Transformation on Display in Qatar
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, Dec. 12, 2002 It was U.S. military transformation in the flesh at the As Saliyah pre- positioning camp here Dec. 12.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited U.S. service members participating in Exercise Internal Look, being held at this compound outside Qatar's capital city.
Around 1,200 service members are participating in the computer-generated exercise. The scenario is classified, but it is realistic for the command, said senior Central Command officials.
The exercise tests command and control for U.S. Central Command. The command's headquarters is at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. A senior Central Command official said it is a 15-hour flight -- with two refuelings -- for the combatant commander to get into the area of operations.
The command needed a deployable command post so the combatant commander could still oversee all aspects of Central Command's mission and be in theater. Internal Look is testing that command post.
The deployable headquarters consists of more than 20 structures set up in storage warehouses for equipment now being used in Kuwait. A mixture of tents and CONEX boxes, the headquarters is tied together with thousands of feet of fiber-optic cable.
Officials said that anything they can do at MacDill they can do here.
The headquarters is an outgrowth of a proposal in the Quadrennial Defense Review. That document called for a deployable joint task force headquarters. Since that document in 2001, technology has allowed a grander design.
On the logistics side, for example, officials can find exactly where anything destined for the command is at any time. It allows planners to take the commander's orders and "promulgates" them over Central Command's entire 25-nation area of operations. Raytheon designed and built the system in St. Petersburg, Fla. It arrived in Qatar in October.
"In many ways, this is better than MacDill," said Army Lt. Col. John Latulip, a member of the J-4 logistics staff. "All this equipment is less than six months old."
There have been hiccups, which is why the military is exercising the system. The setup consumes "an awful lot of bandwidth," said a Central Command official. "Sometimes the computer network goes down, but it has gotten better as we've become more familiar with it."
The tasks personnel in the deployed group do may have to be tweaked, said a senior command official, but the overall number seems about right.
British forces are participating in the exercise. The deployable headquarters can expand to accommodate allies, officials said. Also, a U.S. Joint Forces Command team is present to take lessons learned back to Norfolk, Va., for the next-generation headquarters and to dispense these lessons to the other combatant commands.
Once the exercise is over on Dec. 17, the headquarters will stay in Qatar. Senior command officials did not know how many people would be assigned to the facility.
The defense secretary told troops that the 21st century is a different time for the world. "It is a distinctly different security environment," he said. "Our Department of Defense, our country, is in the process of transforming itself to fit those new threats and new capabilities that exist in the world."
The deployable headquarters is another step in the road, officials said.