The production techniques pioneered for the NIE will inform the Army’s processes used for fielding data products more broadly. The NIE is also serving as a test bed for new capabilities that give units the ability to adjust their network architectures due to operational changes. In the past, requests to change data products would be sent back to PD TNI, and the unit would wait weeks or months for a new set to be sent back to the field.
With the warfighter initialization tool (WIT) as part of their initialization tool suite, units can make updates to data products much faster at the brigade level, improving situational awareness and better enabling the unit to meet its mission. After successful evaluation at several NIEs, the WIT began fielding to operational units in 2013. At NIE 14.2, the Army will build on that progress by demonstrating the ability for a battalion’s worth of upper tactical internet mission command applications to “self-initialize,” or automatically re-create the information that allows them to connect to the network.
These improvements are considered interim steps to a long-term data products solution that will enable full “dynamic initialization of command and control applications,” Young said.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks,” he said. “Through the process and capability enhancements shown through NIE, we are absolutely on the right path.”
By Allison Barrow and Joyce Brayboy
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Fuel is the second largest transported item in the field next to water. As a result, fuel truck convoys that deliver fuel are vulnerable to enemy attacks, which have resulted in loss of money, time and lives.
To combat this problem, scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command are working to lessen the reliance on fuel truck convoys by reducing the amount of military fuel, called jet propellant 8, or JP-8, the Army needs in theater and improving the efficiency of its use.
One way they are doing this is through reforming JP-8 so that it can be used in efficient portable energy systems, like fuel cells and other novel power sources, which primarily operate on hydrogen or other cleaner fuels.
“The goal is to take the logistic fuel that’s already all over the battlefield, that’s there and available to the Soldiers, and convert it to something that can be used in smaller and renewable systems,” said Steve Slane, RDECOM’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, Command, Power and Integration (CP&I) Directorate, Power Generation and Alternative Energy Branch chief.
Engineers and scientists from CERDEC, along with RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center are working to reform JP-8 and integrate it into systems so it can be converted seamlessly and locally.
“Fuel reforming is one of those leap-ahead technologies that could allow JP-8 to be transformed into valuable fuels that can be used and generated on the battlefield forward. So instead of shipping propane and methanol and kerosene and gasoline, why not reform JP-8 locally to power those systems?” said Slane.
The process of reforming fuel entails high-temperature catalytic reactions that covert a liquid fuel, in this case JP-8, into a lighter, gaseous fuel.
This comes with two main challenges because of the sulfur contained in JP-8 and its complex composition, said Dr. Terry DuBois, subject matter expert in fuel reforming and combustion in CERDEC CP&I’s Power Division.
First, sulfur can deactivate catalysts, which means it can limit the life or poison catalysts during the reforming process and make it inoperable. Second, sulfur can accelerate carbon formation, where solid carbon particles form in the reactor, clog the flow of the reactor or deactivate catalysts and cause it to fail, said DuBois.
“Those are two big challenges for us in reforming; how do we transform JP-8 to a hydrogen-rich stream and deal with the two mechanisms for killing the reactor?” said DuBois.
This fuel transformation effort is a main focus for CERDEC, TARDEC and ARL.
The challenge is developing a practical fuel reformation process for better energy conversion that would have to be portable, quick and easy to use, said Dr. Zachary Dunbar, an ARL fuel cell team member.
Dr. Dat Tran, ARL fuel cell team lead, has tested at least 300 different combinations of materials during the last four years while he has been investigating fuel reforming with the team, he said.
“JP-8 is a complicated and dirty fuel. The sulfur is a huge problem because it can hurt the fuel cells,” Tran said. “Sulfur has many different compounds that behave differently. The compounds in sulfur make it hard to find an agreeable material.”
While ARL conducts the basic research of fuel reforming, CERDEC integrates the basic research into a system and evaluates it, while also performing further research and development of fuel reforming materials.
“Both of the efforts that we have ongoing are focused on addressing desulfurization of JP-8, and ARL is pursuing complimentary R&D on unique materials for sulfur absorption. In addition, ARL is looking at membranes that can selectively separate hydrogen from the gaseous reformed fuel stream so that you have a pure hydrogen stream,” said DuBois.
“CERDEC’s in-house program is looking at catalytic materials. So we have ongoing research work evaluating different catalytic materials and how well they stand up to chemical compounds found in JP-8. We are also evaluating sulfur absorbent materials and processes on a long-term basis,” said DuBois.
