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FX: The Early Days

Dr. Dave NetzerThe Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Field Experimentation (FX) Program was initiated in 2002 by the NPS Dean of Research, Distinguished Professor Dr. Dave Netzer to: (1) provide an opportunity for NPS faculty and students to demonstrate and evaluate new technologies related to their research in an operational field environment, and (2) provide the operational community the opportunity to utilize and experiment with these technologies. In coordination with the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Ms. Julie Filizetti, a proposal for field research was submitted to US Representative Samuel Farr's (California 20th District) office. Dubbed CDTEMS (Center for Defense Technology and Education for the Military Services), this funding accounted for 22% ($6.34M) of NPS FX support from fiscal years 2002 to 2010.

The first experiments in FY02 focused on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to improve Naval Special Warfare (NSW) forces downed pilot rescue capabilities. These field experiments were led by Defense Analysis (DA) Master's student LT Joseph (Josh) C. Butner, USN, and documented in his thesis titled Experimental Analysis of Integration of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Naval Special Warfare Operations Forces. Josh's thesis advisers were Dr. Dave Netzer and Dr. Phil Depoy, Director of the NPS Wayne E. Meyer Institute of Systems Engineering. This initial thesis focused on two parts: First, it created a diverse network of academic researchers, military students, industry, and government participants capable of evaluating emerging technologies in an operational yet analytical environment that could be repeated by follow-on students and researchers. Second, it focused on the analysis of the integration of small UAS during a specific NSW downed pilot mission scenario.

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Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network (STAN)

In January 2003, NPS FX was combined with another master's thesis to create a cooperative field experimentation effort with U. S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Science & Technology (S&T) and J9 Knowledge & Futures (SOKF) divisions. The experimentation event was named STAN (Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network) in memory of CWO2 Stanley Harriman, USA, who was killed by USAF AC-130 friendly fire in Afghanistan on 2 March 2002. STAN was conceived by Defense Analysis master's students CWO2 Christopher E. Manuel, USA, Maj Haspard R. Murphy, Jr., USAF, and Maj Kenneth A. Paxton, USAF, and was documented in their 2004 restricted distribution thesis titled The Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network (STAN).

STAN Field Experimentation

The thesis focused on the "integration of a tetherless transmit/receive link[s] between soldiers, tactical vehicles, ground sensors, manned and unmanned platforms to push/pull secure voice, data, and video to USSOCOM components" (p. V). Their thesis began as a joint interdisciplinary project between the NPS DA Department, chaired by Dr. Gordon McCormick, Dean of Research Dr. David Netzer, Dr. Alex Bordetsky, the Information Sciences Department, and included several professors from multiple academic disciplines. STAN's initial experimental efforts focused on developing both the first Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) prototype as well as the associated Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network (STAN) necessary to link all relevant assets in the tactical environment. To accomplish this task, a multi-disciplinary team of NPS research faculty and over thirty thesis students were formed to generate ideas and solutions. The NPS team focused on the tactical network development and monitoring for each experiment. Military units and a contractor team were integrated with NPS to assist in requirements determination and to produce prototypes for experimentation. Seven STAN experiments were conducted from July 2003 to August 2004 at locations that included: the Center for Independently Remotely Piloted Airship Studies (CIRPAS) at McMillan Airfield; Camp Roberts CA ANG base; the CIRPAS facility at Marina Municipal Airport (KOAR); the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) facility at Fort Ord, CA; Monterey Bay; NPS; and Reno, NV.

Tactical Network Topology (TNT)

Although STAN experimentation events came to a close in August 2004, FX continued under the name Tactical Network Topology (TNT) and the first event, TNT 05-1, was held at Camp Roberts on November 2004. STAN ultimately transitioned into USSOCOM programs MAI and JTCITS and the founding STAN officers Manuel, Murphy, and Paxton graduated NPS in December that year. Their thesis lived on and TNT continued advancing the knowledge, research, and organizational relationships developed from the successful STAN experiments. In August 2005 (TNT 05-4) USSOCOM SOKF-J9 took the lead from S&T and TNT began to explore a wider range of technologies.

CDTEMS funding gradually declined. In 2005, NPS submitted a Field Experimentation Program for Special Operations (FEPSO) congressional funding proposal to US Congressman Sam Farr's office requesting support for this now dedicated NPS-USSCOCOM cooperative field experimentation venture. FEPSO funding was received in FY06 and continued through FY10, accounting for 22% of TNT funding. Additionally, OSD's Office of Force Transformation (OFT) funded some TNT research (FY06 through FY08) until its eventual discontinuation in 2006.

