DARPA Combating Information Overload
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 9, 2002 -- In the civilian world, it's called "information
That's when so much information is coming in that the receiver
cannot separate the wheat from the chaff.
In the military, information overload can get you killed. That's
why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency set up the Information
"What we're all about is finding and killing bad guys on the
battlefield," said office Director Dick Wishner. "We're focused
on land and surface targets."
There is any amount of information a service member needs. The
services collect data in a number of ways, from satellites to communications
intercepts to human intelligence to remote sensors. Part of the
rationale for setting up the office is the "military gets a lot
of data but not enough information," Wishner said. "What we're
trying to do is extract information out of this huge stream of
But even with all the information coming in, Wishner does not
try to claim that everything is known. "I'm not trying to imply
that all the data we need is available," he said. "We actually
have a shortage of high-quality sensors." The office will work
with offices inside DARPA and the services to develop new sensors.
Wishner said the office is particularly focused on what the military
is finding to be the norm: situations where service members have
restricted rules of engagement.
"You can't shoot at somebody you think is a bad guy unless you
can verify there are no neutrals or good guys in the weapons splash
radius," he said. "So we're invoking the new sensor technology
to do very precise target identification and make sure we don't
make any mistakes." The technology would take an image, identify
it as friend or foe and give that information to the service member.
"We don't want people trying to make an identification from a
screen," Wishner said. "By the time they see it, the vehicle is
already labeled with what it is."
He said the office would work to speed up reaction time. He said
the services now have similar deliberate planning processes. "The
Air Force has something they call 'find, fix, target, track, engage
and assess,'" he said.
"That's a fine methodology, but there are segments between these
that take too long."
Wishner said the office is looking to synchronize everything "so
that when you find a guy who's potentially a threat, we can precisely
ID him quickly. Then we'll have a shooter platform nearby that
can launch a weapon and destroy him if we deem he's a bad guy."
He said the office would work with warfighters and service laboratories
to ensure the products are real, usable and needed. The office
will also address other problems like pinpointing targets under
foliage and the problems entailed with finding enemies in urban