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TMCNet:  New website promotes military info sharing

[February 28, 2011]

New website promotes military info sharing

Feb 28, 2011 (DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTS AND PUBLICATIONS/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- 2/1/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Whether they're moving into a new contingency operation or upgrading operations for an existing one, U.S. forces have a new weapon at their disposal when setting up or reconfiguring their command-and-control architectures.

Thanks to the new "C2 Central" website established by U.S. Joint Forces Command, details about command-and-control systems, from their capabilities to their availability to user feedback about how they operate, are just a few keystrokes away.

Joint Forces Command officials stood up the new site Oct. 1 to promote information sharing about more than 300 C2 systems, sensors, platforms and the networks on which they operate, said Mike Powell, the deputy director for advanced systems analysis at the command's Joint Systems Integration Center.

These systems form the grid of computer equipment and networks the service branches use to communicate with each other, coalition partners and others engaged in warfighting or other contingency operations worldwide, Mr. Powell said.

"They're critical to how the military operates," he said. "This is how information is flowed up and down the chain of command to plan, strategize, execute and control all the different resources involved in the warfighting activity." Yet until now, users had no central information clearinghouse about what the different C2 systems do, what they don't do, who's responsible for acquiring and maintaining them over the long term and whether they're in the existing inventory to support a requirement.

C2 Central does this and more, providing a whole new set of research capabilities over the basic "C2Pedia" database it replaced, Mr. Powell said.

"This isn't just a name change," he said. "It's a night and day difference. In fact, the two systems are not common in any way." Unlike other systems that require special passwords and administrative permission to access, C2 Central requires nothing more than a government-issued common access card.

Only a tiny percentage of its content is restricted to the classified network, Mr. Powell said.

And if a particular C2 system isn't immediately available, users can identify other systems that provide similar capabilities. The database also identifies the service component that manages the alternative system and provides points of contact to get more information or requisition one.

That has the potential to save critical research time for those working with limited resources to set up new contingency operations quickly, Mr. Powell said.

"If you were to go out and try to find this information, it could take you literally weeks in some cases," he said. "So what we have done is eliminated that time delay on the end users by making this all available and searchable from one central location by an aggregation of all these different databases and sources of information." C2 Central also provides a library containing thousands of documents about C2 systems, C2 news articles, and announcements about C2 events, training opportunities and conferences.

A C2 Central feature added last month allows authorized users to interface with each other, getting their questions answered, sharing know-how about the system, and in some cases, identifying shortcomings or redundancies.

"This is a truly valuable resource for anyone involved in the C2 community," Mr. Powell said.

People can comment about systems information provided, chat in forums about their C2 challenges and swap experiences or lessons learned using the systems, he said.

As word gets out about the new forum, more people are registering each day to participate in the discussions, Mr. Powell said.

While C2 Central provides a valuable resource for hands-on operators who use C2 systems in forward-deployed locations, Mr. Powell said, it also serves two other important stakeholder groups. It's a tool for program managers and the people who design and develop those systems, as well as for administrators who determine C2 requirements and overseeing the budgeting process.

Mr. Powell said providing a central forum creates a huge advantage for these three stakeholder groups to share information, expertise and hands-on experience.

"The biggest advantage to the warfighters is that it helps bridge that information gap between the people in the field trying to operate the C2 systems with the people that acquire the system or understand issues associated with the technical aspects of the system and plugging it all together," he said.

It also gives forward-deployed troops the ability to reach back to the appropriate points of contact to get information they need, Mr. Powell noted.

"We have done a very thorough job of 'connecting the dots' in that respect, with points of contacts in all the different areas," he said.

Meanwhile, C2 Central provides valuable insight for the people responsible for developing, resourcing and acquiring these systems.

"It's a decision aid to system portfolio managers," Mr. Powell said. "It allows them to go in and look at these capabilities and redundancy gaps and make some important decisions about whether they should keep certain pieces of equipment or consolidate them, or build a new piece that does the functions of three combined and save taxpayer money in the long run." Ultimately, Mr. Powell said, that makes the whole C2 effort more efficient and responsive to warfighter needs.

"The closer we get to actually identifying systems capabilities against particular mission needs and matching them up against the mission thread, ... then the better, more efficient use of the C2 system will occur," he said.

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