DOD experiment tests transformation

The Defense Department will conduct an experiment this week testing network-centric warfare operations, a concept crucial to DOD's transformation and the vision of its chief information officer, John Stenbit.

The trial, called Quantum Leap, will occur Aug. 27 and seeks to make intelligence quickly available to warfighters.

The experiment is designed to validate new ways of transmitting, posting and accessing information. Some of these processes were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 12-hour-long test will take place at several sites, including the Defense Information Systems Agency in Washington, D.C., the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command facility in Charleston, S.C., and the Army's top soldier training facility at Fort Benning, Ga.

"This is the first opportunity for the Defense Department to demonstrate network-centric warfare capabilities," said Margaret Myers, principal director to the DOD deputy chief information officer.

Quantum Leap will be led by John Osterholz, the DOD CIO office's director of architecture and interoperability, and Marian Cherry, the department's horizontal fusion program manager.

Osterholz said the experiment will help change how DOD distributes intelligence.

"Information typically has been retained in agencies' channels until the product becomes intelligence," Osterholz said. "We don't want to hoard data until it is done. We want to provide it as soon as it is collected."

Department and industry officials say Quantum Leap is crucial for two reasons. First, it accelerates 12 software and data programs planned for 2004. Second, it fine-tunes the U.S. military's emerging strategy for network-centric warfare.

DOD officials believe posting intelligence more quickly to a network, which warfighters could easily view to assist in making decisions, shortens the target identification-to-attack time gap. Stenbit and deputy chief information officer Priscilla Guthrie call it horizontal fusion.

The $80 million experiment is the first of five planned through 2007 that will cost almost $1 billion, a top DOD information technology official said. "We want to give DOD leadership a glimpse of what net-centric warfare can do short of a real military engagement," the official said.

Quantum Leap is designed to test how well DOD makes intelligence data available to the people who need it most: warfighters, said Paul "Page" Hoeper, who served as the Army's top acquisition official during the Clinton administration.

"These concepts and technologies reduce the time between identifying a target and what the Army calls 'servicing the target,'" Hoeper said.

One Quantum Leap vignette involves Army Rangers finding al Qaeda intelligence documents after seizing a house, but those documents are written in Arabic and the unit does not have a translator. Using a ground robot that aided them in the attack, the Rangers would access the Basic Language Translation Services capability on the Global Information Grid and quickly receive the document in English, Osterholz said.

The experiment highlights Stenbit's desire to change the way the department acquires and distributes intelligence.

To enable horizontal fusion, DOD will award the highly anticipated $500 million GIG-Bandwidth Expansion contract in early October. GIG-BE will create a ubiquitous, secure, robust, optical IP network to post and access intelligence for all classification levels, bringing the intelligence and communications communities onto a single infrastructure.

DISA is evaluating GIG-BE proposals and could award up to nine contracts, but officials will not announce program awardees for security reasons, an agency statement said. Northrop Grumman Information Technology has submitted a proposal, said an industry official.

Matthew French contributed to this story.

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Putting 'fusion' to the test

Quantum Leap links Defense Department agencies to test 12 concepts and technologies that are designed to make intelligence quickly available to warfighters. They fall into four categories. Among the ideas being tested and what DOD is hoping to demonstrate:

Infrastructure — Collateral Information Space: Put intelligence data in a distributed network that can be easily accessed.

Software — Nonobvious relationships analysis: Modify commercial software used in the gaming industry for background checks for DOD use.

Data services — Cooperative engagement capability data-tagging and posting: Collect Navy radar images and assign easily understood names and post them to the network for easy retrieval.

Systems — Global network-centric surveillance and targeting: Create smart software agents that scour hard-to-find enemy targets and systems, such as surface-to-air missile sites hidden in trees.

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