Defense Media Network

DARPA at the Tactical Edge: TIGR & RAA

In Iraq, TIGR grew from 25 trainers and 10 active users in 2007 to more than 1,000 users in early 2008. By October 2009, it was fielded to 15 brigade combat teams and 23,000 users. Ultimately, TIGR would expand to 97,000 user accounts, with many non-account holders regularly leveraging its information.

“This was a juggernaut,” Michaelis said. “Once you were exposed to TIGR, there was an epiphany. You understood its potential. But you had to have leaders who understood that when you’re building something on the fly, there will be failures.”

Fortunately, Chiarelli was one of those. The general went out of his way to support the TIGR team, according to Maeda. “He said, ‘Whenever you encounter a wall, let me know.’ And we did encounter many walls.”

From getting onto SIPRNet to expediting the Army’s extended information assurance process, command support at the highest levels was vital. An early meeting with Multinational Force Iraq Commander Gen. David Petraeus was crucial, Swink said.

“That’s what got us onto SIPRNet instead of just our own small network.”

As the use of TIGR expanded in Iraq and Afghanistan, more capability was added, including access to broader Army databases, a link-analysis tool, and a highly prized Google Street View-like feature called Patrol View. Being in theater allowed Swink and other developers to update TIGR code and have soldiers test it the same day as opposed to going through a six-month Army development/test/deployment cycle.

By the time General Dynamics Mission Systems acquired TIGR in 2010, it was firmly part of the Army tactical toolkit, with an unexpected viral quality.

“The beauty of TIGR,” Hack explained, “was that because it was on SIPRNet, even when soldiers rotated out of theater, they still kept up with what was going on. It was kind of like an Army social media tool where a guy might walk into a master sergeant’s office and say, ‘Let me show you what happened on TIGR yesterday.’ They’d log back into a server in Baghdad and he could say, ‘This is where I was operating, and I knew these people.’”

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Eric Tegler is a writer/broadcaster from Severna Park, Md. His work appears in a variety...