Throughout the previous decade, U.S. military experiences in places as diverse as Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia and Iraq have repeatedly reaffirmed that interoperability with Allies and coalition partners is an area for improvement. In a post-Cold War era characterized by the emergence of complex contingencies, the requirement for effective multinational and civil-military cooperation has become increasingly apparent. It is equally clear that the inability of coalition partners to rapidly plan and coordinate with each other results in a default situation whereby the United States must very often become the lead responder in order to ensure success. This situation places a heavy operational burden upon resources and U.S. military personnel. But what is the remedy?
One approach in helping to reduce the burden on U.S. forces, while also promoting regional security cooperation among nations, is the development of distributed learning approaches in support of coalition-based education and training. Finding effective tools to this end has become a top priority within the Department of Defense (DoD). In support, the US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is investigating the feasibility of establishing a global distributed learning, data services network. Among its purposes would be to enhance ongoing theater-level strategies of engagement that serve to "shape" the strategic environment and prevent conflict.
This global effort is building upon initial successes in the European region, where some promising preliminary efforts are underway, primarily under the auspices of U.S. participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. PfP is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) initiative to develop constructive ties with the armed forces and civilian defense communities of the former Warsaw Pact countries and as well with as European nations that have traditionally been non-aligned.
As we enter the 21st century, our world faces unfamiliar challenges. A meaningful concept of security in the post-Cold War international system has yet to emerge. The intellectual and institutional tools best suited to confront emerging challenges are a matter of speculation. For almost 50 years, the threat of communism provided context and rationale for a coherent and coordinated response by the Western democracies.
Throughout the Cold War, the focus of American policy was to contain communism, a task that imposed discipline and required sustained effort. In the decades ahead, by comparison, it is clear that promoting peace, democracy, and prosperity will be a far more complex task. New security threats emerge from a far more diffuse spectrum, ranging from ethnic hatreds and terrorism, to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to the specter of health and environmental disasters. Such challenges do not easily afford a similar deductive framework to support a coherent response.
Not only is the nature of threats more diffuse, but established security concepts and structures are changing, or in many instances collapsing. At every level of analysis, one can see that old political and social patterns around the world are breaking down. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, the "second world" has disappeared. The "third world," once viewed as a ragged collection of postcolonial nations related in their poverty and underdevelopment, today includes countries whose circumstances involve far more differences than similarities with each other. Even our notion of the community of nations has become more variegated. In virtually every nation today, including the United States, "first" and "third" world elements cohabit.
In post-communist nations and the developing world, the end of Cold War partnerships means that loyalties, or enmities, can no longer be assumed. As events of the last decade, in Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, and Iraq, reveal in their respective ways, old certainties can quickly be replaced by complex animosities. Mass migrations of refugees can place great economic and political pressure on fragile governments hardly able to maintain order within their own populations.
Narcotics trafficking and other forms of organized crime are on the rise worldwide. In the developing world, overpopulation and disease threaten to eclipse gains in economic development. These new threats to security are rapidly taking their place alongside more traditional sources of conflict, such as military aggression, to gain control over scarce resources.
At the same time, developed nations see another and more positive trend that is also being replicated around the world, and that is the transition from industrial age, machine-oriented, national economies to an information age, knowledge-centered, and global economy, which appears to be multiplying opportunities for the creation of both individual wealth and community well-being. The implications of this phenomenon for modernization, development and international security are unclear. It seems possible that the positive and negative trends of globalization are opposite sides of the same coin.
Faced with the challenges of mounting complexity, existing systems must devolve into more manageable, participatory, and democratic forms, or they will collapse into chaos and anarchy, igniting ancient hatreds and consuming more regions. Based on this assumption, it appears that international security in the 21st century must be based on precepts that transcend traditional nation-state conceptions of interest, power, and authority. For those devoted to the task of promoting international security, this situation offers unprecedented opportunities and also brings new and daunting obligations. As systems fracture, how should we organize to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem? What are the elements of success one must choose?
The choices are: (1) pay the price of isolationism which may be to blindly abet chaos; or (2) develop nuanced strategies to identify and work with, rather than against, new sensitivities, and to make constructive use of the global trend toward devolution of hierarchical systems.
The U.S. response to these complex challenges is largely based on a strategy of “peacetime engagement.” As part of this effort, the U.S. military is heavily engaged in finding ways to help former and potential adversaries to develop habits of cooperation in working together. Programs, related to training and interoperability, such as military exercises, support the overall effort.
The emergence of the Internet and the rapid pace of information technology developments caused the Defense Department strategic planners to ponder a new question: Can IT tools be used to foster greater regional understanding and self-reliance?
