NATO terminals link allies

The United States and five of its NATO allies soon will have computer terminals in their respective capitals dedicated solely to military planning for coalition operations.

United Kingdom Navy Commander Guy Brocklebank, who is participating in an officer exchange program with the United States, said the boxes will be in place to link the six capitals by early next year.

Brocklebank, who is the head of the U.S. Navy's joint and allied interoperability program, said the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Canada will use the boxes for military planning for coalition operations.

Brocklebank's presentation May 22 at the International Quality and Productivity Center's Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va., was focused on "maritime allied interoperability in a network-centric environment," and he said that there are numerous challenges involved in achieving that goal, including:

* Bandwidth limitations.

* Language barriers.

* Reluctance to share information that may not need to be kept secret.

Most of the data on U.S. Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) accounts, which military personnel use for accessing classified applications and databases and for secure messaging, could be made available to our allies, but the traditional view on that is "when in doubt, don't send it," he said.

Donald Henry, special assistant to the director of Net Assessment within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, agreed and said that "99 percent of SIPRNET is releasable to allies," but the remaining piece and the concerns of U.S. intelligence agencies keep the allies behind.

One bright spot in U.S. Navy interoperability has been the use of chat rooms, Brocklebank said. "The real revolution for the Navy has been chat," he said, but a major problem is "the current inability for allies to join."

Chat is quick, easy to use and has largely replaced traditional radio communications on Navy ships that have the capability, he said.

Brocklebank said a recent trial chat during a NATO event showed mixed results. The participants were encouraged by the benefits the technology has to offer, but the translations in Spanish, German and French were often "interesting." The language tools were designed for using on large documents and when they were applied to the short sentences or military abbreviations during the chat, the translation was largely lost.

Still, NATO is interested enough that work is being done to expand the translators to include the languages of Pacific Rim nations and Russia for future events, he said.

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