More than 300 representatives from 30 nations are examining solutions to future warfighting challenges in Rome this week at the 2009 Concept Development and Experimentation Conference. Specifically, members of U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and NATO nations are conducting work that will promote multinational cooperation. Conference participants are discussing concept development and experimentation in the areas of countering hybrid threats, providing security force assistance, developing strategic communications and deterring non-state actors.
Many of today's defense policies and military forces are still organized for World War II-type threats, and that doesn't suffice in the age of terrorism, where security and information sharing both have prominent roles. A more collaborative approach is needed, and NATO has to look ahead for emerging challenges in light of a wider risk. The security business is different from the defense business. In defense, the lines of communication and structure are well known, and the supply lines are understood. In security, the market is indistinct; there is no requirement of training, and the face of the customer is elusive.
While the push forward for better collaboration and information-sharing capabilities will require technical advances, the experts at today's NATO workshop in Brussels, Belgium, are struggling with an even bigger challenge than connecting the bits and bytes.
MILCOM 2009 panelists discussing network centricity and coalitions explained the differences that exist in the methodology during operations that comprise more than just U.S. joint forces. Expectations as well as information must be managed, and this can be difficult in an environment that involves different languages as well as different cultures. Malcolm Green, chief of communication services, NC3A, shared that the International Security Assurance Force's (ISAF's) concept of communications involves each country operating in Afghanistan using its own infrastructure.
Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, will step down as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation during a change-of-command ceremony on September 9. Taking over the reins is Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French air force. The ceremony will take place on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower , Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Gen. Abrial is the former chief of staff of the French air force. This is the first time in the organization's 60-year history that a non-U.S. officer has been permanently assigned as one of NATO's two Supreme Allied Commanders. Gen. Mattis will remain as the commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command.
The United States is in the midst of preparing its largest intelligence hub outside of its own national borders. The center will accommodate operations with reach into several global areas, including those rife with anti-terrorism operations. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into the work that includes consolidating resources from other installations.
A new mobile operations fusion kit that provides easy, rapid and on-the-go interoperability for mobile field operations and communications piqued the interest recently of the U.S. Marine Corps’ research and development community. It was impressed by the technology that proved successful in interoperability testing in June. Known as Operations Fusion Kit 2.0, the unit is a multimedia communications system bundled into a compact, lightweight, waterproof, ruggedized Pelican carrying case that enables secure voice, full-motion video and information sharing on a global, real-time basis.
Cyber, defense technology, coalition interoperability, NATO contracting opportunities and Ukraine were among the topics discussed at the NATO Industry Conference and TechNet International 2014, held in Bucharest, Romania. For the third time, the NATO Communications and Information Agency and AFCEA Europe organized a joint conference and exposition. The two organizations generated a program with an agenda of truly intertwined sessions relevant to all.
Representatives from the U.S. Army and Air Force, along with 17 NATO nations and three partner nations, will participate in a joint reconnaissance trial at Orland Air Station in Norway May 19-28 to test and evaluate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) concepts and technologies. The Unified Vision 2014 (UV14) trial will be NATO’s largest-ever ISR trial and will be used as a major stepping stone to provide NATO warfighters with an enhanced set of ISR capabilities.
China and Russia represent two of the most robust, comprehensive concerns to worldwide stability. Almost every major geostrategic threat—cyber attack, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, capable military forces, political influence, economic power, sources of and high demand for energy—is resident in those two countries that often find themselves at odds with the United States and its allies. Decisions by their leaders on how to engage with the rest of the world, and how the two sovereign states decide to relate to each other, will have major effects on geopolitics.
In the coming months, extremists fighting in the Syrian civil war likely will begin returning to Europe, funneling through the Balkans where they can find cheap weapons, like-minded allies and temporary accomplices in the form of organized criminal groups. Conditions are ripe, according to experts, for those individuals to spread across Europe, launching terrorist attacks on major cities.
Romania has opted to extend its force modernization period rather than cut important purchases as it deals with its version of the global budget crisis. Despite suffering from the severe economic downturn that began more than five years ago, the Black Sea country continues to upgrade its military with the goal of being a significant security force in an uncertain region.
The country’s efforts are part of a long-term plan that began with its application for, and acceptance of, membership in NATO. The first part of the three-phase modernization program concluded in 2007, the year before the global economic crisis.
Even though the Cold War has ended and the monolithic threat against the West has disappeared, the relationship between Europe and the United States remains vital. Europe includes some of the United States’ strongest coalition partners and alliances; the two economies are closely tied and interdependent; and defense and security in Europe are evolving rapidly, just as in the United States. AFCEA chapters and members outside the United States number the greatest in Europe.
NATO’s efforts to defend against terrorism now are focusing on cyberspace as a tool of terrorists instead of merely as a vulnerability for striking at alliance nations and their critical infrastructure. These efforts cover aspects of cyber exploitation that range from understanding terrorists’ behavior to how they might use social media.
West 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 1
Quote of the Day:
“If Batman had a ship, it would look like the Zumwalt-class destroyer.”—Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The budget reductions that will be a fact of military life for the foreseeable future promise to impel dramatic changes in force structure and military operations. Ongoing needs such as high technology and overseas commitments offer the possibility of being both challenges and solutions, as planners endeavor to plan around a smaller but, hopefully, more capable force.
People, not technology, are still the greatest advantages or inhibitors in the world of military interoperability. For NATO, bringing together the right humans has enabled amazing advancements during the last five years, but it has also caused confrontations delaying momentum in certain cases.
NATO officials are laying the groundwork for a centralized enterprise networking architecture with invitations to bid expected to be released by year’s end. The new approach is expected to offer a number of benefits, including cost savings, improved network reliability, enhanced cybersecurity and greater flexibility for warfighters.
The economic and technological challenges facing Western militaries are magnified for Portugal as it tries to ensure the viability of its navy. The small maritime nation that regularly participates in NATO naval operations is facing severe budgetary constraints as its domestic economy contracts, but it must improve and even increase its capabilities as a result of a growing mission set.
NATO is adopting an enterprise approach to networking so it can take advantage of new defense information system capabilities as well as recent developments gleaned from Southwest Asia operations. This approach would allow different countries participating in alliance operations to network their own command, control and communications systems at the onset of an operation.
However, meeting this goal will require more than desire and a network architecture. NATO’s 28 members must come together to agree on and support a solution that underpins the enterprise approach. And, this must take place against the backdrop of budgetary constraints across the breadth of the alliance’s member nations.
The working group that helped solve the coalition interoperability puzzle in Afghanistan is working across the U.S. Defense Department and with other nations to ensure that the lessons learned will be applied to future operations around the globe. Experience in creating the Afghan Mission Network may benefit warfighters worldwide, such as those in the Asia Pacific, and may even be applied to other missions, including homeland security and humanitarian assistance.