Coalition success in Afghanistan rests on interoperability

Additional effort must be put into biometrics and secure communications

Interoperability remains crucial to the continued success of coalition military operations in Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Hodges, who has in-theater experience with the matter.

Hodges, deputy commander of Regional Command and director of the Pakistan and Afghanistan Coordination Cell at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined today a number of key mission needs he faces in Afghanistan in a presentation at Army IT Day in Vienna, Va.

Among the command, control, communications, computers, coalition (others refer to the fifth C as combat), intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) requirements for forces in the theater are a joint coalition partnered environment, biometrics, knowledge management and surveillance systems.

Hodges outlined the importance of a shared operating environment. One of his commanding officers in Afghanistan was a British general in charge of some 40,000 U.S. troops. But the general could not access U.S. Secure IP Router Network communications to coordinate coalition troops. Hodges said that it took many months to allow the general access to the SIPRNet.

Besides providing a shared environment for coalition troops, additional effort must be put into biometrics. Hodges explained that forensic technologies are being used to identify and track improvised explosive device manufacturers, but arrests are falling short because of a pressing need to register the local population into a biometric database.

However, the current system used by coalition forces is bandwidth heavy, which limits its effectiveness when used by troops at isolated forward bases. He asked industry to be aware of where a technology may be used when they are designing new systems for the government.

Hodges closed by describing a high-speed line of sight backbone that was developed rapidly to share full-motion video data between coalition forces. The backbone, which can carry between eight to 100 megabytes per second per link, was set up within 90 days.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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