Facing the Challenges of The New Millennium

July 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
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Tactics, strategies change to meet today’s threats.

Members of the U.S. armed forces will gather this month to participate in a major joint integrating experiment that could change the way the nation engages adversaries in the near future. According to military leaders, the experiment is the culminating point for assessing how the United States can conduct rapid, decisive operations in this decade.

Transformation has been the mantra of the military during the past several years. Each service is examining its own warfighting methods and systems, then revising them to take advantage of new technological capabilities and address today’s threats, which have changed significantly since the end of the Cold War. While these individual efforts are essential, leaders in the military’s experimental realm who look toward the future believe that a tactical and strategic transformation also is required if the United States is to continue as a military leader.

To examine revolutionary ways of responding to modern threats, the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, is sponsoring Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC 02). The experiment melds both live field exercises and computer simulations to focus on how the U.S. military can conduct rapid decisive operations (RDOs) against a specific adversary. In the RDO concept, a joint force would be able to deploy quickly to any location in the world and achieve victory by destroying the enemy’s ability to fight.

Unlike exercises where participants use current technologies to practice working together, experiments focus on examining new approaches to defeating an adversary. By exploring innovative concepts, military leaders can determine which techniques will work and which should be changed or abandoned.

To this end, MC 02 will determine the extent to which the military can set the operational conditions for RDOs; establish a knowledge network; and set up joint command and control functions and joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Participants also will examine whether they can establish access and then sustain a distributed, noncontiguous operation without fixed bases located near the battlefield as well as establish battlespace full-dimensional, time-definite superiority for selected forces and actions. Finally, MC 02 participants will study the concept of conducting simultaneous, joint tactical actions that are based on a shared understanding of both the tactical and operational situations.

In addition to the four armed services and JFCOM, MC 02 participants will include the U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Space Command, U.S. Transportation Command, Marine Forces Atlantic, U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and several federal agencies. Each service will demonstrate elements of their future force capabilities such as the U.S. Air Force’s Expeditionary Aerospace Force, the U.S. Army’s medium-weight brigades and the U.S. Navy’s initiative known as Forward from the Sea.

The experiment will take place July 24 through August 15 at linked locations throughout the western United States. MC 02’s scenario is set in the 2007 time frame and is not scripted. Simulations will place participants in a high-end, small-scale contingency operation that could potentially escalate to a major theater war.

Brig. Gen. James B. Smith, USAF, deputy commander of JFCOM’s Joint Warfighting Center, Suffolk, Virginia, explains that the scenario is based on information about an actual country. The general emphasizes that it is not a force-on-force exercise but rather a look at activity in a nation that is not hostile toward the United States. While it is not a friendly country, it could be part of the world community in a positive way, Gen. Smith offers.

One section of the designated area is a gulf. Another sector experiences an earthquake, while in another area a small-scale contingency erupts. “When you have to deal with all of this at one time, pulling your guns out of your holsters isn’t the first thing you do,” the general states. Rather than exploring only a kinetic response to activity in an area, Gen. Smith points out that participants will have to examine how to engage diplomatic approaches to situations while at the same time addressing crisis conditions.

Objectives of the experiment are fourfold. The first involves implementation of principles outlined in Joint Vision 2020 that could be accomplished through RDOs in this decade. Key to this element is establishing and maintaining information and knowledge superiority. Assured access into and throughout the battlespace also supports the RDO concept. In addition, the joint force would need to be able to conduct effects-based operations (SIGNAL, August 2001, page 57) as well as sustain itself as it conducts synchronized, noncontiguous operations.

MC 02’s second objective is to develop joint training and experimentation capabilities. “Training today looks at tanks on one side and tanks on the other side, but that’s not the world we face. MC 02 will look at leveraging the information revolution to change the way we fight,” the general explains.

Although the experiment centers on threats of the 2007 time frame, the event’s organizers’ third goal is to produce recommendations for current doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities to use today’s major systems more effectively. To accomplish this, they will be looking at developing and adapting to a new set of principles.

The fourth goal for the experiment is to develop goals and objectives for future JFCOM transformation events.

To establish a knowledge network that would support RDOs, MC 02 will assess common relevant operational picture (CROP) and joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (JISR) capabilities. Gen. Smith submits that the CROP goes beyond the common operational picture. To explain the concept, he uses an analogy of reading the Wall Street Journal. A chief executive officer, a textile manufacturer and an individual all read the same newspaper but are interested in different information. “While the CEO is looking at the overall economy, the textile manufacturer is interested in the market and I may be looking for what happened to my 10 shares of Enron stock. The Wall Street Journal is one common bin of information, but each person pulls out of it only what is relevant to him. In an operation, there are all sorts of bins of information, and people must be able to pull what’s relevant to them,” the general relates.

“If you ask commanders, ‘What do you think of joint planning?’ they will not look at it as joint because they will have seen only the precise information that they needed to see to accomplish their missions,” he adds.

And comprehensive knowledge about an adversary is a key part of concepts being explored in MC 02. “How do you know more about the adversary than he knows about himself? First, you have to know more than just the kinetic aspect. This is operational net assessment, or ONA. We bring in all the information from many places, so you start with a knowledge base. We gather information about political, economic, social and cultural aspects of an adversary and find the connections and where they intercept. You can then go after the coherence of his ability to fight,” Gen. Smith says.

The second part of ONA is using this knowledge base to attack an enemy using a system-by-system approach. “We’re not attacking objects as much as we’re creating an effect,” the general states.

Kosovo is a good example of this approach, he adds. The goal in that operation was not surrender but rather to have Slobodan Milosevic step down so refugees could return. “How many planes we shot down wasn’t the point. It was more about accomplishing a goal. We need to determine what we need to do to accomplish an effect, and that is not just a kinetic response. This is a fundamental shift in how we are applying military power,” Gen. Smith asserts.

