To the editor:
No doubt there will be more discussions and articles concerning the successful completion of a command-and-control proof-of-concept demonstration recently conducted at Fort Campbell, Ky. “Things were done and shown” at Fort Campbell that many people thought would be against basic principles of physics – for example, there’s not enough bandwidth or antenna power to allow almost-real-time tracking/communicating with a helicopter flying nap-of-the-earth and/or at normal cruising altitude/speed.
As the liaison person between the Army’s Movement Tracking System and its prime contractor, Comtech Mobile Datacom, I want to amplify the significance of Comtech’s MT2011 transceiver and why the demonstration worked because of Comtech’s technology.
An early effort in Fall 2001 charged the product manager for the Army Aviation Command-and-Control System to find and demonstrate a Blue Force Tracking capability. Part of A2C2S’s responsibility is and has been the Balkan and Kosovo C2 system, known as the Enhanced Information System. The Army envisioned that EIS could be its main candidate for BFT.
Under present conditions EIS provides both Balkan and Kosovo users with a rudimentary C2 system. EIS includes an early version of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below software ported onto a Kontron Fieldworks computer, interfaced to a commercial trucking Ku-band antenna and mounted on wheeled vehicles. This design and technical characteristics of the Ku-band system can’t support a tactical-aviation environment.
The challenge for a BFT solution would be tracking helicopters flying NOE. However, during the Association of the United States Army’s spring symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., experts and interested parties discussed the idea of putting EIS into a helicopter. They saw the size and physics of the MT2011 transceiver made it a good candidate for mounting on a helicopter. (An earlier Air Force demonstration had already used the Comtech transceiver on a helicopter).
The Fort Campbell demonstration architecture, now known as EIS+, consisted of FBCB2 Version 3.4.4, Fieldworks computer, Raytheon micro-router, precision lightweight Global Positioning System receiver and MT2011 transceiver. EIS+ was mounted on two humvees, a prototype Light Digital-Operations Center, an AH-64 helicopter and a UH-60 helicopter, which also housed the A2C2S.
Fort Campbell's proof-of-concept demonstration tested EIS+ on both helicopters and humvees. Part of EIS+ is the MT2011 transceiver, seen as a small white box on top of the humvee.
The demonstration was conducted twice daily for two days. A “truth in lending” clause should be added here: the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate provided the necessary integration expertise and was able to do a “quick” safety-of-flight release for the integrated on-board packages for both the AH-64 and the UH-60. The AH-64 had to be flown by test pilots since the front cockpit had a quick, non-engineered mount for the Fieldworks computer. It basically took up the left side of the front cockpit. The UH-60 configuration didn’t require test pilots since the computer system was mounted in the aft cargo compartment, co-located with the A2C2S equipment configuration, and didn’t present any direct safety issues.
During the actual helicopters’ flying and humvees’ movements, each system sent formatted, limited overlays and free-text messages as well as automatic position-location updates for each system. The LDOC system was remoted into a classroom on Fort Campbell, allowing non-participants to monitor the demonstration systems’ movements.
During one of the demonstrations, the AH-64’s location wasn’t being refreshed. A free-text message was sent to the pilot, who was more than halfway to Fort Knox, Ky., asking that he return to Fort Campbell. About 25 minutes later, he landed outside the classroom. Technicians determined that a wire supplying GPS data from the PLGR had worked loose. The wire was tightened, the AH-64 departed, and everyone watched the remoted screen showing his location as he flew north to Fort Knox. Position-location updates were defaulted to every 15 seconds or 300 meters in movement change.
A demonstration of this complexity could never work without a dependable non-terrestrial communication system. Normal communications for the FBCB2 system are designed and depend on using the Enhanced Position-Location Reporting System. EPLRS are matrixed or positioned across the necessary real estate, allowing the FBCB2 systems to communicate and relay between nodes. However, this proof-of-concept demonstration depended on the Comtech-designed L-band satellite system for providing the necessary backbone. The transceiver – small in footprint: 8 inches by 8 inches by 4 inches, omni-directional, non-mechanical and requiring less than four watts of power – could be mounted on a helicopter and wired to an aircraft’s external antenna, thus providing the necessary connectivity between systems. This communications capability is unparalleled.