The DoD is exploring this concept through a triad of ideas: coalition-based information networks; simulation networks; and advanced distributed learning tools and services. Each is dedicated to using technological solutions to foster information sharing and promoting interoperability.
In June 1998, Secretary of Defense William Cohen recognized the importance of these tools when he proposed to the member nations of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) that they embark on a threefold initiative to enhance the training and education of European military forces for peaceful purposes. These initiatives included a Partnership for Peace (PfP) Simulation Network, PfP Consortium of Defense Academies, the Security Studies Institute and a network of PfP training centers.
At the heart of these proposals is the idea of “building a cooperative security network for the 21st century.” Secretary Cohen’s proposal was further developed and endorsed by heads of state and government representing the entire Euro-Atlantic region at the Washington NATO Summit in April 1999.
Building on an initial foundation provided by the PfP Information Management System, an Internet-based system that allows information sharing among PfP nations, the prospects of a multinational distributed learning concept began to emerge.
Initial efforts began in conjunction with the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes with the goal of creating an open source, Web-based environment that links consortium member organizations. The effort provides a collaborative network to facilitate curricula and courseware sharing, in turn, fostering a regional understanding of concepts and practices that promote peace.
The PfP Simulation Network is being developed to enable PfP nations to conduct distributed simulation-based exercises for peace support operations and to enhance readiness for humanitarian missions throughout the Euro-Atlantic region.
During the initial development period, eight PfP training centers were chartered under national sponsorship with NATO endorsement. The goal is to train civilians and military officers of PfP nations in common doctrine and techniques in subjects such as defense and security planning, peace support operations, and civil disaster preparedness.
Satisfied that initial developments underway in Europe should be explored for replication in other geographic regions, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Franklin D. Kramer, undertook in November 1999 to embark on a major extension of these capabilities.
The culmination of this effort came on Aug. 4, 2000 with Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon’s issuance of an implementation memorandum establishing the framework to make distributed learning a major tool in support of enhanced regional security.
The Regional Engagement Network program was established as an activity of the U.S. Joint Forces Command which is charged with facilitating the implementation of coalition-based, distributed education and training opportunities on a global basis.
USJFCOM serves as lead agent for global guidance and consolidation of requirements for regional combatant commanders and heads of education and training institutions. Efforts will focus on the effective implementation of distributed learning opportunities; distributed training; and computer-assisted exercises, relying primarily on firewall-protected, unclassified Internet-based technologies and applications.
The Role of Information Technology
A case can be made that a major cause of regional instability around the world is a failure of peoples and cultures to communicate. Significant advances in IT, especially in the past five years, offer promising opportunities to narrow the gap between cultures.
Recognizing that the deployment of IT is only in the formative stages in many regions of the world, a long-term perspective is required. The U.S. is working to achieve the following security objectives.
Promote Regional Stability. When the military and civil defense forces of nations are able to work and train together, political regional stability will be the direct beneficiary. By cooperating and sharing information, resources and tools, nations partner with other nations with each having a vested interest in regional security issues. In the process, regional integration is enhanced while self-determination is preserved and self-reliance promoted.
Enhance Regional Partner Interoperability. Forces formerly trained in concepts of national defense will learn concepts of regional cooperation. This will allow each country to concentrate energy and resources, leveraging the excellent work of their neighbors resulting in greater military capability at less cost.
Reduce the Burden on U.S. Forces. Coalition training and education will foster the ability of nations to respond more effectively to regional humanitarian disaster relief and peace enforcement needs. This will reduce the operational tempo and demand placed on U.S. forces, thereby improving U.S. military readiness for major contingencies.
The ultimate effect on U.S. forces will be the ability to work more closely and efficiently with regional partners, saving resources and fostering a sense of good will among nations.
To increase engagement with foreign militaries, improve interoperability between them and U.S. forces, and enhance regional security, regional Unified Commands are examining the feasibility of establishing a distributed educational and training data services network.
U.S. Joint Forces Command
USJFCOM plays a unique role in the context of global training and education programs. As the “Joint Force Integrator and Joint Force Provider,” USJFCOM is charged to pursue cost-effective methods for training forces to joint standards and capabilities. As such, it is the only Unified Command properly positioned to pursue worldwide-distributed education and training capabilities reaching U.S. forces, and our coalition and partner forces. However, USJFCOM must carry out this role in partnership with the regional combatant commands.
USJFCOM is well-positioned to support global distributed learning efforts by leveraging the special skills and expertise resident within subordinate activities such as the Joint Warfighting Center. Of particular note is the ongoing development of the Advanced Distributed Learning Network (ADLN). The ADLN program will develop a global architecture that will help integrate and shape related DoD initiatives, programs, and operational requirements linking Service-specific and joint programs, and will provide worldwide advanced distributed learning on demand in a secure U.S.-to-U.S. virtual joint training arena.
