Defense COPs out to UDOP

Defense deputy chief information officer Priscilla Guthrie today announced an initiative that effectively eliminates a goal toward which the department has been working for decades.

The term common operational picture (COP) -- used to describe providing battlefield commanders, logisticians and rear-echelon commanders with a single picture of the battle space and operational capability of the troops -- is no longer en vogue, Guthrie said today at a meeting of the Northern Virginia chapter of the AFCEA International.

The new jargon, User-Defined Operational Picture (UDOP), marks a shift in approach.

"One [common way to look at] a problem has a lot of value, because everyone sees the same thing," Guthrie said. "But we have recently realized that's not where we want to be. We want to create a collaborative environment where everybody can come and discuss what they see from the unique perspective of their organization."

She used an example from the 2002 sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, where law enforcement officials operated on the assumption that a white van was somehow involved in the crimes. As a result, the investigation focused on that piece of information, which, in the end, had no bearing on the case.

"I look at it as akin to personalizing Web sites," she said. "If you have your personalized Web site that provides information important and unique to you and your organization and someone with whom you need to collaborate has the same for themselves, you have a much broader, richer view of the total information available."

Instead of providing everyone with one picture that may not directly impact them and which they may not be able to add value to, Guthrie said a better way of functioning is to allow for collaboration from unique perspectives.

The goal, she said, is to have everybody understand what is happening rather than providing everyone with the same view from which to analyze a problem or set of data.

"We want to train people to look at different things and bring those different views to the table to combine them," Guthrie said. "In short, we want to broaden the view."

She said the new UDOP doctrine will better dovetail with the policy of "smart pull," allowing end users to pull relevant information as they need it, rather than wait for information or data to be provided to them.

DOD's official definition of COP is "a single identical display of relevant information shared by more than one command."

"A common operational picture facilitates collaborative planning and assists all echelons to achieve situational awareness," according to the Defense Technical Information Center's Web site.

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