Asia-Pacific Region Heats Up

January 2007
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, gives the leadoff address at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2006.
Terrorism and technology dominate changes in U.S., coalition operations.

The Global War on Terrorism and the growth of network centricity are driving major shifts in military operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Growing and more sophisticated terrorist threats are placing greater emphasis on coalition operations among the dozens of countries that compose the vast arena. New networking technologies are changing the face of militaries throughout the region, but they also are taxing efforts to interoperate with diverse forces.

These were just a few of the points stressed at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2006, held November 6-9 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 21st version of the annual event featured six key speakers and several panel discussions exploring the theme “Innovating and Accelerating Joint and Coalition Collaboration.”

It was fitting that the first breakfast speaker at the Asia-Pacific conference would be the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, told an overflow audience about the effect technology is having on his command as well as some of the political and military challenges it faces.

Adm. Fallon pulled few punches in describing some of the political issues. The United States must redouble its efforts to generate dialogue with North Korea, he said, adding that “every time we sit down with them, they produce a list of demands.” The number-one objective in the U.S./North Korea relationship is to “put a lock on their nuclear program,” the admiral declared. He called North Korea’s nuclear test “a wakeup call in Beijing,” and stressed, “It’s not just our problem—it’s the world’s problem.” Citing a report from a visitor who recently returned from North Korea, Adm. Fallon related that the country had a decent harvest and its activity levels are as high as ever. ”It’s not going to fall down,” he said of the hermit nation.

A key U.S. ally, Thailand, is undergoing internal upheaval following the recent removal of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra by the military. Describing Thailand as “a good, supportive nation generous in its help with the United States,” Adm. Fallon nonetheless said that the United States is not happy about coups that depose elected officials, even though it was done without a drop of blood being shed. He described deposed Prime Minster Thaksin as controversial and the military leaders who removed him as good people who said that they are working to restore democracy. But, “We told them to do it faster,” the admiral added.

East Timor, which was the site of a multinational peacekeeping operation when it achieved independence, still is in the throes of misery. Poverty and lawlessness plague the island nation that has resources but lacks leadership, Adm. Fallon offered. “Its leaders were better at enunciating reasons for independence than at leading afterward,” he charged.

Technology continues to transform the Pacific Command, the admiral related. Communications are faster, and the command has more data and more information. But, the command is often swamped or deluged by data, and it is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, Adm. Fallon said. He warned against becoming mesmerized by technology and its capabilities.

A related challenge lies in ensuring coalition interoperability, which is critical across the dozens of nations in the Asia-Pacific region. While the command currently has good interoperability with many of its coalition partners, U.S. forces rapidly are incorporating new technologies that leave them out of synchronization with allies. “We do not do anything without partners,” the admiral declared. “And unless we are truly interoperable, we are struggling.”

The most critical issue of all of the command’s taskings remains turning information into knowledge that can be put to use, he maintained.

Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, USCG, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, describes the challenges facing her command and the Coast Guard as a whole in the Global War on Terrorism.
The need for maritime domain awareness is at the heart of the U.S. Coast Guard’s mission, according to the commander of the 14th Coast Guard District. Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, USCG, stated that new systems and missions are impelling the Coast Guard to make changes rapidly. Maritime domain awareness requires a layered system of capabilities.

Intelligence applied to maritime domain awareness is part of the Coast Guard’s efforts to push U.S. borders as far offshore as necessary to keep threats from entering U.S. waters, she noted. While container security is important, it is only as good as the port where the container was loaded and the crew that carried it asea. The Coast Guard is pursuing a multilayered security strategy to keep threats distant, and this includes intelligence on a ship before it arrives at a U.S. port. Pre-arrival intelligence already has led to the identification and apprehension of several dangerous people, she offered.

Adm. Brice-O’Hara called intelligence an essential force multiplier for the Coast Guard’s limited resources and new missions. However, the admiral warned that the Coast Guard can get bogged down in too much information. She added that avoiding this pitfall will require filters for information relevance.

