Blog: Command Organizes Afghan Data Clearinghouse

April 29, 2010
By Henry Kenyon

It's the mantra of all media: to provide accurate, timely information from many sources into something cohesive and useful. Now, operations in Afghanistan will benefit from data shared in a much more efficient manner.

Army officers Col. George Franz, Lt. Col. David Pendall and Lt. Col. Jeffery Steffen report on this new information construct in their article "Command's Information Dominance Center Fuels Comprehensive Operations."

Featured in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, the authors describe the specs and goals of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command's (IJC's) crown jewel in this effort: the Information Dominance Center, or IDC.

It's a first: This level of battlespace management and synchronization has never been attempted on this scale within NATO or the coalition force. The IDC works in an information "ecosystem" where the importance of each piece of data is determined through a hierarchy of criteria. Classified information is pushed to the lowest level possible, while the IJC ingests information from multiple unclassified data sources.

Working almost like a sieve, all data gleaned from disparate sources is collated, abstracted and shared through the IJC's reporting process. It supports cross-functional information processing and ensures data validation. Ultimately, the key to enabling local leaders in Afghanistan's districts and provinces is to accurately represent their information requirements as joint operations within local communities.

The IDC leverages a trio of tools to foster this process. First, Web portals provide wide-scale access to the finished products. The second tool is an Afghanistan-focused wiki-like information repository-this "Afghan wiki" is an information-sharing environment for data, information and assessments. The third tool is a database that enables cross-staff, cross-function and cross-partner structured information sharing.

The operational environment becomes much clearer to the IJC commander and staff, ISAF, as well as the collaborating local Afghan leaders, the Afghan army and the police forces. The final result is a completely joint, structured communications system that all involved parties can access, contribute to, and glean critical information from so they can move forward in meeting the nation's challenges and ensuring its future.

Is it possible for the IDC to enable these organizations to work seamlessly once implemented, or will the usual interoperability problems rear their ugly heads? Technology has come a long way, but has it come far enough to eliminate stovepiped systems and overcome cultural differences? Please share your opinions here.

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