Global Command-and-Control System-Army: the soldier's silent weapon

Team Signal’s facility is test site for new C2 capability

by MAJ Fran Trentley and Hank Alau

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Somewhere in the Pacific, a joint task force has been deployed, and a soldier is on point. His mission is to engage the opposing forces while simultaneously carrying out peacekeeping efforts and helping build a nation.

He is the modern warrior-diplomat soldier – persuasive in peace and invincible in war. As we watch this soldier, we see he is well-trained, well-equipped and confident in his leadership’s support: all the necessary ingredients for mission accomplishment.

This soldier didn’t get to this point by accident. He got here by deliberate planning and the use of the Global Command-and-Control System-Army – a C2 system, the silent weapon.

Too often we associate C2 with the commander. In reality, C2 is for the soldier. It’s through the C2 system the operational commander directs and coordinates his forces, assures reinforcements and replacements, provides his forces information on the location of friendly and enemy forces … all this is provided so the soldier on point can execute his mission. With this perspective in mind, U.S. Army Pacific has focused on getting the C2 system as close to the soldier as possible, down at the brigade. This is the story of the soldier and GCCS-A in the Pacific.

A year in the making

GCCS-A’s history in the Pacific began during Exercise Ulchi Focus Lens ’99 in Korea. During this exercise, the applications – which dealt with friendly and enemy locations and using the all-source-analysis system data in GCCS-A – were demonstrated.

This demonstration of fusing enemy and friendly data to C2 combined forces was so successful that Combined Forces Command’s commander-in-chief requested the system remain in place and the issue of releasable data to the Republic of Korea be aggressively pursued.

Before the last "t" had been crossed and "i" dotted in the Korean demonstration after-action report, detailed planning for two other demonstrations were underway. A software and integration test would occur at the contractor’s facility in Springfield, Va. The other test would occur at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and focus on software, hardware and, most importantly, operational utility. For example, some of GCCS-A’s future applications dealing with logistics support, force-tracking and its ability to access the Joint Operations Planning Execution System and Joint Total Asset Visibility databases through GCCS would be tested.

Springfield’s testing occurred Dec. 1-16, 1999, with 20 Army GCCS-A users working with 20 contractors, marrying user operational requirements with information-technology hardware and software in support of the soldier. System hardware and software problems were identified, and corrective actions were initiated in attempt to meet the site test scheduled in Hawaii.

Japan and Alaska join the test

Planning for the Hawaii test started in April 1999 by identifying and procuring the hardware. Unlike previous GCCS-A tests, which occurred in a single location or geographic area, the Hawaii test included U.S. Army Japan and U.S. Army Alaska. Hawaii acted as the hub, drawing more people from U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Forces Korea to Hawaii to participate. To date, this test was the most complex and comprehensive, and encompassed two overarching objectives:

End-to-end test and evaluation of GCCS-A from database input, formatting and manipulation to dissemination and assured receipt of data by both local-area and geographically dispersed users; and
Determination of the operational utility of data in terms of operational support and force execution throughout the operational continuum of peacetime through conflict.

These objectives were then broken down even more discretely with the prime objective of support to the soldier in mind:

Is the system user-friendly? What hardware and software enhancements do we need to make GCCS-A more responsive to the user?
What are the training requirements for both the system operators and database administrators?
Can the data be reliably transmitted through a wide-area network to geographically separate areas – for instance, Japan and Alaska?
In the absence of a corps, can we push this data down to a division and have the division perform some of the corps functions – for example, logistics planning and movement?

The early prep

From April through September 1999, the focus of the Hawaii test effort was hardware and software acquisition, along with installation concerns at USARPAC’s major subordinate commands that needed to be resolved. Network routers and secret Internet protocol router network connectivity issues had to be worked. The GCCS-A training area had to be identified and equipped for operators and system administrators, approximating the actual system to the point that it was transparent to the student. The training syllabus had to be defined, validated and refined. And, in the midst of all this was the requirement that systems be Y2K compliant.

UFL ‘99 lessons-learned were used to refine the contractor’s Springfield system integration and testing, as well as to modify the training syllabus and tweak the Hawaii test objectives. The functional and technical test officers from USARPAC participated in the December testing. This was the final applications-software and systems-integration test prior to the Hawaii-based, multiple-site test. During this contractor-facility test, 165 software/system-change requests were identified, of which 20 were requirements driven and 145 were enhancements to existing capabilities. The contractor incorporated the change requests, which became the GCCS-A systems baseline for the Hawaii test.

