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Multinational Experiment Lessons Already Benefiting Coalition Ops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SUFFOLK, Va., March 7, 2006 – While participants in an international experiment taking place here and at 10 sites around the world are looking at ways to improve future coalition operations, their findings are already being applied to coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Joint Forces Command officials explained today.

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Army Lt. Col. Michael Swalko, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who's now participating in Multinational Experiment 4, said there's a lot of gratification in testing concepts that will benefit fellow servicemembers conducting coalition operations. Photo by Donna Miles

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About 800 participants from seven nations and NATO, many of them at the command's Joint Futures Lab here and others overseas, are midway through an experiment designed to promote interagency and intergovernmental cooperation.

Multinational Experiment 4, which kicked off in February, is part of a series of international experiments being used to create a blueprint for future coalitions, explained retired Army Col. George Bowers, deputy director of prototyping for JFCOM's Joint Experimentation Directorate.

MNE4 is applying a premise that U.S. defense leaders have long advocated: that the United States can't win the global war on terror or conduct any other major operation alone and that winning will take more than just military power.

Participants from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO are studying the impact of various aspects of international power on a mutual adversary. These include what JFCOM officials call the "DIME" elements -- diplomatic, information, military and economic.

MNE4 players are applying all these components to reach the desired outcome. In the case of the experiment, that's a stable government in a notional country roughly based on Afghanistan, explained Marine Maj. Tim Millen, the experiment director.

The scenario focuses heavily on stability operations and reconstruction, as well as asymmetric threats, Millen said. It includes issues like those U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are facing every day: rule of law, governance, and establishment of courts and other systems of government.

As demonstrated by real-world operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, achieving stability requires more than just military capabilities, explained Monica Shepherd, who heads up the Joint Experimentation Directorate's prototyping office. It also requires those of interagency, governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

"It's a holistic approach," Bowers said. "The idea is that instead of going in with a big hammer, it's looking at all the aspects of national power and their effect."

"The idea is that it's not just the military that's going to be delivering the effect anymore," said Barbara Stephenson, from the State Department's Office of Coordination for Reconstruction and Stabilization. "It's bringing in a lot more players. And, as a result, the planning becomes more complex."

Traditional military command and control processes don't work in these situations, particularly in the case of nongovernmental organizations, she said. In many cases, the military plays only a supporting role, with other entities taking the lead.

"That's a big mental mind shift for a lot of military people in a lot of ways," said Canadian Lt. Col. Ian Lightbody, an exercise participant. "There's a real recognition that the response has to be a whole-government approach, not just a military approach, when the effect you want to create is a stable government."

The multinational experiment addresses this shift in the military's traditional role. "The challenge becomes: How do we take the military part of the response and harmonize it with all the other aspects?" Bowers said. "That's a big part of what we're exploring here."

Toward that end, MNE4participants are testing how well they work together as a coalition to provide a coordinated response to a crisis, and identifying gaps that hamper their effectiveness. "We've created an environment where participants can dialogue candidly and openly and objectively so we can get at problems," Bowers aid.

The experiment scenario forces participants to take a close look at the myriad challenges they face as a coalition, Shepherd explained. They're examining, among other things, how they coordinate with multinational interagency groups, how interoperable their logistics processes are, and how well they coordinate information operations and medical support.

Everything is done in real time, with players at 10 sites around the world across six time zones communicating through a massive network, explained Air Force Maj. Pete Carrabba, technical lead for the experiment. Nearly 500 users have ready access to real-time audio, text chat capabilities, and shared white boards, he said.

"This creates a virtual environment where people involved get a sense that they are dealing with the real world," Bowers said. "We're looking at all of this in a benign experimental setting and examining in a future event how could we do this better?"

This collaborative information environment, or CIE, concept has proven so successful during multinational force experiments that it's already being applied to coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It all started here," Shepherd said. "What we've learned here is changing the way we operate."

The strength of the experiment is that it builds on each participating country's inputs, Shepherd said. "It's not fair to say that the United States has all the good ideas," she said.

U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate is leading the experiment from its Joint Futures Lab here. But other participating countries are leading specific concepts and processes within the experiment. Germany has the lead on knowledge base development and information operations; Canada, on knowledge management; and France, on strategic context and conflict resolution.

The United States is leading the multinational information-sharing piece, and Australia, the concept of the multinational interagency group that would be created to coordinate the response in response to a crisis. "There's extraordinary participation and sharing," Bowers said. "This is a great team effort."

Just as they would be during a real-life operation, players in the experiment are based around the world. Those from Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating from their own experimentation facilities. NATO participants are working from a facility in Istanbul, Turkey. Players from Australia, Finland and Sweden are operating here at JFCOM.

Army Lt. Col. Michael Swalko, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who's now participating in the multinational experiment, said there's a lot of gratification in testing concepts that will benefit fellow servicemembers conducting operations. "What we're doing here is going to have a lot of application for the folks on the ground," he said.

One exciting aspect of the experiment is its immediate impact on coalition operations, Stephenson said. "It's driving real-world change in a way that's very usual for a military experiment," she said.

By all expectation, the speed in which the lessons learned in a test setting are put into practice is only going to increase, Shepherd predicted. "And as pleased as we are with the speed in which real solutions are turning, we're trying to turn them even faster, with higher levels of fidelity," she said.

MNE 4 is slated to run through March 17, and results are expected to be presented in May. The next experiment in the series, slated for 2008, will build on these findings, officials said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageParticipants in Multinational Experiment 4 operating at the Joint Forces Command's Joint Futures Lab in Suffolk, Va., use high-tech networking systems to collaborate with other players at 10 location worldwide. Photo by Donna Miles  
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