CENTAUR speaks all languages

On the operations floor of Exercise Empire Challenge, held at Langley Air Force Base, Va., in 2009, U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine and military forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, and Japan tested interoperability. During the exercise, participants used Cross-Domain Enterprise All-Source User Repository, or CENTAUR, which provides a digital safe space where U.S. and allied nations can link their intelligence-gathering systems and share information, including full motion video, photo imagery, documents and secure chat.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech Sgt. Randy Redman)

On the operations floor of Exercise Empire Challenge, held at Langley Air Force Base, Va., in 2009, U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine and military forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, and Japan tested interoperability. During the exercise, participants used Cross-Domain Enterprise All-Source User Repository, or CENTAUR, which provides a digital safe space where U.S. and allied nations can link their intelligence-gathering systems and share information, including full motion video, photo imagery, documents and secure chat. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech Sgt. Randy Redman)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. --

Personnel at Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-Hanscom are ensuring intelligence can be quickly, securely shared with allies by performing pre-contract market research for maintenance of a program called CENTAUR.

The Cross-Domain Enterprise All-Source User Repository, or CENTAUR, provides a digital safe space where U.S. and allied nations can link their intelligence-gathering systems and share information, including full motion video, photo imagery, documents and secure chat. The current contract, dating to 2011 and valued at $68 million, is set to expire July 2018.

“CSAF has said that Command and Control is the challenge we face in an interconnected world,” said 1st Lt. Vicente Pamparo, program manager for CENTAUR, referring to U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We’re trying to be sure that our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks communicate as fast as our adversaries do, so that our collected intel continues to be an accessible asset, and not a pile of data no one can look at.”

CENTAUR, named after a mythological creature that was half man, half horse, works transparently in the background of Distributed Common Ground Systems. DCGSs are used to gather, process, exploit and disseminate ISR. The Air Force operates DCGS sites, and sister services and other government agencies operate similar facilities. These systems must communicate during joint and coalition exercises with a conglomeration of other intel gathering systems, few of which were built to be accessible.

“Communication in the post-9/11 world is just assumed to be instant, and automatic,” said Sean Hogarty, systems engineer contractor with Integrity Apps, Inc, who works alongside Airmen on CENTAUR. “In reality, lots of our systems don’t necessarily speak the same language. Some are from different eras. Unifying them across our own systems is one challenge, but enabling allies’ access to them is another. That’s why CENTAUR is important.”

Pamparo’s section is also in the process of installing CENTAUR in the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center, where multiple systems can be tested in concert with the DCGS in order to ensure reliability and security. A CENTAUR testbed occupies about half of one server rack, and can be linked to nearby secured systems.

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency created CENTAUR in response to a Joint Urgent Operational Need for intel sharing among allies. The system exists on servers physically located on nexus points between military intelligence networks, other government agencies and allied nations in the U.S. and abroad. In the six years since, CENTAUR has not used all allotted $68 million, but according to Pomparo, the terms of the contract must be updated to reflect evolving technology and needs.

“We need the flexibility to start work on a new requirement right away,” said Pomparo. “DCGS operators don’t necessarily know that they’re sharing information across CENTAUR, and that’s the point. In order to keep that going, we want to be able to anticipate the needs of the system, and make changes quickly.”