The C2 Agent Grid


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Supporting the vision of U.S. domination of 21st century battlespaces using agent-based systems.

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The C2 Agent Grid

  1. 1. The C2 Agent Grid: Supporting the Vision of U.S. Domination of 21st Century Battlespaces. Larry Suarez Grid Research Group Agent Net, Inc. Abstract The national military has determined that in 21st century military operations, military dominance requires information dominance. This is known as “winning the Battlefield Information War”. The United States is aggressively exploiting new information technologies in order to achieve information superiority, with the objective of achieving better and faster decisions during operations. Contributing to information superiority will be Agent Grid agents which will fuse rich real-time data from diverse sources to provide a single, integrated view of the battlespace available to all U.S combat forces and allied forces. Agent Grid agents will also be used as Virtual Battle Staffs which will assist combat commanders in their decision processes. Cooperative communities of humans and Agent Net agents will perform cognitive support to mission planning, operations and control. Agent Net envisions its core product, the Agent Grid, to make a significant contribution to the creation and support of integrated battlespaces and information superiority. Background Historically, military information systems were developed to engage a specific threat with little regard for the interrelationship with other systems or supporting infrastructure. Stovepipe systems made it difficult for platforms to share information in a timely manner causing inefficiencies, especially in joint and allied operations. The military is looking to leverage technological opportunities to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint military operations. The primary challenge of conducting joint operations within the military can be summed up in one word: interoperability. With the increase in frequency and complexity of joint operations within the last ten years (e.g. Desert Storm), the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has constructed a number of policy and guidance documents and reference models all in hopes of increasing the interoperability of military systems. The DoD effort is due to the realization that military dominance requires information dominance. Information dominance is commonly referred to as “Information Superiority”. As defined by the DoD Joint Vision 2010 initiative, “…Information Superiority is the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s
  2. 2. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 2 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 ability to do the same… The unqualified importance of information will not change in 2010. What will differ is the increased access to information and improvements in the speed and accuracy of prioritizing and transferring data brought about by advances in technology. While the friction and the fog of war can never be eliminated, new technology promises to mitigate their impact.” In this vision, combat planning and execution will be much faster, and smaller forces will be much more autonomous and lethal. Integrated Command and Control systems, which exchange data and work together, will help military forces to prevail against adversaries by operating in a rapid, coherent, and coordinated fashion never previously achieved. Commanders at all levels will control their forces and apply their weapons with a higher degree of precision, certainty of location, and awareness of the environment and of enemy actions and intentions. Responsive and reliable information technology will provide timely intelligence, greater situational awareness, and a single integrated operational picture of the battlefield. Advanced information technology, and by extension Command and Control systems, will enable entirely new modes of military operation with much greater military effectiveness, just as they have radically changed how many businesses operate. Achieving Information Superiority is not an easy goal. One of the most difficult challenges in integrating information from numerous sources is the fusion of data into knowledge. Access to more data may actually inhibit, rather than support, better decision making unless this data is fused into reliable knowledge. Different users may need different geographic presentations fused and placed into a common reference grid and may need different levels of detail. Uncertainty regarding the completeness, accuracy, or time of data must be conveyed in its display so that commanders can assess the impact of this uncertainty on decisions. Further, commanders must have the ability and the training to query the "fused" picture to get the understanding they need to carry out their particular piece of the mission. The cornerstone of information superiority is advanced Command and Control technology and systems, which can provide to all tactical levels of command a robust, continuous, common operating picture of the battlespace. The resulting heightened situational awareness should vastly improve the effectiveness with which commanders at all levels can pursue a mission. The common operating picture can allow tactical decision making at the lowest levels of command consistent with the higher-level commander's operational objectives, and the decentralized tactical execution can enhance the ability of lower-level tactical units to react quickly to changing circumstances. The C2 Agent Grid (C2AG) There are a number of architectural visions in the national military in support of information superiority. Examples include the Air Force Joint Battlespace Infosphere (JBI), the Army Enterprise Strategy, the DoD Defense Information Infrastructure (DII), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Vision 2010 (JV2010). The overriding requirement for these strategies is that “the warrior needs a fused, real-time true-picture of the battlespace and the ability to order, respond, and coordinate vertically and horizontally to
