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Nellis AFB empowers warfighters via DevSecOps

An Airman holds a microphone while looking at a computer.

Maj. Nicholas Detloff, Course of Action Management product line manager from the 225th Air Defense Squadron, Washington Air National Guard, briefs fellow warfighters on the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at the Shadow Operations Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2021. The ShOC-N is contributing to the development of ABMS via DevSecOps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) --

The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is using multiple technologies to build its Advanced Battle Management System to create decision superiority by delivering information and capabilities to decision makers at all echelons.

Nellis Air Force Base is contributing to this development via DevSecOps.

DevSecOps is a software development mindset that integrates software developers, information technology operators and warfighters together from the start in order to tighten the feedback cycle and deliver the most operationally relevant and cyber-secure software to the warfighter quickly.

“The ShOC-N (Shadow Operations Center) is the virtual and physical playground for information collection and sense making using data. We can accommodate many levels of classification and expose data to new applications and tools at the appropriate classification to enable decision making,” said Lt. Col. David Spitler, 805th Combat Training Squadron commander.

One of the ways that the ShOC-N helped get at the Joint All-Domain Command and Control goal of enabling rapid decision-making was to host a JADC2 21-1, J6 campaign. The campaign gathered experts from all domains at Nellis AFB and connected 17 different battle laboratories from across the Department of Defense in order to exchange operationally relevant data.

The gathered data was viewed using experimental software applications. One example of an application used during JADC2 21-1 was called Project IKE. Project IKE is a tool that helps warfighters visualize and make sense of the cyber domain and gain decision advantage over the adversary.

“The goal of the exercises and campaigns is to enable better understanding of the cyber domain from all branches’ perspectives,” Spitler said. “So what we did was bring in a software tool or application that we didn’t have before. It didn't involve a 10-year cycle to make, because it was already developed.”

According to Spitler, the ShOC-N takes the data and puts it into that application to see what will happen. They learn what it did correctly and what it could do better and provide that feedback in real-time to the software engineers of that application, so they can take it back and make the changes to it in hopes of being able to showcase it again in the next JADC2 campaign.

“The best part was that we did not do this for just Project IKE but for several applications all with the intent of shortening the acquisition cycle and empowering the warfighter with tools needed to make better decisions much faster,” Spitler said.

Another goal for the development process of applications at the ShOC-N is to enable the messaging of command actions via a consolidated number of tools.

“Unfortunately, today it’s just an unforgivable number of applications that are required to do sense-making of all the data we gather before we can finally execute command and control,” Spitler said. “Instead of having one application that can manage coordinates, enable chat and generate data onto maps, for example, the warfighter is having to utilize three different applications and hand-jam all the information from one application to another all before presenting the information to a leader for a decision. This not only takes time but allows room for error.”

Looking ahead for data collection, the ShOC-N aims to implement machine learning and artificial intelligence technology.

“Like our industry partners, we primarily deal with big data. To process those large amounts of data, they use these machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to help them do predictive analytics,” Spitler said.

“Predictive analytics will help us get digital feedback on where the information is going, where the data’s being corrupted, where are we having problems getting enough information through, and how is that impacting the decision making.”

These tools will allow systems to communicate with each other, enabling the joint interoperability vision to become a reality. The next step is to establish a common language between the other branches’ systems to interpret collected data in a consistent way recognizable by all players from any battle lab like the ShOC-N.

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