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Improving Intelligence Interoperability

May 21, 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Online Exclusive
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Lockheed Martin has second DIBs on Distributed Common Ground Station backbone architecture.

The U.S. Defense Department is continually improving one of its major intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection and distribution systems to improve interoperability among the military services and coalition allies and to make the information more readily available, increasing situational awareness on the battlefield.

Just weeks after releasing version 4.0 of the Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS) Integrated Backbone (DIB) architecture, the military has awarded a contract for version 4.X. Military and industry sources confirmed that Lockheed Martin was notified Thursday evening that it has been chosen to develop DIB 4.X, which will further enhance interoperability for the warfighter.

DIB v4.X will deliver multiple new capabilities over the course of the next year. Enhancements include common, reusable security services, such as an improved, standards-based, attribute-based access control security capability. “This enables users to discover and retrieve products based on the access privileges that have been granted to them,” explains Lee Poage, senior acquisition manager within the DCGS Multi-Service Execution Team (MET) Office (DMO). DMO is a joint office with a U.S. Air Force lead that is responsible for acquiring and delivering the DIB to the DCGS family of systems.

Additional improvements involve the scalability of DIB services to support a range of operational performance requirements for both the ingestion of metadata and the discovery of data, while decreasing long-term sustainment costs.

DCGS collects, analyzes and disseminates intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data from a variety of systems. It has replaced a wide array of older ground stations and is used by each of the military services. Because the services have different missions, each has its own version of DCGS, but the common architecture allows them to share information.

“At its foundation, the DIB is a set of common software services and specifications that enable ISR data sharing across the enterprise while providing departmentwide cost avoidance by delivering reusable software services that meet common enterprise requirements,” Poage explains. “The DIB provides the DCGS systems with data discovery and retrieval services that identify what information is available, where the information is located and how to retrieve that information.” Lastly, he adds, the DIB provides enterprisewide software services for security, Web services access and other basic features. It is standards-based and fully documented to ensure that vendors can develop and integrate services.

Lockheed Martin served as the prime contractor for DIB v4.0, which was just recently released. Last year, the company demonstrated a capability to share DCGS data with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The nations were able to share vast amounts of high-definition video and intelligence data spanning multiple security domains using Lockheed Martin’s Trusted Manager data guard. The technology verifies data classification tags against user security credentials before allowing access. The trusted computing layer enacts authentication and authorization controls to enable coalition partners to discover and access intelligence as it becomes available.

John Murphy, advanced development team lead for C4ISR Systems within Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions business line, says that coalition partners can query DCGS and seamlessly access all of the intelligence releasable to foreign nationals.

DIB uses a government open-source software model, meaning it is open to government organizations and their contractors. Defense Department officials stress the importance of the Distributed Digital Framework version 2.0, which is a key component of the DIB. Military documents describe the Distributed Data Framework as “a major leap forward for the DCGS enterprise community” that will “enable continued improvements in data-sharing and interoperability.”

Poage adds that, “The DMO strives to optimize capability delivered to the warfighter, minimize redundancy of effort across the community, and maximize cost efficiencies. ISR applications, analytics and user interfaces are only as useful as the data they can access.”