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Keeping Track Of the Troops

November 2007
By Rita Boland
E-mail About the Author

 
Master Sgt. Paul McIndoe, USAF (l), and 1st Lt. Travis Vazansky, USAF, civil affairs engineers assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Qalat in Afghanistan, mark waypoints on a Global Positioning System during a road assessment. The Deliberate Crisis Action Planning and Execution Segments (DCAPES) gives the U.S. Air Force better command and control over its troops before, during and returning from deployment.
A technology update offers an array of new functionalities for planners to manage all the chess pieces of the U.S. military’s aviation branch.

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to release a new version of a system designed to improve the service’s interoperability with joint, allied and coalition command and control systems. For the Air Force to accomplish its mission and support joint and coalition operations, it needs to include the capabilities of the new version in a network-centric, information-sharing environment. The system will provide a consolidated environment for planners at all command levels to access and influence force projection data.

The Deliberate Crisis Action Planning and Execution Segments (DCAPES) version 4.1.0.0 will be one of the largest deliveries of Air Force functionality since DCAPES’ original fielding in 2002. The current fielding decision for the new version is scheduled for January 2008 based on known developmental test and evaluation requirements for DCAPES and the Joint Operation Planning and Execution System (JOPES). DCAPES extends JOPES functionality to support lower level detail planning and execution in the Air Force. 

Sally Wagner, director of the Force Projection Division within the 554th Electronic Systems Group (554 ELSG) located at Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB)-Gunter Annex, Alabama, explains that DCAPES is a tool that enables the Air Force to plan, present, source, mobilize, deploy, account for, sustain, redeploy and reconstitute Air Force troops. It embraces active duty, reserve and National Guard airmen.

DCAPES 4.1.0.0 upgrades the database software in Oracle v10g and the operating system of Solaris v10. According to officials with the 554 ELSG, the release includes the Air Force’s first Web-enabled applications in the Manpower-Personnel Module, Base Level (MANPER-B) Deployed Functionality and user account management, as well as the military branch’s first Web service interface.

Bob Hergenroeder, DCAPES program manager, shares that “DCAPES helps joint combatant commanders reduce the fog of war.” With the system, commanders better know where their assets are and how to employ them. They have a clearer picture of logistics, manpower, personnel and operations. Hergenroeder explains that it comes down to moving Air Force forces from one place in the world to another location where they are needed. DCAPES spans all levels of responsibility from the base to the Pentagon to the joint community. “This is a really critical program,” he emphasizes. 

The DCAPES applications and database reside in four Strategic Server Enclaves (SSEs): at the Pentagon; Scott AFB, Illinois; Fort Shafter, Hawaii; and Stuttgart, Germany. Users access DCAPES from their computers through one of the SSEs, and their actions are replicated through all the SSEs to ensure that users see the same information regardless of where they connect.

DCAPES 4.1.0.0 adds several new user capabilities. The capabilities are developed in accordance with guidance from the original multi-command operational requirements document. These guidelines are now in the Joint Requirements Oversight Council-approved capability development document (CDD). The CDD includes capabilities identified by Air Force stakeholders as necessary to successful command and control of force projection capabilities.

One of the new DCAPES functionalities is the initial integration of the Enhanced Contingency/Rotational Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Scheduling Tool (E-CAST). The tool accounts for the AEF cycle, base alignment and the readiness status of postured forces. Schedulers can manage residual capabilities remaining in postured packages. E-CAST also maintains a history of scheduling actions and detailed notes about scheduling decisions.

The tool will automate the daily process of querying the DCAPES/JOPES operational plans to populate the AEFCenter’s data warehouse. This process will be done for offline tools to access data for scheduling units. The results then will be pushed back into DCAPES. Only AEFCenter schedulers will use this new functionality, which will be enhanced through subsequent DCAPES releases.

Another new functionality of DCAPES 4.1.0.0 is integration of the MANPER-B Deployed Functionality, also known as the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations (PERSCO) module. Delivery of this function will complete the subsumption of the Air Force Personnel Center’s (AFPC’s) primary system for managing deployed personnel and those preparing to deploy. Version 4.1.0.0 provides the Air Force with end-to-end personnel accountability in a single, live database, as well as enables deployed personnel teams to monitor the duty status of the deployed personnel. The teams also can perform limited military personnel flight-type functions such as notifying deployed personnel of promotion actions and pending assignments. Airmen who are redeploying to their home station or forward deploying to another location within an area of responsibility will remain visible in the system as well.

The subsumption of the MANPER-B system into the DCAPES SSE will give deployed personnel managers direct access to a single, worldwide database of deployed Air Force personnel. The managers also will be able to update the database directly. In the legacy MANPER-B system, functionality was limited to an offline database on a deployed laptop. The personnel data were only as current as the last update request. The AFPC, major commands and owning units now can obtain deployed personnel status in a more timely manner than before. The user base for this functionality depends on the number of deployed locations supporting Air Force operations, including natural disasters and military missions unrelated to war activities.

