Asia-Pacific Challenges Meld War, Cooperation

January 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Lt. Gen Daniel P. Leaf, USAF, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, describes Asia-Pacific challenges amid the Global War on Terrorism to the audience at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2007.
Multilevel security, seamless interoperability top wish lists.

“We are at war.”        

That was the statement made by a U.S. general to describe the variety of challenges facing the military in the Asia-Pacific region. Those challenges are not limited to warfighting, but instead apply across the board as the U.S. military deals with transformation, increased coalition operations and support to warfighters in Southwest Asia.

Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf, USAF, the deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, enlarged on his words by saying, “We will win … and we also will win the peace in the Pacific.”

Gen. Leaf urged the leadoff breakfast audience at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2007 to “carry the message to the public.” The annual conference and exposition, held November 5-8 in Honolulu, Hawaii, bore the theme “IT Decision Superiority—Delivering Regional Cooperation and Security.” Speakers and panelists throughout the event outlined many of the challenges facing the military as it seeks to maintain regional security while modernizing and fighting in the Global War on Terrorism.

And that is a war that will last long and will require a broad-based effort among all elements of society, many of those experts noted. Gen. Leaf expressed astonishment that the public is not more optimistic about the war. The United States has fared worse, and it has prevailed, he pointed out. Those who are pessimistic are poor judges of the American spirit and not very good students of history.

“Carry the message … we will win,” he declared.

Describing challenges in the Asia-Pacific region as a microcosm of those facing the world as a whole would not be entirely accurate, as that region alone comprises half the globe and more than half of its population. It is not a microcosm, but instead is the major portion of the world with most of its challenges.

 
Rear Adm. John M. Bird, USN, deputy commander/chief of staff, U.S. Pacific Fleet, lists the fleet’s top priorities.
The six largest militaries in the world outside of the U.S. military are in the region, and they are expanding their navies—unlike Europe and the United States, imparted Rear Adm. John M. Bird, USN, deputy commander/chief of staff, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Among the fleet’s top priorities are warfighting readiness, force posture—such as prepositioning, and advancing regional relationships. This will require communications interoperability, without which it cannot be done, he declared. Information technology is “the Achilles heel” of military strength, and it has room for improvement, the admiral added.

Rob C. Thomas II, executive director of the AirForcePersonnelCenter, put that point succinctly: “No comms, no bombs.” He noted in a panel discussion that the network has become a center of gravity, and if the United States goes to war and an enemy gets into it, then the military is “in big trouble.” He predicted that the National Security Council may have to decide to take out a cyber enemy instead of just employing protective measures.

Bob Lentz, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information and identity assurance, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, offered that a security solution is no good if it does not work. He said that security must be an enabler for the warfighter, not an inhibitor.

“We’re in a sprint constantly,” Lentz continued, adding that the U.S. Defense Department must put resources into advancing ahead of technology instead of just pumping money into security. Among the department’s top priorities is assured information sharing—part of keeping ahead of the technology—along with identification management and crypto key management. With 90 percent of defense information technology coming from commercial off-the-shelf sources, the department will need a framework for risk management.

And, the department must protect and defend the network more aggressively. “The enemy understands our tactics, techniques and procedures,” Lentz noted, adding that the gap is closing quickly.

These points were not lost on Col. Kirk Bruno, USMC, commander of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Pacific. He described satellite systems as “the Maginot Line of the 21st century” and warned that measures must be taken to safeguard satellites or network centricity will not succeed. The Iridium satellite telephony system “has been a lifesaver,” he said, and netted Iridium will be even better.

 
Brig. Gen. Ronald M. Bouchard, USA (r), director for communications systems, J-6, U.S. Pacific Command, introduces a J-6 panel session on producing an agile communications environment. Other panelists are (l–r) Linda Newton, deputy chief of staff, N-6, U.S. Pacific Fleet; Col. Michael Lewis, USAF, director of communications, U.S. Pacific Air Forces; Col. Scott Blankenship, USMC, director, G-6, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific; and Col. Michele Bolinger, USA, director, G-3, 311th Signal Command (Theater).
Providing communications throughout the vast Pacific Command area of responsibility, which includes dozens of nations, presents a host of challenges. The Pacific Command’s J-6. Brig. Gen. Ronald M. Bouchard, USA, moderating a J-6 panel, listed four focus areas: connecting the warfighter through a robust, secure system; providing security; enhancing coalition information sharing; and synchronizing network operations.

