Reprint from the
2004/March/Vol. 3. No. 2
Services jointly pursue ‘Google’-like intelligence-sharing system
BY GLENN W. GOODMAN JR. "stovepipe" systems that operate independently and During the war in Iraq, the Air
send collected sensor data back through their own Force effectively linked a
A minor revolution was set in motion in the ISR and
command and control arena in recent months that
will transform the way the U.S. military services
process, exploit and disseminate sensor data from
their ISR platforms.
specialized ground processing stations and reporting
channels. The flow and correlation of different types
of ISR sensor data, despite improvements by the serv-
ices, still entail a great deal of manual effort and
occur too slowly for today's faster tempo of U.S. mili-
number of global intelligence
exploitation sites through a
great deal of ad hoc, manual
The objective is to establish an Internet-like, global tary operations, in particular for time-critical target-
information-sharing network across the military serv- ing. Moreover, while pockets of cross-service interop-
ices and the defense-intelligence agencies. This net- erability exist, the services' legacy DCGS elements are
work-centric enterprise, called the Distributed not connected.
Common Ground System (DCGS), promises to speed The DCGS Capstone Requirements Document
the flow of correlated intelligence to U.S. forces approved in January 2003 by the Pentagon-level Joint
deployed overseas to bring about unparalleled situa- Requirements Oversight Council described the DCGS
tional awareness and war-fighting effectiveness. goal as "all sensors and ground stations on a common
Previously, ISR platforms for the services have been network creating a shared information environment."
if the processes by which collection, analysis, produc-
tion and dissemination of intelligence were similar to
those that govern contemporary [Internet] Web sites.
... The customer or user -- the military commander or
the intelligence analyst -- defines his preferences by
his selections from menus presented to him at the
Web site. He has access to any information he needs
based on what he needs to know. That information
comes to him directly, rather than through a process
in which there are security limitations that are
imposed due to collection considerations of sources
and methods or by distribution constraints that are
dictated by the originating agency."
"Publish and subscribe" is another term used to
describe how the intelligence-exploitation construct
will function. Users, such as strike planners in an
Air Operations Center, will register in advance to
receive certain types of intelligence. That intelligence
data then will be sent to them automatically as it is
collected and after it is processed.
Network-centric operations are at the heart of the
U.S. military services' transformation plans, with the
goal of attaining an information advantage by inte-
grating deployed forces to share an up-to-date, com-
mon operational picture of the battlefield and to syn-
AIR FORCE chronize their efforts.
The first new Air Force A NEW PARADIGM The services view horizontal integration of ISR sen-
Distributed Common Ground The existing linear, sequential model for the flow of sor platforms, command and control centers and
System will be phased into intelligence has been called task, process, exploit and weapons platforms as an essential first step toward
Deployable Ground System 1 disseminate, with "task" referring to assigning collec- network-centric operations. Stenbit, in a January
facilities at Langley Air Force tion tasks to ISR sensor platforms, such as the Air interview (Page 14), told ISR that senior Defense
Base, VA., in fiscal 2005. Force U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The Department officials agreed to make DCGS a "net-
new concept of handling intelligence data embodied centric poster child."
in DCGS is called task, post, process and use. Cambone, in a November ISR interview, also iden-
For the first time, new intelligence data will be tified DCGS as one of the key programs advancing
posted on the network for early use by authorized horizontal integration and net-centric operations. He
U.S. military users worldwide before the data are also told the ISR conference that month, "We are
fully processed into polished products by specialized making a substantial investment in such systems as
intelligence analysts. Those users will include air- the laser-satellite communications system, the
strike planners, ground commanders and their staffs, expansion of the Global Information Grid, and the
special-operations forces, etc. -- not just intelligence creation of a Distributed Common Ground System,
analysts. along with joint command-and-control systems.
