By Emily Gee, PEO C3TNovember 7, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (November 7, 2013) -- What was once a time-consuming process is now only a click away, thanks to a new console that allows Commanders the ability to report, track, review and elevate field service support issues.
By introducing the new Incident Reporting Module Operational Console, the Army is delivering field service support personnel a more efficient way to reach out to subject matter experts and resolve issues in the field related to command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.
This latest update to the Single Interface to the Field (SIF), which provides a single point of online reachback for C4ISR system support, is already being employed by field service representatives (FSRs) in training and testing events such as the Army's Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) and Combined Training Center (CTC) exercises.
"Commanders can now get a much bigger knowledge base of various equipment-related incidents, which can indicate whether Soldiers have engineering, logistical or training problems," said Emerson Keslar, director of the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) Military Technical Solutions Office, where Product Director SIF (PD SIF) is assigned. "It also gives system owners the information they need to improve what they already provide to Soldiers."
The console allows Commanders to access and share actionable information and data, better enabling training. Additionally, acquisition professionals and industry partners can now drive important improvements to the systems.
Created out of an 'idea' at the 2011 annual testing event, Joint Users Interoperability Communications Exercise (JUICE) held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the console has evolved into an integral piece of the field support process used today at the NIE and CTC exercises.
The console is part of SIF's Incident Reporting Module (IRM), which enables Soldiers, commanders and field support representatives (FSRs) to quickly report, track and elevate incidents related to the C4ISR systems. While the SIF has been in operation since 2007 as part of the Army's effort to digitize the force with advanced C4ISR equipment, the new incident reporting mechanism enables the Army to capture and incorporate Soldier feedback earlier in the system development cycle.
"Creating that dialogue between the acquisition community and field support as early as possible is critical to collecting valuable data and making our systems better," Keslar said.
The field support console has evolved into a new incident reporting system for Soldiers, called the Unified Trouble Ticketing System (UTTS), which is currently being demonstrated during NIE 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas. The UTTS will provide Soldiers a connection from their unit's SharePoint directly to the IRM, said Daniel Hamilton, SIF product lead.
"This will create one continuous thread and ensure a trouble ticket is elevated to the most cost-effective level of field support," said Hamilton.
The console was first introduced in 2012 to support system testing at the NIEs. During the NIEs, Soldiers conducted rigorous mission scenarios in order to evaluate the operational value of various systems developed by the Army and by the private sector. The incident data and reports captured within the console give commanders and acquisition trail bosses actionable information and data to evaluate the participating Systems Under Evaluation and Systems Under Test.
Now the console is playing an integral role in supporting a new field support paradigm, currently in development, which would realign FSRs and shift technical knowledge to the Soldier.
As part of the new paradigm, Soldiers would be responsible for operating and maintaining the majority of C4ISR equipment. Through the console, they could request the remote support of FSRs and Digital Systems Engineers (DSEs) for issues beyond their capability. Then the FSR or DSE could elevate the same ticket within the console to reach technical experts, engineers or computer scientists for higher-level, specialized support.
To test the paradigm, a team from PEO C3T analyzed all the trouble tickets entered through the IRM console at a pilot event at the CTC in June. FSRs at the pilot event were encouraged to answer trouble tickets remotely through the console, and only deploy on-site as needed.
Initial analysis of the more than 500 trouble tickets entered through the console indicated there were few system incidents that were beyond the scope of Soldiers to solve, and that the number of FSRs on site during this assessment could be reduced.
"The console allowed us to track every ticket from the time it was entered to the time it was resolved, and the majority of tickets we analyzed were training or configuration issues," said Rich Licata, the PEO C3T field support manager. "It proves this (new tiered-system) is a major opportunity for cost avoidance, because FSRs were able to support the unit in the same capacity remotely."
The C4ISR community will continue to look at how best to reshape field support utilizing a tiered support system as the Army continues to retrograde from Afghanistan.