 
Airman 1st Class David Zheng, USAF (l), and Staff Sgt. Joshua Garcia, USAF, board a contract aircraft at Kadena Air Base, Japan. More than 240 airmen from seven Pacific Air Force bases left Kadena Air Base for Southwest Asia to support operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. DCAPES allows the Air Force to track troops through all phases of deployment better.
Other capabilities that will be delivered with version 4.1.0.0 support the Agile Force Accountability One Personnel Readiness Function Initiative. One such capability is a scanner technology in which DCAPES reads a common access card scanner output file, captures the applicable information for personnel departing from or returning to home station and records the information in the necessary DCAPES personnel tables. The AFPC will maintain the handheld scanners. The Air Force envisions using the scanners to capture personnel entering the deployment processing line and arriving at a deployed location.

Under current methods, deploying airmen’s information is entered manually into DCAPES by personnel readiness representatives at installations and by the PERSCO team at the deployed location. According to the officials at the ELSG, this capability will streamline the departing and arriving processes and reduce the occurrences of erroneously updating a deploying airman’s status.

The new DCAPES also will produce contingency, exercise and deployment (CED) orders with scannable bar codes. The bar codes will contain indicative data on deploying personnel. Departing and arriving personnel management teams will scan the bar codes to obtain information and produce an output file, similar to a scanner file, for import and update of the DCAPES personnel tables. As with the scanner functionality, the CED orders featuring scannable bar codes will streamline departing and arriving processes, as well as reduce erroneous updates to a deployed airmen’s status, by providing the option to scan an order during roll call and import the data into DCAPES.

In addition to new functionalities, version 4.1.0.0 brings new interfaces to DCAPES, including one with the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) Contingency Tracking System (CTS). The DMDC serves as the central repository for current and historic human resource information for the U.S. Defense Department. Officials use the CTS Deployment Field to determine benefits, to provide information for health surveillance programs during and after deployment and to provide other information to Defense Department decision makers. DCAPES will give CTS updated personnel records for all deployment events, including the specific begin and end date of each deployment and deployment location information and demographics for the airmen.

The interface will automate the passing of deploying personnel data from the Air Force’s system of record to the joint system of record. The support DCAPES provides to CTS will be transparent to users.

DCAPES 4.1.0.0 also will have a new interface with the Joint Capabilities Requirements Tool (JCRT). That tool supports the joint move to a planning construct that is more unit type code (UTC)-centric and capabilities-based. DCAPES provides authoritative Air Force UTC data, specifically the availability data and supporting line-level detail data, to the JCRT through an on-demand Web service interface. Personnel can use the authoritative data to create and update JCRT operational capabilities packages.

Officials with the 554 ELSG say the move to UTC-based force presentation is nothing new for the Air Force, which constructs scalable UTCs to the lowest practical capability. The JCRT enables force providers to assimilate force lists and time-phased force and deployment data tailored to specific threats. As with the DMDC interface, the JCRT interface will be transparent to users.

Ricky Carter, lead functional for DCAPES, explains that the Air Force packages its forces in a much different way than other services, because it bundles its troops down to the lowest possible level and uses those forces as building blocks to respond to combatant commanders. DCAPES allows the Air Force to manage lower level forces and provide them to combatant commanders in a specific manner. If a commander needs a communications technician, the Air Force can guarantee the provision of that specific specialty. Carter notes that DCAPES already supports functions where the Defense Department wants to go in terms of capabilities-based planning.

Other new functionalities inherent in version 4.1.0.0 are the rehosting of Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2, of the War Mobilization Plan (WMP). The Part 1 —Force Apportionment—integration effort will link the force apportionment capabilities of the WMP system to the DCAPES/JOPES processes. Officials from 554 ELSG explain that the database reflects the Air Force’s support to the Joint Strategic Capability Plan and Global Force Management processes. They add that the apportionment results are based on the Air Force’s fiscal exercises that provide the current and programmed force structure for nine years and identify the specific units apportioned to war plans that correspond to number of squadrons or aircraft in (Global Force Management) apportionment.

This rehosting provides Air Staff planners with a single system to translate the Joint Strategic Capability Plan generic apportionment of combat forces into specific taskings for deliberate planning. Only personnel staffed to air, space and information operations and plans and requirements at headquarters Air Force will use this functionality.

The rehosting of WMP Volume 3, Part 2—UTC Availability (UTA)—in the DCAPES enclave exists in the WMP systems and is referred to as the Air Force-Wide UTC Availability and Tasking Summary. The DCAPES UTA will indicate the total number of UTCs the Air Force can generate and which units will be expected to generate them. When major command functional area managers populate the UTA with the command’s capabilities, they will disseminate the UTC availability information to subordinate wings and units so personnel there know what they will be expected to support. Capabilities not input to the UTA are unavailable for tasking.

The UTA’s fielding will consolidate force presentation, sourcing and verification into a single online system that requires the major commands to manage and monitor a single database of available information. Air Staff and major command functional area managers charged with posturing forces for combatant commander requirements will be the primary users of the rehosted WMP.

With its current and future capabilities, DCAPES is helping the Air Force migrate to a network-centric environment. Currently, the Air Force pays for integration of applications at the service level and then pays again to integrate them to support the joint process. DCAPES can gain access to capabilities and data by plugging into the Internet, an approach that reduces the need for costly and complicated point-to-point integration and interface work. Yet, it still achieves the process-streamlining vision.

The operational requirements document calls for five increments of DCAPES to be implemented. Version 4.1.0.0 is the second of these. Wagner says the third, fourth and fifth versions will include numerous future capabilities.

Web Resources
554th Electronic Systems Wing Fact Sheet: www.hanscom.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=5568
AirForcePersonnelCenter: www.ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil