SOCOM Needs Open Architecture Intel Systems To Identify, Track Threats

Special Operations Command should “aggressively” pursue an enterprise-wide open architecture intelligence-sharing network to make the most of the data it and partner organizations within and outside the Defense Department gather, according to Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

Asked how Special Operations forces should approach the need for open architecture intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure into which platforms and data could be plugged and shared, Mitchell simply said “aggressively.”

“I’m firmly convinced that the answers to a lot of our questions are out there, but the data that we need to analyze and make correlations are in proprietary databases that we just can’t bring together,” he said Feb. 28 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) conference outside Washington, D.C. “They are controlled by somebody else and they’re not going to share.”

Mitchell knocked the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) – the Army’s primary battlefield data-management system – as “anything but common.”

“That was an attempt to build a common architecture that we struggled with for years,” he said.

The Army has spent 15 years and $6 billion developing DCGS, the Army’s current system for intelligence information sharing, processing, operational use and storage. DCGS-A Increment 2 is the Army’s next phase of DCGS-A development. Lockheed Martin [LMT] has built and integrated elements of DCGS. Congress has forced the Army to consider commercially-available software and hardware components for future iterations of the system.

Mitchell said a lack of common standards for hardware and software interfaces is hindering SOCOM’s effort to migrate to cloud computing and data storage.

“The move to cloud computing, we still don’t have a common database standard in the intelligence community and we haven’t figured out how to share data,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for a number of years, trying to move to cloud-based technology, use big-data analytics, but we seem to be a really long way off from actually realizing it. As we turn to this era of irregular warfare … it’s going to be very important to us.”

SOCOM needs to take public information and combine it with proprietary and classified information that DoD already has. That way, SOCOM can access and make use of data from other government and non-governmental sources like the social media and the departments of Treasury, State and Homeland Security to identify and track threats, he said.

“We have an amazing ability to understand threat networks,” Mitchell said. “Over the last 16, 17 years our ability to identify and track these terrorist networks has become second to none. But I think we really need to expand the friendly networks around us.”

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