Users deployed in overseas operations will be able These, in turn, are being fashioned into a networked
to "reach back" into up-to-date databases on the glob- operating environment, both for the defense and
al DCGS network to pull fresh U-2 or satellite intelligence communities to share. As this capability
images of specific areas while planning missions. comes online, the need for direct downlinks will prob-
For example, users can look at what they need ably begin to dissipate, as reach-back, both on and
“As information instead of waiting for larger blocks of processed intel-
ligence to be pushed to them regularly whether they
through the intelligence network and the net-centric
environment that is being created, takes hold."
comes in from need them or not, as is the case today. Users also will
post data or images on the network, such as a close- AIR FORCE LEADS WAY
ISR systems, it up digital photo of an enemy facility taken by spe- Each service has worked on its own version of
DCGS, more recently under closer oversight from
will immediately cial-operations forces on a clandestine raid.
As a Defense Department document describes the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office to ensure
be posted on the planned "post-before-processing" construct, interoperability.
DCGS originally meant something akin to a single
"Users/producers post data on the network for use
DCGS Web portal before it is ingested into the conventional processing multi-INT (intelligence) ground station that would
replace the separate ISR sensor-platform stovepipes
for use by other and exploitation processes. Users will have instant
access, as posted data becomes available, replacing and process data from more than one type of ISR
systems and the dissemination notion that focused on 'point-to- sensor. These included: electro-optical/infrared and
synthetic aperture radar imagery, signals intelli-
point' or push of information to specified users."
other services.” John Stenbit, the recently retired assistant secre- gence (electronic and communications intercepts),
tary of defense for networks and information integra- manned tactical reconnaissance images, etc., collect-
MORRIS JOHNSON tion, told Congress last April, "Post before processing ed by manned- and unmanned-reconnaissance plat-
means that access to data for disparate needs is not forms and national satellite systems.
DCGS PROGRAM MANAGER Such single-service, multi-INT processing centers
RAYTHEON delayed by unnecessary processing. Everyone is a
provider and consumer of information. As a provider, will exist in the future. However, DCGS aims to
they have the responsibility to post data before they ensure they are interoperable with those of the other
use or manipulate it; as a consumer they will have services such that intelligence data can flow freely
the technical capability to securely access the data among them along the network, and greater collabo-
they are cleared to access when they want it and in ration can occur in exploiting the data.
the format they need." A new Air Force DCGS upgrade program, called
Steve Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for Block 10.2 Multi-INT Core, leads the way toward the
intelligence and Stenbit's boss, told this publication's multiservice DCGS vision.
ISR Integration conference last November, "Imagine With a little prodding from the defense secretary's
Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Journal March 2004
office, service representatives met last April under Freedom through some very hard manual efforts by a
the auspices of U.S. Joint Forces Command. They lot of airmen putting together some ad hoc things,
agreed to build "data-level" or "data-transport" inter- bringing in some collaborative tools and making it
operability into their separate efforts through a com- work."
mon DCGS Integrated Backbone -- a set of common
interface standards and tools to allow data sharing BLOCK 10.2
and collaboration among the services' different DCGS Morris Johnson, Raytheon's DCGS program man-
elements. ager in Garland, Texas, said, "We're building the
The Air Force subsequently incorporated the other equivalent of 'Google' for the ISR community. One of
services' basic technical requirements into its Block the key elements we will provide is a Web portal into
10.2 contract and made development of that multi- the DCGS system that a user in any service will have
service backbone a key part of it. access to through the various classified networks that
On Oct. 3, the Air Force Electronic Systems Center are available today."
at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., awarded the $161 The post-before-processing concept will be imple-
million initial DCGS 10.2 contract. The winning team mented in DCGS 10.2.
is led by Raytheon Intelligence and Information "As information comes in from ISR systems, it will
Systems of Falls Church, Va., and Garland, Texas, immediately be cataloged and posted or published on
with key member Lockheed Martin Integrated the DCGS Web portal for use by other systems and
Systems and Solutions of Denver. Also, BAE Systems other services," Johnson said. "An external user will
of San Diego, and General Dynamics Decision have the ability to search the Web portal, based on a
Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz., are involved. number of search parameters, to get any intelligence
The contract has a potential value of $360 million. or information that's available throughout the net-
(Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems filed a work-centric enterprise.
