(NORFOLK, Va. - Dec. 21, 2006) -- The Defense Information Systems Network Security Accreditation Working Group approved U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) request on Dec. 12 allowing the command to connect the Joint Training and Experimentation Network (JTEN) and Australia's Defence Training and Experimentation Network (DTEN).
The connection will allow USJFCOM, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the Australian Defence Force to continue work on Australia's Joint Combined Training Capability (JCTC).
The new Australian capability will allow U.S. and Australian forces to link simulation networks so they can train together in a live, virtual and constructive environment which blends live tactical forces with manned simulators and sophisticated computer models. The live portions of the exercise will take place in field training areas in Australia.
JCTC will connect to the United States' Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) for Exercise Talisman Saber 2007, a U.S. - Australian joint exercise that starts in May 2007.
JTEN is the communications network for JNTC. The rapidly re-configurable network supports joint training exercises, experimentation, and the evaluation of new warfighting concepts.
"The Australians have taken the technical data that we used to build our JTEN to build their DTEN, which makes things very compatible out the gate," said John Vinett, deputy for the Joint Warfighting Center's Joint Training Technologies Group, responsible for the technical support for joint exercises. "The purpose of both networks is to link training resources."
Vinett said that for the United States, the overall goal is to eventually have these types of connections throughout the Pacific.
"We see this as a stepping stone," Vinett said. "We see this as a first effort, and we've got some very unique support in that area because of our relationship with Australia, which make this a little bit easier than some of the other efforts that we'll pursue. It's the first in a series that we'll be able to connect networks to other networks to expand the reach of joint and combined training."
Lt. Col. Roger Symons, Australia's liaison officer at USJFCOM, said Australia's goal is to be able to train more effectively for combined operations with the United States.
"The United States and Australia have a very long history of cooperating in armed conflict together," Symons said. "What this is really about is learning to train the same way we fight."
"What we're pursuing in all of this is probably two things really - a more effective joint training program of our own, but just as importantly the development of interoperability with the United States, because there's certainly no reason to suggest there would be any change to the way that we support one another we have a long history and shared values. We see that continuing, so interoperability is very important to us."
Though the two countries are working closely to develop their training capabilities in tandem, there are still technical hurdles to iron out.
"The devil's always in the details," said Steve Kostoff, a communications planner with Joint Training Technologies Group. "Everything that we propose to do is all in the technically possible, but because of the sheer physical distance between the United States, particularly the training assets that we would connect on the East Coast, and the training centers in Australia literally spans half the globe, and that presents some significant hurdles in being able to send data in a real-time, interactive training simulation, but we've managed to work through a lot of those hurdles."
Kostoff said that there are also the usual problems engineers find when tying together networks.
"There are some interoperability issues, that tend to be version mismatches that the Australians are using one version and we happen to be using a later version, but we've identified those problems."
Kostoff said that problem is not unique to multinational operations. Even within the U.S., military technicians find version control issues from service to service. One service may prefer a particular version of software and build their processes around it, while another prefers a different version. The result is that sometimes those versions do not work well together when the systems are connected.
The plan to develop JCTC began in 2004, with the Australian government funding the program through its initial operating capability in Exercise Talisman Saber 2007.
Australia's initial budget for the project was $21 million in U.S. currency or about $29 million in Australian dollars. The Australian government will decide whether or not to continue developing the JCTC after proving the concept in the exercise.
"The current funding arrangements cover connectivity for exercise Talisman Saber," Symons said. "The intent beyond that has not yet been finalized. And as always, it's when the funding arrives that you know something's going to happen for sure."
Vinett said the benefits of a networked training capability far outweigh the costs of development.
"You save lots of dollars and time and people's effort if you can leave them at their home station instead of having to move them forward to support a mission rehearsal exercise, for example," Vinett said. "If this proof of concept plays out and we're able to demonstrate this capability, we are reasonably confident that the leadership is going to say this is a good thing, we aught to pursue more of this."
Symons said that with Australian forces deploying around the world, the ability to train with coalition partners is essential.
"Our special forces contingent very recently returned from Afghanistan and in the press release the chief of defense launched on their return, he mentioned that they received support from a total of 217 different coalition air strikes in support of Australian troops on the ground," Symons said.
"Joint Forces Command has a range of partnerships and a level of activity in the United States that is of great assistance to the interoperability pursuit, because Australia is conducting operations and training every day in the week," Symons continued.
"USJFCOM is a great touchstone to be able to develop those kinds of partnerships across the Department of Defense. The bottom line is that we have common goals that we need to achieve and we need a procedure by which we'll be able to go about that."
"We're talking another country and their network," Vinett said. "They have the same concerns about the security of their network as we do of ours, and so they've been a tremendous asset as we've headed down this path."