Experiment Introduces Sailors, Marines to New Technology
By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 14, 2010 As members of U.S. Fleet Forces Command find new and innovative ways to properly equip warfighters with the latest technologies, they’re “exploring the art of the possible,” the chief of the command’s directorate of experimentation said yesterday.
“It’s really about us going out and bringing things to the fleet, bringing it out in a real-world environment and trying to make things better for the sailors and Marines that are out there,” Navy Capt. Carl Conti said during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.
Trident Warrior 2010, one of the largest and most complex Navy experiments afloat, serves as an opportunity to introduce new technologies to sailors and Marines, the captain said.
“What we try to do every year when we do Trident Warrior, is to go out and find things that are out there -- it might be a technology, process or procedure -- and take that information out to sea and see how it works in the hands of folks that are going to be using it,” Conti said.
The experiment provides a venue to test new ideas and innovations in a real-world environment, which maximizes results, minimizes costs and saves the taxpayer money, Conti explained. To find things to test, he added, the team may look at the challenges that different numbered fleet commanders face, for example.
“We look at things that are hurting their heads,” he said. “What are their priorities? What is it that they need some help with?”
The team gathers that information and passes it along for guidance. “Based on the guidance, we look at it and say, ‘Hey, we have an issue here, we have a seam, there's a gap that needs to be solved,’” Conti said.
In this process of determining the best technologies or processes to adopt, the team also checks for what Conti called “wholeness.”
“We … make sure that it's not just a shiny object someone's trying to put in front of the military to buy,” he explained. “It's got to be something that's going to solve a problem.”
But it doesn’t end there. The team also seeks advice from various government laboratories and government system commands. “We need some help solving these problems,” Conti said. “And then they present their ideas, and then we vet those ideas and say, ‘OK, it might work, or it might not.’”
The team also reaches out to industries and examines proposals that may help to solve some of the same issues. Conti said about 80 percent of their experimentation is based on government suggestions.
Conti also said that Trident Warrior helps to align initiatives in interoperability as well. The experiment helps not only from a technological aspect, but also from the policy aspect of how information is shared, he said.
“We've really tried this year to expand our horizons and to tackle some of the real foundation issues that we have with information sharing with our partners,” said Navy Cmdr. Dave Varnes, director of Trident Warrior 2010.
Varnes added that one of the main focuses of Trident Warrior 2010 was maritime domain awareness, and one part of their experiment was to develop a shared access tool called the “All Partners Access Network.”
“It's basically a Web collaboration tool that allowed us to communicate information via e-mails, via chat and via map displays,” Varnes said. This tool, he said, allows the capability to track people and items from one port to another.
Conti said experiments such as Trident Warrior allow the Navy to maintain its posture and to best understand what currently is available. The experiment also allows collection of hard data, which can be used in helping to decide to keep programs or move them in a different direction.
Conti added that the experimentation piece provides valuable insight into best practices, which allows his team to examine the best ways to accomplish the mission while avoiding possible problems.
“What I'm charged with doing here in Fleet Forces Command is exploring the art of the possible,” Conti said. “For us to do that, we have to find out what is out there that is possible, what is out there that folks are working on, and then taking that information and applying it to how the warfighter needs it.”