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New Venue, New Focus

This year's Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration was just as much about evaluating the event itself as it was about evaluating technologies. Although the 2006 format mirrored previous years' activities, the lessons learned during the first time the execution phase was hosted outside the United States could help improve the annual undertaking by broadening the focus to boost international interoperability. Event leaders are recommending several changes for future demonstrations, including increasing the number of countries that participant; linking the demonstration to Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics programs; and improving the coordination between the U.S. and NATO's Allied Command Transformation.

At the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, Col. Tim Cassidy, USMCR (r), coalition task force commander, Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) 2006, points out key changes to the common operating picture to 1st Lt. Chani Devers, Air National Guard, and Wing Commander Rodger Pringle, RNZAF. EUCOM was the host combatant command for this year’s event.
Event highlights need to increase international interoperability and expand participation.

This year’s Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration was just as much about evaluating the event itself as it was about evaluating technologies. Although the 2006 format mirrored previous years’ activities, the lessons learned during the first time the execution phase was hosted outside the United States could help improve the annual undertaking by broadening the focus to boost international interoperability. Event leaders are recommending several changes for future demonstrations, including increasing the number of countries that participate; linking the demonstration to Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics programs; and improving the coordination between the U.S. and NATO’s Allied Command Transformation.

The U.S. European Command (EUCOM), Stuttgart, Germany, was the host command for Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) 2006, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff annual event that examines capabilities proposed by military commands and industry. This year, 34 technology systems were explored during the 10 days of interoperability trials in a scenario comprising two parts: one for the Combined Task Force (CTF) and the other for homeland security and homeland defense.

The script involved notional countries facing imaginary conflicts and placed CWID participants in different phases of operations. For the CTF section, the western continental United States portrayed the setting for a fictional conflict that occurred in Africa on the land mass and littoral sections of EUCOM’s area of responsibility. As a result of regional unrest that escalates into a multinational insurgency, cross-border invasion and mid-intensity conflict, CTFs are deployed to reinstate stability in the area. Friendly forces are made up of a U.S.-led CTF and the NATO joint force/NATO reaction force.

For the homeland security and homeland defense scenario, terrorists launch attacks in the United States and a section of Canada in retaliation for hostilities in the notional region of EUCOM’s area of operations.

Technologies proposed for testing during the execution phase of CWID had to address at least one of five objectives: coalition command and control, coalition information sharing, integrated logistics, continuity of operations and network-centric enterprise services. Among the capabilities CWID participants examined were information and mission management systems, emergency response communications and information sharing technologies, information security techniques and collaboration software.

Many of the nations that have participated in previous demonstrations returned for this year’s event. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom—which, with the addition of the United States, makes up what CWID organizers call the “five eye” countries—took part both from locations within their own nations as well as at several U.S. sites. In addition, representatives from several NATO nations took part, including Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway.

This is the second year that the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, fulfilled its current role as CWID’s overseer of planning and execution. The command’s objectives include ensuring that the demonstration examines relevant technologies that could fill combatant command (COCOM) capability gaps; investigating military, coalition and interoperability solutions; and identifying technologies that are suitable for prototype initiatives. It focuses on capabilities that can move into the field within 18 months of the end of the CWID execution phase.

JFCOM also helps coordinate and develop the required data to support post-execution transition decisions. Working with the host combatant commander, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and leaders of the senior management group—the team that organizes the demonstration—JFCOM will determine the appropriate process and program to deliver chosen capabilities to warfighters.

But JFCOM is not the only organization outside of the COCOMs that supports the demonstrations. Since 2003, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Arlington, Virginia, has served as CWID’s lead agency and, like the participants, has taken advantage of the opportunity to examine emerging technologies. This year, the agency explored the use of an adaptive and secure coalition research and development network architecture based on communities of interest. DISA was looking specifically for the ability to scale and configure the network quickly to meet fast-changing multinational requirements.

Steve Ewell, deputy director, international interoperability, concepts and experimentation, J-9, EUCOM, says CWID is “incredibly important” to the command and his involvement in this year’s event convinced him that it can play a crucial role in expanding international interoperability. He adds that EUCOM supports any venue the United States offers that promotes international interoperability—including CWID—even in today’s environment of shrinking budgets. And as the number of multinational operations increases, the need for numerous nations’ systems to communicate with each other grows. Ewell notes that the total number of foreign troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to peacekeeping and humanitarian missions worldwide come from the EUCOM area of responsibility. “The bottom line here is to support the crisis that usually develops with very little notice. It’s too late to determine the technical solutions once a deployment order is given. Here, our point of view is that interoperability must be worked routinely, which means in advance of a crisis. And I know that sounds easy, but I’ll tell you, it really is not,” Ewell states.

In addition to participation from the five-eye partners and selected NATO allies, this year’s event allowed the command to work with participants from Sweden and Finland, and Croatian representatives were on board as observers.

Ewell believes that while progress is being made to address international interoperability challenges in this subset of countries, it is important for the United States and its closest allies to embrace additional nations into CWID. “That sounds like a simple statement too, but it’s not because it has huge policy ramifications. But if we’re truly interested in international interoperability in the operations of our militaries and government inter-agencies for responding to coalition missions, then membership expansion is required for CWID and other international interoperability forums. Governments and militaries collectively need to weigh the risks of sharing information and technology against the benefits of sharing that information all in the name of interoperability,” he maintains.

Although Ewell says the CWID 2006 execution phase was an unequivocal success, he admits that the challenge now and throughout the year will be to find a way to transition the trial technologies that show promise into funded solutions. EUCOM participants believes that this objective can be achieved by modifying several aspects of the event.

