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Systems, Processes Digitize in the East

November 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

U.S. forces in Asia-Pacific region walk the boards into the 21st century.

Communications system upgrades planned for the Korean theater will support network-centric warfare, transforming the Asia-Pacific region into a cutting-edge digital environment in both theory and practice. Armed with a vision of how information technology creates a common operational understanding of the battlespace, military leaders on the Korean peninsula are using lessons of the past to chart a new course for the future.

The fleeting nature of targets in today’s battlespace compresses the planning, decision and execution cycle from days and hours to minutes and seconds. Improvements in technologies being implemented throughout the Korean theater will shorten the decision-making cycle and allow troops to spend less time preparing information for the commander and more time on the task at hand—warfighting.

The current strategy addresses both short- and long-term needs and comprises three objectives. First, a theaterwide command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) vision has been developed to support operators’ requirements while facilitating changes in processes. Second, the program objective memorandum is being aligned to meet operational needs as well as provide and sustain adequate resources for the C4I vision. Finally, C4I capabilities will be fielded that support current force readiness and enhance combatants’ ability to fight.

Col. Steven J. Spano, USAF, the former assistant chief of staff, J-6, U.S. Forces–Korea (USFK), and his staff crafted a comprehensive vision for USFK C4I. The colonel, who is now commander of the 89th Communications Group, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, built the plan on the premise that a common operational picture is only the basic entry fee into decision superiority. The ultimate objective is to seek dramatic improvements in warfighting capabilities that can only be achieved by what theater commanders refer to as common operational understanding.

“Common operational understanding ensures that the commander of United Nations Command/[Republic of Korea/U.S.] Combined Forces Command and USFK in his command post and the command elements, ranging from the 2nd Infantry Division to the Republic of Korea 2nd Army, not only see the same picture in near real time but achieve consensus on what the picture means,” the colonel says. Achieving consensus requires fundamental changes to existing command and control (C2) structures, warfighting processes and the way the staff pursues and integrates information technology, he adds.

“Today, advanced technologies coupled with open systems, plug-and-play architectures and Web-based applications, for example, have dramatically altered the technological landscape. In Korea, our goal is to foster the environment across joint and combined staffs, so that significant efficiencies can be achieved in our warfighting and support processes. Integrating technology should fundamentally change both the process and product,” Col. Spano explains.

The Korean Information Grid (KIG), a subset of the Global Information Grid, is the basis for attaining this objective. The KIG uses a common C4I, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) infrastructure that is based on terrestrial, airborne and space communications. It furnishes theater personnel with a fully functional and integrated architecture with which the commander can go to war.

Although the capabilities of the current KIG are substantial, significant improvements are required to provide a common operational understanding of the battlespace to military forces. “The threat from North Korean special operations forces and artillery mandates a robust, survivable transport infrastructure that ensures bandwidth on demand and plug-and-play access for applications and services. Initiatives are underway that integrate individual modernization efforts across the transport, applications and services layers,” Col. Spano explains.

The Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) is the building block in the vision to improve information-sharing capabilities in the Korean theater. USFK is leveraging the network and partnering with the Defense Information Systems Agency, manager of the DISN, to expand long-haul and intra-theater bandwidth and provide diverse connectivity and survivability.

Ongoing initiatives include establishing new bandwidth connectivity directly into the main command post, consolidating satellite communications (SATCOM) leases, modernizing groundstations, overcoming current SATCOM shortfalls and completing a secondary fiber ring around the peninsula. This last initiative augments other planned bandwidth upgrade efforts on the government-owned fiber backbone, Col. Spano offers.

“Two years ago, our networks were single threaded, riding low-bandwidth circuits, in many cases just 9.6- and 56-kilobits-per-second circuits. We once talked in terms of upgrading these circuits to T-1 and DS-3s. Now we’re implementing gigabit Ethernet, OC-3s and OC-12s on our intra- and inter-theater networks. A core part of this modernization plan is the integration of major network upgrades to form a theaterwide metropolitan area network,” he adds.

The consolidated wide area network (CWAN), the U.S. Army’s installation information infrastructure modernization plan (I3MP) and other terrestrial communications upgrades will advance intra-theater bandwidth and survivability light years ahead of where it is today, the colonel states.

CWAN was developed to reduce operations and maintenance costs, streamline network management and improve quality of service. Plans call for replacing hundreds of low-bandwidth modems and circuit encryption devices with high-speed encryption devices. This move would provide a common user network and maintain the integrity of secure communities of interest at each of the five Republic of Korea and U.S. classification levels. As a result, survivability, functionality, network management and configuration control would improve while maintenance costs would be reduced, Col. Spano says.

The I3MP program upgrades the infrastructure at approximately 22 installations and provides a gigabit Ethernet capability. Managers at the first two bases are scheduled to begin this project in fiscal year 2003.

To support high-speed data rates, the 20-year-old government-owned and -operated fiber optic cable system in Korea, known as the FOCSIK, has been upgraded and augmented with additional fiber optic loops through Korea and will support data rates of at least 10 gigabits per second. The introduction of the I3MP multigigabit Ethernet switching capability would support the growing demand for Internet protocol (IP)-based services.

Dense wave division multiplexing will increase bandwidth on current and planned fiber cabling, and multiprotocol label switching will improve security, manageability and quality of service across both the IP and asynchronous transfer mode enterprise. New digital microwave units will provide additional bandwidth and improve the reliability and survivability of the C4I systems.

Because the USFK’s tactical network is inherently the most robust of its C4I networks, it will be the major component during execution of a war plan, the colonel relates. “The 1st Signal Brigade manages the majority of the tactical assets in Korea, ensuring the seamless flow of voice, data and video to deployed forces in fixed and mobile environments. To ensure that the tactical network can handle the huge demands for information exchange, the 1st Signal Brigade is implementing key enhancements that will increase the tactical SATCOM capability and improve the secure interface between the tactical and strategic networks,” he explains.

