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American Forces Press Service

Pentagon Puts Critical Technology on Trial

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2007 – Defense officials this week are judging innovative tools that provide geospatial imaging, boost network communication and security, or fulfill other warfighter requirements on their utility, security and interoperability with existing and new systems.

More than 40 organizations and companies from around the world are participating in the 2007 Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, or CWID, a forum at the Pentagon’s Warfighter Capability Demonstration Center, where innovations undergo trials to determine if they might one day bridge technology gaps.

“Our challenge is to develop, discover, standardize and deliver -- with an emphasis on deliver -- solutions demonstrated in CWID to the warfighters, because they need them now,” Navy Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, Joint Staff director for command, control, communications and computer systems, said in a video presentation at the forum.

With more than $11 million of direct funding from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the event investigates new and emerging technologies that can be moved into operational use in 6 to 18 months.

For example, the Buster unmanned aerial vehicle, an aircraft equipped with two high-resolution cameras that can stay aloft for up to six hours, also tested well at last year's demonstration. Later, the Marine Corps purchased two eight-plane squadrons, and the United Kingdom and Spotsylvania, Va., sheriff’s department now use the vehicle in operations.

Brown called CWID the premier event for bringing together key players from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, interagency partners, the National Guard and a growing number of state and local first-responder organizations. Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and NATO make up a coalition component.

“Our mission is to share critical warfighting information among coalition participants, to document interoperability successes and shortfalls, and to focus on information-sharing technology that leverages and amplifies the skills of warfighters and operators for future combined operations,” she said.

Illustrating real-time interoperability, Air Force Col. Mike Lebiedz of U.S. Joint Forces Command, who served as yesterday’s master of ceremonies, connected conference participants at the Pentagon live via video link with U.S. Northern Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, operators described the homeland defense scenario used to judge the effectiveness of technologies on trial.

In this doomsday scenario, a plague rapidly spreads across Mexico, leading to mass evacuations into the United States, as terrorists threaten to detonate a chemical weapon in San Diego.

The National Guard-sponsored “Collaborative Decision Aid,” one of the technologies on trial, is then put to the test. This Web-based integrated software tracks in real-time national security and local crises and regional emergencies, providing satellite imagery of the affected sites to help decision-makers assess damage “at a glance.”

Lebiedz then linked to Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, where operators described a scenario in which re¬gional unrest in Africa escalates to a multinational insurgency with cross-border in¬vasions and mid-intensity conflict.

In the midst of this vast international hostility and humanitarian crisis, Italy’s Navy Maritime Command and Control Information System demonstrated how it tracks coalition sea craft using satellite imagery similar to that used by “Google Earth.”

“The fact of life is when we’re operating around the world, we have to work with other folks,” Lebiedz said. “So it’s definitely to our advantage to figure out how to do that before the bullets are flying.”

Each trial is being assessed by three teams of experts whose findings will be published in a final report due out this fall.

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