The ADLN effort includes system architecture development, a prototype Joint Digital Library and a virtual training site for Joint Task Force staff personnel, as well as a Joint Distributed Learning Center. The ADLN program will establish a worldwide network of training resources, standardizing and enhancing the efforts of regional commands.
U.S. European Command
The establishment of a Regional Engagement Network (REN) program, whereby USJFCOM provides technical support to a regional combatant command’s theater engagement requirement is close to fruition within the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) theater.
The initial foundation for this achievement was the implementation of the PfP Information Management System (PIMS). PIMS supports the strengthening of U.S.-partner relations and PfP mission enhancement through IT. The program was established on the premise that each partner nation has relevant information to contribute and is in the best position to determine its own requirements.
Collaborative database development provides a practical approach toward leveraging information resources for the benefit of all users and future coalition partners.
A very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite communications architecture provides reliable and economical access even in austere environments. A collaborative equipment suite, consisting of one server and several personal computers, may be fielded to support the developmental efforts of eligible PIMS participants.
The PIMS community includes not only partners, but through password access penetrating an Internet firewall, it also includes NATO organizations, U.S. military commands, and a host of other government and nongovernment organizations that also directly contribute to the relevancy and accuracy of the system’s data.
The result is a highly practical information sharing capability available to all PfP and NATO countries that includes document storage, collaborative planning and database management. For example, PIMS is being used extensively for information management, civil-military emergency planning and support for the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center, a NATO activity conducted in collaboration with donor nations.
The USJFCOM effort to establish a distributed learning capability in Europe builds on the PIMS foundation. Within the context of providing distributed learning support to NATO and the PfP program, USJFCOM directly supports both the PfP Simulation Network and the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies. It has also been charged to oversee the development of a NATO Online Defense University (NATO ODU), in conjunction with the NATO Defense College and National Defense University.
Effective collaboration in Europe is the product of a Secretary of Defense chartered relationship designating USJFCOM to oversee all PfP Defense Academy Consortium distributed learning activities conducted by the PIMS and the USEUCOM’s George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. This initiative is carried out in a tandem effort with Switzerland to facilitate international collaboration in support of distributed learning throughout the Euro-Atlantic region.
Through the Consortium, Gen. George Marshall’s vision of mutual self-help among European is being carried into the 21st century. Collaborating with Switzerland’s Geneva Center for Security Policy—one of the eight NATO-designated PfP training centers—the Marshall Center is helping many nations to embrace networking, advanced distributed learning, and simulation, to enhance the education and training of military leaders.
The PfP Simulation Network (PSN) supports simulation-based distributed exercises for training Allied and PfP combined staffs. It is the result of a Secretary of Defense chartering agreement between the U.S. and Sweden to facilitate wider participation in the development, implementation and operation of a simulation network. Since its implementation it has become a key element on the PfP Training and Education Enhancement Program (TEEP).
Planning is moving forward for implementing a robust PfP staff training program beginning in 2001. Further development of PSN is underway through development of simulation networks that will serve sub-regions. Examples include the Baltic Simulation Network, serving the Baltic States and littoral nations; the Southeast European Simulation Network serving partner and NATO nations adjacent to the Adriatic and Black Seas; and a Ukraine Defense Academy Simulation Center, which will open the way for wider cooperation with several nations of the former Soviet Union, possibly including Russia.
Collaboration is also underway within USEUCOM to assist NATO in establishing an Allied Command Europe organization and Staff Training Program (ACSTP). ACSTP will provide distributed simulation education and training resources to NATO commands throughout Europe.
It is anticipated that the PSN may evolve to provide a permanent, robust, high-speed data network that will ultimately be the foundation of the European segment of the forthcoming Regional Engagement Network program. This effort will likely be instrumental in the emergence of a comprehensive Pan-European education and training system that meets the individual and collective needs of the military forces of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. Merging with other nationally sponsored systems, online learning may one day substantially replace traditional schoolhouse instruction.
Although there is far less technical infrastructure on which to build in the African region, USJFCOM and USEUCOM have also begun to explore the possibilities of distributed learning collaboration on the continent. Two major initiatives being examined include the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) and the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS).
The ACRI is a USJFCOM and USCENTCOM (U.S. Central Command)-led training program to enhance existing African military capabilities. The goal is to enable greater and more effective participation by multinational military forces in limited humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.
Training teams that promote ACRI efforts have been sent to Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Ghana and Ethiopia. The ACSS is founded on DoD’s regional center concept and is a sister initiative of the Marshall Center. It supports an open dialogue among senior African military and government civilians in a variety of areas, including civil-military relations, defense management, defense economics, and the development of a national security strategy.