I don’t imply or conclude that FBCB2 using the L-band satellite has the same capability as FBCB2 using the EPLRS backbone. Each architecture, EPLRS or L-band, can work independently, or depending on the situation or requirement, together.
The MT2011 transceiver is part of MTS, the Army’s main combat-service-support enabler. MTS is currently fielded to III Corps. More than 2,000 systems are at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Sill, Okla. MTS provides the CSS commander the ability to know where his assets are and redirect them if necessary. The system uses a Triple Digital Encryption System encryption algorithm and commercial satellite, and it has close to worldwide coverage. Also of note is that the MT2011 transceiver, although not Type 1 certified, could easily accommodate a Type 1 chip since it has room inside its case for the necessary expansion.
The demonstration’s success was the result of lots of smart people working in synchronization with a common goal. The PM-A2C2S’s leadership, the AATD engineers working the safety-of-flight issues and the Raytheon engineers’ integration efforts were the main personnel reasons for the demonstration’s success. But none of it would have worked without Comtech Mobile Data Comm’s MT2011.
Fort Lee, Va.
See related article on the coalition common operating picture in Kosovo.
by MAJ Ed Burke
I jotted down a few notes on the merits of Army Knowledge On-line in the hope I might use them to encourage others to use AKO. I soon found I had more than a few thoughts and later developed them into this commentary on AKO’s strengths and weaknesses as an Army-wide communication system. My hope in doing so is that readers less familiar with AKO than I learn something about it and consequently find more utility in the service it provides. So too, my hope is that those who can do something to improve AKO take my critique seriously and work to make it better.
In its current state, AKO can capably provide solutions to many of the inconveniences a soldier’s business entails, while at the same time it has some functions that can be a real chore to manage. I believe, however, that AKO has the potential to become a focal point and a repository for the Army’s collective knowledge. Here are my thoughts.
Relocating is one of the few constants in today’s Army. Be it a permanent-change-of-station move, an exercise or a deployment, each implies a requirement to gather one’s things, package them for movement and drag them to a new location. Inevitably, something is forgotten. Increasingly easy to leave behind are things soldiers kept in their address book or in their professional library and carried with them when they traveled. Today, e-mail addresses, frequently used Internet links, on-line references and important documents carefully saved to disk are more likely replacing briefcases and even rucksacks. Unfortunately, when the need arises, these digits on disks are often on an office computer while soldiers are at a training center rotation, they’re on a floppy disk at home while soldiers are deployed, or they’re saved to a Zip disk in a box scheduled to arrive at a soldier’s new quarters in a few weeks.
There is, however, a way to circumvent some of these challenges, and it takes the form of a website most soldiers have already visited.
In an August 2001 guidance memorandum, the Secretary of the Army and the Army’s Chief of Staff directed that all Army individuals have AKO accounts by Oct. 1, 2001. AKO is available to active-duty Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Department of the Army civilians, nonappropriated-fund employees, U.S. Military Academy cadets, contracted Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets and retired Army people.
Though not without limitation, this gateway to information on the Internet is easily accessible, easy to use, and it travels well. It all but ends the potential of leaving important data behind. AKO is the Army’s solution to keeping important information readily available. Designed specifically for soldiers, from its homepage one can access e-mail, reach Army sites and search the worldwide web. A recently added capability also allows files to be saved on-line for access later.
Army information, news and announcements are its mainstay, but its built-in flexibility gives users the opportunity to customize their pages to suit. Each time users return to AKO, they find their pages just as they left them, and those pages are later accessible from any computer with a web browser and an Internet connection.
Though not a stranger to AKO, on a recent PCS move followed shortly by a deployment to Afghanistan, I soon came to realize I’d merely scratched the surface of the portal’s potential. I found its ability to support communication with others one of its greatest strengths.
Many now use e-mail at work, and most have access to check it regularly. As closely attached as we’ve become to this tool, any move can disrupt this thing upon which we rely so heavily. AKO, however, assists with the continuity soldiers lose when they pull up roots. In my recent experience, I learned I could share my AKO e-mail address with others to allow friends and co-workers to stay in touch long after I was gone from an old posting. Similarly, old friends could find me by searching the AKO white pages, refining their search by rank or component. By automatically forwarding e-mails from that old address to my AKO account, individuals who misplaced or didn’t otherwise have my AKO address were able to continue corresponding with the old address as an interim solution.
