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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with David J. Ozolek; Executive Director, Joint Futures Laboratory, U.S. Joint Forces Command

Q&A with David J. Ozolek; Executive Director, Joint Futures Laboratory, U.S. Joint Forces Command
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2007
The Joint Futures Laboratory played a huge part in the success of Noble Resolve. Dave Ozolek, executive director for the lab, explained its importance and demonstrated the technologies used in the experiments for the media April 26 while Noble Resolve was under way.

A: We are the guys with the responsibility for executing the whole thing and providing the capabilities. The Joint Futures Lab is a national laboratory in the same category of assets as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Johnson Space Center and other laboratories across the federal government that work on problems relating to science and technology, for example. We work on national security problems.

Q: What is the size of your staff?

A: The staff is about 600 people. About 50 of those are active duty uniformed-officers, most with recent operational experience within the last year or two. We have about 100 government civilians and they fall into two categories. Some are technical experts in specific areas like modeling and simulation and others are managers who take care of running the organization.

We have a flexible staff of anywhere between 350 and 450 subject matter experts that we can bring in through arrangements with other agencies and task organize around whatever the particular set of problems is at the moment. For example, some of the folks we have here now are working on the homeland defense piece, another group is working on problems of how we prevent the destabilization of Africa, and another group is working on how we transform the logistical structures in Korea. We cover a broad spectrum of problems.

In addition, another 200 people inside this building represent other agencies, organizations and countries that we work with. We have 25 allied officers from 16 different countries. We have representatives from other parts of the government, like the Department of Energy, which has a liaison section that connects us back to the national laboratories.

We have a good size contingent from each of the services. A dozen people or so work with us daily to make sure that as we build joint solutions we have the services on board with us.

Q: Can you give an example of the lab's global reach?

A: In the Urban Resolve 2015 experiment, we networked 19 sites across the United States to bring more than 1,000 people together. In other experiments like the Multinational Experiment, that we conducted last year, we were connected globally to four different continents and about 900 people from eight nations.

We were all working together to figure out how to improve our ability to conduct stability operations in Afghanistan. It is important to understand the enterprise-distributed nature of our work and how we can mass intellectual capital together to solve complex problems.

It is more than just running wires out to them and putting them on workstations. You have to create a realistic environment in which they can all work together and a highly detailed representation of the operational problems we are facing.

Q: Can you discuss the scope of the lab's work?

A: The only place we can get the complexity of the problems we are dealing with is to tap into real-world problems. To get the real-world flavor, we connect into the systems that help us understand the world. For example, there is a maritime surveillance system called AIS, the Automated Information System that does the same thing for the maritime domain that the air traffic control system does for aircraft.

It is possible in the 21st century to know where every ship is moving in the oceans, what it is doing, where it is headed, what cargo it is carrying and what its intent is. We can pipe that information into this building (as we are doing for this experiment) and see what that looks like.

Rather than create 11,000 ships, we tap into the 11,000 ships that are already out there and use that backplane for our experiment. Probably 10,999 of those ships are doing what they are supposed to be doing, and they are there for peaceful purposes. We have no problem with them, but we need to understand what they are doing so we can sift through the clutter.

When we want to create a situation that challenges our ability to respond, we need to interject synthetic situations. We take real-world data and interject it into artificial situations like a ship carrying a radiological device with an evil intent that wants to get to Norfolk, set that thing off and cause a terrorist incident.

Obviously, we don't want to touch a radiological device off in Norfolk. We don't want to flood Norfolk with 10 feet of water, but we do want to see how we can prevent or assist in case a disaster strikes or see how agencies can work together to respond to the disaster.

Q: Can you talk about the lab's synthetic capabilities?

A: We have the capability for using some astounding computational power. We are tied into a couple of supercomputers across the country, one in Hawaii at the Maui High Performance Computing Center and one at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. We network together to create the computational capability required to build a replica of a real world.

The slice of the real world [that] we are working with this week is the Tidewater area of Virginia. We have about 140 players in the operational cells, connected in real-time to the Virginia Fusion Center and the Emergency Operations Center in Richmond in a seamless environment.

