Decision support systems

1 Introduction

This term paper I will explore several decision support systems that have been developed and to assist commanders, unit clerks and soldiers in making the best decisions. The Reserve Component's need a system that allows decision-makers to define the parameters to be considered in examining a problem and apply a robust “what if” capability to develop scenarios in order to rapidly evaluate different knowledge based alternatives. Decision-makers require more accurate, timely, cross-functional decisions with a decision-making framework that enables a common operating picture, through linkage of operating and generating force information. This system is known as the Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS).

2 What is a Data Base?

First, I need to define a database. A database is simply the collection of like information. A primary example would be a telephone book. Databases can be a simple as a shopping list or as complex as you could possibly imagine. All types of businesses use databases to store millions of records. Think in terms of perhaps a hospital keeping inventory of thousands of medications that it administers to its patients on a daily bases. Each prescription must be inventoried, tracked from the manufacturing lab, all the way through prescribing to the patient. Each medication would be traced by lot numbers, dosage, age of medication, etc. As you can easily see, there is far more information to track with this medication, than just its name. Each piece of information associated with a particular medication must be compartmentalized and recorded. This portion of the database is commonly referred to as a table. In each table there is usually a key piece of information or delineator that will link one table to another. It may be a lot number, a unique name or some other element that allows one table to cross reference another table. Realizing the complexity and interlacing of databases and their applications, the need to manage databases has evolved into a major industry. There are many businesses in the information technology arena that are strictly dedicated to nothing more than creating and managing databases for all types of businesses.

3 Reserve Component Automation Systems (RCAS WEB)

The database discussed in the previous paragraph is the foundation that a majority of decision support systems are developed on. The Georgia National Guard is where I am employed when I am not deployed to Afghanistan. The Georgia National Guard has a data warehouse which stores all the data for the ten thousand soldiers in the Georgia National Guard. One system in particular is the Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS WEB). RCAS WEB operates off of a Wide Area network between the individual states and a Local Area Network (LAN) in the individual states. This system is considered an enterprise (information) portal which provides several internal applications. This system was developed to provide automation support for the Reserve Components' mobilization, demobilization and management. RCAS WEB has several different hardware and software configurations. It is the information management (TM) link between the Reserve Components, other DOD organizations, and the World Wide Web. Developing this enterprise portal has saved time and money for the tax-payers, commanders and the soldiers out in the field. Such access provides a vital link in the sustaining base, tactical, and strategic environments. Unlimited information will be available from the network which will allow units to operate more efficiently. Even though RCAS WEB has had its problems in the implementation phase but it has the potential to evolve into a truly functional and cost saving system.

4 Retirement Points Accounting Management (RPAM)

Now, let's discuss one of several different applications that RCAS WEB provides. One of the goals that everyone should have is to retire. You reach age 60 and hopefully you will be able to retire and live the easy life. Well, RCAS WEB has an application that provides the capability for all 54 Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) throughout the Army National Guard (ARNG) to retrieve and process data from external sources, calculate retirement point totals, issue annual statements to soldiers in the ARNG, and issue 20-year letters of retirement to qualified service members. This model is known as Retirement Points Accounting Management (RPAM) which provides the capability to automatically exchange detail activity and summary period information between states as soldiers transfer from one JFHQ to another. The Retirement Points Accounting Management (RPAM) application is designed to quickly and accurately calculate ARC retirement points for soldiers assigned to the Army National Guard (ARNG). Proper accountability of retirement points is critical to both the ARNG and its soldiers. As every soldier knows, retirement points are valuable because retirement pay is determined by the number of years of creditable service, and the total number of retirement points earned. If retirement points are calculated incorrectly, a soldier may not be able to retire on time, or could receive less pay than he or she has actually earned. Conversely, if a soldier should retire earlier than he or she is supposed to because of an error in retirement points accounting, the soldier could lose money. RPAM eliminates these costly errors. RPAM maintains accurate records for each service member by incorporating data from external sources and generating a history of service member participation over time. RPAM provides strict adherence to retirement points accounting (RPA) policy and incorporates the latest National Guard Bureau (NGB) guidance. Through its effective data tracking, RPAM saves the ARNG an estimated 1.5 million dollars per year in labor. RPAM captures information from several external interfaces as well. RPAM is a data base management system that assists commanders and soldiers with decisions concerning retirement. Most soldier need to know how many points they have earned and how much money they will make each month in retirement. If a soldier makes an error in his or her decision making process it may cost them at the time of retirement.