TARDEC also works in fuel reforming by integrating it into fuel cell power systems.
“The main applications are combat and tactical vehicle Auxiliary Power Units, silent propulsion for unmanned ground systems and extending the silent range of electric vehicles for scout or reconnaissance missions,” said Kevin Centeck, TARDEC Nonprimary Power Systems team lead.
“TARDEC is also investigating the requirements for a fuel reformation system to be integrated with a commercial automotive fuel cell stack, which could help reduce cost and increase reliability of fuel cell power systems,” said Centeck.
CERDEC, ARL and TARDEC collaborate on their fuel reforming efforts for the Army through fuel cell test and integration working groups with other Defense Department partners through quarterly program and design reviews.
CERDEC is taking fuel reforming one step further by working to integrate its efforts into its Energy Informed Operations, or EIO, initiative, which aims to make power systems “smart” by enabling “smarter” monitoring on the systems as well as integrating them into a smart tactical microgrid.
This smart technology will enable and inform Soldiers with data such as, “How much fuel do I have left? When are the fuel trucks coming next? What’s my energy status?” said Slane.
“The efficiencies gained by using grid data to control power and inform operations will increase availability and reliability of power while reducing the burden of fuel logistics, storage and cost,” said Slane. “CERDEC CP&I is uniquely qualified to cover all this because we have our mechanical engineers who are working fuel reformation and combustion but we also have engineers within the mission command community here working on intelligent micro-grids through EIO.”
RDECOM will continue to work to address the challenges with fuel reforming and integrate it into a full power system that can then be transitioned to the field.
“Reducing the amount of fuel is really a goal of what this organization is about,” said Slane. “Fuel reforming is one of the key technology areas that will enable us to reduce fuel on the battlefield, reduce the amount of truck convoys, the amount of storage needed and the cost of operating in austere environments.”
Standardized Measures of Performance Framework enables consistent assessment of Army network capability
By Mr. Michael Badger, Dr. Dennis Bushmitch, Mr. Rick Cozby and Mr. Brian Hobson
“The testing of complex networks and their capabilities can be time- and resource-intensive, with minimal potential to reuse the test event’s capability.”
The Army’s adoption of the Agile Process to enable rapid technology insertion led the three agencies charged to execute this process—the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Brigade Modernization Command (BMC) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT))—to organize as the TRIAD and develop the needed measurement framework.
The TRIAD intended that the measurement framework would establish consistent, reusable, traceable, standardized performance and effectiveness metrics across the Agile Process. More specifically, the TRIAD envisioned that this framework would preserve resources and reduce risk in planning and executing the culminating activity of the Agile Process, a Network Integration Evaluation (NIE).
The testing of complex networks and their capabilities can be time- and resource-intensive, with minimal potential to reuse the test event’s capability. Testing without well-defined analytic objectives and repeatable measures of performance (MoPs) can waste time and money. Furthermore, without an Armywide objective standard for test and evaluation (T&E) metrics, the results will be less than compelling for senior decision-makers. Different organizations supporting the Agile Process and NIE events often misinterpret, inappropriately apply or reinvent the current set of network-related MoPs for each application (e.g., a T&E event).
The complex system-of-systems (SoS) solutions that comprise the Army’s network demand a measurement framework with traceable and credible measures, encompassing the interaction among various network layers; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems; and the technical requirements that underpin them. Beginning with the FY12 NIE events, an enduring MoP Framework emerged as a potential solution standard, developed by ASA(ALT), ATEC, BMC, the federally funded research and development center MITRE Corp., and subject-matter experts (SMEs) from the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T).
The MoP Framework, which the TRIAD has used successfully and has matured during the planning and/or execution of five NIEs, achieves the following:
- Standardizes the terms of reference for each individual MoP and its application.
- Defines instrumentation considerations and practices in support of MoPs.
- Enables organizations using the MoPs to establish traceability to credible source documentation (operational and analytic requirements).
- Allows organizations to determine the gap(s) in MoP availability, application maturity and definition in a visual manner through the use of graphics.
- Allows organizations to re-prioritize the MoPs within each graphical representation according to analytic engineering or T&E requirements.
