DOD takes a page from the Patriots' playbook

SAN DIEGO'There's definitely a link between bandwidth, the New England Patriots and the military'or so said Defense Department officials last week at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association West Conference.

The military services can learn a thing or two about cohesive teamwork by observing both the Super-Bowl-winning Patriots and the Navy-run Joint Task Force 519, Navy Adm. Walter F. Doran said.

The relatively new Task Force 519 is a fully deployable, joint team with members spread throughout the Pacific region who rely on the Internet to keep up with assignments.

The Patriots 'knew very well how to work together,' said Doran, commander of the Pacific Fleet. 'In today's era, people celebrate individual accomplishments. But the whole idea of joint operations is bringing our services together as one fighting force'taking into account our individual strengths.'

That separate-yet-united approach is the idea behind Task Force 519, which Doran also commands. With 400 soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines, its objective is to be ready for any contingency operation.

During two exercises over the past five months, the task force trained in Hawaii and aboard the USS Blue Ridge in Japanese waters.

In Hawaii, the team built a temporary base camp during a torrential downpour. They used the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet to keep in touch with their commanding officers and one another.
More than 100 notebook PCs were spread out in makeshift conference rooms, known as battle cells. Plus, the team set up videoconferencing and voice over IP links to collaborate and share data, Doran said.

For the second test in December, the 519 team deployed to Japan via an Air Force C-17, a plane with a high-speed data antenna and Integrated Services Digital Network connectivity. The plane also has nodes for access to DOD's Non-Classified IP Router and Secret IP Router networks.

Aboard the C-17, the task force was able to use the on-board systems to get a common operational picture for the exercise and to retrieve and send e-mail.

Once aboard the USS Blue Ridge, the team had a comm package supported by NMCI, Doran said.
Next, the plan calls for expanding the team for deployment with coalition forces and assuring interoperability with deployed forces' systems.

One potential early use of the 519 team would be for the proposed Regional Maritime Security Program being considered by the United States and its allies to address such regional problems as arms and drug trafficking and piracy.

The program would provide a way for the military to share data with other federal agencies as well as with other countries, Doran said. 'We really know very little about what's traveling on our oceans,' he said. 'In airways, we have great fidelity.'

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Terry Cross, commander of the Guard's Pacific Fleet, echoed Doran's statement and said the lack of maritime communications technology keeps him up at night.
'I don't know what's out there. I don't know what I don't know,' he said.

Much of the Coast Guard technology is outdated, with some cutters nearing their 50th year of use. One, Cross joked, 'is even eligible for Social Security.'

On the flip side of comm dearth is too much incoming data, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Gregory Power, vice commander of the 8th Air Force.

Incoming overload

For instance, recently in Iraq the Air Force's Global Hawk had collected more data than analysts on the ground knew what to do with, so the service at one point put the unmanned aerial vehicle on a two-hour holding pattern collecting no data, he said.

Finding a way to speed the sifting of data is a crucial counterpart to bolstering joint communications among the services and among allied forces, he said.

Another need is finding a way to give allied forces access to secure military networks, Power said.

'That's one issue we're really going to attack full force,' he said. 'We are not going to let them be restricted from having full information.'

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