5 Permanent Order System (POS)

The Permanent Order System (POS) of the RCAS web provides support to the United States Army Reserve Command (USARC) for the creation, modification, dissemination, and printing of permanent orders (originals, amendments, and Revocations) for Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) and Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) units. POS improves the accuracy and timeliness of unit permanent orders by using authoritative data to compose the order. These data consist of the force management record associated with the order, the authorization document, and the RADPer derivitization data. Once a draft order is constructed, POS enables users throughout the chain of command to view the draft order, view existing electronic comments, and make new electronic comments. Once all comments have been received and incorporated into the draft order, POS provides a mechanism to electronically approve the order. The approved order, maintained in a database at the headquarters level, may be viewed and printed by users throughout the chain of command. POS also provides search mechanisms to enable the user to locate and view all orders for which they have interest. The system administrator grants each category of user specific permissions based on their role.

6 Mobilization Force File (MobFF)

The Mobilization Force File (MobFF) application is used to manage information about mobilized units of the United States Army Reserve (USAR) forces. The USAR creates Mobilization unit identification codes (UIC) to store the positions mobilized from a USAR UIC. These Mobilization UICs are documented in records managed by the MobFF application. Each record contains UIC information, strength information, mobilization information, and demobilization information. When mobilization and demobilization orders are approved within the USAR Permanent Order System (POS), the MobFF application receives information automatically. Records may also be entered and maintained manually within MobFF. MobFF provides a central repository of information related to Mobilized UICs. Information may be retrieved based on operation, mobilization status, mobilization duration, standard requirements code, troop program sequence number, derivative UIC, location, command, order information, and dates. Multiple data fields may be combined to form a complex query of MobFF records.

7 RCAS Web Authorization Data for Personnel (RADPer)

RCAS Web Authorization Data for Personnel (RADPer) is an RCAS WEB application for the United States Army Reserve (USAR) that allows personnel in the United States Army Reserve Command (USARC) has systems that are synchronized at the unit and has the ability to view data down to position-level. This functionality was recently extended to the Regional Readiness Commands (RRC) when RADPer was converted to a web-enabled environment. RADPer allows users to maintain Authorization and Requirements (A&R) documents and access the package and store process. In addition, users may create management reports based upon the level of access assigned and the function being accessed. RADPer allows authorized users to select Authorization documents, break them down to position-level detail, and assign Derivative Unit Identification Codes (UICDR), mobilization flags, and operation codes to the data. Authorization Documents can be chosen in RADPer based on certain criteria. Authorized users can make a selection to decompose and derivative a document, to copy a derivatization, or to generate a Derivatization Audit Report. RADPer breaks down the unit-level data in Authorization documents and determines individual positions. It then assigns a UICDR to each position. Thus a position with a required strength of five would be decomposed into five individual positions and then derivative, or assigned a UICDR. RADPer provides a simple interface for copying the UICD from previous authorization documents to updated Authorization documents.

8 Derivatization Data Report

The Derivatization Data Report provides detailed information on derivative documents. Documents are sorted by the default sort given in the Derivatization window. The Non-Finalized UIC Report helps determine which documents have not been entered into the Package and Store Process. When a unit is put into a finalized state of decomposition and derivatization, it is included in the DetailDrv.txt data file and will not be seen on the Non-Finalized UIC Report. The Orphaned UIC Report is created from data that exists in the derivatization data file for which there is no match in the organizational data file. This data will not be included in the files created by the Package and Store process. Only the Administrator can produce the Orphaned UIC Report.

9 Authorization and Requirements (A&R)

The Authorization and Requirements (A&R) application is invaluable for users needing to view, search, and compare authorization and requirements data. Used in conjunction with the RCAS WEB Force Management System, to produce a checklist A&R compares force management data and authorization document data. Authorization document functionality allows users to search for authorization documents using a variety of parameters. Once identified, authorization documents may be viewed, printed, searched electronically, and compared. Multiple documents may also be searched for data using the Management Extract Reports. Requirements document functionality allows users to search for requirements documents and produce Tables of Organization and Equipment (TOE), Increment Change Packages (ICP), and Basis of Issue Plan (BOIP) reports.