protest of the contract award with the General "What occurs today, with U-2 imagery as an exam-
Accounting Office on Oct. 10, but no decision had ple, is that an Air Force DGS site at one location
been made as this issue went to press.) receives that imagery, and all that is made available The Common Ground Station
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force to external users is the exploited report-level infor- is one of several Army legacy
operated an embryonic version of DCGS. It used a mation. It might be a snapshot of a portion of an orig- intelligence exploitation sys-
network of global sites that linked the service's U-2 inal image that would be disseminated to external tems that will evolve onto the
aircraft and Predator and Global Hawk unmanned- users. Distributed Common Ground
aerial vehicles with their ground stations and intelli- "What will be available in the 10.2 era will be a System-Army.
gence-processing and analysis centers in the United
States and overseas using Fiber-optic terrestrial lines
and satellite communications (September-October
This distributed network, manned by squadrons of
the Air Force's 480th Intelligence Wing, exploited the
invaluable airborne ISR sensor imagery collected by
the U-2, Global Hawk and Predator and fed target
and enemy-activity information to U.S. Central
Command's Combined Air Operations Center in
Thanks to secure satellite communications, most of
the network's elements were able to stay "in garri-
son" in the United States, thousands of miles from
Saudi Arabia and the combat zone. Yet to the air-
campaign planners in the Combined Air Operations
Center that the 480th Wing's airmen supported, it
seemed as if they were next door.
The 480th Intelligence Wing has two core
Deployable Ground Systems: DGS 1 at Langley Air
Force Base, Va., and DGS 2 at Beale Air Force Base,
Calif., which long have been U-2 processing centers.
The capability to receive and process Global Hawk
and Predator imagery was added to both in recent
Other DGS locations are at Osan Air Base, South
Korea (DGS 3), Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany
(DGS 4) and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii (DGS
5). The 480th also has Air National Guard remote
sites at Reno, Nev., and other plans to add more
Guard sites over the next five to six years.
Thanks to its robust communications architecture,
the 480th during Iraqi Freedom was able to appor-
tion and shift the exploitation of different sets of ISR
sensor data fairly easily among its geographic loca-
tions within the United States and overseas to share
Despite the success of that effort, Col. Allen Roby,
intelligence director at the Air Force Command and
Control and ISR Center at Langley, told the ISR con-
ference, "The Air Force DCGS is not a network-cen-
tric system today. It is a legacy system inherited from
the 1980s in Europe with a couple of upgrades. But it
operated in a distributed, collaborative mode in Iraqi GENERAL DYNAMICS DECISION SYSTEMS
March 2004 Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Journal
ware and hardware applications will surround.
"The real power behind the DIB stems from the
three-tiered enterprise architecture," Hawkins said.
"Basically, any user from any military service [or
defense-intelligence agency] will be able to use any
application against any set of data that is on the sys-
tem. You can imagine the power that it will bring as
different DCGS elements collaboratively exchange
data and work together."
From the Air Force's perspective, DCGS will allow
intelligence data-and-exploitation workloads to be
shared seamlessly among the 29 core and remote
sites planned by the service.
"Intelligence analysts in separate Air Force DGSs
will be looking at the same data at the same time
and collaborating relative to that data," Hawkins
said. "It will no longer be a matter of DGS 1 distrib-
uting its data to DGS 3 or [manually] shifting
NORTHROP GRUMMAN ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS exploitation tasks to another DGS. They all will have
Different configurations raw, full image that will be available to other loca- access to the same data, and there will be analysts
of the Army’s Tactical tions, such as a National Geospatial-Intelligence looking at the same data and collaborating to make a
Exploitation System do Agency site, which could then marry it with other decision on it -- working separately or together."
imagery processing at the forms of intelligence and find additional information The Raytheon team completed a Block 10.2 system
division and corps levels. that the tactical operator may not have been looking requirements review in early December and an inter-
for." im design review in mid-January. A final design
The DCGS Web portal will provide a number of review was scheduled for March.