  3. 3. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 3 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 the degree necessary to prosecute the mission in that battlespace.”1 This involves supporting global connectivity and interoperability among disparate information systems. In response to the national need for information superiority, Agent Net is proposing an architectural solution using advance agent software technology. This architecture is an infrastructure to support the information needs of the national military. Intelligent software agents will enable the military to create virtual environments consisting of complex processes utilizing embedded intelligence to automate decision-making. A global network of intelligent agents will carry out delegated tasks autonomously for data capture, mission management, mission workflow, and integrated pertinent learning and communication applications. Agents will also mimic command hierarchies, command paths, and command organizations which create Virtual Battle Staffs to aid the military in dealing with reduced staffs. Agents will mask the differences between heterogeneous information systems and support full interoperability. Artificial intelligence and Agent Net agents are necessary in supporting 21st century warfare whose mission environments will be highly dynamic, complex, naturally distributed (i.e. involving numerous military entities), and require a high degree of automation. The supporting architecture for this type of warfare must provide all the envisioned attributes of 21st century warfare and any unanticipated future attributes. Within the Agent Net proposal, all intelligent software agents are considered “first-class” citizens which imply that each agent maintains a core set of knowledge, cognitive skills, and behavior. The knowledge includes information about an agent’s current state, the location of other agents, and the ability to converse with those agents. Cognitive skills include the ability to support goal directed activities, an ability to support independent learning, and the ability to execute planned actions. Behavior includes, but is not limited to, the ability to respond to scheduled events, to participate in traditional transactional processes, secure communication and identification, and to speak and listen in numerous industry formats (XML, EDI, HTTP, and KQML). These basic skills allow the agents to be autonomous and free to participate within virtual organizations. A virtual organization is a dynamic entity which tends to apply constraints and social objectives onto an agent within the organization. Since each agent contains core skills which allow it to act autonomously, an agent could be viewed as an individual organization. Beyond the core skills, additional behavior can be attributed to an agent. The intent of the Agent Net architecture is to support not only designers in adding behavior to agents (during some design phase), but also to support warfighters to add behavior during the process of a mission. The behavior/skills create an agent taxonomy which helps determine the types of organizations formed within the Agent Net infrastructure. This is conceptually equivalent to how organizations are formed in our society based on the skills and behavior of individuals. In support of the Department of Defense’s mandate for information superiority, Agent Net has created an agent organization called the C2 Agent Grid (C2AG). Agent Net envisions the possible creation of other specialized organizations all under the control of C2AG. For example, there may be shooter organization whose agents are specialized towards supporting the locating and targeting of enemy forces. Another organization might be specialized towards the numerous sensors seen on the battlefield today and the control facilities needed to integrate sensors into higher level grids. Finally, there might be an organization that supports 1 User Interface Specifications for the Defense Information Infrastructure (DII)
  4. 4. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 4 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 commercial grids such as the Internet for tactical information outside the military such as commercial flights, freight, or transportation. Figure 1.0 shows the types of organizations envisioned by Agent Net in support of 21st century warfighters. Figure 1: DoD Agent Organizations The C2AG Taxonomy Within the C2AG organization, agents have a taxonomy based on their skills. By identifying a taxonomy for agents within an organization, designers have an easier task of forming new sub organizations or groups within an organization for additional specialized behavior. There are three general classifications of agents within C2AG: 1. Interface Agents – agents which support the user-agent interface. Their behavior is attributed to the ability to personalize and take into account warfighter preferences. Preferences include how a warfighter expects to view data, the nomenclature understood by a warfighter, and the conceptual framework expected by a warfighter. Interface agents exhibit domain behavior and thus are not available to participate in groups which are general in nature. 2. Application Agents – agents which provide a defined domain (military) function. The functions allow the C2AG to support a common tactical picture of all information spanning the spectrum from the sensor to the shooter and allow tactical commanders to understand the battlespace. Application agents provide the functionality found in traditional C2 and C4I systems. 3. Service Agents – agents which are non-domain (non-military) specific and provide low-level access to diverse data sources. Data sources include physical devices (e.g. sensors), databases, and data feeds (e.g. weather). Figure 2 shows the taxonomy of agents within C2AG. Air Force Grid Shooter Grid C2 Agent Grid Internet Sensor Grid
  5. 5. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 5 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 Figure 2: Agent Taxonomy within C2AG Interface Agents Interface agents provide the human computer interface (HCI) to C2AG. For example, there may be agents that directly represent the chain of command for a particular unit. Or there may be agents which contribute to a particular warfighter’s view of the battlespace. Interface agents collectively provide what is termed a work-centered interface. A work-centered interface is a collection of agents and their graphical interface counterparts which provide task-level capabilities to a warfighter. The work- centered interface ensures that information is delivered to the warfighter to support any decisions that warfighter needs to make. In addition, the agents automate some of the functions expected from the warfighter such as the realization of anomalies that occur during a mission (e.g. impending extreme weather conditions or a sudden increase of air traffic in the battlespace). Automating tasks expected from a warfighter allows that warfighter to concentrate on other facets of the mission which are deemed more critical and require human intervention. The reasons for supporting specialized agents for HCI interfaces is that current interface models for military systems tend to be user-initiated and provide little or no assistance to the warfighter. Automating some of the decision processes expected from a warfighter or providing the warfighter with information to aid in their decision processes is the goal of interface agents. However, automating or augmenting the decision processes of a warfighter is not without potential risk. Agent Net envisions the use of agents which can be personalized and whose behavior can be augmented during a mission in order to help deter the following anomalies that occur when trying to automatic or augment cognitive processes:  Prevention of “automation surprise” which occurs when the interface’s model of an operation differs from the warfighters cognitive model of the operation.  The poor model supported by an interface alters the state of a operation or mission and the interface fails to notify the warfighter appropriately. C2AG Interface Agents Application Agents Service Agents Physical Devices Data Feeds Databases Domain (Warfighter) Agents Scheduling Agent Logistics Agent Weather Agent Command Hierarchy Agents HCI Agents
