Network initiative would support permanent joint training exercises

'JNTC will save the lives of our men and women in combat. They can't [train] for the first time on the battlefield.'

'Marine Corps Major Gen. Gordon C. Nash

To boost interoperability on the battlefield, the Defense Department plans to conduct joint training exercises that link air, ground, sea and space units to one common picture'not just on an ad hoc basis, but permanently.

With the June signing of policy guidance by deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz setting deadlines for the formal establishment of the Joint National Training Capability, the department has earmarked $1.3 billion in funding from fiscal 2004 to 2009 to push the initiative, officials said.

With JNTC, DOD will build a global network to link training simulators and live-fire ranges. Ultimately, the program will be extended to allied forces, as well as to other government agencies.

'JNTC will save the lives of our men and women in combat,' predicted Marine Corps Major Gen. Gordon C. Nash, commander of the Joint Warfighting Center and director of joint training, J7. 'They can't [train] for the first time on the battlefield.'

The program aims to link several Defense joint warfighting and training centers under a common architecture.

The first test of the joint capabilities will run in January, officials said last month at an industry briefing sponsored by the National Training Systems Association in Alexandria, Va.

New battles

By 2009, JNTC will let any military service or allied unit train with other forces, officials said.
The thrust to change the way the military trains was driven by a shift in the way battles are fought, said Paul W. Mayberry, deputy undersecretary of Defense for readiness.

'Times have changed and our past methods, although successful, must change to adapt to this new threat,' Mayberry said.

Military services conduct most of their training individually, officials said. But the lack of joint training has caused some missteps in theater, such as friendly fire incidents and poor battlefield communications, Mayberry said.

JNTC was mandated by the 2001 Defense Planning Guidance. In 2002, the DOD assigned the Joint Forces Command to develop a capability that overcomes obstacles to joint training interoperability.

'The goal is to create an environment where every level of training is orchestrated within a joint context, thus providing the highest level of training for seamless future warfighting,' according to a fact sheet about JNTC.

DOD is not looking for a single contractor to develop the architecture, but rather numerous small contractors to build pieces of it, officials said.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, director for operational plans and joint force development, said today's military conducts some valuable joint training, such as the Millennium Challenge and Roving Sands exercises, but it's still mostly done on an ad hoc basis.

'We had to do some new things to get joint training at a higher level,' Hertling said. 'We have to link what our combatant commanders are asked to do to improve readiness. We link them together during Millennium Challenge, but we don't do it on a normal process.'

Building an integrated training architecture will be far less expensive than having individual units conduct redundant training exercises or bringing military personnel to national training centers, Nash said.

But officials said financial concerns are not the impetus behind the effort.

'JNTC is not about saving money, it's about saving lives,' Mayberry said. 'This is an investment that we in the department have to make. We do not currently have a rigorous, routine, joint training capability.'

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