DOD puts tech to the test

This summer, the Defense Department will put its warfighting technology to the test when it runs its largest-ever joint military experiment designed to see how well the individual services' critical systems link with one another.

The goal is to have those systems operate jointly so they can support ground, sea and air forces, said Air Force Brig. Gen. James Smith during a recent Pentagon press briefing on the third annual Millennium Challenge experiment.

"The overall experiment really focuses on this notion of, 'How do I leverage the information revolution to improve the way I do military planning and execution?' " Smith said.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers earlier this year that the Millennium Challenge 2002 will test the U.S. Joint Forces Command model of the standing joint force headquarters.

"Joint experimentation is a key element of the transformation process," Myers testified before the House Armed Services Committee. It "also allows us to integrate the experimental concepts and new weapon systems being developed by the services into a joint framework early in the development process."

The Millennium experiment will occur July 24 through August 15. Most of it will involve tabletop activities, in which DOD officials work through a scenario virtually.

A portion of the experiment, however, will involve troops and equipment. Those actions will take place at Fort Irwin, Calif.; air operations will be conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and Navy and Marine activities will be held off the coast of California.

DOD will test ways to gain an edge in its military operations. Many operations at present force the Pentagon to play catch-up, responding to an action an adversary has launched. DOD officials would like to take advantage of data available departmentwide to develop operational net assessments that give the armed forces information about an adversary's political, military, economic and infrastructure statuses. The goal is to "know more about him than he knows about himself," Smith said.

This capability should enable military planners to stay ahead of the enemy. But for this to happen, the services must become more interoperable and share data.

"Why...have stray electrons going around the battlefield that nobody knows where they came from, or who's seeing them?" asked Smith, also the deputy commander of the Joint Warfighting Center at Suffolk, Va., part of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in nearby Norfolk, Va. "We ought to be able to see them all."

Jim Lewis, director of technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said such exercises are important for working on issues in the hopes of preventing a wartime crisis.

This exercise will enable the forces to get together and "absorb what came out of joint operations in Afghanistan," Lewis said. Operation Enduring Freedom showed that joint operations were able to work well against a relatively small opponent. The goal of Millennium Challenge 2002 is to see if they would also work against a more significant adversary.

As part of the effort to improve joint operations, DOD created a Standing Joint Force Headquarters, staffed by about 55 people who will make up a group of joint planning, information and communications experts, Smith said.

"It was pretty obvious...that you can't do that in a reactive way, and you can't do it ad hoc," Smith said. "You need a standing headquarters."

That group is organized by functions, he said, "around operations, plans, information superiority and then the technology piece of how to technically keep that information together."

That group is building the operational assessment — a database of all information about a country, region and pending crisis, and then performing effects-based operations before the crisis starts, he said.

Part of the experiment will test the operations of that joint force and how having all that critical information collected upfront assists commanders.

The experiment focuses on capabilities the military would like to have by 2007, he said. The event will involve a potential future adversary, which DOD has termed "Country X."

Smith acknowledged that joint interoperability is a significant challenge, but said that "you've got to build relationships, [and] be willing to share information."

"We will get there, eventually."

***

'Millennium' Aims

Goals of the Millennium Challenge 2002 exercise, scheduled for July 24 through Aug. 15, include:

* Set the operational conditions for Rapid Decisive Operations, a concept that integrates knowledge, command and control functions and operations.

* Establish a knowledge network through concepts such as Common Relevant Operational Picture, which fuses and presents different pieces of information, and Joint Interactive Planning, which relies on networks to help service commanders plan in a joint environment.

* Establish joint command and control functions and joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

* Conduct simultaneous, joint tactical actions throughout the battlespace that are based on a shared understanding of both the tactical and operational situations.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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