  6. 6. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 6 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 The behavior of interface agents may also be augmented in real-time to support either multiple views of data or multiple modes of operation. For example, a crew or individual warfighter may determine that a manual mode of operation during a mission would be more appropriate. The behavior of the interface agents would be immediately augmented to either reduce or remove any automated processes until further notification. Or the interface agents may support a mixed-mode of operation. Multiple views of data would be required in situations where anomalies or events cause mission changes and alternate views of the mission become critical (e.g. new enemy threat). Application Agents C2AG provides the functionality found in traditional C2 and C4I systems in addition to any other functions required to support a single integrated operational picture of the battlefield. Many of the functions provided by C2AG will be integrated from existing operational military systems. Those software systems range widely in implementation language usage, interface design, and data model design. In addition, those software systems need to remain operational since they provide services to other “grids” in the national military. C2AG is designed to provide a homogenous view of all provided functions regardless of their origin. It is the responsibility of the application agents within C2AG to mask the differences of the individual functions and provide a cohesive, integrated, homogenous, and accessible view. A homogenous view allows designers to generate additional applications agents or construct new organizations/grids. In support of integrating diverse systems, agent core skills include data filtering capabilities and data transformation capabilities. Realize that application agents are capable of providing functionality directly without having to integrate existing military software. Figure 3 shows an application agent providing a function by referencing an external software function while another application agent has embedded behavior equivalent to the external function. Figure 3: Application Agent function provision modes. When an application agent masks the peculiarities of an external function, the agent is said to “provide” that function. Within the Agent Net architecture, functions are referred to in general terms as “services”. The correct phrase is that the agent “provides” the “service”. Figure 4 shows application agents providing a homogenous view of legacy services to the warfighter. The separation between agents and services is an important concept.
  7. 7. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 7 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 Figure 4: Application Agents providing services. The separation of agents and services allows agents and their services to be provided by different military entities. Multiple application agents can provide the same service which gives the warfighter multiple views of the same service. Application agents understand how to communicate with their provided services. For example, an application agent may be requested to schedule an event. The application agent will convert the request into the dialect understood by its corresponding scheduling service. In addition, the application agent can apply it’s behavior to the request such as validating the source of the request, augmenting the request, and evaluating the request for valid content. Service Agents Service agents provide access to non-domain specific data sources such as databases, data feeds, and physical devices. Service agents behave much like application agents in that a service agent is said to provide a non-domain service. Service agents mask the specifics of accessing an external service. Unlike application agents, service agents do not provide functionality via their behavior. Service agents provide their functionality by accessing external services. Figure 5 shows service agents providing a homogenous view to the warfighter of numerous data sources. Figure 5: Service Agents providing services. Sensors C2 System Mission Scheduling Ground Support Requirements Aircraft/Crew Tasking Air Mission Planning Documentation
  8. 8. The C2 Agent Grid: Dominating 21st Century Battlespaces 8 Agent Net, Inc. 3/2/2010 Architecture This section will describe the overall architecture of C2AG given the previous discussions on the types of agents which populate C2AG. The architecture is described using the DoD C4ISR Architecture Framework which has been mandated by the DoD as a common form of describing architectures. Figure 6 shows the High-Level Operational Concept Graphic for C2AG. The figure depicts the relationship between the agent types and how each type may contribute to the overall strategy. The lowest level on the chart in Figure 5 represents the numerous sources of information in the DoD including sensors, databases, data feeds, etc... Service agents homogenize the view of the data and feed the information to application agents. Application agents take the homogenized data coupled with the numerous types of functions. The application agents homogenize the function view which is then used by the interface agents. Views of data are rendered by the interface agents for individual warfighters. Figure 6: Agent Architecture: High-Level Operational Concept Graphic Summary Agent Net is proposing the use of agent technology to support the military’s view of warfare in the 21st century. This includes the military’s vision of making decisions faster enabled by awareness of the battlespace when and where it is needed supported by a superior information infrastructure and architecture. Agent Net’s proposed C2AG architecture will help the military move towards information superiority.