Interoperability Deficiencies Cause Self-Inflicted Digital Wounds

Inability to share information severely hinders coalition and allied operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Nov 20, 2015, 17:22 ET from AFCEA International

HONOLULU, Nov. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Self-inflicted digital wounds created by a lack of interoperability among joint U.S. and coalition forces' technologies may cause more harm than enemy cyber forces, according to military leaders from the United States and partner nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Before we have any contact with an enemy, we'll find we have degraded communication," Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, USA, commander, U.S. Army Pacific, said during his opening speech at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2015 sponsored by AFCEA International and the AFCEA Hawaii Chapter. Gen. Brooks added that being unable to exchange information effectively in a coalition environment would hamper U.S. forces in their areas of strength.

The Asia-Pacific region features a diverse set of allies and potential partners who will shape the nature of future coalitions, so the lack of interoperability will require an international solution. "We have to be extraordinarily adept technologically—and we're not," Gen. Brooks declared.

The general cited a specific example. The Republic of Korea must use two different mounted displays in a command vehicle, one for its own situational awareness data and another for the U.S. Blue Force Tracker system. The two systems are incompatible, so they can't share data. As a result, warfighters must blend and sort information even while on the move.

U.S. allies share the general's interoperability concerns. "We don't think ahead enough about a coalition environment," said Britain's Capt. Nicolas Tindal, RN, who is posted to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. This is particularly an issue when, as the captain pointed out, "It is no longer possible to operate alone."

During training exercises, the U.S. and British ships can effectively share data through the CENTRIXS network, but if war breaks out, the U.S. ships will immediately revert to using the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. As a result, neither fleet can alert the other to threats or communicate situational awareness changes, Capt. Tindal pointed out.

The problem has been a long time in the making, reported Andy Singer, deputy director, intelligence, J-2, U.S. Pacific Command. "We came up with network-centric warfare when we should have had warfare-centric networks," Singer said.

Additional coverage of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2015 is available online.

TechNet Asia-Pacific, now in its 30th year, is sponsored by AFCEA International and the AFCEA Hawaii Chapter. It is the largest event in the Pacific Rim focusing on regional defense issues.

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SOURCE AFCEA International