C3I systems

This heading is an acronym for Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence, mainly used as a general concept for a military command structure. The acronym has its origin in the notion of command & control (C2) which has been defined as:

‘In general terms, C2 is everything an executive uses in making decisions and seeing that they are carried out; it includes the authority accruing from his or her appointment to a position and involves people, procedures, equipment and the executive’s own mind.   A   C2  process is a series of functions which includes gathering information, making decisions and monitoring results. A C2 system is a collection of people, procedures, and equipment which support a C2 process.’ (Coakley 1991) Lately, this concept has been used more and more in a civilian framework synonymous with ‘management and decision-making’.

Although a certain similarity with normal management decisionmaking always exists, military decisions are often made under quite extreme circumstances including fear for one’s own life. The design of military decision support therefore in general emphasizes different qualities from those accentuated in the corresponding civil support. An example is the ever-present demand for higher decision speed.

Something has to be discovered, reported, processed, presented and a decision to take an action has to be made. If this is to take hours or even days, as earlier, the modern battle is lost before it has even begun. Therefore, certain qualities must be present in a C3I system. These qualities are listed below.

  • The system should be specially designed with regards to the needs of the limited human capacity.
  • The system must relieve the decision maker of physical effort and counteract the effects of tiredness. The system should be able to ‘remember’.
  • The system must strengthen the self-confidence of the lone decision maker by amplification of his strong points. It should be possible to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of various decision makers.
  • The system should counteract an adaptation of reality to already existing plans.
  • The system should interpret reality without distortion.
  • The system should amplify signals and trends normally too weak to be noticed.
  • The system should enhance systematic interpretation of a massive data and information flow by filtering and sorting.
  • The system must enhance instant exchange of information in all known forms without barriers.
  • The system must be able to manipulate time, to Took into the future’ by simulation and the making of prognosis.
  • The system must be able to canalize “orders” from below — for example when somebody in the lowest hierarchy delivers information which cancels or stops a plan already made.

As a means for understanding the commanding process a standard model has been developed (/. Lawson 1978) according to Figure 9.3.

The model identifies five functions as follows:

  • Sensor: The sense-function collects data regarding the environment: own and enemy forces, terrain, weather, visibility, etc.

Figure 9.3 Lawson’s model for command and control.

(From ]. Lawson, ‘A Unified Theory of Command and Control’, 41st Military Operations Research Symposium, 1978.)

  • Process: The process-function places together and extracts data in order to give the commander information concerning the actual situation.
  • Compare: The compare-function matches the current situation in the surrounding world with the desired — that is, the commander’s desired —situation.
  • Decide: The decide-function chooses from the repertoire of possible alternatives for action in order to influence the situation towards that which is sought.
  • Act: The act-function transforms the chosen decision into action.

The similarity between Lawson’s model and the classical decision cycle, taught by military schools for generations of officer cadets, is obvious. This is defined by the following steps which can be iterated several times if necessary:

  • Collect information
  • Evaluation (of threats/resources)
  • Alternatives of action
  • Analysis of the alternatives of action
  • Choice of alternative for action
  • Resource allocation
  • Action
  • Result analysis

Today, with the constantly increasing demand for rapid decisions, the decision cycle has been “modernized” and is now called the OODA Loop. The acronym stands for observation, orientation, decision, action, and was introduced by the American colonel Boyd (Coram 2002). See Figure 9.4.

The circle or loop should be followed to the left as fast as possible and preferably faster than the enemy on the battle field, in order to get critical advantages. The most restraining factor today is fusion of the enormous amount of data, often available also for lower level commanders. A successful fusion creates a clear conception and transforms the loop into a “decision gepard”.

Figure 9.4 The rapid decision OODA Loop.

Figure 9.5 A more elaborate examination of the OODA Loop

A more elaborate examination of the OODA Loop is found in Figure 9.5. Note how orientation shapes observation, shapes decision, shapes action, and, in turn, is shaped by the feedback and other phenomena coming into our senses or observation window. The entire loop is an ongoing many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.

One of the advantages of the model is that it describes a complex, iterative and dynamic process in a simple manner. It has an obvious similarity with the basic cybernetic control cycle (see p. 90) where the regulating function compares a real value (is value) with a desired value (should value). From this comparison the regulated entity is then adjusted.

Another standard model for presenting in this context is the generalized information system model by H. Yovits and R. Ernst from 1967. This model includes the influence of the environment, a distinction not made by Lawson’s model which places the command/ control process outside of the environment of the actual system. The Yovits/Ernst model is presented in Figure 9.6.

The demands on the supporting functions provided by a C3I system can be analyzed with a starting point in the Yovits/Ernst model.

Figure 9.6 The generalized information system model.

(From H. Yovits and R. Ernst, Electronic Handbook of Information, Thomson, Washington DC, 1967.)

