June 1, 2012  

IED data debate

Although filled with passion and zeal based on their experience in Iraq, Navy Lts. Deak C. Childress and John G. Taylor miscategorized the Combined Information Data Network Exchange [“A better way to fight IEDs,” April].

As the recognized significant activity and IED reporting tool within the Central Command area of responsibility, the data within CIDNE is structured and fully searchable. Within CIDNE, significant activities and events throughout all of the AOR are entered, correlated, aggregated and managed through a user-definable and customizable structured data/workflow model. The model provides tactical through strategic level reporting flexibility, while simultaneously maintaining the force-level data standardization necessary for analysts to perform theater-wide analysis and reporting of trends. CIDNE gives commanders and staffs at all levels the ability to not only see rollups of significant activities within their specific area of interests and “drill into” the underlying data, but to do so across multiple unit/coalition boundaries.

The efforts of the Naval Postgraduate School team to push the limits of applying R&D to better understand and defeat a network at the tactical level are to be applauded, but the data needed to assist in that analysis is available in CIDNE. If the data is not resident, it is more a reflection of the lack of reporting tactics, techniques and procedures rather than on CIDNE’s structure. Leaders at all levels must ensure counter-IED personnel perform their collection and reporting efforts in an accurate and timely manner, as well as one consistent with the data structure of CIDNE.

CIDNE is not broken, and, in fact, it has a process for incorporating recommendations for improvements from the field. As with any capability provided to the field, commanders must facilitate training, and users must be held accountable to standards in order to optimize operational assessment from the strategic down to the tactical level. In this spirit, CENTCOM has initiated discussions with the NPG team to determine opportunities for collaboration in this critical area of analysis.

— Kevin Moffatt, vice president, Global Enterprise Solutions, Intelligent Software Solutions

The authors respond:

We respectfully disagree with Mr. Moffatt’s assertion that we “miscategorized” CIDNE, and would like to add that our perception of CIDNE is not based solely on our personal experiences. The development of our project did not take place in an academic vacuum, and has involved direct interaction and feedback from dozens of operators, analysts and other representatives from within the C-IED community.

We understand why Mr. Moffatt asserts that CIDNE is structured, and he is correct — to a point — in that assertion. However, the structure he refers to is simply not adequate to support tactical-level IED-network attack efforts. This is evidenced by the fact that multiple, separate attempts have been made at finding effective ways to extract and structure specific data within CIDNE.

Efforts like these are initiated because our definitions of “structure” are not the same. When we say that our platform structures data, we mean that data collected on scene is compiled in a format that makes it easy to import that data into a variety of analytical software packages, not just those that we propose.

When Mr. Moffatt asserts that CIDNE operates with “force-level data standardization necessary for … theater-wide analysis,” he is echoing precisely the top-down architecture that we are referring to as part of the problem. Tactical data is fed into CIDNE, gets processed by operational and strategic-level analysts and pushed to commanders at those levels for “theater-wide” analysis. Meanwhile, tactical operators are left wondering what has become of all that data.

Finally, Mr. Moffatt’s points about reporting tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), and leaders’ responsibilities to ensure TTPs remain adhered to, are valid. However, TTPs can and should improve over time. Furthermore, when he calls upon “leaders at all levels” to “ensure … collection and reporting efforts in an accurate and timely manner,” he is essentially laying the blame for the shortcomings of CIDNE at the feet of the very people who risk and sacrifice their lives to populate it. That is inappropriate. Additionally, it is counterproductive to efforts at improving the entire process, from collection to exploitation to attack.

Our project is not a threat to CIDNE or any other network attack effort. These are complementary capabilities, not competitive ones.

— Lt. Deak C. Childress, dcchildr@nps.edu; Lt. John G. Taylor, jtaylor@nps.edu