Although the military is an essential part of operations, Gen. Smith points out that other government agencies have valuable information that can help defeat an adversary. However, to be effective, military and government data cannot be applied on an ad hoc basis or after an enemy attack. To dissuade an adversary, the coordination of information must be done on a continuous basis.

Creating standing joint force headquarters (JFHQ) is one way to ensure that information can be shared among government agencies, including the U.S. Defense Department (SIGNAL, August 2001, page 53). Today’s threats are described as asymmetric because they are not posed by a single military power attacking in a specific way. However, Gen. Smith emphasizes that the United States also has asymmetric capabilities. It works with coalition partners as well as federal departments that have insight into adversaries’ economic, political and social structures. “We have to build the coalition before a crisis to influence the outcome and deter an attack instead of waiting for a crisis to start,” he says.

Most military experts agree that future operations will be multinational; however, experiment designers decided early in the planning stages that foreign involvement in MC 02 would be only in the form of limited observations. “This was a conscious decision, and it turned out to be a good one. There are unique challenges, and we had to put an appetite suppressant on all the things that needed to be done. We decided to focus on the joint piece instead of the multinational, and it was the right decision,” Gen. Smith notes.

Information operations also will be part of the experiment. The goal is to link strategic data from the top military leaders all the way down to the battlefield. The general relates that this information sharing will extend to public affairs so that a single message is being distributed.

Because information protection will be critical to RDOs, MC 02 will feature a vulnerable network, and Gen. Smith reveals that the experiment will include a major red teaming effort. Two primary issues must be addressed when relying on networks, he points out. “First, we have to invest in securing the networks. Second, there must be a branch plan, so we know what to do if it all goes down.” While collaboration in a virtual environment is a powerful weapon, the military must also assess the vulnerability it creates, he adds.

MC 02 is JFCOM’s initial attempt at integration in a joint experiment/service experiment environment, Gen. Smith relates. “It is the first time we will have command and control systems where the Marines and the Army can talk to each other. We solved the technical problem between the Marines and the Army’s joint force land commander component. They may be fighting in a noncontiguous, nonlinear area. The only way you can do this is through communicating,” the general offers.

Gen. Smith explains that the technical solution to allowing all systems to communicate is by building a bridge between current systems. Although experiments focus on future problems, some of these solutions are already being used to address current issues, he adds.

Accelerating improvements to today’s capabilities is one key benefit of experimentation. “Industry’s cycle of change is about 18 months, and they’re trying to shorten that time. The military’s is seven to 15 years. An adversary can get into our decision cycle within 15 years,” Gen. Smith states, emphasizing that the experimentation does not end in August. “We are accelerating the delivery of the items the nation needs,” he says.

One goal of MC 02 is to determine one joint standard for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. While this may not be the ultimate standard the military adopts, work at MC 02 will contribute to the final standard.

MC 02 is important from a tactical standpoint, Gen. Smith believes, for a number of reasons. “We can’t afford four kinds of everything. We need acquisition that allows us to do one command and control system. We can’t buy individual systems and then pay industry to make them interoperable,” he states.

In addition, as a history buff, the general is aware of how battles have been lost in the past. He points to the lessons learned from crucial battles of the Roman Empire and the Hundred Years’ War as examples. The Romans believed they were invincible but allowed their tactics to become obsolete. The French noblesse hung on to traditional fighting methods and found them ineffective when the English brought new techniques to the battlefield.

“I don’t want our nation to find that the world has changed and we’re still holding on to a military infrastructure that has not changed. We will win every battle but will not win the strategic campaign. We can’t face today’s problems with the way we’re facing them today,” Gen. Smith maintains.


Are They Real or Are They Digital?

Technology is a critical part of the execution of Millennium Challenge 2002. Annette Ratzenberger, chief, experimentation engineering department, J-9, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia, relates that about two-thirds of the forces in the experiment will be simulated. They will represent 30,000 platforms in the battlespace that range from an individual soldier to a mode of transportation. Although planners had a simpler simulation in mind for the experiment, they decided to use 60 simulations that were nominated by the services. These will run in 18 sites across the country.

During the scenario, a joint force headquarters will be given a mission and will conduct command and control of the battle for the blue team. The red force will have its own command structure. Each force has its own objectives in the operation. The common relevant operational picture, or CROP, will be seen by more than 1,000 personnel nationwide. “This is not scripted in the sense that we won’t tell them what’s going to happen on each day. While it’s not free play, it is freer than having set events for each phase,” Ratzenberger explains.

Tony Cerri, head of simulation operations for Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC 02), relates that each of the simulation platforms will have automated behavior so they will carry out orders on a one-on-one basis. Both live and virtual forces will act in real time. “When a commander looks at his computer screen, he won’t be able to tell which is live and which is a simulation,” Cerri explains. Because the participants do not know the scenario, they will not know who will be called on to fight. Live troops will wear electronic tags so, if they are hit by virtual fire, they will receive a signal that they have been hit, he adds.

MC 02 is an interesting test of bandwidth requirements, Cerri remarks. Last fall, the Defense Information Systems Agency conducted measurements and determined the network was running at 48 megabits per second. After some modifications that did not degrade the scenario, the bandwidth requirement dropped to 10 megabits per second. Ratzenberger relates that the technology in MC 02 will be used to enhance further experimentation. “We’re looking to continue experimentation and try to get into a position where we can do experiments all the time. We’re doing pretty well in being able to conduct experiments in a three- to six-month cycle. We want to be able to do it in a month’s time frame,” she says. 

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