- Allows simple, graphical communication of T&E and analytic requirements among organizations from an operational perspective and at multiple levels (system, SoS, mission command tasks and operational effectiveness).
- Standardizes the units of measurement.
- Mitigates the errors in interpretation, instrumentation, and data collection, reduction and analysis approaches.
The key new concept introduced in the enduring MoP Framework is called a MoP map.
Figure 1 represents such a map for an operational capability category and subcategory. (See definitions in Figure 2) Figure 1 also illustrates the inclusion and alignment of various reference attributes, such as layers, data types and source MoPs. SMEs and organizations create and tailor different MoP maps for different operational capability subcategories, systems and/or SoSs within a subcategory.
The vertical axis of the MoP map relates top-level mission effectiveness MoPs to lower-level waveform, spectrum and radio frequency (RF) MoPs. The horizontal axis relates operational mission threads, applications, information exchanges and data types within a given system or SoS operational capability category. The attributes along this horizontal axis allow for MoP alignment to a variety of mission threads (i.e., call for fire); applications and information exchanges (i.e., message type); and data types (i.e., voice and video).
The MoP Framework employs several reference attributes to support the standardization and traceability of requirements. These attributes, as Figure 2 shows, correlate to credible operational capability categories and subcategories, align to layers of user application, are traceable to data types, and feature a source reference set of credible and established metrics. The MoP map accomplishes the following functionality:
- Aligns MoPs to operational capability categories and subcategories, enabling credible application to operational systems.
- Maps MoPs to user application layers, allowing flexibility.
- Enables traceability of MoPs to application data types, enabling their reusability and completeness across operational capabilities.
- Aligns credible, applicable and reusable metrics, increasing efficiency across a user community from multiple organizations
- Establishes relationships among different MoP maps by cross-referencing graphical tools
- Provides a powerful graphical representation tool for traceability to the parent operational requirement and MoP
- Provides a simple reference scheme for easy identification and traceability of MoP types, the MoP system layer and the operational capability type.
- Establishes and standardizes definitions and units of measurement.
The MoP Framework developers identified, developed and defined a set of operational capability areas that encompass the potential system—Capability Set (CS), System Under Test, System Under Evaluation and network capabilities envisioned as part of the Agile Process. Figure 2 defines these operational capability areas and categorization, and depicts a unique numbering schema for each subcategory to preserve originality and allow for traceability.
The intent of these defined operational capability categories is to align operational gaps with projected needs and requirements into operational capability categories, and to establish, define and employ consistent, credible and reusable metrics. These metrics, in turn, inform and characterize the performance and effectiveness of operational capability to satisfy defined requirements. Because these metrics have different attributes that they must align to and support, the MoP maps were developed with three different attribute alignment considerations: network layers, data types and MoP sources, as follows:
Network layers—Layering is an accepted approach to focusing and constraining the complexity in technical network analysis. The complete set of MoP Framework layers include: mission effectiveness; mission threads; application; Common Operating Environment (COE)/security; network routing/quality of service; network transport; waveform; and spectrum/RF. The vertical axis of “layering” in the MoP Framework in Figure 1 has evolved and matured through application to include high-fidelity measurement needs at the bottom of the axis (i.e., spectrum, RF and waveform), transitioning to lower-fidelity measurement needs at the top of the axis (i.e., mission effectiveness and mission threads).
Data types—As depicted in the generic MoP Framework, several data types within each operational capability subcategory could apply to different MoPs. The horizontal axis in Figure 1 relates the various operational mission threads, applications, information exchanges and data types toward one another within a given system or SoS category. The traceability of MoPs within data types between different operational capability subcategories allows analysts to cross-reference MoP maps.
Measures of performance sources—In developing the MoP Framework and the individual MoP maps, the TRIAD leveraged a body of work led by the TRADOC Analysis Center to identify a framework for Agile Process analytic requirements. (See Figure 3.) This analytic framework established a hierarchy of operational issues and essential elements of analysis, allowing for a credible and traceable source of MoPs.
Figure 4 shows the application of the MoP Framework methodology to the Mission Command (MC) Display Hardware operational capability subcategory.
As depicted in Figure 5, the performance MoPs are predominantly in the area of SoS operational issues. Figure 5 also depicts the evolving and maturing capability of the MoP Framework maps, as the MoPs for the COE/security layer have yet to be developed and coordinated.
