Assessing the challenge

Weeks after the end of the battle, analysts are still assessing what went right and what still needs work. But those analysts are not looking at what happened in Afghanistan.

Instead they are reviewing the results of the Defense Department's most extensive experiment — Millennium Challenge 2002.

DOD doctrine, training policy and organization "are going to be impacted by this experiment like nothing else we've ever done," said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a briefing at the Joint Forces Command training facility.

The experiment was conducted from July 24 through Aug. 15 and involved more than 13,500 military personnel and the largest computer simulation ever built.

The goal of the "experiment," as the exercise was called, was to test how systems operate jointly so they can support ground, sea and air forces, officials said.

"As with any experiment, there are some things that worked really well and some things that didn't work at all," said Chris Shepherd, team leader for the Standing Joint Force headquarters, which staged the Millennium Challenge.

A critical issue that the Millennium Challenge sought to test was the concept of creating a permanent standing joint force headquarters that would enable forces to be ready for deployment more quickly than they are now.

The proposed standing joint force headquarters would collect data about potential adversaries so that U.S. forces would know more about the enemy than the enemy forces know about themselves.

The standing forces would provide military leaders with an immediate understanding of the opposition, Shepherd said.

The goal is to reduce the ad hoc way DOD performs planning today, he said.

The experiment was also able to illustrate the effectiveness of a collaborative information environment that links all of the planners, Shepherd said.

During the exercise, the joint tactical force commander was able to conduct a meeting with all of his component commanders — a total of some 700 staff members. "There was no ambiguity as to the commander's intention" because the staff officers had listened to the commander themselves, he said.

The exercise demonstrated that "effects-based operations" had potential, but that important areas need further honing. Effects-based operations enable forces to target a specific infrastructure in order to carry out the desired effect. But to carry out that degree of precision, it requires even more data about the enemy — necessitating further coordination.

Finally, the Millennium Challenge demonstrated that DOD's information operations have a long way to go before they can be used effectively, officials said. Information operations include virtual warfighting or even something as simple as blanketing an enemy with leaflets.

The Joint Forces Command expects to complete its analysis of the Millennium Challenge 2002 experiment by February 2003.

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, 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,, 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, 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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