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New 'knowledge wall' will greatly enhance decision-making

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., (USTCNS) --- U.S. Transportation Command decision-makers will soon have a much better tool to use in the Joint Mobility Operations Center (JMOC) when the current information screens will be replaced by a "knowledge wall," or visual depiction of the battle space.

"A few years ago we started looking at what would be the best way to focus the command on the decision-making process as far as the current JMOC," said Mr. Keith Seaman, Chief of USTRANSCOM's Operations Integration Division.

"The idea behind the knowledge wall is, yes you have the knowledge and you see goodness, but also see how you can focus in on the problem areas that you need to make decisions on," he continued. "It's the key thing that we have to do. We want to make it as graphically as we can, because 85 percent of us are graphical in nature, and the other 15 percent of us are tabular in nature."

How do you create a knowledge wall or visual depiction of the battle space so that you can focus in on the problem? "That's where we get our information-rich visualization ideas, to focus in on the problem using visualization tools and create a knowledge wall."

The knowledge wall itself is not just independent stove-piped information systems or just data. "Basic information is called data, which means it's just there," Seaman explained. "You are not making decisions on it. You see it; that's data. Information is where you have seen data that has something to do with your business, and you make some decisions on it, but the information is not fused. So you have to go to your individual stove-piped systems to pull the information out so that you can make and create the battle space which leads to slide presentations. We spend more of our manpower on slide production rather than analyses."

How do you get to that?

"The next thing is moving into a knowledge wall where it's a centralized view of the battle space," he said. "Now we want to take all of this information and create the pictures that we need to focus in on. That information, or knowledge, is information that is decision-ready information so that when you see it, you can make decisions of it. It creates the picture you want to see so that you don't have to go to other sources to get it. It brings the whole picture on it."

The knowledge wall idea was presented to Maj. Gen. Robert Dail, director of operations, who said it was exactly what he wanted. "We talked about how you would work in a collaborate environment with everything on a Web-based access," he said. "We discussed how we need to be immersed into the data with the information and the knowledge, and then be interactive with it so that we can call up the information right away, whether it's imagery from the intelligence community or whether it's weather, it's automatically there and it's fused to other things that effect it in real time."

"When we rely on manually built slides, due to the amount of time it takes to build slides and have it reviewed by the executive, the information is two, maybe three hours old," said Maj. Leonard Harrison, Joint Mobility Operations Officer. "By leveraging these information systems, we hope to provide executive information that would not be older than, say, ten minutes old, or near real time."

Another aspect of the knowledge wall is that it allows you to focus better as far as the problem sets. "If we can get to this point of being merged and interactive with the data where you can pull up the imagery and the weather and can actually see when we are having an operation that is on-going, and weather becomes a problem, we can see the mission as it is related to the weather," Seaman said. "So we can make decisions on that. If it's a threat [to the mission], we can make decisions based on the threats so that you can halt, slow down, or re-direct on a moment's notice. But you got to be able to see the whole picture to be able to make those kinds of decisions. That's where General Dail has us going.

"We then went in and showed what we would do," he continued. "The wall would have weather, intelligence, the distinguished visitor watches, the force movement tracker, future requirements, and the various hot issues that are affecting the command. If you had this global transportation battle space and the global distribution battle space, you would be able to see the problem, click on it and go to that particular battle space.

"If we had a problem in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, we would go to the CENTCOM view and everything would switch; the weather, the intel, DV (distinguished visitors) watches, and the force movement tracker. Then the data is fused so we can see just that information."

The knowledge wall would show the graphics and the fused data to make decisions.

"General Dail stated he wanted a multi-media capability that's flexible and graphical in nature that will build the slides automatically without any human interface," Seaman said. "We gave him a demo of that initial look and he said we were on target, moving in the right direction. When completed, the wall will help the JMOC chief focus in on the problem to make the right course of action decision."

This will also allow a virtual collaboration with the component commands and USTRANSCOM's customers so they can focus on the problem. "The wall will push the information to them on what is happening in their AOR," he continued. "It becomes a command operating picture, a unique operating picture that is focused on deployment and distribution.

"We want the wall to be predictive, automatically advising us of potential problems said Harrison. "Based on a prediction, we can perform risk analysis and make decisions. This will help identify opportunities to be even more proactive."

"The bottom line is once you get to where you can fuse the data as to how the weather relates to the operational movement of forces, the intel relates to the DV moves, or the future requirement moves, as each one of these relates to the DTS capacity to move assets of infrastructure or resources, there has to be some auto alerts, something that will warn us that our requirements are greater than our capacity, so we can decide how we could smooth out the flow," Seaman said. "This will assist the JMOC chief who must decide on how to complete the mission with the current capacity. This will also help in dealing with threats. If a port is weather restricted or damaged; the JMOC chief can make a decision on either slowing down the flow, diverting it to another port, or put the flow on hold until the port is available. If the decision-making information is there, it helps you make those kinds of decisions."

It's estimated that initial increments of Knowledge Wall capability will be up and running in JMOC by summer 2004.

Office of Public Affairs - transcom-pa@mail.mil
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