Each MoP has a unique number. This numbering schema allows analysts and evaluators to leverage the MoP Framework for MC Display Hardware and import the information to event- or system-specific data source matrices, while still maintaining the traceability and origin of these MoPs.
By identifying and aligning MoPs for each operational capability subcategory, the MoP Framework provides credible and traceable metrics for analysts that are reusable across Agile Process activities and between organizations in support of a particular application (i.e., event). This reusability is based on repeated application of operational capability and the repeated need to measure operational performance and utility.
The standardization of a MoP Framework Armywide will promote cost avoidance by reducing the re-creation of testing objectives and streamlining instrumentation planning. The implementation of a unified MoP Framework will also give greater validity to the operational relevance of testing. Analytic requirements exchanged between organizations using this standardized construct provide for clear cost-evaluation guidelines, prioritization and traceable evaluation.
For more information, please contact Dr. Dennis Bushmitch (email@example.com, 410-322-2054) or Mr. Brian Hobson (firstname.lastname@example.org, 913-544-5101).
MR. MICHAEL BADGER is a senior network engineer for PEO C3T. He holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Rutgers College of Engineering and an MBA from Monmouth University. He was a resident senior executive fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2010. Badger is Level III certified in systems planning, research, development and engineering (SPRDE) – systems engineering and is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps (AAC).
DR. DENNIS BUSHMITCH is an inventor and prolific technical author, and has been a chief analyst for several Army programs. He holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of the New York University. He is Level III certified in SPRDE – systems engineering and is a member of the AAC.
MR. RICHARD “RICK” COZBY is the deputy director for SoS engineering and integration within the Office of the ASA(ALT). He holds a B.E. in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University, an M.S. in administration from Central Michigan University, and an M.A. in management and leadership from Webster University. He is Level III certified in program management and in test and evaluation, and is a member of the AAC.
MR. BRIAN HOBSON is a senior analyst, senior program manager and deputy director for Trideum Corp., Huntsville, Ala.. He holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.S. in operations research from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is a lifetime member of the International Test and Evaluation Association and the Military Operations Research Society.
Contributing to this article were Mr. Vince Baxivanos, Ms. Christina L. Bouwens, Dr. Melanie Bragg, Dr. Nancy M. Bucher, Ms. Karen Drude, Ms. Diane Eberly, Mr. Derek Erdley, Mr. Na Gaither, Mr. Omar Gutierrez, Dr. John Harwig, Mr. Anthony W. Harriman, Mr. Michael S. Jessee and Dr. Chris Morey.
By The Close Combat Weapon Systems Project Office
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — Engaging the enemy effectively without a clear line-of-sight is an ongoing challenge for Soldiers serving in small, outlying posts in theater. One solution is the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS), a not-within-direct-fire-line-of-sight, single-use munition system that is launched from a small tube. The entire system is carried in a Soldier’s backpack.
Equipped with optical sensors, LMAMS transmits live color video wirelessly to a display on a ground control unit. The technology allows the Soldier to find the enemy and ensure positive identification before engaging. LMAMS deploys within two-minutes and can fly for up to fifteen minutes.
The advantages? Increased support and lethality while limiting unintended damage.
“It is a very sophisticated bullet with eyes,” said Bill Nichols, acting product director for LMAMS at the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems (CCWS) project office.
Fulfilling a Requirement
LMAMS is the product of an Army requirement submitted to the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) in January 2011. The request for an improved aerial munitions system was based on the results of a limited Block 1 Switchblade assessment, completed in the fall of 2010. Switchblade was the most mature technical solution available at the time. LMAMS, the resulting upgraded capability, includes an enhanced day camera and the addition of an infrared camera for night operations. It also comes with a tailored training package.
“… With all the limitations on resources, this team has performed a superb job in their ability to produce the kind of efficiencies that made it possible to get this system into theater rapidly.”
“Once the development work was completed, we took that configuration and put it through an extensive production verification test to ensure reliability of the system and to basically ‘shake out’ the system,” Nichols said.
That shaking out of the system included more than 100 test flights for the LMAMS. Once the test flights were completed, full-system munitions were produced and vetted through safety confirmation tests. The tests included limited environmental testing, electromagnetic interference testing and full, live firefight flight tests. Once LMAMS was deemed safe for use by Soldiers, the Army started equipping the system to support operations in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in August 2012.