Q: Can you talk about the other systems that you are using?

A: Our artificial world interacts with the command and control systems that we use everyday to conduct our business. On the military side is GCCS, Global Command and Control System, the FBI uses its own network and many other systems, and the Virginia Fusion Center and state police all have communications and command and control systems.

Our artificial world simulates those systems the same way the real world does so that we generate a response from the player. We need to aggressively present them with huge challenges that will stress their ability to deal with these situations. This will help us understand the worst case and what set of capabilities we need to have available.

Q: What else is the lab working with?

A: In addition to the typical military stuff, over the past few months, we found other capabilities available. We have taken some of the capabilities of the National Weather Service to predict and monitor hurricane direction and impact and built that capability into our synthetic city so we can understand the potential consequences of something like a Category 3 hurricane hitting the Norfolk area.

We have brought in some of the capabilities that we built for warfighting purposes, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency built models of how radioactive or other toxic clouds move through an urban environment. We have brought these into our system so we can set off our own nuclear, chemical or biological incident to see how that unfolds as it moves through the urban environment and affects different parts of the cities. Then we brought in the commercial game industry to help us make this less analytical and more useful, friendly — and cheap for the first responder level.

The centerpiece of the experiment, is the need to create a collaborative environment that replicates how we communicate in the real world to help us understand what information the critical decision makers need, where that information originates and see if that information can get from the point of origin to the point of decision.

Then it is assembled with other elements of information that the decision maker needs to turn those bits and pieces into understanding so that he can make an informed decision to do the right thing at the right place at the right time.

We are still reacting to disaster situations where it takes too long to make some of the important decisions because the right information does not get to the person who needs to make the decision.

Q: In building the synthetic environment, did you build from a baseline? What assumptions did you use?

A: One of the challenges that we are facing is that we have built these systems to deal with the problems we encountered in 2001 with the 9/11 attacks and two years ago with the Katrina situation, but we have yet to bring all of them together.

One of the huge findings from this experiment is that almost every bit of information that one of our decision makers needs, whether it is the president declaring a state of national emergency or the governor asking for federal help, or the mayor as he begins to move the fire department or the police department, is there. But the complete set of information is not available to the decision maker because it is caught up in these different networks and different systems.

One of our immediate challenges is to integrate these systems in a way to provide a comprehensive set of information for the decision maker to make the right decision quickly. There is a combination of challenges, some of it is technical and the other is policy. How do we get through the barriers we have put into the information domain that keep information from flowing across from one community to another?

We have talked with state and local leadership about the combination of some of these capabilities might have to generate a complex problem like a tidal surge with the Palanterra system and then the real-world consequences on all the elements that make up the functionality of a city, like medical aid and power.

We can combine the two, create a disaster and then be able to think about (as we were not able to do a couple of years ago when Katrina was approaching New Orleans) what hospitals are going to remain functional, what traffic arteries are going to collapse, and what the impact is going to be on our ability to get people out of the Tidewater area or disaster-assistance capabilities into the Tidewater area.

Palanterra was developed by NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency). It has tremendous capabilities. (Demonstrating Palanterra) It can zoom to an urban site and give 3-D views in detail of whatever you need to see. Using LIDAR – light detection and ranging data – it creates an overlay over the area you want to examine and provides detailed information about it.

We want to establish a goal to operationalize these capabilities to get them out of the laboratory and into the hands of the operators at the federal, state and local level. Can we anticipate four or five days in advance of a disaster like a Category 3 hurricane what the consequences are going to be?

Instead of waiting for four or five days after a disaster hits to move the right relief capabilities in, could we understand through a capability like this what we are going to need, what areas are going to be touched and what areas are going to be unaffected that we can use for staging? Can we predict what hospitals will still be functioning? Then we could begin to move the relief effort four or five days before the storm hits.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) began a collaborative project with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), forming a team to identify the geospatial and other critical infrastructure information that would be necessary to address the requirements of defense and homeland security organizations. Using The National Map coverage (which includes elevation data, vegetation cover, hydrography, imagery, government boundaries and more) as a foundation, the team identified the required data for both national and urban levels and established an approach called the Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP).

