WASHINGTON -- The 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting will address interoperability as one of eight contemporary military forums. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7 and the Army's lead for interoperability, will chair the forum.

Panelists include Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, commander of III Corps and Combined Joint Task Force-Inherent Resolve in Iraq; Maj. Gen. Doug Crissman, director of Mission Command Center of Excellence at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center; Lt. Gen. Nick Pope, deputy chief of the general staff of the British army; and Maj. Gen. Kathryn Toohey, head of land capability for the Australian army.

The panelists provide an array of expertise across the spectrum of interoperability and will talk to the U.S. Army's interoperability initiatives and the operational, human, procedural and technical aspects of improving with partners. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted, "History proves that nations with allies thrive, an approach to security and prosperity that has served the United States well in keeping peace and winning war … working by, with, and through allies who carry the equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength."

HISTORY OF ALLIES AND PARTNERS

The historical evidence for operating in partnership and with allies is indisputable. Contemporary operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations have all been conducted in complex coalitions. The D-Day invasion of 1944 was one of the most consequential operations in the history of the U.S. military. It would also not have been successful without the strategic, operational and tactical partnerships with the British, Canadian and many other armies who provided the mounting bases and shared the risks of fighting.

In 1917, the U.S. Army joined the British and French and other units on the Western Front and their combined power countered German assaults and eventually forced Germany to sign an armistice. Further back in history, U.S. Continental and French forces partnered in 1781 to contain Lord Cornwallis' Army at Yorktown, forcing their surrender, and securing U.S. independence.

The U.S. Army has long collaborated with allies and partners in pursuit of common military capability. Standardization was a key feature of the NATO armies during the Cold War, but these institutional efforts atrophied following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The Army has recently renewed its emphasis on these concepts. According to Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper, "alliances are as strong as the contributions its partners make to readiness." The 2018 National Defense Strategy emphasizes the need for interoperability with allies and partners as the U.S. shifts from a multi-decade focus on counterterrorism to prepare for the risk of high-end conflict between nation-states.

OPTIMIZING CAPABILITIES AMID NEW THREATS

The rise of new threats in Europe and the Indo-Asia-Pacific compel the U.S. Army to seek the optimization of the capabilities of all participants in multinational coalitions. The 2018 National Defense Strategy summary describes interoperability as "a priority for operational concepts, modular force elements, communications, information sharing, and equipment." On this basis, the U.S. military "will train to high-end combat missions in our alliance, bilateral, and multinational exercises." Interoperability achieved in peacetime can reduce the friction of contingency or combat operations. Identifying and setting objectives can offset problems related to human, procedural and technical factors.

U.S. forces must be able to integrate quickly with NATO partner units in the event of a contingency in Europe, allowing for combined planning, cross-domain fires and streamlined logistics. Similarly, the U.S. must be able to align rapidly with Australian or Japanese forces against threats in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Finally, should peace fail on the Korean Peninsula, increased interoperability between U.S. and South Korean forces will close seams against Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Practicing interoperability for these contingencies allows participating units to build relationships and understanding of coalition operations that will prove invaluable should they need to do so for real.

TRAIN TO BE READY

The U.S. and its partners cannot achieve interoperability without sustained and in-depth understanding and practice. Regular exercises will test the ability of different armies to operate together, link systems, and enable units with different equipment as well as tactics, techniques and procedures to interoperate. Exercise designers can make these progressively more difficult over the years, stressing these capabilities to improve further alignment and integration.

Both the U.S. and its partners need equipment and networks that can quickly connect and integrate in order to shorten the time needed to assemble an effective, interoperable coalition. The biannual Rim of the Pacific exercise offered a glimpse into the capabilities offered by increased technical interoperability. The U.S. Navy positioned an unmanned, retired ship near Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. A Japanese plane spotted the vessel and called in a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle to provide targeting data. The UAV forwarded the data through a U.S. AH-64 helicopter to a U.S. ground control station, which sent firing data to U.S. and Japanese land-based missile systems. More than a dozen missiles destroyed the ship.

The U.S. Army has in hand a number of initiatives to achieve better interoperability. The Army Strategy aligns interoperability direction with the Army Campaign Plan and Strategic Engagement Campaign Plan as a defined line of effort. The Army has articulated its interoperability intent for all of its partners to include scale and scope of interoperability, timeframe, purpose and resources.

A multinational fusion cell has been established in Headquarters, Department of the Army G-3/5/7 to develop detailed, long-term roadmaps with identified partners and to integrate them across the Army. These roadmaps are linked more closely to security cooperation and strategic engagement. The Combined Arms Center has been nominated as the Army's proponent for interoperability, integrating capabilities for that purpose, particularly CIS. Finally, HQDA has refined its governance to align with increased ambition for allies and partners, linking the teams who work these issues to the decision makers who prioritize resources.