Another useful benefit I found was being able to set up AKO to automatically forward e-mails to other e-mail accounts. Associates armed with my AKO address were able to drop a line to my AKO account, and through its forwarding feature, I received their messages at any address I chose. This was especially helpful, as I find it more convenient to check a work e-mail account without going through the Internet. In effect, AKO provides a permanent e-mail address that won’t change although a soldier’s geographical location changes.
Instant Messenger is another useful AKO offering. The popularity of similar commercial, real-time, website communication systems makes AKO IM all the more valuable. IM supports messaging between AKO users just like other instant messengers, but it also decreases concerns of having your messages read by others with its encrypted protocol when communicating from AKO IM to AKO IM. (You can communicate from AKO IM to a commercial IM, but then you lose this encryption.) Also, since this system is web-based, there’s no software required for the computer you’re using to gain access. One better is AKO’s ability to connect with others using several non-AKO IM systems.
I found AKO IM particularly helpful while deployed. Before MWR phones were established, or when time didn’t permit access to them, this alternate link to family, friends and important contacts was tremendous. IM ensured I could make contact whenever I had access to a computer. A great morale booster, instant communication – especially with family members through AKO to other IM systems – was an added benefit.
Digging a little deeper into AKO’s capability, one can find the wealth of information it makes available. Without changing a single setting from the AKO homepage, you can access a number of Army websites. I found the Army-wide announcements, Army news and frequently used links channels most useful, each being updated regularly and linking directly to other sites of interest for most Army users. These and many others provide a quick way of staying current and relevant on the latest Army, Defense Department and world information. Capitalizing on this service often seemed a well-suited replacement for newspapers that, if they arrived at all, lagged behind by days or weeks during deployment.
Yet another functionality incorporated into AKO is the ability to establish and save links to other websites. AKO isn’t, as some might believe, limited to Army links. Soldiers may prefer a specific search engine, unit website, news website or entertainment site; he or she can build these links into personalized pages. A distinguishing characteristic, however, is that the links aren’t saved to the computer. By saving them to the AKO server, instead of a local hard drive, the links are available whether logging on at home, while on temporary duty or at public computer. Some may even be able to log on in the field or while deployed.
Having documents available when needed is always a chore. Typically, we save those we need to disk to take them with us. Inevitably, a disk is misplaced or corrupted. While in Afghanistan, I found the use of floppy disks a risky venture. The dust permeated everything and rendered most disks useless after a few days. Hard drives, too, were susceptible to corruption, as I learned first-hand. After a few months, very few of my coworkers survived the toll dust took on automation equipment.
On AKO, a tab to the “collaboration center” may end floppy disk problems forever. Aimed at providing a place to share files with other AKO users, not only does this service support document collaboration, but it also allows soldiers to post and limit access to those documents by others, thus eliminating the need to save important files to disk. This helpful feature ensured I was able to keep important files, like this commentary, in a safe place that was available whenever and wherever I needed it. Storing files on a server that’s always backed up mitigates the threat of lost data. Also, by posting this article to the collaboration center, I was also able to gather the input of others and effectively ended the need to e-mail multiple versions of the text to multiple addresses as I sought assistance.
Though access to AKO has yet to reach every level of the Army, simply because not every soldier has direct access to a networked computer, I found tremendous potential for its use by deployed soldiers. Its compilation of Army links puts everything from forms to field manuals and regulations just a few clicks away, reducing the number of hard-copy versions of those documents units need to transport.
Accessing “AKO Chat” further assisted by providing soldiers an opportunity to work through issues that may not have web-based information posted on-line. Perhaps a unit experienced a problem with a piece of equipment that it couldn’t resolve locally, and information on-line failed to provide a solution? Most continental-U.S.-based Army institutions, as wired as they are – like the various branch centers and schools – have subject-matter experts willing to lend a hand, especially with creative fixes to unusual problems. An e-mail worked well, particularly if time zones interfered with direct communication, but short of a phone call, nothing beat chatting through a problem to get to its root.
