Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. "Effective Cyber operations in a Joint Information Environment" was the focus of this year's Joint User Interoperability Communications Exercise (JUICE) hosted by U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., during the month of June.

In its 21st year, this worldwide communications exercise brings together the joint services, coalition partners, Department of Defense (DoD) groups, and key U.S. government and federal agencies in an effort to test and train tactics, techniques and procedures that will lead to improved interoperability and synchronization during real-world scenarios.

"JUICE is ultimately our way of preparing for the future joint tactical environment where more operations will occur in cyberspace," said John Kahler, IT specialist for CECOM Software Engineering Center (SEC) and chief, Joint On-demand Interoperability Network. "Civilized nations have become dependent on the internet as a critical link between its citizen's information dissemination and support infrastructure. The vision that the Department of Defense has laid out for a Joint Information Environment between joint, multi-national and interagencies is being realized by the hard-working professionals of this capstone event here on APG."

JUICE includes network planning, systems integration, network operations and cyber defense operations to identify lessons learned for improvements to existing operational capabilities. The exercise also seeks to address operational gaps identified by deployed units, coalition partners, DoD working groups, governmental agencies and first responders.

The U.S. Strategic Command is the official sponsor of this year's event. One of their five priorities is to "build cyberspace capability and capacity." JUICE is focusing on cyber as a way to improve overall network defense.

"In today's environment, it's not a question of will a network be attacked but rather when a network will be attacked. For these reasons, JUICE 2014 is focused on the joint cyber defense of a deployed joint task force and communications interoperability between our Federal, State and local responders supporting the President's Executive Order 16318 National Security and Emergency Preparedness," said Kahler.

SEC was the lead CECOM organization involved in the exercise.
Air Force Col. Eric Good, JUICE chief of communications, J6, went on to describe JUICE's role in defending the network in a joint environment.

"Traditionally, the cyber monitoring and defense is done at a higher headquarters level. "Now cyber defense capabilities are at the tactical edge and grant us greater situational awareness," said Good. "At JUICE this year, we can get that understanding at the tactical level. We may have had the communication abilities in the past, but now we have true command and control capabilities in defense of the network."

The notional setting of JUICE was a forward-deployed JTF that is responding to several simulated real-world scenarios involving both natural disasters and terrorist attacks against the United States. These included a major earthquake in the mid western U.S., a coordinated cyber attack on the nation's communication infrastructure, and the release of a biological agent in a major metropolitan area. Each incident required the JTF to establish communications with several government and civil agencies in order to provide immediate support to tactical elements and other first responders. The objective of the JTF training is to heighten readiness and responsiveness through the use of cutting edge technology and the diverse capabilities from the participating agencies and groups.

Participants in the JUICE exercise included the DoD, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Transportation Service Authority, as well as civil and local authorities, and first responders.

"The objective is to work together as a team," said Kahler. "This collaboration will further develop the TTPs now so that in the event we are called upon, we will have already trained together as a team," Kahler explained.

Throughout the exercise facility on APG, different patterns of camouflage could be seen working side-by-side in the various operations cells. JUICE also aims to train the joint team on state-of-the-art enterprise services and communication systems so that they are familiar with each other and the capabilities they will take into battle.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Grant Johnson, U.S. Strategic Command, was one of the participants in JUICE and further described its inherent value to the joint services.

"The joint fight is not necessarily a new concept, but has proven difficult in the past. Each service component brings a different capability to the fight. Ninety percent of the participants in this exercise are not located at APG," said Johnson. "JUICE was created 21 years ago in order to facilitate those interoperabilities. "JUICE takes new and emerging technologies, tests them out, and places them in an operational-like environment to ensure that each interoperability piece works amongst the services."

The primary system supporting JUICE is the Joint On-demand Interoperability Network (JOIN). JOIN gives all worldwide participants the ability to collaborate with one another and share data in near real-time.

"JOIN provides a distributed testing environment in which systems can be tested across the same environment and can be leveraged to connect the tactical community into the acquisition community so they can test and support fielded systems during the sustainment process. JOIN is an enabler, supporting the development, sustainment and deployed forces execute their mission cost effectively while reducing and mitigating risk," said Kahler.

JUICE and the JOIN present the Army with a "one of a kind" resource that serves as a critical link between the development and sustainment communities providing better support to the warfighter.