Multi-level Distributed Collaborative Mission Planning for the Maritime Operations Centers

Date of Completion

January 2011


Engineering, Electronics and Electrical|Sociology, Organization Theory|Military Studies




The goal of this thesis is to develop analytical and computational models for multi-level distributed mission planning and monitoring processes associated with the Navy's new concept of Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) so that they can function effectively in highly dynamic, asymmetric, and unpredictable mission environments. To be effective, these new concepts must be accompanied by concomitant changes in the command and control (C2) architecture across dimensions of process and organization, and in turn the C2 architecture must be congruent to the mission and must be able to innovate itself and flexibly adapt to changes in the mission. Two key research problem areas are: 1) developing a modeling framework and coordination mechanisms for multilevel coordination structures that link tactical, operational and strategic levels of decision making; and 2) distributed collaborative mission planning in realistic settings where decision makers (DMs) have partial information and/or partial control of assets in the battlefield. ^ The mission planning/scheduling process contributes to the development of the following series of sequential steps: commander's guidance → an executable plan → orders to tactical forces. In essence, the planning/scheduling process should be highly collaborative both vertically, with higher-level headquarters and subordinates, and horizontally, with other MOCs and joint components. This thesis seeks to explore both vertical and horizontal collaboration among DMs.^ As a vertical coordination, we employed multi-level semi-Markov decision processes (SMDP) for coordinating multiple missions across time. We model the hierarchical decision making process by exchanging the outcomes of SMDPs between the strategic-operational level control and the operational-tactical level control layers that find the best courses of actions for a range of military operations.^ As a horizontal coordination, we developed the distributed auction algorithms for distributed collaborative mission planning. We extended the auction algorithm to realistic settings with various partial information structures and organizational structures. We also showed that by communicating the bid, the best and the second best profits among DMs and with a coordinator, the DMs can reconstruct the centralized assignment solution. The auction setup provides a nice analytical framework for formalizing how team members build internal models of other DMs and achieve team cohesiveness over time. ^