Personal concerns, too, may soon be a thing of the past with the dawn of the web-enabled personnel file and direct access to leave-and-earnings statements from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Armed with information gleaned from these sites, a quick note to assignment officers, the S-1 or your supporting personnel-service center can often bring resolution to matters that only get worse over time. A link through AKO to a soldier’s financial institution, too, can provide easy access when resolving personal banking matters. All told, AKO doesn’t replace the efficiency of a face-to-face conversation, but it can make the difference between fixing a challenge long distance but in a timely manner, in lieu of waiting until after a deployment.
I’ve spent some time getting familiar with AKO, and I’ve made a concerted effort to use it to its current potential. Some people have spent considerable time working with it and realized even more promise than I’ve managed. I’m afraid that, from what I’ve seen, most use AKO for little more than an occasional e-mail. Others still have explored it only long enough to secure a user name, password and e-mail address to meet the CSA’s guidance. AKO has a lot to offer, as I’ve attempted to show in the preceding discussion. Unfortunately, much like one must scratch below the surface to find AKO’s strengths, digging into it also reveals its weaknesses. Thus, just like soldiers must rapidly adjust to change, AKO too must continue to improve if it’s to be ready for the future.
Security is an important part of communication systems, but with it comes certain degradation in convenience. Illustrating this are two issues I’ve come to disdain. One detracts from the AKO IM experience.
IM users find they lose connections if they don’t actively participate in a chat. One of IM’s strengths is its ability to let people know when others in their contact list log on to the system, but frequently the connection closes, dropping users and their ability to see that others connected. This safety feature ensures that others don’t abuse profiles but, as with most security features, it reduces the level of convenience the system provides to the point many find it useless. Allowing users to adjust the length of time before AKO disconnects would let individuals determine the level of risk they’re willing to assume. Thus on a home or office personal computer, where access to computers by others is minimal, a user may be ready to accept more risk than one might on a computer that’s open to others for access.
(Editor’s note: AKO “guru” MAJ C.J. Wallington notes that Burke’s comments discuss a deliberate security feature tied to the AKO portal itself. The portal is designed to time-out one hour after an AKO session is established to minimize the risk of someone just walking away from his or her computer and leaving an active session connected to potentially sensitive information.)
The other security feature many people find frustrating is the requirement for multiple usernames and passwords to access Army sites. Soldiers have passwords for DFAS, on-line banking, government credit cards and Internet sites, to name a few; it would seem the collection of Army websites would be a great place to start sharing databases that track who people say they are. It’s unlikely that while in transition users will have, and even less likely remember, all the usernames and passwords they might need. Logging on to some sites through AKO sometimes requires one username and password for AKO and another username and password for the destination site.
I would submit that as AKO continues to develop, it should include database links with other Army sites so the initial AKO log-on meets the requirements of subsequent links to other Army sites. Few would question the importance of maintaining the integrity of websites and the information they hold, but the closer AKO comes to a seamless system where security becomes invisible to the user, the more convenient and therefore the more used AKO will become.
(Editor’s note: per Wallington, AKO strongly encourages other applications to use the AKO user identification and password. “Some systems would require software revision, while others just hold us in disdain and think they can do better,” Wallington said. “We can’t force someone to use our user ID/password, but we can save them a significant amount of money by allowing us to be the authenticator. DFAS is reconsidering its position and may use AKO user ID/password in the future.” Incidentally, the Signal Center’s University of Information Technology homepage (https://uit.gordon.army.mil) uses the AKO user ID/password for access.)
Recently, I’ve seen calendars from various Army organizations crop up on AKO. An organizational calendar makes available information that would otherwise require an individual to e-mail conference schedules, important meeting information and notice of key events to those interested. Calendars are a tremendous source of information. As such, another consideration that might make AKO more useful, and one that’s not currently available, is a personal calendar on individual AKO accounts. The ability to log on to any machine for AKO access to e-mail, links and IM is an irrefutable strength, but adding a personal calendar can truly round out AKO’s suite of personal-information-storage capability.
Taking it a step further, an integrated system that’s compatible with the synchronizing capability seen in personal digital assistants could further allow users to manage calendars and – while providing an ability to share the information with others – can further augment service to AKO customers. At home, in the field or while deployed, a system with these capabilities is bound to succeed.
