HONOLULU (Army News Service) -- During a recent allied military exercise involving Australian soldiers and their U.S. counterparts, it took the Australian forces two hours to establish connectivity with U.S. systems, said Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.
Speaking at the "Land Forces in the Pacific" symposium, sponsored by The Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare, Brown said the exercise demonstrated just one example of the challenges of preparing for and participating in multi-domain battle. The MDB concept encourages units to engage the enemy in all domains -- air, sea, land, cyber, space -- in the context of a joint, multinational combined effort, Brown explained.
Systems that don't communicate with each other are unable to successfully engage in MDB, he said, referring to this problem as "stovepiping."
Members of each branch of a nation's armed forces "grew up in stovepiped" organizations, he said. Each service has its own unique culture and systems that often don't communicate with the other services. That all needs to change, Brown warned, because the world is rapidly evolving.
The internet is connecting more people than ever before, and bad actors abuse that connectivity to spread lies, rumors and chaos, he said. Brown cited an example of such cybercrime in the so-called "Wanna Cry" ransomware virus that spread a week ago.
The frequency of these types of "black swan" attacks will only increase in the future, he said, explaining that black swan events are "high-impact, hard to predict and rare events beyond realm of normal expectations."
Brown highlighted the Spanish Flu pandemic at the end of World War I as another example of a black swan event that put countless soldiers out of the war on the Western Front in Europe..
Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, agreed with Brown's assessment that stovepiped systems present rampant communications problems that need to be swiftly addressed.
Swift recommended that continued participation in exercises with allies and sister services will demonstrate which systems are proactively communicating with one another, and which ones need improvement. "I want weapons systems that can reach out and touch," he said. Yet he pointed out that too many disparate systems exist that are not interconnected, from radars to missile systems.
Swift added that it's important for Soldiers all the way down to the E-1 level to understand the importance of MDB and to develop solutions in a joint context with sister services and multinational partners.
Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, air component commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said the importance of system interconnectivity hasn't been embraced by all services yet, as they continue purchasing systems that don't connect with counterparts. He encouraged AUSA attendees, including those from industry, to build systems that connect.
Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commander of Special Operations Command Pacific, emphasized that once systems are able to communicate with each other, leaders can operate in a more decentralized fashion and leverage the capabilities within each of the domains, irrespective of which service owns them.
Gen. Rajendra Chhetri, chief of the army staff of the Nepalese army, said his nation participates in numerous multinational exercises that include the U.S. and agreed that it would be beneficial if all of the communications systems were standardized.
During the nation's devastating 2015 quake, he said his army circumvented the interconnectivity problem by using cellphones with coalition partners; however, these devices were not secure.
Besides interconnectivity problems, there were language barriers as well. Chhetri noted that the Chinese pilots who helped with the humanitarian effort didn't speak Nepalese or English, so they couldn't communicate with the respective tower.
The good news is that once different services resolve their technological, policy and systems communications issues,, the beauty of MDB will become clear, according to Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
MDB will allow brigades to utilize multiple domain options with multiple partners to keep the enemy guessing and ineffective, he said.
Perkins added that the policy and technology pieces will be implemented as they are developed, but for now,. the best weapon in the Army is the Soldier who is adaptable and able to operate independently within the parameters of the commander's intent.
(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)