INFORMATION ACQUISITION AND DISSEMINATION is the function which provides necessary information for decision makers at various levels, building the basis for decisions. To be fit for use, the information has to fulfil certain quality demands:

  • Actuality: The information has to be timely; however, this does not imply that all kinds of information have to be current. A geographical information system managing a fleet of distribution vehicles has to be updated several times per minute, whereas the internal account of the fleet must be updated within twenty-four In turn, the store value of the enterprise has to be updated once a month.
  • Validity and correctness: It is important that the system’s delivery of information to the decision maker is what is demanded and needed. Too much information can lead to a critical part of it being drowned in the general ‘noise’. Too little information implies that decisions are made on uncertain The information must also be correct. One problem which must be solved is to make the system select and reject incorrect data and estimate the uncertainty of what is presented.
  • Coherence: To have the system work efficiently, common information has to be coherent, that is, it must be interpreted in the same way by all This requires a common formation of concepts, where all involved agree upon the significance. Moreover, the form of the information exchange must build upon, a standard.
  • Availability: It must be possible to arrive at the information (physical availability) and it must be presented in a way that is comprehensible for the user (cognitive availability). The physical availability can be improved by distributing the system and making the subsystems autonomous (locally needed data should be stored locally). Cognitive availability can be improved if the actual user may determine what kind of data should be presented, and how.

Disregarding the specified quality demands, good information always has to comply with the general (classical) scientific demands of

  • validity
  • reliability
  • precision
  • relevans

DECISIONMAKING seems to an ever-increasing extent to be more complex, and the available time for decision decreases in step with the growing velocity of changes in the environment. The person who can reduce his decision time without renouncing the quality of the decision will be one step ahead of his competitors. With scarce resources, the importance of intelligent distribution and good management will then be more pronounced. This is true no matter if the struggle is fought in the battlefield or in the realm of the business world.

When improving the decision process, the following must be kept in mind regarding C3I systems:

  • By use of expert systems as part of a C3I system, knowledge can be accumulated and be available for decision makers on all levels.
  • Simulation improves the possibility to predict the effects of different alternatives of action. New alternatives of action can be tested, which are normally not possible to execute in reality due to the risks involved. A commander can simulate unconventional methods and break established rules without jeopardizing human lives and costly equipment. This possibility stimulates creativity.
  • Complex decisions can be divided into manageable parts and be distributed among subordinates. Delegation and decentralization are enhanced.
  • The firm establishing of orders is enhanced if drafts can be distributed to decision makers at all levels and viewpoints can be gathered.
  • The risk of under optimization concerning one’s own decisions decreases when overview and holistic judgement become possible.

EXECUTING implies that decisions already taken are transformed into action and that arrangements made are followed up. A well- designed C3I system has the following advantages:

  • Decisions can be more rapidly distributed to executing subordinate units. Improved transmission safety enhances the delivery of correct orders.
  • In the important phase of execution, the system bridges over individual differences and adapts to the various needs of disparate commanders.

TRANSFORMATION is the necessary feedback process vital for all real time information systems.

  • Instant feedback via the system improves the communication process and the immediate study of the consequences of orders given. As a result, better decisions are made.
  • The system enhances learning by experience through its logging The steps in the decision process are documented and the idea behind the decision becomes visible.

The aim of the C3I system is to support the creation of the “optimum decision”. Nearly always this has to be done with the shortest possible time at one’s disposal, under great uncertainty and in a chaotic environment. Complexity, dynamics, and lots of interacting elements is a rule instead of an exception.

The success of an C3I system is always correlated to the very presentation of the problem taking place at the interface. This will influence the interpretation of the situation and therefore the decision- maker’s actions. In order to give the optimal presentation, the following criterion has to be observed:

  • Data has to be put in its context. A single figure has no meaning if not associated to something intelligibly. It is dependent of the relation to other data and to the wider reference frame and the expectations of the observer.
  • Changes and events have to be emphasized. Sudden occurrences must be emphasized in order to show the dynamics of what It must be obvious when an operationally important process takes place (e.g when a limit is approaching).
  • Contrasts must be emphasized. The actual status of the system must be possible to compare with normal system By contrasts, a meaning is generated. Anomalies should be possible to discover.

In the struggle of the commercial market or in the military battle field, the aim of a C3I system is to create advantages in order to win. Among them, the following are the most important:

  • Information advantage. To catch information regarding the competitor/enemy in due time in order to use it against him.
  • Command and control advantage. To act/attack more rapid and more precisely than the competitor/enemy. More rapid communication between different hierarchical levels and shorter decision time.
  • Adjustment advantage. To use fantasy, flexibility, and improvization capacity better than the competitor/enemy and act accordingly.

The connection between the existing environment and the difficulties of decision-making is shown in Figure 9.7. It is evident that the problems existing in the right and lowest part of the matrix is most dependent of a good decision support.

When a C3I system is implemented in an organization, inevitable effect of both first and second order will arise. First order effect originate from the very handling of the hardware. Second order effects will influence individuals, groups, and the whole organization.

Sometimes the system is used in an unpredictable way, not intended when it was created, which may produce both positive and negative consequences. Some systems will not even be used,’ they are boycotted for different reasons by those intended to use them. To know in advance how the system will influence the organization  is very difficult. It may not be analyzed in isolation, only together with the user and his milieu.

Source: Skyttner Lars (2006), General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice, Wspc, 2nd Edition.

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