Network management is the most important task facing the director of communications for Pacific Air Forces. Col. Michael Lewis, USAF, cited the need to dynamically manage command, control, communications and computer (C4) networks to deliver situational awareness to the warfighter. His office has cut personnel numbers and is “bringing people and equipment back” in a business-style consolidation. Virtualization is one possible path, he offered.

Cyberspace may be the only warfighting domain where the United States has peer competition, suggested Lt. Gen. (Sel.) Edward A. Rice Jr., USAF, the vice commander of the Pacific Air Forces. An adversary can come from anywhere in cyberspace, and velocity and precision are as important there as they are on a conventional battlefield. But, unlike some others, Gen. Rice is optimistic about cyberspace. “We stand on the brink of superiority in cyberspace,” he declared.

Delivering vital information has increased in importance with securing it. Rear Adm. Andrew M. Singer, USN, the director for intelligence, U.S. Pacific Command, began a panel discussion by citing the twin challenges of moving homeland security information to civil authorities and of delivering military information to coalition partners.

Col. Timothy Howard, USMC (Ret.), the deputy assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Marine Forces Pacific, described “a Byzantine series of classifications” for determining with whom information can be shared. The military needs to loosen these to conduct effective operations.

“I am death on JWICS [Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System] and Top Secret,” he said. “They don’t let us talk with each another.”

 
In the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard must interoperate with U.S. and foreign militaries for homeland security and maritime safety, explains Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, USCG, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District.
Three problem areas emerge with operations involving unclassified information, he continued. Relationships must be built before a crisis emerges; the commercial sector must establish information technology standards for safety and risk management; and procedures must create transparency and trust across organizations.

Col. Howard declared that a significant amount of intelligence does not need to be classified, and this viewpoint was expanded by Col. Steven R. Grove, USA, commander of the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade. Col. Grove noted that open source intelligence is an important element of intelligence, and it is changing the nature of the craft. A new generation of individuals is moving through the ranks with knowledge of and comfort with Web 2.0 technologies and capabilities. They are at ease with open source information, and they are not as culturally reliant on the classified arena and its information, he said.

Col. Grove also noted that the news media are “the front line of collection,” and while many people may not agree with their analysis and slant, it is not necessary to agree with the media’s perspective to find their information useful. He added that the military must fully integrate open-source intelligence into agile all-source intelligence operations.

 
Network assurance is an essential element in support to the warfighter, as discussed by a panel comprising (r–l) moderator Bob Lentz, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information and identity assurance, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration; Rob Thomas II, executive director of the Air Force Personnel Center; Col. Christopher Argo, USA, Special Operations Command, Pacific; and Col. Kirk Bruno, USMC, commander, Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific.
Adm. Singer continued that the military must integrate and synchronize theater open source capabilities into the national architecture. He stated that e-mail “has gotten us in a box” because it relies on point-to-point communications instead of a more effective means of making information available.

It’s what decision makers and warfighters do not know that can increase regional challenges. China is one country that does not have sufficient transparency for the United States. Brig. Gen. Rex C. McMillian, USMC, deputy commander, Marine Forces Pacific, told a breakfast audience that “what we don’t see with China is its military.” The growth of that country’s military is a key issue, he said, and Taiwan is a potential flashpoint. “They’re not giving up that island for free,” the general cautioned, but he added that any military action will produce a violent response. “There’ll be a hell of a fight if China crosses that strait,” he warned.

The other main issue is even-more-secretive North Korea. The reclusive communist country’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction remains a major concern.

But natural disasters loom as immediate challenges. Saying “we’re a 911 force in the Pacific,” Gen. McMillian noted that Indonesia has suffered several major earthquakes recently—all since the 2004 tsunami-generating temblor—and a volcano is about to blow. If bird flu becomes contagious between humans, the loss of life in Southeast Asia alone could run in the millions. The Marines are making plans for responding to these disasters, the general added.

The combination of the war on terrorism and recent natural disasters has brought civil authorities and the military into the joint arena. Both groups work at and depend on partnerships with each other as they deal with counterterrorism efforts and disaster relief. But, problems arise even among groups that have worked together before. When cultural differences and vast distances are factored in, major difficulties define many of these attempts at cooperation among civil and military groups.

For example, increases in secure military communications actually decrease cooperation with state and local authorities, as Maj. Jason Sabat, USA, pointed out in a panel discussion. Maj. Sabat, with the Pacific Defense Coordinating Element, called for a common operational picture on which everyone agrees without changes in requirements or capabilities.

Echoing his call for a common operational picture was Lt. Col. (P) Stanley Toy, USA, with Task Force Homeland Defense, Headquarters, U.S. Army Pacific. Citing the tyranny of distance, Col. Toy emphasized the need for a common operational picture for a quick assessment of a situation. He described the U.S. Army Pacific as “effectively the Northern Command of the Pacific,” with its homeland defense mission, and he noted that all incidents—natural or manmade—start and end at the local level.

 
Cyberspace is a contested warfighting domain, according to Lt. Gen. (Sel.) Edward A. Rice Jr., USAF, vice commander of the Pacific Air Forces.
The blurring of lines between homeland security and homeland defense—along with the war on terrorism—comes into full view with the mission of the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific. Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, USCG, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, told a luncheon audience how the Coast Guard’s missions of maritime safety and fisheries enforcement require interoperability with U.S. and foreign militaries.

Her district covers 12.2 million square miles, and search and rescue operations can take days. When a Chinese ship sent a distress call during a typhoon, U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft out of Japan helped support the search for the survivors hundreds of miles from Guam. The Coast Guard was able to rescue 13 out of 22 crew members, and this type of effort helps it “hone interoperability” with the Navy, the admiral related. She added that the Coast Guard also is building a close relationship with New Zealand’s navy, as the two organizations have similar roles.

Industry’s role in the war is vital, as it must produce and speed deployment of effective new technologies to serve warfighters. Gen. Leaf called on industry to be realistic in its work for the military, warning that industry should do what it says it can do without overreaching.

“Don’t promise the moon and then moon us,” he said.

Gen. Leaf specifically directed industry to think about information assurance and the ability to cooperate with allies while protecting U.S. information. All Asia-Pacific operations are likely to be coalition operations, which mandates multilevel security.

The general cautioned against building down to the lowest common denominator, but he also warned against building up to the highest possible capability. Think broadly about the mission set, he said, because the military does not know what it will be called upon to do next.

Adm. Bird elaborated on the Pacific Fleet’s needs. The fleet needs industry’s technologies to meet its challenges, of which there are many, he said.

Specific requirements include the ability to identify threats with a minimum of effort, a transparent network with multiple security levels, the capability to conduct classified coalition communications over both the secret and nonsecure Internet protocol router networks and communications with submarines at depth and at speed.

 
Maj. Jason Sabat, USA (l), Pacific Defense Coordinating Element officer in charge, 196th Infantry Brigade, discusses the need for a common operational picture for the military and state and local authorities for incident management. Other panelists are (l–r) Lt. Col. (P) Stanley Toy, USA, Task Force Homeland Defense, Headquarters, U.S. Army Pacific; Kenneth Tingman, federal coordinating officer, FEMA Pacific Area Office; Ed Teixeria, vice director, Hawaii State Civil Defense; and moderator Brig. Gen. Gary Ishikawa, Hawaii Army National Guard.
The CENTRIXS system “has too many enclaves” with its different national versions, Adm. Bird stated. CENTRIXS must be fully standardized and mainstreamed. The goal is seamless communications across all boundaries, along with the capability for a universal exchange of information on a common platform, he emphasized. He added that “smart technology overcomes bad policy.”

To achieve coalition interoperability, the admiral called for a common language made possible through technology. This interoperability will require an architecture that allows information exchange without violating security issues of each nation.

The Pacific Air Forces need to converge capabilities onto Internet protocol (IP) platforms, Col. Lewis explained. He added that DISA is helping implement voice over secure IP capabilities.

Warfighters want commonality of headquarters and theater technologies, observed Col. Michele Bolinger, USA, director, G-3, 311th Signal Command (Theater). The military still does not have enough satellite communications to support Southwest Asia operations. Forces must choose between soldiers calling home and sending operational messages, she said.

 
Both geopolitical challenges and natural disasters are ongoing missions for Marine Forces Pacific, according to the deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Rex C. McMillian, USMC.
The Marines need command and control on the move, said Col. Scott Blankenship, USMC, director, G-6, Marine Forces Pacific. They must be able to integrate and track their assets and their information infrastructure. And, they must be able to track events and their characteristics. The colonel bemoaned security measures that have left Marines with too many personal identification numbers and passwords, as 80 percent of G-6 activity involves password resets. There also is a need for greater balance between information security and sharing, he said.

Gen. McMillian cited the need for a common set of graphics to generate a common operational picture. Pursuing commonality further, he called for a common set of systems to permit U.S. forces to communicate with everyone. And, speed of operation is essential. “We have to be faster than the enemy—whether it’s the bird flu or North Korea,” he declared.

Photography by Bob Goodwin, Jason Mills and Robert K. Ackerman.