HomeNews & PublicationsFeatured StoriesCross-Enterprise Initiatives: APL Addressing Critical Challenges that Span Defense Missions 

April 11, 2007

Cross-Enterprise Initiatives: APL Addressing Critical Challenges that Span Defense Missions

As our nation's security challenges increasingly defy traditional mission boundaries, experts spanning widely diverse technical disciplines must work more closely together to address the issues. APL conducted a study to determine how the Lab could use its expertise to help solve some of these critical challenges, leading to creation of a Cross Enterprise Initiatives (CEI) program.

Taking a cross-disciplinary approach to challenges that span combat areas is not new to APL. In the mid-1970s, for instance, the Lab developed a skunk works to investigate ways to improve coordination between ship and aircraft systems (the Force Anti-Air Warfare Coordination Technology, or FACT, program). Scores of Navy-sponsored programs emerged from FACT, most notably the Cooperative Engagement Capability, which enables total automation of fleet defense systems. Recently, improvements in surface warfare and strike capability have emerged from FACT.

Today, the complexity of the challenges facing our sponsors is on a much larger scale, and they are much more cross-disciplinary in nature. APL identified and funded four initial areas for the CEI: Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C2ISR); Unrestricted Warfare (URW); Information Assurance; and Sea Shield. Nine business areas and most departments at the Lab are involved.

Command and Control

CSELExperts say no single activity is more important in war than command and control; it helps commanders make the most of their people, information, equipment, and time. Because of the ever-increasing pressure of time on the battlefield, the need to link command and control with battle management and the performance of weapons systems and sensors has become critically important.

APL has a long history of providing ISR solutions for maritime, terrestrial, airborne, and space missions. The Cross Enterprise Initiative on C2ISR is using those capabilities to help bring information to commanders quickly for better battlefield decisions. Efforts date back to 2004, when we developed a set of applications to test the concepts of net-centric warfare. We built our own Global Information Grid (GIG) test bed, a model of the Defense Department's classified and unclassified intranet.

In 2006, the team expanded its infrastructure for testing potential C2 solutions in a simulated operational net-centric environment by integrating 14 additional APL-proven capabilities onto the GIG test bed. They're developing a facility to run ‘free-play' operational simulations and to quantify the added value of new technologies. The team is looking at the end-to-end metrics and measurements — from the network, through the applications, to the warfighter's actions, to the mission's outcome — to see if technology improves or even affects the ability to complete a mission.

The experiments to date have led to a better understanding of potential bottlenecks in transmitting information. The C2ISR Initiative has led to testing partnerships with the Navy Second Fleet's Maritime Operations Center-Experimental, U.S. Strategic Command's Global Operations Center and the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center.

Unrestricted Warfare

In the past, the nation's military strategy has been to destroy the enemy through superior firepower. But unrestricted warfare, an unconventional contest among populations and ideas fought in engagements around the world, remains largely unaffected by advances in kinetic weapons technology, while taking full advantage of information operations. 

Defense strategists' collective understanding of unrestricted warfare is far better than it was 5 years ago, but better understanding is still needed. APL is helping to establish an intellectual foundation, the fundamentals of unrestricted warfare. In March 2006, more than 200 of the nation's premier thinkers on the topic gathered at the Lab for a symposium addressing the critical challenges posed by terrorists and other practitioners of unrestricted warfare. Several novel concepts to counter URW were discussed at that meeting, and the Lab has pursued several of them through the CEI program.

This year's follow-on symposium included more nuanced aspects of unrestricted warfare, such as economic, information, and network warfare. APL is engaging the national security community to prepare new strategies, analyses and technologies, not only for today but for the next set of threats.

Information Assurance

Information AssuranceThe Department of Defense operates approximately 3 million computers, 100,000 local area networks and 100 long-distance networks, all part of the GIG. The goal of information assurance (IA) is to protect systems like the GIG and to detect and react to a multitude of rapidly evolving threats.

IA encompasses more than computer systems or information in an electronic or machine-readable format. Historically, DoD systems have not relied on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. They've been stand-alone systems — proprietary software and hardware products built and controlled by the government. New military systems, including the GIG, are more frequently being built with COTS products.

The Lab has approximately 60 IA scientists and engineers within its Applied Information Sciences Department (AISD) alone, as well as an IA research project in our Research and Technology Development Center. That work focuses on solving authentication and privacy problems for radio frequency identification tags and other small devices, and applying cryptographic techniques to security problems. The Lab is also partnering with the National Security Agency and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to demonstrate IA technologies.

Naval Defense--Sea Shield

Sea Power 21 encompasses the Navy's vision for its mission in the 21st century. Sea Shield, one of the 21 pillars (of Sea Power 21), is a concept that would expand the Navy's defensive capabilities well beyond the task-force. Sea Shield encompasses capabilities and assets from across the various warfare areas of the Navy — surface, air, submarine, and space. Examples of desired Sea Shield capabilities include extending seaborne weapons and sensor reach over land in support of friendly forces (as with anti-tactical ballistic missile capability and naval gunfire support) and using long-range sensors to detect potential threats to friendly forces.

Coordinating and improving the command, control, and communications of many different platforms with many different missions in a particular theater of operation — an objective of Sea Shield — is a daunting endeavor that promises significant benefits to situational awareness, prioritization of assets, and mission planning. APL is evaluating several project areas, including multimission planning and execution capabilities; creating common operational pictures for air, surface, and subsurface forces; exploring counter-battery fire capabilities; and incorporating space-based assets.

APL will continue to fund these CEIs for a few years, with the expectation that they will be absorbed into APL's business area structure.