First-blush review of Force XXI finds Army training inadequate

But an unclassified, internal OT&E Office briefing paper said there were no such
improvements in performance "attributable to digitization" at the Task Force XXI
Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) held in March at Fort Irwin, Calif.


Despite its initial findings, however, the OT&E staff continue to back the program.
OT&E director Phillip Coyle said, "A complete picture of the successes of Task
ForceXXI will not be possible until all the real data has been analyzed and understood by
the Army and Office of the Secretary of Defense."


But the early data points to more work for the Task Force XXI staff at the Army's
Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC runs the battlefield digitization program.


The OT&E Office found AWE participants had difficulty telling the difference
between the good guys and the bad guys on the battlefield.


The OT&E briefing attributed the problems to inadequate unit training prior to the
Task Force XXI experiment.


The OT&E Office concluded training was poor because the systems for the AWE were
immature.


Field units had to learn how to use new systems quickly and had to find work-arounds
for systems problems, the OT&E Office found.


The combination of systems problems and lack of training led to an increase in the
number of Army forces "killed" by friendly fire, the briefing said.


According to the OT&E Office findings, more incidents of fratricide occurred during
the Task Force XXI AWE than the three previous nondigitized AWEs combined-32 compared to
28.


The goal of Task Force XXI is enhanced situational awareness provided by information
technology.


The Army has spent more than $700 million to equip its Experimental Force (EXFOR) of
6,500 soldiers and nearly 1,000 vehicles with PCs and notebook computers that provide
vital location data identifying the positions of friendly and enemy forces.


The EXFOR's notebook PCs, known as appliques, were mounted in hundreds of tanks, trucks
and vehicles along with Global Positioning System devices.


The notebooks gave users access to other notebook users and to the Army Tactical
Command and Control System (ATCCS). Traffic was routed by a tactical Internet link of
network servers, Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems and Enhanced Position
Location Radio Systems.


"Applique, tactical Internet and their integration with the ATCCS systems is not
yet a coherent, stable system," the OT&E briefing said.


The OT&E Office found that notebook and network hardware proved more rugged than
expected, but it concluded that most of the systems were not yet ready for combat.


A chief reason for this conclusion was the AWE's reliance on contractors. Dozens of
vendors were required to live and work "in the box," as the battlefield is
known, to help the EXFOR teams maintain systems and resolve hardware and software
problems.


Such support is a luxury the Army will not enjoy in a live deployment, the OT&E
Office said.


A spokesman for the Army's TRADOC said command officials would not comment on the
OT&E briefing.


But Coyle said, "The Army planned and executed a highly effective experiment, just
as they intended."


He said the Army did "an outstanding job" of conducting the Task Force XXI
AWE, which was "not some kind of pass/fail examination."


Undue publicity also hindered the AWE, Coyle's staff concluded.


The arrival of Defense Department, congressional and civilian visitors to observe the
warfighting experiment created "visitor pressure [that] was real and a
distraction," concluded the OT&E Office and the "unnecessary glare of
publicity created unrealistic expectations."


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