U.S. Pacific Command
Borrowing from the European experience, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) is rapidly moving forward in three areas: the Asia-Pacific Area Network (APAN), APAN Advanced Distributed Learning System (AP-ADL), and the Asia-Pacific Simulation Network (AP-SIMNET).
The overarching objectives of these networks are to:
- Support confidence among Asia-Pacific nations.
- Enhance the region’s ability to deal with security challenges; potential operations other than war, such as disaster relief, environmental and medical concerns; peacekeeping missions; and planning for regional exercises.
- Build habits of cooperation through the routine sharing of information.
- Facilitate the efficient and reliable exchange of information.
- Establish communications connectivity and shared database development.
- Facilitate interoperability of equipment and processes.
- Develop regional forces better trained and equipped to operate together.
The APAN will be an Internet-based network that uses commercially available software, hardware, and services. The APAN processing center at USPACOM headquarters (collocated with the Visual Information Center) will serve as the nexus for communication connectivity and U.S. data development.
The APAN community will also incorporate USCINCPAC staff, component and sub-unified commands, U.S. military representatives in participating countries, and the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. Asian countries will be able to connect to the APAN using their national resources.
The AP-SIMNET is an informational and simulation technology-based engagement tool that extends USPACOM’s gaming and simulation capabilities. AP-SIMNET provides the modeling and simulation outreach to conduct multinational command post training on a distributed basis. It is envisioned as a near real-time interactive simulation infrastructure and network that will provide for both combined and joint operations. It will link military, political-military, and civil-military components into simulation, modeling and training; and fully link and integrate various national military commands and staffs to combined and joint mission-essential training tasks.
The AP-SIMNET will encourage partner nations to graduate to higher levels of sophistication and expertise in military exercises, principally focused on peacekeeping operational scenarios, but also potential real-world crises.
APAN-Distributed Learning (AP-ADL) will use APAN as the communication medium and the Virtual Information Center as the gateway. The Center of Excellence for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) was asked to help provide distance learning in its core areas of expertise. The U.S. military War Colleges are also being consulted as possible resources for joint-certified curricula and professional military educational opportunities.
U.S. Central Command
USCENTCOM theater strategy is a combination of overseas presence, power-projection capability, and carefully cultivated regional relationships. The major security partners interested in distributed learning, include the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Exploratory discussions between USJFCOM and USCENTCOM are directed toward furthering distributed learning in support of the Cooperative Defense Initiative and developing the GCC sub-regional hub, a dedicated fiber optic information network.
Other concepts include a possible role for the emerging Center for Near East and South Asia, which could play a role akin to the Marshall Center in Europe, in helping to develop meaningful educational content for distributed learning throughout the region.
U.S. Southern Command
Discussions are underway between USSOUTHCOM and USJFCOM about how best to establish distributed learning support for the Western Hemisphere. A major player will be the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, the Marshall Center counterpart for defense educational collaboration, in Central and South America. This NDU-sponsored entity supports a dialogue among senior defense planners with the Americas through education in civil-military relations, defense analysis and management, and military affairs.
Under examination, as part of the development of a distributed learning environment, is the possibility of augmenting a USSOUTHCOM activity titled “America’s Net.”
One approach may be to establish a counterpart to the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies in Europe, in which USSOUTHCOM would provide America’s Net in support of a Consortium of the Americas using the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies and the Inter-American Defense College as key sponsors.
The consortium would tie together Central and South American national defense academies in a distributed learning program with significant long-term potential.
The proposed goals of this effort are to:
- Strengthen defense and military education through enhanced national and institutional cooperation.
- Strengthen each nation’s civil and military leadership capabilities in national security and strategic military planning.
- Enhance multinational education through collaborative approaches linking defense practitioners, scholars, researchers, and experts into activity-based networks that facilitate knowledge sharing.
The rapid development of global IT capabilities offers great promise for the future. The careful cultivation and application of information networks and distributed learning services can facilitate development of coalition-based global educational and training opportunities. Such technologies will offer cost-effective solutions in geographically dispersed settings.
The overall effort will increase U.S. engagement with international militaries, improve interoperability between multinational forces, and enhance regional security. As regional partners become more capable, an additional benefit will be to reduce the burden on U.S. military forces.
This new approach to IT employment shows some of the most promising near-term possibilities on a region-by-region basis… from training an individual to a combined task force staff worldwide.
Until August 2000, Mr. Walter Christman served for over 10 years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a strategic planner. He recently accepted a position to serve in Europe as the director for Strategic Initiatives and Advanced Distributed Learning program manager for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Charleston.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization – http://www.nato.int/
Partnership for Peace Consortium – http://www.pfp-consortium.org
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies – http://www.marshallcenter.org
U.S. Department of Defense – http://www.defense.gov