“By partnering with the REF, we were able to deliver the capability to Soldiers in combat within14 months of receiving the original requirement” said Nichols.
Bill Ruta, program manager for CCWS added, “This has been a shoestring operation. With all the limitations on resources, this team has performed a superb job in their ability to produce the kind of efficiencies that made it possible to get this system into theater rapidly.”
Although the aerial munition is designed for non-line-of-sight targets, it’s categorized as a direct fire asset. When the munition reaches the target, the cameras on LMAMS allow the Soldier to have “eyes on” the target, which provides the required positive identification. If the situation or target changes, then the operator can wave the munition off and either continue to view or re-approach the target or look for a secondary target.
“It is one of the few—if not the only—munition that can be moved off of its intended target, directed to a safe place, and detonated or destroyed after it is launched. There is no other munition in the inventory that I am aware of that allows us to do this in real time and with such precision. It limits unintended casualties and collateral damage,” Nichols said.
LMAMS has allowed Soldiers to engage the enemy in the open, in narrow village corridors, or where other civilians are present within a small radius of where the target is to be engaged or neutralized. In instances where the primary target has been lost, the Soldier has been able to divert the munition to a secondary target or detonate, preventing civilian casualties.
LMAMS is ground-launched from a static position at a forward operating base or at a small post in a ready-to-fire or standby mode. In the future, it may be possible to have several munitions fired from a pod in an effort to provide base defense or to have the system launched from a vehicle.
“I’d say that with this type of munition and capability, although we have learned a lot, we are at about the second day of the Wright brothers’ first flight. We’ve got that much left to learn with this once we put it into the hands of the great Soldiers we have,” Nichols said.
Feedback from Soldiers who’ve used the munition is critical in determining the future of LMAMS, and there are systems in place to ensure that CCWS can collect crucial data. CCWS is already looking at feedback from each engagement and identifying potential improvements. There are also two formal field operating assessments going on as part of the feedback processes. These assessments, along with the individual engagement feedback process, will provide CCWS information critical to determine any future material changes, methods of employment and more effective system training.
“We’re getting all of that great feedback because Soldiers are always brutally honest,” Nichols said. “That’s exactly what we need in order to continue to evolve LMAMS.”
By T’Jae Gibson, Army Research Laboratory,
Public Affairs Office
Army researchers are building a portable drug detector that, soon, could help military and civil law enforcement agencies throughout the country more quickly catch synthetic drug abuse.
The Army Research Laboratory’s prototype biosensor model is expected to directly detect the active chemical substitutes that help “fake pot” fade from notice in commercially available synthetic cannabinoid detectors. It would be the first field-ready test on the market.
In 2012, the Army Criminal Investigation Command conducted 1,675 investigations involving Soldiers and spice, bath salts, or other synthetic drugs, according to a May 2013 Army Times article.
ARL is collaborating with ACIL on this work, as synthetic cannabinoids are a rising threat that burdens their case-load. Currently there are no fieldable detection systems to perform analysis on the spot and tests are sent back to ACIL for evaluation. ARL is attempting to build a sensor that is not only portable, but can detect an ever-changing culprit.
“Garage chemists” sneak their concoctions of chemically laced kitchen herbs past detectors law enforcement use today, because those biosensors are designed to find a specific molecule. “But there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid variants, so a sensor that detects one specific synthetic cannabinoid that is seen on Spice or K2 would be quickly outdated as these types change regularly,” said Dr. Mark Griep, principal scientist on the project, who works in the Composite and Hybrid Materials Branch in ARL’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.
Griep joined with Dr. Shashi Karna, an Army senior research scientist and noted international expert in nanotechnology, to form a team of government and academic scientific investigators in building a detector that “will be able to detect the whole “class” of chemicals that have an affinity for the cannabinoid receptors in the brain,” Griep said. These are the receptors that are targeted by the drug and induce its effects. “Therefore, even if entirely new synthetic cannabinoid molecules are created, they are created to activate these receptors, so our sensor will be sensitive to them.”
This work builds upon the fundamental bio-nano science conducted at ARL and the Michigan Technological University in 2008, where a joint team of military and university researchers developed a unique opto-electronic hybrid system based on the integration of quantum dots with the highly functional protein bacteriorhodopsin, and revealed the fundamental science and mechanisms behind their interactions.