(Editor’s note: Wallington responds that “Personal calendars, which can include scheduling with other AKO users – similar to Microsoft’s Outlook – will be available in a future mail upgrade. We’re working on that issue; it’s very high on our priority list.”)
AKO offers a similar version of its service over the secure Internet. “AKO Secret” is fantastic, especially in a classified operation where secure communication is essential. In concept, this is a step in the right direction. Its problems, however, include lack of access from most computers, for users must log on to a computer connected to a classified local-area network with secure Internet capability.
Also, operations and intelligence personnel gravitate toward AKO-S for information, while logisticians and personnel managers gravitate toward the traditional AKO. Unfortunately, some users have requirements for both, but without two separate computers connected to two separate networks, users miss out on the value that the system they don’t have provides. Operating from separate systems is clearly the most secure approach to maintaining the integrity of classified information. Improving log-on security functions in an unclassified system to a level that ensures only the authorized individual has access may be the solution to a one-network system.
Alternatively, by incorporating the same AKO functions into AKO-S with links to secure copies of the other Army sites, soldiers might enjoy the same utility available on AKO in a secure environment. Simply said, two systems may be best for security, but the arrangement is far from practical.
A final shortfall is doubly challenging. Access and speed are the two biggest complaints I’ve heard others share, and they’re interrelated because both deal with infrastructure. Improving access requires not simply the availability of computers, but the availability of computers connected to the non-secure Internet-protocol routed network. In an operation like Enduring Freedom, NIPRNET access by most soldiers was limited because secure communications were key to supporting the fight. Available computers were primarily connected to the secure Internet-protocol routed network, and so the number of NIPRNET connections were limited to all but senior leaders and support soldiers who required access to conduct business available only by non-secure means.
Compounding the situation and further limiting access to AKO is bandwidth. The competition for SIPRNET access, rightfully so, consumes most of the networking equipment required to establish a connection. Assets dedicated to non-secure Internet access, however, quickly became overwhelmed as users took advantage of the popular services that AKO and other Internet sites provided. The result was not only a system with limited access but also access times that were exceptionally slow.
Most problems I experienced with AKO during my deployment were a direct result of slow communication rates: for instance, IM hang-ups, difficulties logging in and session time-outs. And I was one of the few with ready access. To combat the problem of slow access, the only available solution is further limiting access. This never-ending cycle therefore further reduces the value AKO provides to our soldiers and undermines the concept of proliferating AKO as the Army’s knowledge repository.
(Editor’s note: Wallington notes that Burke’s comments here aren’t entirely true, as soldiers can access AKO from any Internet connection, not just via the NIPRNET. Wallington says a host-country Internet service provider could be contracted to provide network connections, for instance.)
Without a doubt, AKO is a useful tool, but as with any tool, there’s room for improvement. Initiatives for future improvements, increasing interest from soldiers and support from senior leadership will likely drive AKO forward. As these improvements take place and as AKO continues to develop, AKO will take center stage as a critical force multiplier for the Army. Army leaders need to embrace it, encourage others to use it and work to make it better.
For those without established accounts, go to https://www.us.army.mil in your browser. Click the “I’m a new user” button and follow directions. After entering some personal information, the AKO server will verify eligibility, assigning a username and password. For those who have established an account, gaining access is simple, using the same link by clicking the “Sign in” button. When prompted, enter both username and password, and the Internet browser will launch the AKO homepage.
MAJ Burke is 10th Mountain Division’s G-4.
(Editor’s note: Using the “https” URL rather than “http” will help users get into AKO more easily if they’re connecting from an overseas ISP. AKO asks, “What other features would you like to see? What format would you like to use to provide more suggestions? How can we do a better job of telling you what’s in the next version, and what method should we use to spread the word? Even more important, how can we do a better job of reaching out at the grassroots level?” Send your comments to Patrick.Swan@us.army.mil.)
by SGM Ulysses Mays
Be loyal to your country, leaders, soldiers – but above all be loyal to yourself.
Treat everyone equally, and treat each decision as though someone’s life depends on it. It just might one day.
All your soldiers deserve outstanding leadership. You should be the one to provide it.
Decisions shouldn’t be made in haste or anger – when time permits, seek a second opinion.
Every decision you make may not be the best one. Be smart and strong enough to recognize this.
