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'Millennium Challenge' Experiment to Test Joint Capabilities

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2002 - An upcoming joint military experiment seeks to use technology to link the services' individual information, command, communications and operations elements as part of ongoing force transformation efforts.

DoD planners want to integrate those capabilities among the services and "have them mutually supportable" on the ground, air and sea, Air Force Brig. James Smith told reporters today at the Pentagon.

Smith heads the Millennium Challenge 2002 joint war fighting experiment slated to start July 24 through August 15.

As part of envisioned "effect-based operations," Smith said DoD looks for forces to quickly access rapidly gathered and digitally stored information to get inside an adversary's "mind," even before the first shots are fired.

Doing so, he explained, would dissuade potential enemies by producing a military "checkmate" favorable to American and allied national interests. Under this strategy, political or diplomatic solutions could be implemented before events escalate to war. If war does occur, such a capability enables U.S. military planners to be a step or two ahead of the enemy.

To do this, Smith said, the services must become more interoperable and share their information. "Why . have stray electrons going around the battlefield that nobody knows where they came from, or who's seeing them?" he asked.

"We ought to be able to see them all," said Smith, who's also the deputy commander of the Joint Warfighting Center at Suffolk, Va., part of U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.

The experiment examines those, and other, capabilities the U.S. military would like to have around 2007, Smith said. Events involving a potential future adversary -- played by fictional "Country X" -- are part of the experiment's crisis scenario.

About 80 percent of the experiment will consist of table- top activities, while 20 percent involves troops and equipment, Smith said. Troop activity, he continued, will occur at Fort Irwin, Calif.; air operations will be conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; and Navy and Marine activities will be held off the coast of California.

Part of the experiment, Smith said, involves the newly created Standing Joint Force Headquarters element concept that involves freestanding groups of joint planning, information and communication experts.

These standing staff cells -- which can contain updated information about potential opponents' infrastructure and other information of military value -- can be attached to each Joint Force Task Force as it deploys, Smith said. DoD plans to form five of these deployable headquarters and provide them to unified combatant commanders within a few years.

The process of obtaining joint interoperability "is going to be its own challenge," Smith pointed out, noting, "You've got to build relationships, you've got to be willing to share information.

"We will get there, eventually," he concluded.

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