Technologies Empower Coalition Information Sharing
But not all interoperability challenges are equipment-based.
Lt. Gen. Ulrich Wolf, GEA, the director of the NATO Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Service Agency (NCSA), leads off AFCEA Europe’s 6th annual Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) 2006 symposium and exposition.
NATO nations are incorporating new military and commercial technologies to extend both the capabilities and the reach of the alliance’s communications and information systems. But, many technological challenges lie ahead before the alliance and other allied nations can interoperate in coalition operations. And some cultural barriers found at the heart of intelligence and military operations remain to be overcome.
These and many other issues were raised at AFCEA Europe’s 6th annual Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) symposium and exposition, held June 1, 2006, in
|Brig. Gen. Luis Aguado|
Gracia, SPAF, ACO, discusses the Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force at SHAPE 2006.
Brig. Gen. Luis Aguado Gracia, SPAF, the ACOS J-6 at Allied Command Operations (ACO), also discussed ISAF as the current example of information sharing. He noted the large number of national contingents (not all NATO), the huge area of operations (
|Speaking to conferees at SHAPE 2006 are (l-r) Vice Adm. F. Sanfelice di Monteforte, ITN; Lt. Gen. Ulrich Wolf, GEA, NCSA; and Brig. Gen. Luis Aguado Gracia, SPAF, ACO.|
Col. Jared Kline,
Maj. Gen. Ruud van Damm, NLAF, J-6, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), discussed the evolution of NATO command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I). He noted that it is moving toward being a collaborative network-centric system that is both interoperable and interdependent. Information sharing and collaboration are functions of education, trust and sharing, he added. ACT wants to teach the benefits of sharing and emphasized that the diversity of solutions that the nations can provide is hugely beneficial.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Verbeck, USAF, director of command, control, communications (C3) and warfighting integration at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), was keen to make the point that C3 is not just about signals anymore. Changing doctrines, network warfare, transformational command and control (C2), datalinks, laser communications and spectrum management are just some of the elements that built up to today’s C3 vision. He compared the traditional and nontraditional approaches to C3 development, and he ended by stressing a need to take risks, as opposed to the old thinking of planning for success. The two are not mutually exclusive, he added.
The general also demonstrated that the EUCOM sphere of interest covers a region far larger than NATO. In particular he spoke of the international exercise Combined Endeavor, which involved 41 nations engaged in multilevel data sharing and protection. He explained how this year’s exercise Africa Endeavor included 25 African nations, including the three host nations of
Two industry presentations followed. A former AFCEA director, Tony Patterson of Systematic, spoke on structured information (SI) standards and the need for rapid execution of change proposals. He postulated an online system functioning in much the same way as antivirus software operates. His company already has a prototype system under evaluation with the Royal Navy.
Tom Cooper of Cisco Systems reviewed today’s system architectures that are made up of multiple networks with duplicate equipment, which has led to challenges maintaining computer security management across multiple systems. His aim is for an information-sharing network architecture for coalition operations. The target architecture should be a single network using commercial off-the-shelf products with secure data and access by multiple “in-depth” means, which would be achieved by leveraging existing hardware. Cooper emphasized that trust is based on defense in depth and that trust is both a political and a technical issue.
The final speaker, Maj. Gen. Georges D’hollander, BEA, director, NATO Headquarters C3 Staff, inspired this year’s topic with an idea from his presentation last year. So, his presentation this year was titled “Changing the Mindset.” He examined and categorized uncertainties in the world today: “knowns” such as terrorism and technology, “unknowns” such as the future direction of key countries and weapons development, and “unknown unknowns” that he described as potentials that no one can begin to postulate. There is a need to avoid surprise, so plans should be developed with surprise in mind along with an understanding of uncertainty. The general emphasized that the Free World should focus on capabilities that future adversaries might have and the capabilities it will need for its own use, thus moving away from equipment-oriented solutions. Information is a key factor in an effects-based approach to operations.
Question-and-answer sessions allowed the audience—with its mix of military personnel, industry and academia representatives—to feel that they had heard credible and authoritative views on what is clearly a challenging topic.
Photographs courtesy of SHAPE Photo Section.