Leaders Work to Improve Peacekeeping, Disaster Response Efforts
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2010 Military leaders from 11 Western Hemisphere nations wrapped up a five-day session today focused on improving their capabilities to work together in peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.
The participants, members of the Conference of American Armies, concentrated on identifying technological gaps that stand in the way of seamless interoperability, explained Army Brig. Gen. Harold Greene, deputy commander of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., which hosted the conference.
“Peacekeeping, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance are a common challenge for all our countries, and all of our countries have been involved in all three of them,” Greene said.
But as many recognized during their response to the deadly earthquake in Haiti, too often their different processes and systems prevent them from working together as efficiently as they might.
“The challenges take on many forms. It’s everything from procedures and training and doctrine,” Greene said.
Scientific and technological differences exacerbate the problem. Greene cited the use of different radio systems and computers, different application of geospatial information services and different counter-mine and counter-improved-explosive-device technologies -- all issues addressed during the CAA conference.
“Interoperability is challenging enough when we stay within our own armed forces and we all speak the same language and work for the same person,” he said, referring to joint operations.
“But we have a whole other level of challenge when you take it to the international realm.”
“Add the complexity of language differences, national boundaries, joint and coalition operations, and it is truly a challenge,” Greene said. “So anyplace that science and technology can help us to define common standards, common ways of sharing information, common systems that enable interoperability, is a good thing.”
The CAA participants set up a roadmap for accomplishing that goal this week, he said, and they’re planning a follow-up session in March to build on progress made.
“One of the primary reasons for having the Conference of Americans Armies is to improve our ability to operate – be it an earthquake in Haiti, mudslides in any number of South American countries, an earthquake in Chile, Hurricane Katrina in the United States or oil well leaks in our country,” Greene said.
“We have similar problems and we frequently tackle them in a multinational way – which really drives home the need for interoperability,” he added. “So we need to work together on these problems.”
But the conference also provided a valuable forum for sharing information and reinforcing relationships that extend to broader defense areas, Greene said.
Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the Army’s primary scientific and technology house, is always on the lookout for better ways to support warfighters, he said. With offices around the world, the command strives to build cooperative relationships and collaborative technical programs, all aimed at identifying or developing technologies that can benefit both U.S. and allied forces.
“We can’t just focus on the short-term, technical [requirements],” Greene said. “It is equally important that we are building relationships that hopefully support both countries and provide a benefit to both countries in the future.
“So this is a great benefit for us, to host this conference, because we are building relationships in these countries that will help us in that mission,” he said.