Allies Make Room at the Communications Table

May 2007
By Rita Boland
E-mail About the Author

 
Col. Tom Hopkins, USA (c), commander, Joint Communications Support Element, makes a point during the “Transnational Influences—Winning a War Without Borders” panel at TechNet Tampa 2007 while fellow panel members Carl Whitehead (l), special agent in charge, Tampa office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Edward Gistaro, national intelligence officer for counterterrorism, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, listen.
Defeating terrorists requires better policy, better collaboration among more organizations.

Interagency is the new joint. The U.S. military branches are shifting focus from developing methods for working with one another to determining the technologies and policies necessary to collaborate with other U.S. agencies and international partners. As warfare moves into the fourth generation, with an asymmetric, transnational enemy and battlefield, the need for better cooperation among allies and better understanding of a smart and technically savvy foe will be the keys to victory in a long war.

Troops from many countries, including the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, met with members of industry and representatives from various government agencies at TechNet Tampa 2007, held March 13-14, to discuss the future of fighting terrorism. AFCEA International sponsored the event in conjunction with the association’s Tampa-St. Petersburg Chapter.

The conference began Tuesday with an address by John G. Grimes, assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration and U.S. Defense Department chief information officer (CIO). He set the tone for the event by emphasizing the critical elements of working with coalition partners and finding ways to share relevant information effectively and securely. “It’s all about information, but it’s got to be something users need and can operate from,” he said.

 
John G. Grimes, assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration and U.S. Defense Department chief information officer, addresses an audience at TechNet Tampa.
Grimes also spoke of the importance of network centricity and trusted information. The fundamental shift in information sharing toward network centricity requires enterprise, access and trust. The information must travel end-to-end in the chain, pushing power to the edge. “Systems engineering is now a critical function,” Grimes stated. Sharing data must center not on the communications personnel but on the troops in the field. “The world revolves around the operator, and if you don’t understand that, you’re in trouble,” he shared.

Grimes also addressed another important issue—the cyber threat. He said that $2.5 billion of his information technology budget for the year is earmarked for information security and information assurance. Grimes informed industry attendees that the Defense Department would continue to look to industry for new approaches to problems and decried the havoc wreaked when technologies interfere with one another. He said the military is working frantically on in-theater spectrum management.

Brig. Gen. Nolen V. Bivens, USA, chief of staff, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), spoke about interagency operational partnering from SOUTHCOM’s perspective. The inclusion of Gen. Bivens in the program marked the first time TechNet Tampa integrated a third combatant command in a show lineup generally populated by participants from the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

Gen. Bivens explained the great diversity in the command’s area of operation and the threats and problems faced by the region. He also expressed how the U.S. economy depends on Latin America and how the commonalities between North America, Latin America and the Caribbean mean that problems in one of those locales become problems for all. “We are talking about security, stability and prosperity,” he said.

The general elaborated about the military’s partner agencies in SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility and why partnerships are essential to addressing concerns such as poverty, crime and drugs. “The joint process has really come along,” he shared, adding that now interagency partners must be brought in.

Unlike more actively embattled commands, SOUTHCOM is not fighting a war against a specific enemy. “Our area of operation is not a kinetic battlefield,” the general explained. “It’s a battlefield where we’re fighting for ideals.” The solution cannot be achieved solely by military means; other organizations must play a role, Gen. Bivens stated, adding that SOUTHCOM needs to work in partnership with 20 core interagency organizations every day. “We’ve got to understand that interagency is a key solution,” he said.

Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, USN, director, command, control, communications and computer systems (J-6), the Joint Staff, moderated the panel “Shaping Future Victories Through Information Sharing.” She began the discussion with a theme common throughout the conference, namely, that the adversary is using the Internet better than the United States and its allies are and that military coalition partners and partner agencies need to find ways to share information better. “The enemy is outmaneuvering us today at every turn,” she shared.

