The Army's unseen technology provides a critical link to Joint operations
January 23, 2014
The U.S. military continues to shift towards a Joint Forces concept of operations, requiring all of the communications systems across the joint community to speak a common language.
Since these systems are not connected at this time, a technological link must transport data from each armed service to the overarching joint system, called the Global Command and Control System-Joint (GCCS-J). The Army's version of this system, called the Global Command and Control System-Army (GCCS-A), has been providing this critical link throughout the past decade, and it is now poised to migrate into a web-based capability.
"One of the Army's overall goals is to communicate as a fully joint force," said Col. Jonas Vogelhut, Project Manager for Mission Command (PM MC). "GCCS-A is the system that allows Army Corps and Divisions to communicate with the other Joint Task Force (JTF) capable units worldwide."
PM MC, assigned to the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), builds, delivers, integrates and sustains collaborative mission command software and web-based capabilities for the Army and Joint Forces to provide the commander with enhanced situational awareness for better decision-making abilities.
As the Army's primary Joint-Army backbone, GCCS-A makes the data displayed on the common operating picture (COP), such as through the Command Post of the Future (CPOF), possible. CPOF is the commander's collaborative and situational awareness system that processes and displays combat information from other Army systems, and it is GCCS-A's data stream that provides this critical information, to include friendly and enemy locations, maneuver measures, graphics and other command and control (C2) information.
"Soldiers mostly don't operate GCCS-A, so they assume that the system they are using to view data is the actual source of that information," said Harold Lopez, deputy product manager for Strategic Mission Command (SMC), assigned to PM MC. "However, every time a Soldier can view a complete picture of Army and non-Army locations in his area of operation, it is GCCS-A that mediated and brokered that picture."
Joint communication commences between the Joint Task Force Headquarters (JTFHQ) for each service. For example, to aid its ground and logistical support operation, an Army Corps commander assigned as JTFHQ may be directed to organize the capabilities of a Navy combat ship task force or an Air Force squadron's air support operation. Most of the supplies required for the mission will arrive via the Navy's port or Air Force's air field. GCCS-A allows the information flow between the services so that the Army support units can look to the COP and know when they can enter the port or airfield, and the Navy and Air Force knows when to expect the Army forces to arrive.
In addition, GCCS-A's link to the joint forces can provide vital confirmation of friendly force encounters.
"Imagine you are driving an Army truck to an Air Force air field," said Gordon Johnson, systems engineer for PdM SMC. "You can see in the distance that the entrance is barricaded with machine gun nests and a collection of vehicles are lining the road outside of the base entrance. How do you know for certain that you are approaching a friendly situation? You know because those outposts' status fed into their Global Command and Control System-Air Force (CGCC-AF) system, which fed into GCCS-A."
Last September, GCCS-A Block 4 reached Full Deployment status and is now fielded to all Joint Task Force (JTF) capable units from Division through Army Service Component Commands (ASCC). GCCS-A's newest capabilities, version 4.2 , include Capabilities-Based Deployment (CBD), which means the system can be deployed containing only the software segments required by the unit to allow for a more streamlined product, allowing users to operate the system with greater efficiency.
"CBD significantly reduces site installation time and allows deployment of a server in 10 hours instead of 40," Lopez said. "GCCS-A 4.2 also simplified the installation process by implementing automated versus manual security patch updates, which has also minimized human errors."
In the future, all of GCCS-A's capabilities will be in the form of web applications, known as widgets, which will further reduce the system's complexity and eliminate expensive software licenses.
As with many of the technologies within the PM MC portfolio, GCCS-A is now fully compliant with the Army's Common Operating Environment (COE), meaning it is interoperable with all of the other Army technologies that are currently transitioning to operate within the first version of the COE. The COE is an approved set of computing technologies that are enabling rapid application development, which in turn will make hundreds of Army systems interoperable and networked to support the Soldier.
"We are confident that GCCS-A's transition to a web-based application will streamline future Joint Forces communications," Vogelhut said. "Soon we will be able to provide JFTHQs with a state-of-the art enhancement that will further the Army's goal of supporting a decisive joint force."