The breadth and scope of Combined Endeavor 2007 is impressive — 1,500 people from 42 countries spanning four continents and two international organizations — all linked by a secure network for interoperability testing between participants.
But the real story is in the human network of nations that is formed during the exercise, which includes representatives from U.S., NATO, Partnership for Peace (PfP) and other nations who plan and test interoperability for command, control, communications and computer systems in preparation for combined humanitarian, peacekeeping and disaster relief operations. The variety of technologies and communications configurations they test is mindboggling: wireless devices, radios, telephones, intrusion detection devices, information systems, software, telecommunication switches, and more.
The largest security cooperation and military exercise in the world, Combined Endeavor, ran from April 27 through May 10. CHIPS caught up with Army Lt. Col. James Pugh, Combined Endeavor director, in Germany about a week after the exercise to discuss its significance.
CHIPS: You were involved in the first Combined Endeavor 13 years ago. Can you make some comparisons?
Pugh: In 1995, we conducted Combined Endeavor with 10 nations and about 150 participants, and it was like taking a square plug and putting it in a round hole simply trying to make the systems interoperate. It was 'Can you hear me now?' type testing. Thirteen years later, and still in Germany, we have 42 nations and over 1,500 people testing more than simple multinational networks. We are exploring how we protect data and information that rides these networks.
CHIPS: What are some of the technology differences?
Pugh: In 1995, the focus was primarily in two areas. One was high frequency or single-channel radios and hard-wired voice telephone circuit switching. We still do those types of tests plus a whole lot more. In the early years, HF was simple voice testing. Today we are passing data and a multinational common operational picture across those HF radios.
In the realm of voice testing, we are still testing circuit switching for those nations that have it and how they interoperate with voice-over-IP and the wireless technologies of today.
Beyond those two methods of testing, we are moving into the realm of services testing and software applications. We are addressing how a commander shares a multinational common operational picture between different nations and national assets so that the commander is able to command and control multinational troops on the battlefield. We are also doing testing in the realms of satellite and studio video teleconferencing.
CHIPS: I noticed there were four regional local area networks converging into one main network provided by the Netherlands.
Pugh: All the nations come together with their own national goals, priorities and objectives. We arrange the nations in regional groups on a local area network, what you might consider a multinational division. You will see organizations such as the South-Eastern European Brigade, or SEEBRIG, and nations that are members of that organization, and the Nordic Brigade (Nordic Co-ordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support (NORDCAPS)) for the Nordic nations.
They typically group themselves together because those are the nations they would work with when they respond in a combat mission or a crisis response. When they come together, their testing goes across the full spectrum of abilities that the nations have, from a single-channel radio or a system at a strategic level of communication to how to protect assets with firewalls and public key infrastructure (PKI).
While we conduct our exercise at the unclassified level, we are beginning to look at tests to do groundwork for multinational standards for public key infrastructure. How do you validate the identity of the sender and receiver and the integrity of the nation's information? We are doing a lot of good work with that, and we are working with nations testing firewalls and intrusion detection at the multinational level.
CHIPS: Is there an overarching test that everybody plugs into?
Pugh: Combined Endeavor is a U.S.-sponsored exercise that is in the spirit of Partnership for Peace. U.S. European Command sets some overall guidelines for things we would like to focus on. This year we focused on public key encryption. We wanted to employ a high reliability of Internet Protocol backbone in the exercise.
But nations come with their own checklists. Perhaps a nation wants to work with VOIP capabilities, and they are planning a deployment with a particular nation. Combined Endeavor affords those nations the opportunity to bring their fielded assets, things that they own today, to the exercise to conduct testing and to work out interface requirements for their hardware.
CHIPS: Is the joint command and control center located at EUCOM?
Pugh: Our exercise is planned and run by the nations. Any U.S.-led exercise that is a multinational exercise is typically planned predominately by U.S. planners but Combined Endeavor is not. Inside our combined joint command and control centers, we have 62 leadership positions. Representatives from the other nations man all but six of those positions.
Those people do the planning and they lead the execution of the exercise. That body meets at each of our four planning conferences and is the leadership for conducting the exercise at the main test site. It is not a hard-fast standing headquarters, as you would expect to see with Army operations at the Pentagon or a naval operations center. The exercise participants man it, they stand it up and they execute it.
|Combined Endeavor Snapshot|
For CE 07, the multi-national delegations set up a military compound at Lager Aulenbach, in Baumholder and at a forward operating site located at the Air Institute in Yerevan, Armenia. The delegations teamed up into four regional areas according to functionality or technology, not by geography. For example, if a group wants to test interoperability of circuit-switching equipment with another nation or group of nations, they collocated in the same region.
Each country within a region is interconnected through a local area network or common infrastructure. The four LANs individually connected to a core network, thus converging into one large network. The network as a whole is referred to as the Coalition Network (CNET), illustrated in Figure 1. Delegates determine who will provide the core network during planning conferences held throughout the year.
The Netherlands Royal Army provided the core network for CE 07 by use of their operational system called Theater Independent Tactical Army and Air Force Network (TITAAN). The security and integrity of this core network is assured by the Network Defense Cell, who is responsible for maintaining several functions to ensure exercise participants can conduct their tests in a secure environment.
The team acts as the network security branch for the Combined Joint Command Control Center (CJCCC), which is responsible for the architecture, performance and security of the core network in particular and the CNET as a whole.
– U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Denise Johnson,
Combined Endeavor Public Affairs
CHIPS: What were some of the challenges and successes of CE 07?