The transition from STAN to TNT also brought more involvement from the USSOCOM Component Commands. The goal was to focus on identifying key gaps and deficiencies that could be addressed by the application of advanced technology, particularly network communications, unmanned systems, and net-centric applications. Promising technologies were typically evalulated and their capabilities iterated across several TNT's. Around this same time the NPS Information Sciences Department established the Center for Network Innovation and Experimentation (CENETIX), directed by Dr. Alex Bordetsky. CENETIX emerged from the experimental knowledge gained from STAN's network research emphasis. CENETIX subsequently became the lead agent for integrating, testing, and managing all of the TNT network related experiment activities. Dr. Bordetsky also assumed the lead for directing TNT's Maritime interdiction operations (MIO) experiments and biomedical related experimentation.

In the years following STAN, TNT branched out into several operationally diverse experimental venues. While Camp Roberts remained the predominant experimentation hub, TNT events were also held four times at Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR), FL and once at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC), IN. Other locations were often integrated with the Camp Roberts TNT event. These locations included: Fort Hunter-Liggett, Camp Dawson, WV; National Response Events, WV; Camp Atterbury, IN; John C. Stennis Space Center, MS; Fort Ord (MOUT); CA, Marina Municipal Airport (KAOR), CA; NPS and the Monterey Bay, CA; San Clemente Island, CA; and Fort Eustis, VA. MIO experiments were also conducted at Alameda Island and Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco; New York and New Jersey Harbors; and European locations, including Germany, Sweden, and Greece.

Many internal organizational changes occurred at SOCOM over the years and management and oversight of TNT shifted from SORDAC (Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center) S&T (Experimentation) to SOKF-J9 (Experimentation), back to S&T, and ultimately back to SORDAC S&T in 2011 with a de-emphasis on operational experimentation. Dr. Dave Netzer retired from NPS after 40 years of civil service in 2009. Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. became the NPS FX director in 2009 (TNT 09-2) until the final TNT event in June of 2013. The table below highlights the key personnel changes and associated event dates.

Events Dates USSOCOM Lead(s) NPS FX Director
STAN 1:TNT 05-3 Jul 2002 - May 2005 SORDAC S&T) Exp. Lead: Mr. Erik Syvrud; Mr. John Klopfenstein Dr. Dave E. Netzer
TNT 05-4 - TNT 06-4 Aug 2005 - Aug 2006 (SOKF J-9) LCDR Gordon A. "Gordo" Cross, USN; (SOAL Advanced Tech. Directorate) Ibid.
TNT 07-1 - TNT 08-4 Oct 2006 - Aug 2007 (SOKF J-9) LCDR Dave "Chilly" Culpepper, USN; LtCol Mark Brinkman, USMC (TNT 07-1 only) Ibid.
TNT 09-1 - TNT 09-3 Nov 2008 - May 2009 LtCol Thomas "Bike" Beikirch, USMC Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. (TNT 09-2, Feb 2009)
TNT 09-4 - TNT 11-2 Aug 2009 - Feb 2011 (S&T) Mr. William (Bill) Hellemn Ibid.
TNT 11-3 - TNT 12-1 May 2011 - Nov 2011 (SORDAC S&T) Ms. Margaret M. McCaskey Ibid.
TNT 12-2 - TNT 13-3 Feb 2012 - Jun 2013 (SORDAC S&T) Mr. Gabriel Lifschitz Ibid.

Congressional earmarks provided ~51% of TNT's funding from FY 2002 - 2013. This funding helped off-set the costs associated with running the experimental venue four times per year. SOCOM augmented the CDTEMS, FEPSO, and Light Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV) earmark funding with an additional 18%. Combined OSD (HD, OFT) and ARL funding also provided 19% and the remaining 12% was supplied from various sources. The graph to the left provides the 11-year funding summary.

When the congressional adds ended in FY10, SOCOM began to increase funding to support TNT. The Army Research Lab (ARL) and OSD also began providing increased funding to support TNT as well (see figure to the right).


