Distributed Common Ground System-Army: focused on the future

Distributed Common Ground System-Army: focused on the future

Alfred Burkhard

With the recent approval by the Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC), the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) continues its march to the Milestone B decision in the third quarter fiscal year 2004 (FY04) and, ultimately, fielding as the Army’s capstone intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) processing system. Critical to the success of DCGS-A are the joint interoperability requirements mandated in the Department of Defense (DOD) Distributed Common Ground/Surface System (DCGS) Capstone Requirements Document (CRD). In order to ensure compliance with these requirements, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) G2 participates in the ongoing Integrated Process Team (IPT) process within DOD through the Army Intelligence Master Plan (AIMP) program.


As the capstone ISR processing system for use by the Future Force, DCGS-A will provide access to information and intelligence collected by national, joint, other Services, coalition, and Army intelligence as well as non-intelligence sensors and systems. It is imperative that the Army identifies joint, interagency, and multinational (JIM) interoperability issues for both current systems and those planned for the future. This interoperability is not restricted to just intelligence systems; battle command, signals, fires, mobility, sustainment, and medical systems are also part of the discussion and planning. To be “expeditionary” demands a lighter, more lethal, scalable, and modular force with immediate access to information and intelligence that precludes the “stovepiped” systems in existence today. The Unit of Action (UA)–the combat force that will execute decisive operations in the Future Force–must have access, without latency, to information and intelligence regardless of the source or location of the collector that allows the commander to make fully informed decisions faster than his adversary.

The operational view shown in Figure 1 captures both the complexity and the essence of the environment in which DCGS-A will provide support to the warfighter. As depicted in the figure, the UA is the centerpiece of the combat organization ultimately charged with conducting decisive operations. It will have the ability to draw from multiple sources for various layers of both information and intelligence that will enable the UA commander to make timely decisions. No longer encumbered by stovepiped systems, but enhanced by interoperability and connectivity across the spectrum, the UA commander will be able to access information and intelligence regardless of the original source. This will not, however, be possible without a significant investment in a process that will vet such critical aspects as the–

* Various multilevel security policies.

* Intelligence domain-specific nuances.

* Force structure concerns.

* Personnel training issues.

* Assured communications.


Within the Army alone, the entire Doctrine, Organization, Training, Leadership, Materiel, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTLMPF) process requires addressing and examination as it pertains to the Future Force with a specific focus on intelligence.

Three Integrated Process Teams

The IPTs provide the venue with which to explore the issues of JIM The IPTs formed to address the specific intelligence domain, as well as common issues and challenges. For example, during October 2003, the Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Measurement and Signatures Intelligence (MASINT), and Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) and Geospatial Information IPTs held meetings and addressed a number of these issues in joint interoperability.

The most recent SIGINT meeting included an update on horizontal fusion efforts; the discussion included the Joint National Tactical SIGINT Software to eliminate selected duplicative SIGINT software and tools among the Services and the National Security Agency (NSA). Additionally, the Services addressed issues that had joint and other Service impact. For example, the Air Force discussed the impact of software upgrades on the U-2 Dragon Lady and the ability of the other Services to receive U-2 collected data.

MASINT and IMINT subject matter experts (SMEs) attended the 8 October 2003 MASINT IPT. This wide-ranging meeting touched on a number of topics and areas of concern. Among other issues, it included an announcement that the Air Force has designated the Distributed Common Ground System-Air Force (DCGS-AF) as a weapon system. By virtue of this declaration, the other Services must adhere to specific rules and policies that will affect adjustments necessary to assure interoperability. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) MASINT message traffic will use a new U.S. Message Traffic Format (USMTF), the tactical MASINT report (TACMASINTREP) format. Additionally, the multidiscipline intelligence correlation of the MASINT electronic intelligence (ELINT) and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) effort has now received funding; the Joint Expeditionary Fires Experiment (JEFX) in the July-August 2004 time frame will demonstrate and test it.

The IMINT IPT on 9 October included Army G2 representation. In attendance were representatives from all of the DOD DCGS users as well as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) (formerly the National Imagery and Mapping Agency [NIMA]). Issues discussed dealt largely with the Common Imagery Processor (CIP), upcoming standards, and the development of the DCGS. The most notable discussion concerned the standardization of targeting physics; given today’s climate of wanting zero errors in targeting, it is understandable why this topic received much attention. Additionally, motion imagery compression and storage standards were subjects of in-depth technical discussion.


As demonstrated by the various and wide-ranging topics of the IPTs, the challenges associated with DCGS-A will cross Service and Intelligence domains and boundaries. The military must address the entire spectrum of DOTLMPF as each domain tackles the issues associated with joint interagency interoperability. If DCGS-A is to successfully serve as the ISR processing system of the Future Force, resolution of the myriad technical and policy issues is required to provide the commander timely and accurate information and intelligence. The Army G2 will stay engaged in this process to ensure success.

Glossary of Acronyms Used In Figure 1

ACS–Aerial Common Sensor

APG-73–Airborne radar system

ARIES II–Advanced Imagery Requirements and Exploitation System II

ARL–Airborne Reconnaissance Low

ASARS-2A–Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar-2A

C41–Command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence


CONUS–Continental United States

DCGS–Distributed Common Ground/Surface System

DCGS-A–Distributed Common Ground System-Army

DCGS-AF–Distributed Common Ground System-Air Force

DCGS-N–Distributed Common Ground System-Navy

DOD–Department of Defense

DGS–Distributed Ground System

DTSP–Defense Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Program

ELINT–Electronic intelligence


EP-3–Orion airframe, Navy land-based SIGINT collection aircraft

FCS–Future Combat System

FOS–Family of systems

FTTS–Future Tactical Truck System

GIG–Global Information Grid

GMTI–Ground moving target indicator

HSOC–Home Station Operations Center

HUMINT–Human intelligence

IMINT–Imagery intelligence


JMOD–Joint SIGINT avionics modifications

JSTARS–Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)

JTF–Joint task force

JTRS–Joint Tactical Radio System

LAEO–Low-altitude earth orbit

LRS–Long-range surveillance

LW–Land warrior

MAEO–Medium-altitude earth orbit

MAGIS–Marine Air Ground Intelligence System

MASINT–Measurement and signatures intelligence

MTI–Moving target indicator

MULTI-INT–Multidiscipline intelligence

NTM–National technical means (formerly national assets)

RA-1R–Airborne system

RAS-1R–Airborne sensor system (U-2)

RS-6B–Senior Span/Senior Spear, U-2 communications system

SAR–Synthetic aperture radar

SHARP–Shared Reconnaissance Pod, used on Navy F-18s

SIGINT–Signals intelligence

SOF–Special Operations Forces

SYERS-2–Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System 2

TF–Task force

TPED–Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination

TSAR–Theater Simulation of Airbase Resources (Model)

TUAV–Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UA–Unit of Action

UE–Unit of Employment

UGS–Unattended ground sensors

USAF–U.S. Air Force

USMC–U.S. Marine Corps

VT-UAV–Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

WIN-T–Warfighter Information Network-Tactical

Alfred “Ace” Burkhard (Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired) is currently the contract Senior Combat Arms Analyst in the Army Intelligence Master Plan (AIMP) office working in support of the DCS, G2. A Retired Colonel (Infantry), he served 27 years assigned throughout the continental United States, Europe, and Korea. His final active duty assignment was as Director, Executive Communications and Control, in the Office of the Secretary of the Army. Readers may contact the author via E-mail at alfred.burkhard @us.army.mil and telephoically at (703) 681-9553/9345 or DSN 761-9553/9345.

COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group