Existing command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities must be re-oriented and integrated with new sensors coming on line. In asking for its help, Adm. Brice-O’Hara urged that industry remember and consider the human-machine interface. Efforts are focusing on a user-defined operations picture.

Intelligence reform was the focus of one of the first panels, which was moderated by the Pacific Command J-2, Rear Adm. Andrew M. Singer, USN. Adm. Singer launched his panel by stating that the Global War on Terrorism will require conventional intelligence activities such as penetration of the enemy and analysis of information. Despite good technology advances, intelligence personnel “can’t just sit around with an antenna,” he warned.

The admiral said he does see “good direction” from post-9/11 reforms. While “the pieces are coming together,” he cited a sense of urgency in the need for intelligence sharing and usability and increased access. With terrorism, access to weapons of mass destruction and rogue states posing global threats, “there is a lot of bad stuff out there,” he emphasized, so the intelligence community must outthink its adversaries.

Before 9/11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was not always good at intelligence analysis and sharing, offered the special agent in charge of its Honolulu office. Charles L. Goodwin described how at the time of the terrorist attacks, “the problem most of the time was that we didn’t know what we knew.”

The bureau is undergoing significant cultural changes to carry out its mission in the Global War on Terrorism. The FBI’s new Directorate of Intelligence has a threat-driven focus instead of the previous case-driven approach, Goodwin explained. And, the FBI is moving from being solely an intelligence community contributor to being a full partner in the community. The goal is for the bureau to go beyond being just crimefighters to being the nation’s premier domestic intelligence agency, he declared.

Accomplishing effective military intelligence exploitation will require a joint approach, said Capt. William Klauberg, USN, J-2, Inter-Agency Task Force West. Echoing Adm. Singer’s comments, Capt. Klauberg noted that much has been done since 9/11, but intelligence still has a long way to go. Among the recommendations of the 9/11 report that remain to be attained are unity of effort and unity in information sharing.

The captain cited several interconnected threats that challenge the intelligence community. While criminals conduct their enterprises for profit, that money can fund terrorist activities. For example, the Spanish rail bombers used Moroccan drug money to buy their explosives. And, document counterfeiting has generated a surge in phony passports, particularly in visa-waiver countries. Since the captain’s organization moved its headquarters from Alameda, California, to Hawaii, its mission has changed from one of purely maritime and counterdrug operations to one that also faces weapons smuggling, among other tasks.

From the Air Force’s perspective, intelligence increasingly is global in both source and customer. Col. Martin Neubauer, USAF, A-2, Pacific Air Forces, emphasized the importance of processing intelligence data instead of measuring success by front-end elements. No front end will work, he said, without effective information fusion and dissemination. “Disparate streams of data should not be allowed to float out there by themselves,” he stated.

The colonel noted that intelligence is much more democratic than before. Many more young, lower ranking people are taking part in it. However, the cost of that democratization is a loss of control, and some people do not like that. Technology is aiding the intelligence transformation, especially with its global reach. “Never move a molecule when an electron will do,” he remarked.

Discussing how to simplify interoperability among partners are panelists (l-r) Robert A. Stephenson, chief technology officer for C4ISR Operations at the Pacific Fleet; Col. Darryl Dean, USA, commander, Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific; Maj. Gen. (P) Randolph Strong, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon; Brig. Gen. Frank J. Kisner, USAF, deputy director, strategic planning and policy, U.S. Pacific Command; and moderator Brig. Gen. (P) Jennifer Napper, USA, U.S. Pacific Command J-6.
Moving electrons was the focal point of the J-6 panel. Panel moderator Brig. Gen. (P) Jennifer Napper, USA, U.S. Pacific Command J-6, described interoperability as becoming more challenging as forces go into theater, especially with partner nations.

Brig. Gen. Frank J. Kisner, USAF, deputy director, strategic planning and policy, U.S. Pacific Command, offered that low-end solutions are just as important as high-end solutions—and probably just as difficult to achieve. A major challenge is to bring advanced information technology down to levels that have not had it yet. Many nations do not have the ability to integrate communications, he warned.