Reach out to soldiers, peers and people in general. The great decisions are made when dialogue takes place.
Share information; a well-informed soldier is a well-rounded fighting machine.
Hold to the moral high ground, even if you’re holding it alone.
Inspire your troops to greatness. Encourage growth and participation in the leadership process. Disagreement can be a good thing.
Be able to part with anything in the leadership process that’s nonproductive. This may include people.
Great leadership isn’t a battleship. Nor is it a sinking ship, but when applied correctly, it can be one of the greatest partnerships known to humankind.
SGM Mays is the division Signal noncommissioned officer for 24th Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. He wrote his thoughts on leadership as a student in Class 52 – he graduated May 30 – at the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas. This piece was also highlighted as NCO Journal’s “Frame a Page” feature in the Summer 2002 edition.
by Linda Kozaryn
SUFFOLK, Va. – When Thomas Edison’s electric light replaced oil and gaslights, that was transformation. When Henry Ford’s Model T replaced the horse and buggy as the common mode of transportation, that was transformation. When computers replaced typewriters and began talking to each other, that was transformation.
Simply put, transformation is broad, sweeping change. It’s the kind of change that affects the way we live, how we think, work, play – and even the way we fight. Such sweeping change has affected the military throughout history.
Red-coated troops no longer march shoulder-to-shoulder when they face a line of musket fire. Automatic weapons replaced single-shot rifles. Aircraft and armored vehicles replaced horses and wagons. Precision strike, rather than carpet-bombing, is now the rule.
Air Force BG Jim Smith, deputy commander at the Joint Warfighting Center here, is heavily involved in the military’s current transformation. The center, part of U.S. Joint Forces Command, recently hosted Millennium Challenge 2002, a transformation experiment involving 13,500 troops fighting a virtual battle.
Millennium Challenge 2002 reflected the scope of the changes underway in today’s military and those needed to meet future challenges, defense officials said. Military officials are preparing an after-action report. “If you look at this experiment,” Smith said, “we’re looking at changes in doctrine, training, organization, leader development, personnel facilities.”
Military officials looked at how they can better employ current equipment and resources. Future experiments will focus on what new weapon platforms and other resources are needed for the future.
“Everybody comes down here, and they want us to show them a ‘transformation,’ like they’re expecting to see something about the size of a desk with antennas and a gun that comes out of it, and you push a button, get an answer and shoot,” Smith said. “That’s not what transformation is all about.”
The general’s perspective on transformation goes beyond Millennium Challenge. He served two years as the Air Force chair at the National War College and is a military history buff. He said the past holds examples of military transformation.
“Throughout our history,” Smith said, “the Army as an institution has been the leader in looking at the military to focus on the nation’s powers.” In 1802, he noted, West Point was the first and the best engineering school in the country. The military responsibility at the time was to shape Manifest Destiny and build the infrastructure of our nation.
“After the Civil War, you saw the military focused on the ‘Indian challenge,’” he continued. “If you look at 1898, the Army redefined us to be expeditionary and then took a real hard look at our technology, our rifles and our logistics, so we could go expeditionary in World War I.”
One of the major changes affecting the military today, according to Smith, is the need to blend the services into one fighting team. Joint operations in Afghanistan are a prime example of the transformation underway, he said.
In Afghanistan, U.S. special-operations forces, air power and the Central Intelligence Agency worked with the Northern Alliance to eliminate Taliban and al Qaeda forces. “You notice I didn’t say any service,” the general said. “Service (branch) to me is irrelevant in this construct.”
In a traditional scenario, he noted, the military going into Afghanistan would have had the Marines on the coast, the Army in another sector and the Air Force in another. “They’d be divided by lines on the map,” he said. “There are no lines in Afghanistan.”
“Classic Marine doctrine for an amphibious operation,” he added, “is to control a 30-mile area for about 30 days, then pull out and let the Army take over. In Afghanistan, the Marines controlled an area 435 miles inland.”
Afghanistan called for a whole new look at employing and integrating military forces, Smith said. “The Marines went in and connected with indigenous forces, agency officials and special-operations forces. You never heard of any rift or any testosterone battles about who was in charge or who was most important.”
Instead of advancing along a fixed front, he pointed out, U.S. forces struck targets throughout Afghanistan. The portions of the map under enemy control would shrink as coalition forces took over.