Based on this hybrid bio-nanomaterial, researchers were able to patent a system they developed that could selectively target a material, and when that target binds to the sensor it induces a change in the proteins electrical output.
With this understanding of the materials, ARL was able to develop a unique sensing platform that is amenable to functionalization towards a wide variety of airborne or liquid targets. The base platform is very generic and could be tailored it to a multitude of sensing needs, explained Griep.
“Although this bio-nano sensing platform wasn’t developed with drug sensing in mind, this program leverages our bio-nano sensor expertise towards a specific drug testing problem. The fact that our sensor platform has the potential to be small, lightweight, user-friendly, and fieldable in addition to being generic enough to be tailored towards synthetic cannabinoid detections made it a unique fit to fill this specific drug detection need,” Griep said.
Synthetic marijuana arose from the “unfortunate manipulation of science far outside the intended purpose” to study the effects of cannabinoids on brain functioning and their efficacy in treating pain, Griep said. Several cannabinoid compounds were created to help advance the treatment of serious ailments like multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer.
The protocols of basic science to communicate findings in open literature, namely the “Materials and Methods” section, “became a shopping list and recipe for garage chemists with ambitions straight out of AMC TV’s Breaking Bad. They laced natural herbs with these molecules and advertised the product as a legal alternative to pot, with the further come-on that this substitute could not be detected in drug tests. At the same time, a warning label said the item was not for human consumption as a way to skirt watchdogs like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said Griep, who first created new biosensor platforms for a DARPA-funded project in 2008.
He is tailoring bio-nanosensing platforms he created to build the synthetic cannabinoid detection platform. His research team at Michigan Technological University and ARL won the Paul A. Siple award for their efforts in Bio-Nanoelectronics at the Army Science Conference in 2010.
Griep said traditional drug-focused sensors are focused on two aspects. Finding the synthetic cannabinoids before use, which is what the ARL model is being designed to do, and detecting the drugs after use and after they have been processed in the body, which is when urine and hair analyses come into play.
“Although detecting the drug after it’s in the body is standard for normal marijuana and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol ] metabolites, it is hard to implement for synthetic cannabinoids since a lot of research is required to find out how each specific chemical is processed in the body. This is has been figured out for a few synthetic cannabinoids, but the problem comes back to the hundreds of variants of these synthetics. A new test would need to be developed for each variant,” Griep said.
There is plenty of research available that gives a sense for the complexity of the “system to process chemicals in your body. So even if there’s a single atom or bond change in the material, the entire pathway could change. Thus, the end product, or what ends up in your hair or urine, could be greatly different. Every synthetic cannabinoid has a different structure or functional group arrangement, so it will be processed differently in the body,” Griep explained.
The Department of the Army banned the use of synthetic marijuana for Soldiers in 2011. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense approved the addition of synthetic cannabinoids to the approved random testing panel within the next ninety days, said Buddy Horne, drug testing manager for the Army Substance Abuse Program.
Synthetic cannabinoids are substances chemically produced to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. When smoked or ingested, they can produce psychoactive effects similar to those of marijuana and have been reportedly linked to heart attacks, seizures and hallucinations. Some abusers reported marijuana-consistent effects such as sleepiness, relaxation and reduced blood pressure, but others have reported symptoms not common with marijuana abuse such as nausea, increased agitation, elevated blood pressure and racing heart rates.
The Michigan Technological University expects to deliver to the Army a unit to house ARL’s biosensor technology in December.
ARL expects to deliver a functional prototype ACIL by the end of 2014, but until then, Army researchers will work with collaborators from the National Institutes of Health, ACIL and the DEA to test its efficacy using real-world synthetic cannabinoid samples.
If it works well, Griep said, this device could quickly roll out to military police and civilian law enforcement agencies around the country.
ACIL is responsible for all the forensic investigation work within the DoD. In the case of synthetic cannabinoids, whenever the military police comes across a suspicious sample or there is a synthetic drug case involving military personnel during an investigation, the contents of the sample must be evaluated and proven at ACIL.
“Since there aren’t any field tests, all the characterization and analysis is done at ACIL. There are a tremendous amount of potential synthetic cannabinoid related cases, so there’s quite a workload of samples arriving at ACIL,” said Griep.
