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Army and Marine Corps Find Synergy Supporting Intelligence Mission in the Pacific

October 4, 2013

By First Lt. Jeremy Croft, III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs; Brandon Pollachek, Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors' Public Affairs and Jess Smith, Distributed Common Ground System -- Army Public Affairs

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan - The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been working together over the past fifteen months to improve intelligence collaboration efforts focused in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Using the Distributed Common Ground System -- Army, the III Marine Expeditionary Force has been participating in an on-going Joint Field User Evaluation where they have been utilizing capabilities found in DCGS-A to support their mission. III MEF recently evaluated these capabilities during the exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a bilateral exercise between the U.S. and ROK that concluded August 30.

The Marines and the Army have different core intelligence requirements but share some common focus areas. The Marines have been using DCGS-A to identify elements to adapt into their own intelligence capabilities. This collaboration between services has increased the communication and clarified the common understanding of what interoperability enables between the two services' organizations. The Army and Marine Corps, each with a tailored intelligence mission defined by their own requirements, have been engaging in an open dialogue across a common enterprise framework.

"Using DCGS-A has increased our collaboration with the Army," explained Marine Col. Sean McBride, III MEF Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2. "Implementing DCGS-A into our intelligence toolkit during exercises like Ulchi Freedom Guardian helps us learn how we can use DCGS-A capabilities not only during combat scenarios but also for natural disasters and humanitarian missions that are a primary focus here for us in Okinawa."

DCGS-A is the Army's intelligence system, an enterprise that supports world-wide missions and is built on the intelligence community backbone standards allowing for continued growth and sharing of intelligence capabilities with sister services and other federal agencies. The system collates data gathered for the purposes of analytical processing and shares significant amounts of information pulled into a common environment which allows for enhancements to situational awareness and improves the commander's decision-making regarding the use of force. The DCGS Enterprise enables commanders to access key information, track specific requirements, and make timely decisions through access to more than 600 data sources. This information can be used in a wide range of situations, from engaging with enemy combatants to assisting displaced personnel in a disaster situation.

"Increased communication is one of the most important benefits of this FUE. We've been working at every level, from our intelligence analyst Lance Corporals using DCGS-A, to our general officers working on intelligence strategies. We've been building relationships and learning how to share intelligence information to align efforts. This collaboration goes beyond the hardware and software fundamentals of DCGS-A. We've been learning about how DCGS-A can support the Marine intelligence mission and also how we can increase the synergy to improve equipping, fielding, training and sustainment," explained Marine Lt. Col. David Yost, the chief technology officer for the Director of Marine Corps Intelligence.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian was a culminating event exercising cooperation and increased communication between the Marine and Army intelligence communities. This exercise gave units the ability to practice implementing DCGS-A in an operational environment to improve real-time intelligence. Units in Japan and the ROK were able to share intelligence across multiple networks to provide the most current, accurate, relevant intelligence battlefield picture.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian included forces from multiple United Nations sending states including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom in addition to the U.S. and ROK.

The command-and-control exercise incorporated the lessons learned from the U.S. military's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade and from previous exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

Continued collaboration on innovative ideas along with the sharing of cutting edge intelligence technology is the backbone of the on-going Joint Field User Evaluation between the Army and Marines.

"The Marines received Multi-Function Work Stations and Intelligence Fusion Servers, a DCGS-A mentor and a Field Support Engineer for the entire year," said Army Maj. Shermoan Daiyaan, assistant product manager for DCGS-A. "We trained III MEF Marines, providing them with user training and maintainer training,"

Once the new system operators were trained and plugged in, the Marines from III MEF were able to reach more than 7 million data entries utilizing DCGS-A.

"3d Intelligence Battalion's evaluation of the DCGS-A Multi-Functional Work Station and Intelligence Fusion Server architecture gets us much closer to looking at the same intelligence data as our Army counterparts in Korea," said Marine Capt. Matthew Kralovec, Production and Analysis Company Executive Officer, 3rd Intelligence Battalion.

"The initial results of the evaluation indicate that our use of DCGS-A may break down several barriers to intelligence interoperability between Marines in Okinawa and Army units in Korea."
The Army benefits by closing the intelligence gap between the services and picking up valuable lessons learned in operating within a major conflict scenario. "Some of our biggest lessons learned dealt with shifting away from the counter-insurgency fight and the ability to network with another service with our equipment," said Daiyaan.

"The Army sees this initiative as an opportunity to improve interoperability with joint ground forces to better support analysis, improve timeliness, and enable commanders to make better informed decisions," said Daiyaan. "Also, the Army welcomes the alternative perspective that the USMC will provide in this assessment as a means to improve the analytical capability of DCGS-A and improve ease of use."

During the past decade, as the Department of Defense has added numerous high-tech intelligence collecting platforms into the inventory, there have been occasional challenges for operators having to sift through vast amounts of collected information. The Army has utilized DCGS-A to tackle this challenge, and now the Marines through the Joint Field User Evaluation are also finding where the system can make this process more efficient.
According to Yost, the value of the evaluation has the potential to reach beyond the two services currently involved.

"A key attribute of the evaluation is that the Army's DCGS Edge Node architecturally aligns with both the Distributed Common Ground/Surface System Marine Corps and the developing Naval Tactical Cloud capability, so that the lessons learned in the evaluation could translate to numerous efficiencies in multiple programs," noted Yost. "While initial exercises focus Marine Corps and Army intelligence functions, this lays the foundation for future collaboration across naval maritime operations and fixed sites associated with the Air Force."

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