Working with USGS to obtain and integrate data from state and local governments, the private sector to acquire commercial datasets, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to develop homeland geospatial standards and other support, NGA began to consolidate HSIP data so that it could be shared with agencies during security events.

As the datasets grew, the agency also developed Palanterra, a secure, Web-enabled COP (common operational picture) data viewer, or portal. The Palanterra virtual geospatial intelligence environment enables relevant agencies to view HSIP data to support their security event activities.

Built using commercial-off-the-shelf software, Palanterra supports thick- and thin-client operations. Accessing Palanterra's national-level site provides critical infrastructure and asset data for the entire United States. Zooming to an urban site gives controlled access to high-resolution datasets of major cities. These 3-D views detail city maps, overhead imagery, terrain, buildings and infrastructure, elevation and even subterranean information. HSIP data are vector- and raster-based and include satellite and airborne imagery and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data.

Used in JFCOM’s Noble Resolve I, Palanterra creates virtual analytic environments for 3-D analysis in support of national security events. One example is the use of 3-D models for line-of-sight analysis to ensure security for national events, such as the 2002 Super Bowl in San Diego, Calif., where Palanterra first made its debut.

Palanterra allows users with varying levels of security clearance — such as state and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI, U.S. NORTHCOM, NGA and Secret Service — to share a view of a given situation by way of SIPRNET, or via JWICS, the Joint Worldwide Intelligence and Communications System.

Placing the data online also allows NGA analysts to integrate critical infrastructure data in a spatial environment that can be continuously monitored and updated. Combined, HSIP and Palanterra form the foundation of security situational awareness at planned or unplanned events at a moment’s notice.

– National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Q: That would help tremendously in a weather-related disaster.

A: Do you recall that one of the problems was that we have different networks that don't connect with each other? Often the piece of information that is critical to a decision maker lies on a network to which he does not have access.

It will help to have automatic language capability. Remember two years ago the problems we had communicating and building a common understanding across all the people who were trying to help in the Katrina effort? The big news is that we have taken a great technical step forward that can help us build that shared information and understanding that can help all of us make better decisions and integrate our capabilities better.

Q: Is it available right now?

A: We are further improving it and determining the extent to which it is applicable to the homeland defense environment. It was built primarily for OCONUS, for outside the continental U.S., which is why the automatic language translation ability is so important. We also think that is going to have applicability if we work with Mexico on a disaster in Mexico or the southern United States.

The G2 tool that we are using to collect geographic and geospatial data, may not be as flashy as what you saw earlier (referring to Palanterra), but it may be the most important tool contributing to this experiment. What it has mapped over the last few weeks is the actual plan for information moving around the Virginia disaster response system.

Graphically, we can already see that if a piece of information originates here (pointing to a position on the map) and it is required by a decision maker here, (pointing to another geographic point) that information is not going to get there because the networks do not connect.

We can see the physical information flow but what is the operational flow requirement? We will have that mapped and then be able to take capabilities like the cross-domain collaborative information environment and see where we need to bridge the gaps among these networks.

If a Category 3 hurricane hits and we lose a part of the network because the power has gone down or the building that houses that node is destroyed, we will know how to reconstitute the network. This will be a huge contribution to advancing our ability to create a common understanding and help our military and political leaders make the right decisions.

For more information about U.S. Joint Forces Command and Noble Resolve, go to

Dave Ozolek, executive director of the Joint Futures Lab demonstrates the sophisticated modeling and simulation features of Palanterra developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Dave Ozolek, executive director of the Joint Futures Lab demonstrates the sophisticated modeling and simulation features of Palanterra developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Canadian naval officers and other Noble Resolve participants respond to questions from the local and national media April 26.
Canadian naval officers and other Noble Resolve participants respond to questions from the local and national media April 26.

A Noble Resolve 2007 participant looks at a screen showing the linkages between the Virginia Fusion Center and other organizations. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Joe Laws.
A Noble Resolve 2007 participant looks at a screen showing the linkages between the Virginia Fusion Center and other organizations. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Joe Laws.

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