Panelist Cdre. Simon T. Cullen, RA N, deputy director for strategy,  plans and policy at CENTCOM, said that with the end of the Cold War and the dawning of the new age of warfare, many countries want to share information with and receive information from the United States, but policies are prohibitive. “We are all shackled in some ways in how we can do that,” he stated. For countries to partner, they need certain capabilities, and bureaucracy, not technology, is holding them back.

Alfred Grasso, president and chief executive officer, The MITRE Corporation, expanded on the ideas of his panel members by explaining that the challenge is not only to foster information sharing but also to do so with the proper stewardship and policies.

During the panel session, Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, USA, CIO/G-6, U.S. Army, addressed the steps necessary to improve information sharing. He hailed the establishment of service-oriented architecture standards, stating that as those standards gel, information sharing will increase. He also said the military needs to improve its balance of sharing versus risk to get information to the troops. “We’re not limited by our abilities anymore,” he shared. “We’re limited by our vision.”

 
Vice Adm. David C. Nichols Jr., USN, deputy commander, U.S. Central Command, delivers a speech during a gala dinner at TechNet Tampa.
Vice Adm. David C. Nichols Jr., USN, deputy commander, CENTCOM, further stressed the ideas of interagency partnership and policy barriers in his speech at the gala Tuesday night, touting the 64 countries that have representatives at CENTCOM and reiterating the idea that information-sharing barriers are largely cultural and partly technical. “I think most Americans don’t understand how many partners we have in this thing we call the Global War on Terrorism,” he said.

Adm. Nichols discussed fourth-generation warfare and its non-national and transnational nature. The asymmetric attacks target weaknesses and generate disproportionate effects. He also emphasized that the terrorists leverage information technology well and that the fourth-generation battlefield uses media as a terrain and information as a main line of operations.

Rather than just fighting kinetically, the coalition and the extremists are fighting for the hearts and minds of people and working to influence populations, especially moderate populations. The terrorists are running effective information operations campaigns, the admiral said. To diminish their effects, the coalition must help moderate leaders counteract the terrorists. Integrated, interagency international pressure is needed over time to win the war on terrorism.

The panel “Transnational Influences—Winning a War Without Borders” brought together members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Information Systems Agency, SOCOM, the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) and the Central Intelligence Agency to discuss the nature of the terrorist threat and what their organizations are doing to combat the enemy. The panel again expressed the ability of the enemy to use technology successfully as well as to protect itself against attack and to rebuild after failures. The panelists also addressed the issue of terrorists homegrown in the United States and the need for U.S. military and civilian agencies as well as U.S. and foreign governments to work together and to communicate effectively to battle extremists.

Vice Adm. Eric Olson, USN, deputy commander, SOCOM, gave a speech about SOCOM’s role as the leader of U.S. forces in the war on terrorism and expressed his respect for the technologies that keep troops connected. As the lead organization, SOCOM is taking action to improve partnerships among the parties necessary for victory in a long war with a patient enemy. The direct approach—find, capture, kill—is mainly a military effort, but the indirect approach is not primarily a Defense Department responsibility. According to the admiral, indirect actions take longer to work. Direct actions buy time for indirect actions to take effect. He, too, spoke of the expertise of terrorists in using the media and Internet and of the danger of sleeper cells at home.

Adm. Olson explained interagency plans to aid the fight against terrorism. The Global Combating Terrorism Network aims to improve command and unity and to support clear and rapid information transmission. It also will enhance the ability of coalition members to track and target terrorist activities. The Collaborative Planning Environment will create an environment for rapid collaboration.

In terms of which technologies currently work well, Adm. Olson told the audience that commanders in the field want more Special Operations Forces Deployable Nodes–Medium. He also explained that when new technologies are developed, lives and missions depend on these technologies being MWR—miniaturized, waterproof and ruggedized.

