Deep Green

The Situation

Army brigade and battalion Commanders and their staffs must plan complex operations that affect thousands of Soldiers and pieces of equipment. They must take into account terrain, time, unit coordination, possible contingencies, and an intelligent adversary. Army doctrine calls for creating and wargaming at least three courses of action (COAs) against at least three possible enemy courses of action, but most planning does not happen to this extent due to the complexity of the plans and the time required for each plan to be evaluated. The Deep Green program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) provides Commanders with tools that let them rapidly explore more plans, gain greater insight into potential problems, and explore adaptations to those problems. Deep Green provides a system to model COAs, simulate wargames, analyze wargame results, track operations, and support rapid re-planning. Charles River Analytics has teamed with BAE Systems to produce a comprehensive system to accomplish all these functions by developing and integrating three core components:

  • Commander's Associate is a collaborative user interface for modeling, visualizing, and decision-making. It includes Sketch-to-Plan, which provides multi-modal, voice and sketch COA planning capabilities, and Sketch-to-Decide, which supports the analysis and tracking of multiple COAs
  • SimPath is a combat simulation model that generates possible battle outcomes
  • Crystal Ball is a real-time tracking application that evaluates COAs against the operational environment

These three components work together to support Commanders and their staffs during mission planning and execution. The planning cycle first defines COAs using Sketch-to-Plan, then wargames them via simulation using SimPath, and then supports the analysis and selection of COAs using Sketch-to-Decide. The Execution cycle includes the continuous assessment of COAs by Crystal Ball based on information from ongoing operations, and the tracking of operations using Sketch-to-Decide. Commanders can request re-planning to adapt the selected COA or create follow-on COAs by reentering the planning cycle during mission execution. Deep Green captures all aspects of mission planning and execution to support Commanders and their staffs to make timely and informed decisions.

The Charles River Analytics Solution

Charles River Analytics developed Sketch-to-Decide (one of the two subcomponents of Commander's Associate) to support the evaluation of wargame results. When compared to traditional paper-based COA planning and monitoring, Sketch-to-Decide enables better COA selection, tracking, and execution by identifying potential problems and by making re-planning recommendations. Sketch-to-Decide provides a set of tools to review simulated wargame results from multiple angles, including top-down and time-based information views, as well as traditional map-based views. The general workflow for Sketch-to-Decide starts with an overview of the simulated wargame results for multiple developed COAs. Subsequent views provide progressively more detailed information. Sketch-to-Decide also includes an enhanced common operational picture (COP) view, which overlays real-time situational information on the planned COA and simulation results, to provide greater insight into planning choices, to monitor performance, and to alert users of problems.

Sketch-to-Decide progressively displays more detailed information to support decision making, as seen here:

Sketch to Decide


Gumball displayA "gumball rollups" design provides an innovative information representation using different colored balls to represent information, and is easy to learn and understand. These gumball rollups are used consistently throughout the many views of Sketch-to-Decide to display information at different levels of detail or aggregation that support decision-making by Commanders and their staffs through context relevant information. In addition, gumball rollups can be easily customized by groups and individuals to display and highlight critical information where appropriate.

The Benefit

Deep Green was successfully demonstrated at the Army's Mission Command Battle Lab at Fort Leavenworth where the operational benefits of both mission planning and execution phases were assessed. Charles River's approach provides a novel interface that allows Commanders and their staffs to visualize large numbers of possible battle outcomes to rapidly develop contingency plans, both before and during combat operations. The suite of information views provides progressively more detailed information upon request to answer questions and make well-informed decisions.

As a whole Deep Green was designed to interleave anticipatory planning with adaptive execution to help the Commander think ahead, identify when a plan is going awry, and prepare options—before they are needed. Deep Green aimed to help Commanders visualize and predict possible future states of the battlefield based on the automated monitoring of the executing mission and current operational picture. Ultimately, Deep Green would help Army brigade and battalion Commanders and their staffs develop more intelligent, reactive battle plans that better penetrate the fog of war.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
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