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International Conference Addresses Current, Future Warfighter Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2006 – An international conference under way in Athens is tapping into the best minds from 35 U.S. allies and partners to come up with better ways to work cooperatively to support current and future warfighter needs.

The Concept Development and Experimentation Conference that wrapped up today brought together representatives of NATO, the alliance’s Partnership for Peace initiative, the Mediterranean Dialog and other nations interesting in working with them, German Brig. Gen. Ernst Berk, deputy chief of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, told reporters by teleconference from Athens today.

The conference, co-sponsored by U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, focused on many of the high-priority issues U.S. combatant commanders have asked JFCOM to prioritize, said Dave Ozolek, executive director of the command’s Joint Futures Lab.

These include how to build partner capacity to relieve stress on U.S. forces, improve interagency capabilities, operate more effectively in urban operations, and boost joint and coalition logistical capabilities, he said.

Tomorrow, a smaller group of conference participants will begin exploring how these and other big-picture issues discussed during the two-day conference can be incorporated into Multinational Experiment 5, Ozolek said.

That experiment, currently set for 2008, is expected to build on lessons learned earlier this year during Multinational Experiment 4, the most recent in a series of international experiments designed to promote interagency and intergovernmental cooperation.

This week’s conference offered an important forum for nations to exchange views and explore ways to work together more cooperatively, Berk said. It also helped identify unnecessary duplication that, if addressed, can help stretch existing resources.

The discussions offered “very important, direct and indirect benefits to the United States,” and particularly to forces involved in current operations, Ozolek said.

He noted that concepts discussed during the 2005 conference in Berlin and tested during Multinational Experiment 4 already are being applied in the field. Among those using them is NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

When the United States and its international partners put their heads together to address new ways to approach their common challenges, “everyone wins,” Ozolek said.

“We get access to new perspectives on how to solve these operational problems we are facing,” he said. Through information sharing, “we get access to new ideas in experimentation, coming from different cultural perspectives, different technical background and different operational conditions.”

This expanded access to “intellectual capital” opens the door to more potential solutions and shortcuts the path to reaching those solutions, Ozolek said. In many cases, it also reduces the cost involved, he said.

During the conference, for example, participants learned about an innovative model the Danes are using to improve their interagency operations that Ozolek said “goes far beyond” current U.S. approaches.

Similarly, French participants in the conference shared creative ideas their government is using to improve strategic planning for interagency operations, he said.

While the United States benefits directly from perspectives offered by its partners and allies, it also benefits through sharing its own expertise, Ozolek said.

“Every time we improve their capacity for conducting experiments and developing concepts and building capabilities, we improve our own,” he said. “By increasing the ability of our partners to use experimentation and concept development to transform their own forces, we have advanced the art and science of experimentation and have improved their ability, not only to work with us, but also to increase the capacity of their own forces.”

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