Smith said one problem that’s emerged in such joint operations is in linking the services’ command-and-control communications. As an example, he used the Army’s Maneuver Control System and the Marines’ Tactical Control Operations, both used at battalion level and higher.
“Do you think they talk to each other? No. To do operations, you had to draw lines saying, ‘You stay on that side, and you stay on the other, because these two don’t talk to each other,’” Smith said. Military officials developed a technical bridge between the two legacy systems, he noted. “The Joint Forces Land Component commander now has the technical ability to integrate the ground forces, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. We never had that ability before.”
In Afghanistan, Smith said, military officials had problems with the “seams” between service capabilities. Korean War-era communications procedures offset the advanced technical capabilities of B-1s, B-2s, B-52s and precision munitions.
“The problem is the two coming together,” he said. “You’re making a radio call to call out coordinates, which is what we did in Korea. Is there any reason at all you shouldn’t have a laptop with a Global Positioning System grid so you’ve got a laser designator that designates the target, you hit a button and it goes up?”
Because the adversary in Afghanistan didn’t have a strong conventional warfighting capability, Smith said, U.S. and coalition forces had air superiority and were free to move about the country. Therefore, some defense officials said that what worked in Afghanistan won’t necessarily work anywhere else.
Military officials are looking at how the effort in Afghanistan came together, Smith said. “If we had to do it all over again, how would we shape that? How would we dissuade an adversary? How would we do it against an adversary who has a strong conventional capability?” he said.
Overall, Smith said, the Afghanistan construct is a good starting point because it brought together all the tools we can use. “As we look back,” he said, “I think we’ll see Afghanistan as a sea change of thinking. Now it’s a question of whether we’re going to move toward joint application of combat power or continue to fight in service lanes.”
If you ask the services if they’re joint, the general said, “they’ll say, ‘Sure, I’m joint. I bleed purple.’ What they mean is, ‘I’m joint so long as I’m the decisive element in a joint campaign and everybody comes and fits into my structure.’ That doesn’t help us very much in the modern world.”
Over the last decade, the great debate has been over who controls the battle, the Army or the Air Force, he said. “As a joint guy, I don’t care. Air power is the most dominant form of kinetic warfare today and probably for the foreseeable future,” he said. “This does not mean the Air Force is the dominant service.”
Focusing on airpower as the nation’s “dominant instrument” would make the military one-dimensional, Smith said. “If you’re an adversary and you’ve got a high-tech nation that is singularly focused on airpower, what do you do? You disperse,” he said. “You disperse strategically and you disperse operationally.”
During the air campaign over Kosovo, he said, defense officials learned they could clean the skies very quickly and hit key strategic operational targets. But, in the same vein, the enemy learned to hide his armor and not move it. “The only way to get them to mass is a ground force that threatens them,” Smith said. “Once they mass, air power can kill them.”
In Afghanistan, al Qaeda also learned to disperse strategically.
“If an adversary figures out they can avoid our air power and we don’t have a ground capability anymore, we as a nation are hurting,” Smith concluded. “I’m the strongest advocate for saying, ‘Wait a minute. You have to have a ground capability.
“I’m also the first to criticize my Army friends who insist on corps-level maneuver operations as the centerpiece of the Army. They’ve spent an awful lot of their research-and-development budget in the last 15 years trying to compete with the Air Force over the deep battle. Why? The Army’s job ought to be to seize and hold terrain in whatever form that is. If we lose that, we’re in trouble,” Smith said.
The nation’s unified commanders, not the services, are responsible for integrating warfighting, logistics and joint training in theater, he stressed. “The services don’t fight. The combatant commander fights,” he said. “But most of what’s driving his capability is service decisions. How do you integrate that?”
“Most of the processes we’ve got in place today are oriented toward (integrating) after everything gets over in the theater,” he said. “What gets deployed and what form it is (are left to) the services. So the unified commander has to do what he can with what the services deploy.”
In the future, Smith predicted, Joint Forces Command is going to be the central advocate for the combatant commander and what he needs to be able to do his warfighting.
Ms. Kozaryn writes for American Forces Press Service.
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Army Communicator is part of Regimental Division, a division of Office Chief of Signal.