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Worldwide Military Command and Control System

The worldwide deployment of U.S. forces required extensive long-range communications systems that can maintain contact with all of those forces at all times. To enable national command authorities to exercise effective command and control of their widely dispersed forces, a communications system was established to enable those authorities to disseminate their decisions to all subordinate units, under any conditions, within minutes.

Such a command and control system, WWMCCS, was created by DOD Directive S-5100.30, titled "Concept of Operations of the Worldwide Military Command and Control System," which set the overall policies for the integration of the various command and control elements that were rapidly coming into being in the early 1960s.

As initially established, WWMCCS was an arrangement of personnel, equipment (including Automated Data Processing equipment and hardware), communications, facilities, and procedures employed in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling the operational activities of U.S. military forces.

This system was intended to provide the president and the secretary of defense a means to receive warning and intelligence information, assign military missions, provide direction to the unified and specified commands, and support the Joint Chiefs of Staff in carrying out their responsibilities. The directive establishing the system stressed five essential system characteristics: survivability, flexibility, compatibility, standardization, and economy.

Despite the original intent, WWMCCS never realized the full potential that had been envisioned for the system. The services' approach to WWMCCS depended upon the availability of both technology and funding to meet individual requirements, so no truly integrated system emerged. Indeed, during the 1960s, WWMCCS consisted of a loosely knit federation of nearly 160 different computer systems, using 30 different general purpose software systems at 81 locations. One study claimed that WWMCCS was "more a federation of self-contained subsystems than an integrated set of capabilities."

The problems created by these diverse subsystems were apparently responsible for several well-publicized failures of command and control during the latter part of the 1960s.

During hostilities between Israel and Egypt in June 1967, the USS Liberty, a naval reconnaissance ship, was ordered by the JCS to move further away from the coastlines of the billigerents. Five high-priority messages to that effect were sent to the Liberty, but none arrived for more than 13 hours. By that time the ship had become the victim of an apparently mistaken attack by Israeli aircraft and patrol boats that killed 34 Americans.

A congressional committee investigating this incident concluded, "The circumstances surrounding the misrouting, loss and delays of those messages constitute one of the most incredible failures of communications in the history of the Department of Defense."

The result of these various failures was a growth in the centralized management of WWMCCS, occurring at about the same time that changing technology brought in computers and electronic displays.

For example, 27 command centers were equipped with standard Honeywell 6000 computers and common programs so there could be a rapid exchange of information among the command centers.

An assistant secretary of defense for Telecommunications was established, and a 1971 DOD directive gave that person the primary staff responsibility for all WWMCCS-related systems. That directive also designated the Chairman of the JCS as the official responsible for the operation of WWMCCS.

The World-Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) Intercomputer Network (WIN) was a centrally managed information processing and exchange network consisting of large-scale computer systems at geographically separate locations, interconnected by a dedicated wide-band, packet-switched communications subsystem. The architecture of the WIN consists of WWMCCS-standard AN/FYQ-65(V) host computers and their WIN-dedicated Honeywell 6661 Datanets and Datanet 8's connected through Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc. (BBN) C/30 and C/30E packet switching computers called Packet Switching Nodes (PSNs) and wideband, encrypted, dedicated, data communications circuits.

By the early 1980s, it was time to modernize this system. The replacement, proposed by the deputy secretary of defense, was an evolutionary upgrade program known as the WWMCCS Information System [WIS], which provided a range of capabilities appropriate for the diverse needs of the WWMCCS sites.

During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, WWMCCS performed flawlessly 24 hours a day, seven days a week; providing critical data to combat commanders worldwide in deploying, relocating and sustaining allied forces.

However, WWMCCS was dependent on a proprietary mainframe environment. Information cannot be easily entered or accessed by users, and the software cannot be quickly modified to accommodate changing mission requirements. Operational flexibility and adaptability are limited, since most of the information and software are stored on the mainframe. The system architecture is unresponsive, inflexible, and expensive to maintain.

This new WWMCCS Information System configuration continued to be refined until 1992 when the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence terminated this latest attempt to modernize the WWMCCS ADP equipment.

The continuing need to meet established requirements which couldn't be fulfilled, coupled with a growing dissatisfaction among users with the existing WWMCCS system, drove the conceptualizing of a new system, called GCCS.

On August 30, 1996, Lieutenant General Albert J. Edmonds, Director, Defense Information Systems Agency, officially deactivated the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) Intercomputer Network (WIN). Concurrently, the Joint Staff declared the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) as the joint command and control system of record.

Sources and Resources

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Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, March 03, 2000 5:23:21 PM