The USFK’s Combined/Joint C4I Coordination Center is creating an environment that enables the proactive management of a seamless, survivable combined and joint C4I system of systems through a tiered management structure. To that end, the center has been a pioneer in integrating both combined and joint tactical-to-strategic voice, data and video systems that support a full spectrum of operations, Col. Spano offers. Center personnel also will monitor systems in real time to leverage numerous information assurance initiatives, he adds.

Substantial progress has been made in the USFK’s information assurance program. The command is actively implementing the U.S. Defense Department’s defense-in-depth strategy through its Triad program. Triad comprises representatives from the operations, intelligence and C4 communities. The group has instituted the INFOCON process and has deployed firewalls at the network level. In addition, intrusion detection systems have been dispersed across classified and unclassified networks, and critical servers and nodes have been hardened. Finally, a user awareness program has been established throughout the command.

In 2001, the Office of the Secretary of Defense authorized $332 million in funding for C4I improvements to be made in the 2003 to 2007 time frame. The USFK staff is coordinating plans and allocating this money toward programs that support the vision.

“An unresourced vision is not an acceptable strategy,” Col. Spano states. “The increase over the baseline budget is arguably the biggest success the command has ever had in the C4I arena and in many ways validates our vision.”

Efforts also are underway to prioritize and invest available funding in C4I capabilities that address current needs. For example, upgrades to the secure, bilingual video teleconferencing system provide high-quality, on-demand C2 information exchange capabilities between the commander and field and component commanders. New plasma displays and multigrid projection systems are ubiquitous throughout all staff units, and two high-resolution video walls have been added. One in the theater operations center measures 16 feet by 40 feet and can display up to 27 images. It provides functional staff elements with simultaneous access to various video feeds such as the common operational picture, unmanned aerial vehicle data, video teleconferencing and IP video. A smaller video wall on the commander’s bridge features similar capabilities and is used by the commander and key staff members for current operations functions.

Two exercises, REMOTE STAGING, ONWARD MOVEMENT AND INTEGRATION 2001 and ULCHI FOCUS LENS 2002 (UFL 02), helped validate the benefits of many of these improvements. “Bandwidth upgrades to components, new routers and switches in key nodes, upgrades to classified and unclassified networks and a new Defense Red Switch improved information flow across the command. The use of IP video and collaborative planning capabilities provided virtual connectivity within the main command post as well as between the main command post and component elements. Voice over IP on our combined command and control system also augmented other secure voice systems that were not available to the Republic of Korea, eliminating the labor-intensive task of managing allied cryptographic keying material while extending secure voice functionality to our combined partners,” Col. Spano relates.

Col. David A. Adams, USAF, the current assistant chief of staff, J-6, USFK, says that UFL 2002 was the crucible to test these systems and develop tactics, techniques and procedures for their use in the command’s combined warfighting environment. “Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, USA, commanding general, United Nations Command/[Republic of Korea/U.S.] Combined Forces Command, and commander, U.S. Forces–Korea, provided the command catalyst for the warfighter to transcend from a yellow Post-it note analog C2 methodology to a truly digital C2 system of systems that relays the common operational picture and provides commanders near-real-time situational awareness that forces operators to make decisions. This ability combined with on-call secure video teleconferences and collaborative tools provides the commander with the ability to garner subordinate commander perspectives of the battlefield and ensure his intent is fully understood. Hence we achieved an initial level of common operational understanding,” Col. Adams relates.

Col. Spano agrees that exercises like UFL 02 will help accomplish the C4I vision for USFK. “The integration of these capabilities, along with the major redesign and construction of key command post functional areas, moved us a step closer to common operational understanding. Collectively, they accelerated the decision-making cycle in ways that allowed new operational concepts to be exercised for the first time,” he relates. “More importantly, it marked a first major shift from the analog to the digital world and is launching new debates about how to reshape the command and control structures and warfighting processes to take better advantage of these tools.”

Improvements in both technology and processes in the Korean area of operations could bring it closer to the ideas outlined in both Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020. However, Col. Spano contends that in the military community dramatic change often takes time. Successes such as those in Korea increase confidence and have a tendency to bring the masses on board at a more accelerated pace. The events of September 11, 2001, in many ways helped ignite transformation efforts.

“Although our comfort zone is still to chase the latest technologies and integrate them onto existing business practices, Korea is demonstrating that technology can fundamentally change processes and output,” the colonel says.

Transforming processes to best take advantage of new technologies is important in yet another way. “While the United States can afford to chase the latest technology, our coalition partners do not necessarily have this luxury. The unintended consequence is seen in the growing interoperability gap. It is imperative that we examine our approach to solving interoperability issues if we are to fight alongside long-standing coalition partners and newly formed alliance members,” he states.

USFK has made great strides toward incorporating information technology into operations, the colonel says. However, additional work needs to be done.

“Besides buying into the theory, we believe the key to achieving a common operational understanding is to first lay down a robust, survivable infrastructure. The transport layer initiatives are just a few ongoing efforts that serve as the enabler for other initiatives to fall in place such as server consolidation, command post modernization and the installation of a Defense Information Systems Agency Defense Video Service global hub. There are many more in development that will help set the stage for pending applications and services initiatives,” he relates.

“These efforts would allow USFK to unleash the full potential of collaborative planning tools, voice over IP and Web-based applications in an architecture that allows it to coexist efficiently and effectively with the command and control systems rather than force performance tradeoffs between them. Most importantly, it would lay the foundation for the kind of process changes needed to shift the command from the analog to the digital world,” Col. Spano concludes.