May 10, 2007 by jimstogdill
The Follower’s Curse
At the DISA conference last week I spent some time with the people at the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) booth. I wanted to get a better understanding of how the GCCS family of systems gets used in practice. I also wanted to get their perspective on Net-Enabled Command Capability (NECC).
I walked away with a strong sense of Deja Vu.
NECC’s predecessor, Joint Command and Control (JC2) was conceived to provide a more Joint friendly replacement to the GCCS family of systems. The goal was composability of capability for the Joint Commander in order to replace the all or nothing service-specific choices inherent in the current family. Additionally, it was intended to migrate to a modern post- Common Operating Environment architecture that would support more rapid deployment of new capabilities. The change to the NECC nomenclature signals additional emphasis on web-based technologies and recent descriptions of the program focus very heavily on the ability to rapidly develop, certify, and deploy new functionality to the warfighter.
A few years ago the Air Force started a program called Web Enabled Execution Management Capability (WEEMC) (pdf link) based on modern web-enabled architecture to replace the Automated Deep Operations Coordination System (ADOCS) which was based on difficult-to-maintain C++ code in a client server architecture. Unfortunately, the replacement program was hobbled from the beginning by the marching orders to “treat ADOCS like a requirements document; replace the functionality exactly but do it with more maintainable and flexible modern technology.”
The problem was that the warfighter loved the capabilities that they had fought hard battles to obtain in ADOCS and WEEMC’s development approach conspired to put it in a permanent “me to” follower position; and worse, a follower that was likely to be buggier and less capable at any given point in time (especially since the lead system ADOCS continued to find funding to evolve).
NECC will have to think hard about architecture and implementation to make sure that the constraints of a web UX aren’t too constraining in shipboard and similar environments. But more importantly, the “adoption plan” for NECC should ensure that it focuses first on capabilities that aren’t offered within the huge built-out GCCS infrastructure around the world so that NECC doesn’t find itself competing for adoption with a system that everyone is familiar with, does it better (initally) and has been battle proven.