YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — As it executes Project Convergence 2021 (PC21), a modernization experiment intended to test the functionality of cutting-edge defense technologies, the U.S. Army is simultaneously working to ensure that vital details of each experiment are rigorously observed, documented and assessed.
The Army is achieving this aim through its PC21 Data Collection and Analysis Team (DC&A), which is responsible for collecting, harvesting and condensing data related to the experiment, then analyzing, integrating and synthesizing the most pertinent information for onward use.
The team includes members from across Army Futures Command, the lead for PC21, including from Army Test and Evaluation Command, the Data and Analysis Center, Joint Modernization Command and The Research and Analysis Center, as well as from other parts of the Army.
The relatively large footprint of DC&A — nearly 300 staff located at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico — allows the Army to capture detailed insights on individual experiments as well as draw upon a wide range of technical expertise.
Data collectors and observer-analysts could be on site viewing an exercise or on an aircraft as it operates; they go wherever they are needed to record key information.
Those participating in an experiment evaluation capacity at PC21 attended an observer-analyst training academy that was part virtual, part on-site and part on-the-job training to ensure alignment with planned procedures and objectives.
According to members of DC&A, gathering data is essential to the Army’s modernization efforts because it informs next steps and helps clarify what works well and what doesn’t.
“There’s no use in doing the exercise if we don’t capture data from it,” said Lt. Col. Chris Collins, deputy team lead for DC&A at PC21. He explained that data collected will help generate requirements and create further experimentation for Project Convergence 2022.
Collins also stressed the importance of being open to exploring, and sometimes eliminating, multiple options to find the best one for Soldiers.
“Failure is an option, because we ultimately can learn from these failures,” Collins said. “As long as we can collect data, it is worth the time and money.”
Collins described members of the team as “arbiters of truth” who ask the hard questions about why and how new technologies undergoing assessment will benefit the Army.
“It’s not just about the tech in a vacuum,” Collins said, explaining that smart application and integration of technology is designed to serve the needs of Soldiers. His team’s unique “mix of uniforms and scientists” ensures that all angles are assessed – and documented – to further experimentation lessons learned.
PC21 DC&A execution lead Joseph Cruse, who served in the military for 33 years – including as an enlisted Marine and an Army officer – before transitioning into an Army civilian role, understands that the process of moving from “observation through all the steps to where it actually becomes a finding” takes time, analysis and sometimes multiple iterations of the same exercise.
Cruse sees the long-term aim of DC&A’s work as determining how to “use the modern technology, network and all the other command and control systems and make it so you can call upon somebody to provide some effect within seconds.”
At PC21, “different parts of the service are working with each other to establish the communication and show that it can happen,” Cruse said.
Daniel Badger, a PC21 observer-analyst from the Army’s Data and Analysis Center, assesses the strengths, weaknesses and operational implications of various technologies undergoing field testing at Yuma Proving Ground, and thus far is encouraged by what he has observed.
“The system works,” Badger said. “We have a lot of different sensors that are detecting targets, without too many false positives or false negatives. Those targets get passed through multiple systems, through a common data fabric,” he explained, “and ultimately it’s getting to shooters who are engaging in a timely fashion.”
Thomas Baran, a test officer who serves as the aviation team lead for unmanned aerial systems at Yuma Proving Ground, is coordinating with PC21 data collectors to ensure information collected is tailored to end users.
“When it comes down to testing, every bit of data is important,” Baran said. “You might not think about it at the time; however, if issues arise, it’s super valuable to have the ability of going back and looking at data logs.”
Baran said data can provide measurable insights into critical Project Convergence questions such as “was everything done correctly?” and “has anything changed?” to pinpoint issues or failures.