Maj. Gen. (P) Randolph Strong, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, noted that the Army has had two major convergences. One is office automation, where all software capabilities have migrated to Microsoft Office. “Bill Gates did more for interoperability in the Army than anyone else,” Gen. Strong declared. The other convergence is data transport, in which voice, video and data all are traveling over Internet protocol (IP). The Joint Network Node is bringing these communications over IP down to the battalion level, he noted.

However, training is the key to network success, Gen. Strong emphasized. The Signal Center has changed the way it trains soldiers from task-based training to knowing how a device works. But, the general stated that the Army is cutting back on training and education. Saying that experience is not a substitute for training and education, he warned that this approach runs the risk of deploying soldiers who don’t have the necessary battlefield experience.

Navy command and control (C2) has been revolutionized by chat capabilities, offered Robert A. Stephenson, chief technology officer for C4ISR Operations at the Pacific Fleet. Nation-to-nation connectivity is a chat goal, he said, citing how France built and deployed more than 100 Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) drops aboard its aircraft carrier Charles DeGaulle. Stephenson suggested using digital rights management as a means of securing information, particularly in the unclassified mode. Baseball may be a metaphor for effective interoperability, offered Col. Darryl Dean, USA, commander, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Pacific. Standardized rules for playing and equipment allow the same game to be played worldwide at all age and skill levels. The key to ensuring interoperability is a standard set of rules with umpires to enforce them. DISA is the U.S. umpire, Col. Dean offered, and partner nations need to assign their own umpires to enforce interoperability standards.

Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, USMC, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, tells a breakfast audience how interoperability will be crucial as the Global War on Terrorism grows and other trouble spots threaten to heat up.
That interoperability will be more crucial than ever in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the commander of Marine Forces Pacific. Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, USMC, told a breakfast audience that the Asia-Pacific region will be the decisive terrain for the long Global War on Terrorism. This war is a struggle for influence, he emphasized, as 10 percent of the people in the region advocate freedom and liberty, 10 percent of the people have made up their minds to subjugate others’ souls and the remaining 80 percent are between those two views and are the target group in the war. “Our mission is to win over that 80 percent,” he stated.

Gen. Goodman discussed several other regional challenges facing the Marine Corps. He does not believe that conventional war with North Korea is likely but said that miscalculation is possible with the brinkmanship currently being played, and the Marines will be responsible for running a combined Republic of Korea (ROK) force. The Corps also will be responsible for helping evacuate up to 125,000 U.S. citizens from Taiwan if China decides “it’s not going to put up with Taiwan anymore.” The war on terrorism in Afghanistan is vastly different from the war on terrorism in Iraq, he declared, citing terrain and coalition operations. The Marine Corps must employ C2 that serves those needs.

“I don’t have to make decisions faster than the Russian or Chinese army … I have to make decisions faster than the enemy I’m facing,” he stated.

The Marine general asked industry to develop a C2 system that will allow him to request the information that he needs and display it in a form that he wants. Too much information today is text based, and this new form should be seamless, simple and meaningful and provide a graphical presentation of an idea. Cartoons, for example, are intuitive and should be considered, he said.

The commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Paul V. Hester, USAF, emphasizes the importance of communications across the vast Asia-Pacific region.
Despite its long-distance reach, the U.S. Air Force is challenged by the vast geography of the Pacific region. The commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Paul V. Hester, USAF, told a luncheon audience that electronic communications is vital when planners cannot meet face to face. While the U.S. Air Forces in Europe can gather NATO partners under one roof for discussions, Pacific Air Forces cannot do that. However, the general’s command can link other countries via airborne platforms such as Global Hawk or can operate jointly using other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms.

Gen. Hester described the new air operations center (AOC) being installed at Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii. It will feature 61 T-1 line equivalents feeding into it, but even with that capacity the Air Force will have to be careful not to fill those pipes rapidly. He asked industry to help provide ways of moving data through space or over the horizon without using up bandwidth.