Research and Experimentation for Local and International Emergency and First Responders (RELIEF)

reliefIn 2007, NPS and USSOCOM began examining dual-use capabilities for homeland security, stabilization, reconstruction, and Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief (HADR). These new mission sets were integrated into the TNT field experiments starting with TNT 07-3. In 2009 (TNT 09-2), Dr. Linton Wells II, then the Transformation Chair for the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at National Defense University (NDU) integrated NDU's humanitarian research into the TNT experiment venue. Dr. Wells also coordinated (STAR-TIDES), short for Sustainable Technologies Accelerated Research-Transportable Infrastructures for Development and Emergency Support. As TNT began to integrate HADR missions and other federal agencies saw value in this focus area (i.e. OSD, Homeland Defense (HD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a new research thread was formalized and termed RELIEF (Research and Experimentation for Local and International Emergency and First Responders).

reliefRELIEF was created to address the most complex challenges identified by those most directly engaged in disaster relief. RELIEF brought together humanitarian practitioners, technology developers, federal civilians, and active duty military personnel together for hands-on collaboration. Successful events focused on crowd sourcing video techniques with Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and FEMA incident support teams; products from those events were immediately put to action in the nation's response to Hurricane Sandy. Since 2009, thirteen RELIEF focused events were conducted in a multi-institutional field setting, providing a semi-structured learning environment capable of promoting collaboration and relationship building across an increasingly diverse governmental and civilian response network.

Joint Interagency Field Experimentation Program (JIFX)

STAN and ultimately TNT, forged a unique socio-technical ecosystem--consisting of industry, academia, the joint services, governmental/non governmental agencies, first responders all focused on the S&T needs of the warfighter. As TNT matured and acquired a variety of research sponsors and activities, the knowledge gained through participating in the venue expanded to benefit not only the sponsors but all of the participants as well. Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. became the FX director in February 2009. Recognizing that TNT had evolved into an Informing System, he aptly coined the TNT model a Multi-Institutional Semi- Structured Learning Environment (MISSLE) where participants assumed the roles as both clients and informers. TNT and RELIEF were in essence channels of communication that focused attention on client problems and informer capabilities but also created the environment for ad hoc experimentation and innovation.

Building on the highly successful SOCOM-NPS collaborative field research model, the Joint Interagency Field Experimentation Program (JIFX) was created in 2012 (JIFX 12-2). JIFX was conceived out of the desire to provide a field experimentation resource for all of the unified combatant commands and federal agencies with an informing system capable of addressing their unique S&T gaps. In addition, state, local and international emergency management, disaster response and humanitarian assistance organizations participate in JIFX helping to create an innovative cooperative learning environment. JIFX is sponsored by OSD's Joint Operations Support (JOS) Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics (AT&L) and the DHS.

Unmanned systems (air, ground, and sea) research and experimentation has been integral to the NPS FX program since the early STAN days. In addition to a few industry and government contracted UAS experimentation, the Navy Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 6 supported all STAN and several TNT's with their Tern UAS until being deactivated in Aug 2008. TERN accommodated the integration of several ad hoc payloads in support of STAN objectives. The NPS center for autonomous vehicle research (CAVR) predates FX and was established in 1987. CAVR Aeries autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), SeaFox unmanned surface vehicles (USV), and Scan Eagle, Rascal, Zephyr, Unicorn, and various quad-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have routinely participated in STAN, TNT, and JIFX.

In Feb 2011, the Under Secretary of the Navy (UNSECNAV) provided NPS the authorization to establish the Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER). CRUSER's main objective is "to shape education, research, concept generation and experimentation in maritime applications of robotics, automation, and unmanned systems and provide a DoD-wide community of interest to exchange research and experimentation results" (UNSECNAV). CRUSER is directed by Dr. Ray Buettner and Dr.Timothy Chung (Deputy Dir.) CRUSER field experimentation is now integrated into the collaborative JIFX environment.

Figure 9. Dr. Timothy Chung and CRUSER (From: NPS "In Review Magazine", Oct 2013, p. 20)

The USSOCOM-NPS field experiment cooperative program continued for 11 years and generated $28.2M of reimbursable research until ultimately coming to a close in June 2013. JIFX continues to be scheduled quarterly and has now replaced TNT & RELIEF as the sole NPS field experimentation venue.

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More FX History

For more FX history, see A Brief History of the NPS Field Experimentation Program: Spanning STAN, TNT and JIFX, hosted at the NPS Dudley-Knox Library.