Pugh: When you get so many participants from so many nations together talking about a common issue, it lowers the barriers between them. At the human level, it is much easier to work together because the nations bring their best and their brightest to Combined Endeavor. One of the successes is the human piece, you have senior leaders from the nations, and we are growing the next generation of leaders because many nations bring their cadets. We are growing them up in a multinational environment. For those of us who have been in the military for a while, it was not the norm to live and operate in a multinational environment.
We saw a lot of good, hard work in the area of construction, network security and accrediting systems connected to a multinational network. Another huge success was proving that an IP-based backbone in a multinational environment is of great value and benefit. It makes bringing all the nations' communications assets together so much easier.
There are still challenges and a lot of work to be done. PKI was a success. Not every nation was able to participate [in PKI] but they are watching to see where the rest of the world is going.
At the end of the exercise, we produced an interoperability guide or after action report (AAR). It goes on a CD-ROM to give to a mission planner walking out the door to a multinational crisis response mission. When he shows up in the mission area, he can look to his left and his right and see what other nations are there, put the CD-ROM in his computer, and they can build a coalition command and control network with their own assets.
Often today, when we show up for a cooperative mission, there is no infrastructure and some nation is tasked with giving another nation communication assets so they can talk. This takes away that requirement. When we conduct a test, Joint Interoperability Test Command certifies it as joint and interoperable. If they say it's good, it's good.
Success can be measured in many different ways. It does not have to mean that you have found a solution to the test. It can also mean that we have identified a shortfall in technology that a nation uses. That nation can go to the vendor and have it modified or corrected in the next software release.
CHIPS: Can you talk about the software tested?
Pugh: We tested several simple things such as e-mail. One of the big things this year was how to develop a common operational picture and share that COP from one nation's assets to the other. C2PC (Command and Control Personal Computer) is one of the many applications that we rely on for the COP. There are several other standards out there. We have identified many shortcomings sharing that common operational picture.
CHIPS: Do you look for commercially-based technology so that there is a greater chance that other nations will have the same products?
Pugh: In all facets of Combined Endeavor, not just software, we use as our baseline NATO standards or standard agreements (STANAGs). If there is not a NATO standard in place, the next standard we look for is commercial.
As technology continues to leap forward, doctrine and multinational policy cannot keep up. Often we use commercial standards and then write the military standards. As more and more systems go to IP-based technologies, those international standards that are already out there become the baseline.
CHIPS: CE 2007 tested network security. Is this a new concern?
Pugh: As the exercise and complexity have advanced with the capabilities of the various nations, it drove us to protect our network. We started talking about things like intrusion detection and network security that began to sound like COMSEC (communications security) and classification levels. In a multinational environment, it becomes extremely difficult to manage communications between a few nations, much less 42 nations. In 2002 or 2003, we had an event as simple as a virus inadvertently introduced into the exercise network. It ground the exercise to a halt. That led us collectively to take steps to protect our national systems and our data. We have moved into areas such as PKI and intrusion detection.
Before they connect to the network, we require all of the nations now to go through a baseline accreditation. They get a certificate to connect and operate on the Combined Endeavor network. By many nations' standards, this baseline is low, but for some of the nations, this is a relatively new concept.
A few years ago, for some of the nations, something simple like putting antivirus software on a PC was not common practice. It has been borne out of a need to protect our national systems from intrusion but even more out of a need to protect the network.
CHIPS: There are different levels of technology among the 42 nations. How do you make CE relevant for all of them?
Pugh: Combined Endeavor is different things to different people. I talked briefly about human interoperability or a human network. Nations do come to Combined Endeavor with their own goals and priorities. Some are here to learn and see what other nations have. Some are planning. They have come to Combined Endeavor to partner with other nations because they know that they have an upcoming mission, perhaps in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they bring the technology that they have to test.
There is something for everybody — whether you are a nation bringing only one or two laptops and a manpack radio — or a nation that is bringing satellites and everything over IP technology. It's difficult to pull all the information together and learn just because we all learn so much. There is more than any nation can possibly do in these two weeks.
In 2001, Poland sent a young officer to Combined Endeavor to learn about voice-over-IP. Using Combined Endeavor as a stepping-stone, in 2006, he became the national expert in voice-over-IP. He got a new job and a promotion.
CHIPS: Is CE something the participants look forward to each year?
Pugh: They do. This is not an exercise; it is an event. Nations look forward to coming back together. Typically, participants of Combined Endeavor come back for an average of five to eight years. Officers and nations fight for the opportunity to come to Combined Endeavor. The other nations spend collectively much more money than the U.S. does because they understand the importance of the event.
The lessons learned from Combined Endeavor are employed in the real world. Most recently in Lebanon, the French, Italians and Russians used lessons learned in Combined Endeavor to build and operate a multinational C2 network.
CHIPS: It must be gratifying to see real world solutions come out of Combined Endeavor. What is your favorite part of the exercise?
Pugh: It is seeing the people come together. The human networking is incredible because you get nations that have less than cordial relationships telling you that when they come to Combined Endeavor they have to figure out how to work with people from that other nation.
We are about communications, but ultimately our hope is to make the world a bit safer place. We are doing comms, but if we can improve relationships and experiences in Combined Endeavor to help avoid a future conflict that is the greatest benefit. Seeing those people come together, form relationships and friendships, and expand international boundaries is amazing.
CHIPS: What's next for Combined Endeavor?
Pugh: This is my full-time job. Combine Endeavor is not a single two-week event; it is a year long process. It takes a year to pull together the various aspects of the exercise. We run four planning conferences. For CE 08, we will take our planning conferences to the four different nations slated for this upcoming year – Hungary, Croatia, Switzerland and Albania. Next year the main operating site is Germany and the forward site is Croatia.