While all this was going on in Virginia, Army personnel and contractors in Hawaii continued to work the technical issues associated with training and system integration. The concept of an open architecture and flexibility was alive and well. Systems integration had to be flexible enough to accept the changes identified in the December 1999 integration test, but it also had to meet the emerging operational requirements.

The test begins in Hawaii

When the GCCS-A installation team arrived in Hawaii Jan. 10, the Hawaii test moved from planning to the next stage: committed, or "go; make it happen."

A mini-site survey was completed. The GCCS-A classroom hardware and software installation and integration was completed Feb. 4. Starting Feb. 7, system-operators’ and functional-users’ classes were held for three weeks; 63 operators/functional users were trained on GCCS-A and 12 software applications. In addition to and concurrent with the Hawaii training, the contractor, Lockheed Martin-Marietta Systems, set up training sessions for the GCCS-A database administrators and system administrators.

Web tool helps reporting

In an effort to facilitate daily test postmortems and planning for the next day’s activity, 516th Signal Brigade’s engineering and software branch developed a web-enabled collection-tool program that allowed for simultaneous cross-datafield population in four different data forms. On the morning of March 6 with the final-test readiness review briefing, the thousands of manhours of work by hundreds of people (military, civilians and civilian contractors) came together. This briefing stated that the 42 entrance criteria, which had to be met before the test started, had been met. The test was a "go," and the designated sites were turned over for the GCCS-A site test.

What occurred at the GCCS-A test sites from March 7-17 can only be characterized as long days for site operators, test managers and evaluators. This test spanned several Pacific time zones, with Camp Zama, Japan, always a day ahead of the Alaska and Hawaii test sites. Engineering and software branch’s web-enabled collection tool proved to be a great asset. It allowed data to be posted on a website 24 hours a day and allowed the test evaluators in Hawaii to access and crunch the data from any time zone. Evaluators estimated six manweeks saved in data-management effort because of the website.

Results: customers like it

The test results were excellent. Operator responses were positive, and they all commented on the software’s potential. Two areas that received most comments were the commander’s force analyzer and the common operations picture.

Operators liked the data that CFA could provide the commander in terms of his forces’ status but were concerned about the ability to provide coalition forces’ data. They also expressed a desire for more dynamic access to enemy data.

Not all the news was good; there were more than 30 improvements or system-change requests identified as "must be accomplished" before the system could be fielded to the Army in the Pacific. Did this mean the test failed? No, it was successful because it prevented a hasty fielding decision and met the "drive before you buy" criteria.

There was another occurrence during the test that wasn’t in the test-design plan; however, its resolution was very satisfactory. During the test, Camp Zama lost access to the Hawaii GCCS-A node and went to a "fail over" mode by accessing a remote GCCS-A node. Each node continuously replicated to and from the Hawaii node maintaining the same data, so Camp Zama was able to continue the test in an automatic "fail over" mode with negligible impact. This inadvertently demonstrated that GCCS-A is a robust C2 system that degrades gracefully with minimal risk of catastrophic failure.

As with any good test, the results attempt to answer the test objectives. However, the results also raise other questions:

How does all this get incorporated into JTF operations?
How do we use GCCS-A operationally when no corps is present?
What will be the C2 system for the brigade combat team?
How do we use GCCS-A in the lower spectrum of Army operations – for example, peacekeeping or urban warfare?

These are just some questions. Some aspects of this test were nondoctrinal – for instance, GCCS-A at the division and separate brigade. However, these are the aspects of necessity, expediency, reality – and an attempt to meet our obligations to our soldiers and a JTF.

Our soldier on point has moved to a new objective. All hardware, software, databases, applications, common operating picture, C2, commander’s decision-making aid and everything else associated with GCCS-A has come down to this: the soldier on point and his mission. We won’t fail him.

MAJ Trentley and Mr. Alau are with 516th Signal Brigade.

Acronym QuickScan
C2 – command and control
CFA – commander’s force analyzer
GCCS-A – Global Command-and-Control System-Army
JTF – joint task force
UFL – Ulchi Focus Lens
USARPAC – U.S. Army Pacific

dividing rule

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