“If there was a good field-able sensor – our work’s goal – capable of allowing law enforcement to determine if the suspicious package contained synthetic cannabinoids or not, then the ACIL workload would be cut down since only samples that actually contain synthetic cannabinoids would be sent back for analysis.”
By Kathryn Bailey
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –One of the first technologies to transition acetate map information into a digitized format for information-sharing in Iraq and Afghanistan is now setting the stage for the Army’s progression to simplified, web-based mission command capabilities.
As part of the latest fielding requirements for Command Post of the Future (CPOF), the Army’s primary system for viewing and sharing mission command information, Soldiers at this fall’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, will perform a Limited User Test (LUT) to assess CPOF’s reliability and overall contributions to mission success. A successful LUT will provide CPOF with the Army’s Full Materiel Release (FMR) designation and will supersede the Urgent Materiel Release (UMR) designation that allowed critical system capabilities to continually reach Soldiers during wartime.
“We are pleased to finally put CPOF through a formal operational test because we have a decade’s worth of success stories from the field,” said Col. Jonas Vogelhut, the Army’s project manager for Mission Command, in which CPOF is assigned. “We are also using Soldier feedback to keep improving CPOF as the foundation for the next generation of mission command technologies.”
The CPOF LUT will be part of an NIE that has been scaled to meet the needs of the Army within budget constraints. In past NIEs, more than 3,800 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) assessed systems during live exercises. At NIE 14.1, only certain elements of 2/1 AD will be deployed to the field, while the remainder of the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) will use simulation and modeling in live, virtual environments for some of the smaller tests and evaluations.
For example, the Army will gather data from Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Riley, Kan., with the headquarters at the division level at Fort Riley and the brigade at Fort Bliss. The key aspect of this test will be to gauge the operations of CPOF between the two locations over the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) network backbone. Successful operations between the installations will be a strong indicator of successful operations over real-world operational distances, such as from Afghanistan to Kuwait.
Another key measurement for CPOF at NIE 14.1 will be its performance in both the command post and on-the-move in vehicles equipped with a WIN-T Increment 2 Point of Presence (PoP).
The CPOF LUT also verifies the system’s readiness to field as part of the Army’s Common Operating Environment (COE), which is an Army-approved set of computing technologies and standards that is allowing secure and interoperable software application development across several computing environments. A standardized environment will yield lower development costs, improve interoperability and allow for easier system maintenance.
“It has been exciting to watch CPOF’S modernization as the Army shifts towards technologies that will reduce both complexity and cost, and NIE 14.1 is right in step with these parameters,” Vogelhut said.
CPOF is the primary common operating picture (COP) viewer used by the Army in all theaters, combining feeds from different mission command systems to provide a broad spectrum of information that commanders and staff members can use to collaborate. It has provided much needed capabilities during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), where CPOF-equipped units have been able to plot real-time tactical efforts like firefights on a three-dimensional map, and instantly see the updates that staff members make to those efforts.
“We call CPOF’s capabilities ‘WYSIWIS’ or ‘what-you-see-is-what-I-see,’ said Lt. Col. Thomas Bentzel, product manager for Tactical Mission Command, assigned to PM MC. “That is because all the data is live and shared in real time.”
With its latest release, CPOF is providing the next-generation architecture that enables entire theaters of operation to collaborate on a single distributed data repository with thousands of CPOF users. It also provides a “disconnected, intermittent, limited” (DIL) capability, allowing individuals and units to disconnect from the network, continue to conduct mission command operations using CPOF, and then reconnect and resynchronize with the repository. DIL capabilities provide uninterrupted operations in the event of a network outage or the requirement to rapidly relocate a command post.
As mission command capabilities mature, CPOF is providing a thin client version of CPOF, called Command Web, that enables the Army and third-party developers to develop and field applications or “widgets” that represent the warfighting functions of maneuver, fires, intelligence, sustainment and protection. These web-based technologies will eventually reach across all of the Army’s computing environments, as part of the COE, and will provide a standardized, streamlined experience that will enhance the commander’s collaborative planning abilities.
“CPOF revolutionized the concept of the COP, and now the commander is seeing how powerful integrating web-based warfighting systems into one environment can be to enhance his decision making capabilities,” Vogelhut said. “By integrating systems we also simplify them, making them easier for Soldiers to understand and use — and in times of reduced resources, we gain tremendous efficiencies through both equipment costs and training burdens.”