10 Force Management (FM)

The Force Management (FM) application permits users to create strategic plans for present and future Reserve Component forces. FM enables users to display and update FM information, including activation and inactivation, reorganization, conversion, and stationing of units. It is a part of the Force Authorization suite of applications and contains the following functionality: The FM system is supported by data from five authoritative data sources which include position data, authorization documents, structure data, stationing codes, facility data, order data, Line Item Number (LIN) data, and National Stock Number (NSN) data. The external interfaces used to supply supporting data. FM can produce 45 different reports. Each report contains a search filter which allows the user to customize the report contents. Each report contains the selection filter parameters used to produce the report and a date/time stamp. Reports may be viewed, printed, or saved to files. An ad hoc report can also be produced from search filter results.

11 Organizational Authority (OA)

The Organizational Authority (OA) application allows the Organizational Authority Team Analyst to manage unit information and produce OA reports. It is one of the Force Authorization applications available in RCAS WEB. The OA Team Analyst is able to update OA information based on Stationing Plans, as well as update OA information based on reconciliation with Force Management information. There are many reports accessible through OA. The ability to view, save, and/or print these reports is determined by assigned user roles. Each report has its own selection criteria window, which allows a user to choose the data set they wish to retrieve. When a report appears, its header displays the following information: The version used to generate the report: The date the report was run the selection criteria for the report.

12 RCAS WEB Data Dictionary

The RCAS WEB Data Dictionary (RDD) was developed in 2005 to answer requests from RCAS WEB Database Administrators (DBAs) for a data dictionary that delivered more than the table and column physical descriptions provided by the data catalog in the RCAS WEB Oracle database. The RDD provides information on content, applications that use tables/columns, allowable codes, and external interfaces to the RCAS WEB Integrated Database (IDB). The RDD extracts metadata and supplies additional information on the objects in the RCAS WEB IDB so users can better formulate SQL queries. Ad Hoc query capability is available to anyone who has permissions to query the RCAS WEB IDB and a query tool such as COGNOS, Toad or Procedural Language/Structured Query Language (PS/SQL) Developer. The User can query the RDD to extract metadata on the objects in the RCAS WEB IDB. The metadata is versioned to match all fielded and supported Major Releases and their current Service Packs. The RDD includes the ability to query by external interface or RCAS WEB application, to search for codes and code values used by RCAS WEB and to access and navigate the RCAS WEB physical data models. Database and external databases must have the ability to integrate with RCAS WEB. Before any type of integration takes place there must be prior planning between the units and the integrated database administrator. The function of a web server database is to furnish twenty-four- 7 days a week access to RCAS WEB information. The user would point and click which will provide them valuable information. The actual platform, database management system (DBMS, [Oracle], in the Georgia National Guard), and fashion of data distribution would be transparent to the user.

13 RCAS WEB Components

The RCAS WEB environment includes the integrated database, which is currently planned for a Hewlett-Packard (HP) 9000 server running HP UNIX. The RCAS WEB program and database will operate on a server running the Microsoft (MS) 2003 operating system. The RCAS WEB users are the members of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard units. These units have MS Windows platforms running the MS Access DBMS. They will use that configuration to access either the integrated database or the query databases at larger sites. The external systems use a variety of hardware platforms, such as Windows workstations and mainframes, as well as a variety of DBMSs, such as Oracle and IBM's DB2. Standard for server operating systems is Windows 2003. We will obtain access to one or more external databases to both pull and send data via the RCAS WEB data exchange servers. Using the evaluation criteria, each tool will be evaluated, and findings on the current capabilities of this class of tools along with a specific tool choice will be made. The RCAS WEB environment includes an integrated database as well as external databases. The selected tool must be able to access multiple databases. The server must shield the user from knowledge of the underlying code, the distribution of data, the location of system components, etc. The web server must require minimum programming for the construction of the web site. The interface for the user must be, on the whole, point and click. Dynamic reconfiguration should not bring the total system down to add sites or users. The cost should be reasonable and requiring the purchase of software for each client is an unreasonable cost burden.

14 Weapons Qualification Module

The Weapons Qualification module has enhanced capabilities in UPS/CMS in RCAS WEB Release 6.0. This module allows the unit to maintain the Weapons Qualification data of their soldiers. Instructions for updating the Weapons Qualification data are in Section 8 of the UPS/CMS Software User Manual (SUM). Updates to Weapons Qualification data can be sent to SIDPERS in electronic transactions or the DA 4187 form. To enable electronic updates of the Weapons Qualification data, the Weapons Qual transaction needs to be added to an Electronic Update Group in the MILPO Configuration module.