At the top of the list, Ewell emphasizes, is increasing the number of countries that are allowed to participate in future CWIDs. The crosstalk within the U.S. government and with allies regarding international interoperability efforts will help prevent duplication of efforts and provide the right venue for the right technology, he says.

The command’s second recommendation is to link CWID directly with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) advanced systems and concepts by inviting representatives to participate as permanent members of the CWID senior management group. This change would offer increased visibility into some industry efforts and the armed services’ battle laboratories, Ewell points out.

“If you really look at this, you have CWID going to the host COCOM to ask, ‘What are your capability shortfalls?’ We quantify those in the objectives, and we send those around to the other COCOMs. We receive their buy-in and that information goes out as a federal business offering. New technology is brought in, and in a perfect world, the new technologies that are demonstrated transition to a funded program and give us an increased capability either in government agencies or on the battlefield,” he says. Ewell explains that the AT&L’s advanced concept technology demonstration and joint capabilities technology demonstration programs are similar to CWID. “It sure would be nice if we got people together and started coordinating activities,” he states. Representatives from EUCOM and the Joint Chiefs of Staff met in mid-July to discuss the issue, Ewell adds.

EUCOM’s third recommendation involves increasing the coordination between the U.S. event and NATO’s CWID. Although the events’ coordinators in the United States and at Allied Command Transformation communicate, Ewell says the value of each demonstration would increase if the two groups would work together more closely.

“The final point that was a constant stumbling block through this is that in order to improve CWID, if it’s really going to be an international interoperability forum, the participating countries have to come to grips with information and technology sharing policies. They all have to agree that they’re going to have to accept a bit of risk for interoperability. What I’ve observed over the last year as I watched the organizational phase of CWID and helped put this together at EUCOM is that governments tend to be multidomestic and not multinational,” he relates.

Col. Cassidy (l) briefs CWID visitors (2nd l-r) Brig. Gen. Dennis Via, USA; Command Sgt. Maj. Rodrick Johnson, USA; and Dr. Judith Daly about the demonstration’s operations at EUCOM.
In addition, the United States has to work on avoiding self-induced asymmetrical relations when it considers interoperability, he contends. “In other words, the United States’ thirst for technology and increasing technology prevents us from being interoperable with our allies because most of our allies—and especially if we expand the membership base of CWID—do not have our budgets to buy the technology and the systems that we’re buying. The more technology we acquire, the less interoperable we become on an international basis,” Ewell states.

Although he is not sure of the solution to this problem, Ewell notes that NATO is addressing the issue with a long-term program that includes a 15-year plan to move to network-centric warfare. The organization’s members accept that in the interim they will have to interface with countries that do not have the same technology base. In many cases, this will require tuning down the level of their own capabilities to facilitate interoperability.

Despite the benefits this approach, it also has some drawbacks. The United States would have to determine the balance between increasing warfighting capabilities—which will be important if the U.S. military plans to undertake operations alone—and ensuring international interoperability if it decides to form coalitions to achieve its policy goals. “So there is truly a trade-off, but if we’re going to work toward international interoperability, it’s something that needs to be addressed,” Ewell contends.

The only other solution he envisions is for the United States to start sharing some of its technology with other nations as part of its strategy to work with other nations. This approach poses some problems, he admits, but he points out that inside the EUCOM area of responsibility other countries already are providing their national tactical datalinks—datalinks that are more capable than the Link 16 the command uses—so they can interoperate with EUCOM. “I think we can take a lesson from that,” he states.

Ewell says he was very impressed with a number of the capabilities examined during CWID at the EUCOM site, but reiterates that the challenge to move even the most promising technologies into the field must be addressed. He suggests one way to overcome the problem may be a technique the command employs. Before examining prototype technologies at EUCOM, Ewell finds a sponsor for the capability. He calls this an “acquisition technology transition strategy.”

Bringing AT&L and JFCOM in to identify some of the most promising technologies early in the CWID planning process would provide the time needed to outline a transition strategy in advance of the demonstration’s execution phase. “If we wait until we demonstrate it and then look for a transition strategy, we’re going to be right where we are now, trying to find somebody to adopt an ugly baby. And it may not be an ugly baby, but I haven’t found a program manager around that wants to raise her hand to take on additional technology that may put her program at further risk because it’s not proven,” he asserts.

The event may be moving in that direction: The objectives for CWID 2007 already have been determined and published. EUCOM will host the execution phase of the demonstration again next year, and the objectives primarily focus on integration. In addition to supporting cross-domain data sharing, the 2007 capability objectives include integrated intelligence, operations, logistics, planning and communications.

Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Verbeck, USAF, director of command, control, communications and warfighting integration at the command, has suggested that CWID move from its present two-year COCOM hosting cycle to a three-year cycle so that it would better align with the military’s Program Objective Memorandum timing. If the Joint Staff accepts this recommendation and rewrites its instruction, EUCOM would be more than willing to continue to host the demonstration through 2008, Ewell says. However, if the cycle is not extended, EUCOM recommends that JFCOM become the permanent host site with one of the other COCOMs as a primary support to JFCOM each year, or perhaps including representatives from all the COCOMs on the senior management group.

“If you really peel the onion back, there are a number of different forums—smaller forums—that address international interoperability. What we’re proposing is that the senior management group gets its arms around all of those efforts to take a consolidated look at them and to coordinate those efforts throughout the year,” Ewell says.


Web Resources
Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration 2006: www.cwid.js.mil
SIGNAL Magazine’s CWID Gateway: www.afcea.org/signal/cwid
U.S. European Command: www.eucom.mil