 
The members of the “Enabling Synchronized Multinational Operations” panel at TechNet Tampa 2007, foreign military officers working with the U.S Central Command, represented different coalition nations and explained the problems of interagency cooperation from an allied viewpoint. From left to right are Capt. Kenneth Stewart, CN, senior national representative, Canada; Col. Ian Lynch, Australian army, senior national representative, Australia; Cdre. Eric Fraser, RN, J-6, Permanent Joint Forces Headquarters–United Kingdom; Brig. Gen. Mark Wheeler, NZA, senior national representative, New Zealand; and Brig. Gen. Sorin Falk-Portved, RDAF, senior national representative, Denmark.
Conference attendees had the opportunity to hear a unique panel address the interagency information-sharing problem from a new perspective. The “Enabling Synchronized Multinational Operations” session moderated by Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, director, J-6, CENTCOM, comprised only foreign nationals representing the Danish, British, New Zealand, Australian and Canadian militaries at CENTCOM and explaining how barriers to information sharing affect their missions.

“We need to share information if we want to get the bad guys off the street,” explained Brig. Gen. Sorin Falk-Portved, RDAF, senior national representative, Denmark. He told listeners that information must be shared among all the forces and that communications equipment and systems—both public and private sector—from other countries could provide the coalition with communications advantages. He also emphasized the need for network centricity among expeditionary militaries.

Brig. Gen. Mark Wheeler, NZA, senior national representative, New Zealand, explained the dedication of New Zealand and similar small countries to taking a role in the war on terrorism but added that they face problems with budget constraints and ensuring they stay relevant. “We’re waiting for a lot of [technologies] to mature so we can invest in them,” Gen. Wheeler shared. To provide perspective, Gen. Wheeler mentioned that Americans spent more money on roses on Valentine’s Day than New Zealand has in its entire annual defense budget.

The panelists suggested that all countries and organizations need partnerships and that a comprehensive approach is the way to victory. They noted the importance of network centricity and how it is changing warfare, and they expressed their frustration with bureaucratic problems. While technological interoperability still poses some challenge in the interagency world, bureaucracy and policy pose the biggest barriers to full collaboration and cooperation.

In addition to the panels and speakers, TechNet Tampa offered an array of seminars and discussions. Gen. Boutelle conducted a U.S. Army communicators seminar in which he spoke about the importance of communications in the Army as well as what is working and what is changing. “Your network is now a commodity,” he stated. “It’s commercial off the shelf.” He also imparted to listeners that they must find sustainable programs if the Army is faced with massive budget cuts. “I’m very concerned about the total cost of ownership,” he explained. He reiterated that the enemy is very good at information operations and that anyone not looking at the information on jihad Web sites is missing out on a greater understanding of the adversary.

U.S. Air Force communicators also participated in a seminar hosted by Maj. Gen. William T. Lord, USAF, director, information, services and integration, Secretary of the Air Force Office of Warfighting Integration and CIO. He used the meeting to address the upcoming force shaping and how it will affect communications in the service. Gen. Lord also brought up an emerging mission area—cyberspace. The Air Force is retooling the cyberspace force to be focused on the mission of the future. The service also is looking at a cyberspace-focused major command.

In the spirit of interagency cooperation, TechNet Tampa included local government as well. The mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, took part in “Coffee With the Mayor” on the exhibit floor.

The military featured some of its most current and exciting communications technology in live demonstrations by the JCSE. The demonstrations included the Small Command and Control Internet Protocol Package and an in-air, en route mission planning element. The JCSE showcased the everything-over-Internet-protocol communications architecture.

The conference also incorporated four professional development seminars and a two-day meeting of the Theater Joint Tactical Networks Configuration Control Board. The control board agenda focused on transformation of the force toward the Global Information Grid and network-centric operations. TechNet Tampa included the Joint Tactical Communications Summit for all combatant command J-6 and service and agency CIO/6 principals and representatives to discuss issues relevant to the global tactical communications community. In addition, the conference featured an exhibit hall and job fair.