RCAS will provide military leaders with the data to support decisions concerning military operational readiness and quick response the needs of the United States. The Distributed Training Technology Project (DTTP) provides the Reserve Components information systems and communications systems to render training, education and a functioning tool that assists in gaining total force readiness. DTTP provides significant opportunities to maintain required readiness and offset costs. Advantages include: increasing the number of soldiers trained, which reduces training costs and the amount of time it takes to deliver requisite training to large groups diversify the range of education, creating more information available encouraging continuing education through self-study by converting available space in armories, colleges, and libraries, DTTP provides community-based learning classrooms with access to military training. These classrooms are linked with state-of-the-art technology such as live 2-way audio and video teleconferencing, computer-based learning, video programming, electronic mail and internet-based network access. The centers are available in all 50 states, 3 territories and the District of Columbia, resulting in a fully interactive infrastructure where both defense and civilian studies are conducted. Over 330 DTTP classrooms are currently supported by the Army National Guard Network. This project also complements The Army Distributed Learning Program (TADLP) as it provides access in communities not currently addressed in the Army Distributed Learning Program Campaign Plan. Family support services regularly utilize DTTP classrooms for calls to deployed soldiers. Teleconferencing capabilities keep communications open between soldiers, supervisors and families.

15 Mobilization Planning Data Viewer (MPDV)

Mobilization Planning Data Viewer (MPDV) provides a seamless interface across the information systems required to support mobilization as well as a system for creating and organizing information required to support Soldier readiness, unit mobilization readiness, logistics, mobilization execution, utilities/maintenance, and family readiness. MPDV provides ongoing support of mobilization activities for Army National Guard (ARNG) and United States Army Reserve (USAR) unit level users, the Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) and Regional Readiness Command (RRC) Family Readiness personnel. Many of the mobilization tasks supported by MPDV are those required in the United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Mobilization and Deployment Planning System (FORMDEPS) 500-3-3. Unit Mobilization Readiness functionality corresponds to Phase I of FORMDEPS. This phase includes the preparation of mobilization plans and files such as the Alert Notification Roster, Annex E Phase I, Mobilization Rosters, the Unit Mobilization Binder/File, and Weapons Teams. Units have a number of local sources for data that can be used for completion of the unit mobilization readiness functions. These data sources may include, but are not limited to, the Soldier's personnel file. Utilities/Maintenance functionality allows users to update various personnel, unit, and logistical information. These functions are Critical Unit Data, Load PBUS-E Data, Masking Soldiers, Personnel Temporary Record, Reconcile Unit Personnel, Unit Subsets, and Maintain Units (Upload Unit Manual and Mask Units).

16 Integrated Data Viewer-Safety and Occupation Health (IDV-SOH)

Integrated Data Viewer-Safety and Occupation Health (IDV-SOH) is a web-based application that displays data stored in SOH. It is used to produce statistical reports and graphs. Unit Commanders, senior staff, and safety administrators can view data for their unit and all subordinate units. SOH provides support for both the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard in complying with safety requirements and regulations. IDV-SOH provides statistical reports on accidents, injuries, hazards, system defects, and inspections recorded in SOH. IDV-SOH is divided into functional categories—Accidents, Injuries, Hazards, System Defects, and Inspections. In addition, IDV-SOH provides links to SOH to view more detailed information on accidents, hazards, injuries, inspections, or system defects selected for review.

17 Integrated Data Viewer for Personnel (IDV-P)

Integrated Data Viewer for Personnel (IDV-P) is a web-based application that provides decision support by using an integrated view of status information across functional areas up and down the command echelon. IDV-P users can view and print reports based on data from Personnel functional areas including key contacts, vacancy, Noncommissioned Officer Efficiency Report/Officer Efficiency Report (NCOEROER), flags, accession, Military Occupational Specialty Qualification (MOSQ), Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES), readiness and training. IDV-P enables users to perform a number of activities across functional areas and organizational structures. IDV-P data is based on the Standard Installation and Division Personnel System Army National Guard (SIDPERS/ARNG) database. The Accession function displays data on all soldiers who enlisted in the State within the past 12 months, with either no prior service gain (NPSG), or prior service gain (PSG). Accession data is displayed in tabular format only. The MOSQ function displays information on a unit's authorized strength, assigned strength, number and percent of soldiers qualified, as well as the number and percent of soldiers not qualified. MOSQ information can be viewed and printed from tabular, graphical, or composite formats. MOSQ information can be e-mailed from the graphical and composite views. The NCOES function displays data in tabular format and includes the class, grade, number of soldiers who completed the course, and personal detail information on a soldier's education.