The general continued that Pacific Air Forces must be able to assess its data and present it in a timely manner that makes it useful. The command has invited Asia-Pacific allies to visit the new AOC to encourage their involvement. This hoped-for involvement will require multiple levels of layered security, he added.

Japan is one of the key U.S. allies in the region, and it was actively involved with the United States during the North Korean missile test last year. Speaking at a panel on coalition collaboration, Capt. Sandra Buckles, USN, the J-6 for U.S. Forces Japan, described how the United States and Japan established new lines of communications and methods of information sharing from the moment intelligence indicated that a launch might be coming.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-Il brought us closer,” the captain declared.

Among the new steps taken by the longtime allies were daily intelligence operations videoconferencing, a bilateral pro-active public affairs strategy and the deployment of a Japan Aegis destroyer that fed its radar data into the U.S. defense network. When the launch occurred, collaboration activities surged, she related, and bilateral material was passed to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Seventh Fleet simultaneously. Yet, language differences remained a problem, and Capt. Buckles called for operations systems developed with coalition operations in mind.

Col. Vince Valdespino, USAF, chief information officer (CIO)/A-6, Pacific Air Forces, noted that the Asia-Pacific region comprises more than 1,000 languages and dialects. It is vital to merge and collapse databases and reduce the number of networks to ease information sharing, he said. The Air Force is taking those types of steps to consolidate functions for the region.

Rear Adm. Dirk J. Debbink, USNR, Reserve deputy and chief of staff for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, tells the  audience of the final luncheon how the fleet needs a single interoperable information system.
Commercial technologies have helped consolidate activities in Korea, said Col. Gregory Edwards, USAF, the J-6 for U.S. Forces Korea. For example, as many as 40 command centers throughout the peninsula are using Radvision’s Click to Meet conference software for collaboration. Silverrain’s language translation software is “a very important tool,” he stated. Other technologies are helping the command shift to a distributed Web-enabled, mission-oriented paradigm. A fleet perspective on C2 was offered by Rear Adm. Dirk J. Debbink, USNR, Reserve deputy and chief of staff for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The admiral emphasized that the fleet must be able to exert its C2 over an international force and share communications and intelligence over a single domain.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006 exercise (SIGNAL Magazine, November 2006) allowed multiple countries to share a single common operational picture. The Cooperative Maritime Forces Pacific network (CMFP) was a defining success of RIMPAC, the admiral stated, and commercial off-the-shelf technologies were key to making the system standard and affordable.

He continued that the fleet needs a single interoperable information system that can work in an afloat environment with limited bandwidth. The Navy also is looking for a cost-effective data transport. Systems such as CMFP and maritime domain awareness are the right steps in the right direction, but much more remains to be done, the admiral declared.

Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, outlines his command’s priorities to address both Army and Pacific Command needs.
The Pacific theater always has been at the forefront of communications technologies, according to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific. Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, USA, stated that the size and scope of the theater have caused headaches from the Spanish-American War to World War II and beyond, but the theater also has impelled jointness.

The general listed four priorities for his command. First is the Global War on Terrorism, with more than half of the 43 nations in the Asia-Pacific region facing some sort of insurgency. Most of these insurgencies are Muslim based, the general noted, particularly the one in the Philippines that began as a Maoist uprising. Many U.S. Army Pacific soldiers are serving alongside U.S. Special Operations forces in that island nation, and more than 17,000 soldiers in his command are serving in Southwest Asia under the U.S. Central Command.

The second priority is the Theater Security Cooperation Program. Five of the seven U.S. mutual defense treaties are with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and Gen. Brown describes these five as “Phase Zero” in the war on terrorism. This aggressive program to prevent the rise of insurgencies features expanded military cooperation with countries such as India, where Gen. Brown says the program is “really on the move and very important.” Other nations such as China are in the program, and diverse efforts such as disaster relief are on the menu.