services. They include an external-tasking service, Morris said his team will deliver the first 10.2 sys-
which will allow a user to put in an intelligence-col- tem in January 2005 to the DGS (X) -- experimental -
lection request. The request will be disseminated to - at Langley.
national, theater or tactical assets for collection, "All requirements will be verified there with live
Johnson said. interfaces to various command-and-control and ISR
"There will be a single multi-INT visualization tool systems. After that delivery, DCGS Block 10.2 will be
provided on the portal that will display all of the ISR phased into DGS 1 at Langley in fiscal 2005, DGS 2
sensor assets in theater and what and when they are at Beale in late fiscal 2005, and the other three core
slated to collect. Thus, the user will have a view of DGS sites and remote sites in 2006-2007," he said.
when those collection platforms will be near where he An Air Force Electronic Systems Center release said
needs them to support his mission, and they could be 29 upgraded Block 10.2 DCGS systems will be deliv-
retasked if there is a pressing need. ered between 2004 and 2008.
"That visualization tool also will display all of the In the 2006-2007 time frame, the Air Force plans to
intelligence that is available from a geospatial per- award a follow-on Block 20 contract that will center
spective -- overlaid on a map [in the form of icons]. A on bringing signals-intelligence processing and
user will have the ability to click on an icon at any exploitation, still essentially separate, into the DCGS
geolocation to search and reach into the databases Web-based architecture.
that are available in DCGS to pull the information --
imagery-intelligence data, moving-target indicator- OTHER SERVICES
radar imagery, signals-intelligence reports. All that Representatives from the Army, Navy and Marine
“Basically, any intelligence from any source will be made available to Corps, as well as the National Geospatial-Intelligence
user from any him."
"The focal point of our transition in 10.2 is the
Agency, have attended the Air Force DCGS Block
10.2 design reviews and are working with Raytheon
military service DCGS Integration Backbone [DIB]," Roby said. team members to evaluate how to apply the DIB as
"That's the joint interoperability and integration part the foundation for their evolving DCGS architectures.
will be able to use of it, with a set of common standards and tools and In fact, the Raytheon team is conducting a study for
any application some common hardware and software. That open-
architecture foundation will provide a common oper-
the Navy, led by BAE Systems, with that purpose
under its Air Force 10.2 contract, and was expected
against any set of ating environment and common services, yet allow to begin one led by General Dynamics for the Army
for service-unique applications on top of it." as well.
data that is on Tom Hawkins, Raytheon's director of remote sys- The Army's DCGS-A will evolve from its existing
the system.” tems in Garland, said, "Every service has been man-
dated to adopt the DIB as the foundation for their
family of intelligence-exploitation systems, including
General Dynamics' Common Ground Station,
DCGS systems. In doing so, there are then three lev- Northrop Grumman's Tactical Exploitation System
TOM HAWKINS els of interoperability and integration that can take (TES) and the All Source Analysis System. The
DIRECTOR, REMOTE SYSTEMS place. First, at the data level, so the exchange of Navy's DCGS-N will evolve from its legacy exploita-
RAYTHEON imagery, video, moving-target indicator data, etc. can tion systems -- particularly BAE Systems' Joint
occur. The second is at the applications level. Service Imagery Processing System-Navy (JSIPS-N),
Applications can be shared from one DCGS to anoth- which has been installed aboard the service's 12 air-
er -- and among the different military services -- and craft carriers, 14 large-deck amphibious ships, five
the collection-exploitation workflow can be exchanged command ships as well as at shore sites.
between DCGS and another. The third is the viewer The Navy also procured a limited number of TES-N
or user level -- views of the Web-portal services." systems from Northrop Grumman that it used in
He said DCGS 10.2 will include a meta-data cata- experiments to exchange targeting data with other
log as a key element. Intelligence information that services.
enters the network will be tagged in a standard for- The Marine Air-Ground Intelligence System has
mat and cataloged to facilitate user searches. evolved from a version of JSIPS for imagery exploita-
The DIB will provide the DCGS core infrastructure tion with TES elements added.
-- like the core of an apple -- that service-unique soft-
Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Journal March 2004