International C2 Journal: Issues

Vol 1, No 2

Guest Editor’s Introductory Remarks

The operational environment for command and control is becoming increasingly complex and challenging to manage. Multiple, often geographically-separate conflicts may arise simultaneously. Modern weapon systems can be employed on short-notice from bases around the world in synchronized attack on multiple targets, with multiple weapons, at multiple times. In recognition of these capabilities, some adversaries employ tactics that deliberate limit the engagement windows of US forces. In addition to traditional high-tempo, force-on-force major theater operations, U.S. forces must thus also support low-end conflicts characterized by insurgency tactics and time-sensitive targets of opportunity. To meet these challenges, US forces require flexible C2 processes that can adapt rapidly to the level of conflict presented.

Significant efforts are underway to address these challenges via the DoD’s transformation to net-centric operations (NCO), which allows forces to be physically dispersed yet operationally connected in an enterprise network of users, mission applications, systems and services. Emerging network-centric technologies will provide operators and decision-makers in net-centric C2 environments with access to unprecedented amounts of real-time and archival battlefield information, and they offer the potential to enable transformational C2 capabilities. Standards-based machine-to-machine (M2M) integration will enable hitherto stovepiped systems to share data with one another, facilitating the creation of all-source pictures of the battlespace. Numerous efforts are underway within the DoD community to achieve better M2M system integration using technologies such as web services, XML-based communications, and so-called “web 2.0” technologies.

The tenets of net-centric warfare argue that increased mission effectiveness will accrue from shared situation awareness that enables self synchronization, which in turn derives from better information sharing across a robustly networked force (DoD 2001). While the M2M information technologies provide the platform for improving mission effectiveness, ultimately it is human decision makers operating in the cognitive and social domain who will exploit this information for decision-making advantage in the operational environment. As such, the development of effective decision support capabilities that leverage M2M integration in a way that aligns with net-centric tenets becomes critical. Broadly, decision support capabilities help humans improve their judgment of information, make better decisions, and achieve better outcomes. The development of  effective decision support systems for network centric C2 entails answering questions related to many key enabling technologies and methodologies:

The papers in this special issue of the CCRP’s International Journal of Command and Control take a broad look at the problem space of decision support in net-centric C2, exploring many of the challenges discussed above.

Unmanned aircraft systems are increasingly becoming pervasive in current day military operations. Even though the vehicles are uninhabited, they require extensive ground-based human interaction and supervision to perform their missions. While the vision has long been for single operators to control multiple vehicles, the present reality is that multiple operators may be required to manage the functions of a single vehicle. The paper by Cummings, Bruni, Mercier, and Mitchell surveys trends and approaches to unmanned vehicle (UV) control. Their analysis shows an increasing trend in the number of vehicles a single operator can control as a function of increasing automation in navigation and flight control loops. While the trends are promising, the practical number of vehicles that an operator can manage will depend on many factors related to system reliability and human performance with automated decision support. Based on this survey they propose a hierarchical control concept for UAS control, which they suggest will meet many of the requirements that must be achieved for multi-UV control. Their model contains a hierarchy of successive control loops, with the innermost one focused on autopilot/flight controls, the layer around it on navigation, and the outermost layer on overall mission/payload management.

Increasingly, the development of decision support tools in C2 focuses on addressing the holistic needs of distributed teams rather than individuals. Conventional approaches to supporting such teams involves the use of general-purpose collaboration tools such as chat, shared whiteboards, shared filesystems, and so on. By their general nature, such tools do not necessarily provide efficient support to the overall C2 work activity, since they were never designed for such specific purposes. Kuper and Giurelli present a methodology for achieving such efficiency through holistic, coherent work aiding that is tailored to the team’s specific in-context needs. They present an example of the methodology as applied to supporting the needs of 10 distributed C2 operators distributed between two air operations centers.

The paper by Parasuraman, Barnes, and Kosenzo follows with a broad look at the issue of automation in human/robot teaming for C2. This discussion is placed in the context of a previously developed model of human/automation interaction design, which defines successive stages of functionality in an automated system, namely information acquisition, information analysis and presentation, decision option selection, and action implementation. They develop a theoretical framework for adaptive and adaptable processes as methods that can enhance human-system performance while avoiding some of the common pitfalls of “static” automation—such as over-reliance, skill degradation, and reduced situation awareness. Results from human-in-the-loop experimentation show how adaptive automation can enhance performance in the supervision of multiple uninhabited vehicles, balancing operator workload and enhancing situation awareness.

Finally, an important consideration as net-centric decision support systems become available is the means by which they express the language of C2 – the verbs and nouns of missions, targets, objectives, assets, environmental conditions, and other such critical variables. A number of different vocabularies and structured data models now exist for expressing basic C2 vocabularies. The paper by Schade and Hieb shows how to extend such vocabularies to define a formal language for expressing plans and orders in a manner that reduces the ambiguity found in common military message formats. The methodology combines computational linguistics with C2 grammars to arrive at this formal language, which makes it possible to build complex C2 expressions that formalize command intent. This approach offers the potential to make it possible to communicate command intent clearly and unambiguously to a wide range of recipients, which will become increasingly important in coalition endeavors where not all participants speak the same language (and increasingly, some participants may be semi-automated systems).



  1. Department of Defense. 2001. Network centric warfare: Report to Congress. Available online at