The third priority is to support PACOM transformation. The Army’s modular transformation program has led to significant changes in the U.S. Army Pacific (SIGNAL Magazine, November 2006). The fourth priority is quality of service. Gen. Brown’s command is building 100 family housing units a month under commercial contracts, and online education has been brought to a new level. Re-enlistment is on track, he reported, citing that more than 300 paratroopers re-enlisted when they arrived in theater.

Support to the warfighter was the focus of the show’s final panel. Discussing that topic are (r-l) panel moderator Maj. Gen. Eugene C. Renzi, USA (Ret.), president, ManTech Defense Systems Group; Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, USA, Army G-6/chief information officer; Maj. Gen. David P. Fridovich, USA, commander, Special Operations Command, Pacific; Jim Craft, U.S. Marine Corps’ deputy director for C4; and Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret.), co-author of The Iraq War.
But it all comes down to support to the warfighter, and leading off a key panel on that topic was Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, USA, the Army G-6/CIO. Gen. Boutelle gave a comprehensive overview of recent results, ongoing efforts and likely trends. Budgetary issues loom large, he warned, as the supplemental funding that has helped drive much force modernization is drying up. “We are on the downslide now,” he declared.

The transition to everything over IP is going smoothly with fixed facilities, but it is tougher for the warfighter, the general observed. The Army is a full IP-based community as it deploys into Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are finishing putting the edge out to the individual warfighter,” he said. “Now we are beginning to attach things to it. Once you attach to that edge, you get synergy. But until you get the network out, you don’t get that synergy.”

The Army wants the best, most efficient, lightest equipment that uses the least amount of power and offers the best environmental quality for the warfighter, Gen. Boutelle continued. To achieve interoperability, the Army needs standards for both data and applications. Also, someone must determine just who is the authoritative data source. Often the senior individual prevails instead of the source who is correct, he said.

The Marines are partnering with the Army to an ever-increasing degree, said the Corps’ deputy director for C4. Jim Craft told the audience that this partnership is giving the Marines more bang for their buck as the Corps re-shapes itself to be an intellectually empowered joint force.

The Marines are looking to partner with the private sector for equipment that must be extremely tough and secure, he continued. Commercial technologies are proving their worth in Afghanistan. Cell phone connectivity is ubiquitous and essential there, and Craft described it as “the main form of life or death.” The Taliban is using cell phones too, he related. “Create a digital lake, and bad fishes swim in it and create ripples,” he said. “And the United States is in a good position to take advantage of those ripples.” U.S. industry also is in a position to make a lot of money in reconstruction efforts and help the United States in the Global War on Terrorism, Craft added.

Special operations forces are upgrading their gear to suit their new missions, explained Maj. Gen. David P. Fridovich, USA, commander, Special Operations Command, Pacific. The general identified three key elements for the command’s success: skill sets, rifles and communications systems. Training and education are the command’s focus in other countries, and the command is both holding the line on terrorism and working to take advantage of opportunities.

Gen. Fridovich noted that Burma has a huge amount of trafficking in humans and drugs, and the command has a good chance to take advantage of the dictatorship’s spotty government. Pacific special operations forces will grow in Bangladesh, India and Thailand to interdict in Burma. “We don’t have a lot in Burma, but we’ll be moving them in and around there,” he said.

But efforts to win the Global War on Terrorism cannot depend on technology, said Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret.), co-author of The Iraq War. All modern wars have been influenced by amplifiers—World War II had electronics such as radio and radar, and the Cold War had encryption and information gleaned from espionage and ISR—but not this war, Gen. Scales declared. “The communications-electronics battlefield has not been an amplifier. The enemy has negated our advantage,” he stated.

The war’s center of gravity is at the tactical level, and there is a problem connecting communications technology with the reality of the battlefield at the tactical level, he continued. The United States must stack tactical successes of this war at the strategic level where the edge is. “Yes, technology is an amplifier in this war; but often we lack not amplitude but empathy of the enemy’s point of view,” Gen. Scales offered. “At the end of the day, war is about people.”

Photography by William R. Goodwin.

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