18 Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

The Training function provides information on training for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and Weapons Qualification. The Readiness function displays information on the personnel readiness of a unit. Information can be viewed and printed from the tabular, graphical, and composite formats, or e-mailed from the graphical and composite views. The Key Contact function is a list of personnel information built and maintained by IDV-P users. The Key Contact category is specific to the user's organization and may be updated whenever necessary. Key Contact can be thought of as a phone book or directory. Users can generate a Key Contact at their level and below. The Key Contact category is available in tabular format and can be viewed in two levels, the top summary level and the individual's Personal Detail Information window. The Vacancy function provides information on unit vacancies by Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Grade, and the number of vacancies within a unit. Lower levels of detailed vacancy information include the type of vacancy with description. IDV-P also provides users the ability to view a Unit Manning Report that, among other information, identifies personnel vacancies at both their organizational hierarchy level and units below. Users can view NCOER/OER information displayed by class (Enlisted, Commissioned Officer, or Warrant Officer) and the number of NCOERs/OERs that are overdue or scheduled for a selected unit. NCOER/OER Summary level information can be viewed in tabular, graphical, and composite views. Drilldown Detail level information can only be viewed in tabular format. The Flags function enables the user to view information on suspension of favorable personnel actions (SFPA) flags issued to soldiers. The flags data is displayed in and can be printed from the tabular, graphical, and composite views or e-mailed from the graphical or composite views.

19 Military Personnel Office (MilPO)

Military Personnel Office (MilPO) Orders is an Army ability to create five reports: National Guard (ARNG) web-based application generates personnel orders and transactions so that all affiliated tasks can be completed quickly and easily. MilPO Orders provides the ability to initiate a Personnel Action Request (PAR), route the PAR, and publish orders on the web. This greatly expedites the time it takes to process and publish a PAR. Transactions for updating Standard Installation/Division Personnel System of the Army National Guard (SIDPERSARNG) can be created within the application for specific PAR's. Additionally, MilPO Orders allows users to track the progress of their PARs throughout the process and provides the capability to view historical information on that PAR's and orders. Daily Orders Report, PAR Status Report, Pending Transaction Report, Statistical Report, Orders Log Report, Uses SIDPERS data, Implements business rules for transactions, Allows users to electronically track and Update the PAR and order, Posts orders to the web for immediate Distribution, Allows users to create variations in format, allows each State Order Administrator to add additional instructions that are particular to that Command (State).

Executive Summary

People make decisions every day, some decision are as simple as ordering a pizza, or to have cream or sugar in their coffee, or as complex as purchasing a multi-million corporation. There is not a day that goes by that some type of decision is made in our lives. I know for my children one of the most important decision to them is “what is for supper”, normally hamburgers and French fries is a popular decision Currently, I am deployed to Afghanistan; important decisions are made in this environment that could mean difference between life and death. Many times each day decisions are made that place soldiers in harm's way; believe me and a lot of research and intelligence is gather before any plan is executed. The last thing a commander over here wants is for a soldier to get killed because there was he or she made a bad decision.

Commanders make critical decisions every day based on the information available to them. This information can come from a variety of sources derived internally or externally to the organization. This is particularly worrisome to commanders who are fighting the Global War on Terrorism. Sometimes there is a lack of confidence in data available to decision makers and commanders are no different, several have admitted to making important decisions on the basis of inadequate information. As a result, in today's Army there are destined to make a number of uninformed decisions on an alarmingly regular basis. Commanders simply do not have the relevant information required to make the best decisions in a timely manner. They must thus find a way to create an accurate, actionable 360-degree view of their enterprise. Real-time visibility provides not only a means to verify and justify results, but also full confidence that small and midsize companies are leveraging consistency, accuracy, and timeliness via a single data source to make better, faster decisions.

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