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Interagency training: lack of military-civilian coordination hinders war-zone rebuilding efforts.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Rebuilding war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan has been cited repeatedly by military officials as one of the cornerstone efforts that will help the United States win the war on terrorism.

A major obstacle to achieving this goal, however, is that the civilian federal agencies and non-government aid organizations--which are critical players in the rebuilding endeavor--have little interaction with military leaders, and have no clear guidance for how to coordinate their efforts with commanders on the ground.

The Pentagon's top leadership has stressed me need to integrate--"interagency coordination into military training, and the issue was mentioned prominently in the department's Quadrennial Defense Review published last year.

The Pentagon also made interagency training part of its $2 billion "Training Transformation" effort that started five years ago.

But so far, little progress has been achieved in making the interagency coordination a priority item in military exercises, said government officials speaking at the training and simulation industry's annual conference here.

"We have not yet developed a collective mechanism to educate and train our forces--military and civilian--to operate effectively on the ground," said Thomas Baltazar, director of the military affairs office for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a federal government agency that receives foreign policy guidance from the State Department.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, it is not uncommon for military commanders and leaders from other agencies to meet for the first time after a reconstruction project has gotten under way. Often there are culture dashes and at times, even goodwill efforts, such as building schools or spurring economic growth, unwittingly counteract each other, said officials.

One solution would be to have military and civilian leaders meet and train together before they deploy to countries where rebuilding efforts will occur. "If we can get them to be role players on certain occasions, it's a win-win situation. They get the training and we get the benefit of their expertise," said Dan Gardner, a Defense Department official in charge of readiness and training policy at the office of the secretary of defense.

That may not be a realistic option for private humanitarian groups, which are thinly staffed. "The demand from the military side far outstrips the supply from the humanitarian community," said George Devendorff, director of public affairs for the Oregon-based MercyCorps. "We don't have a lot of personnel ... we have to be highly, highly selective on where we go and what we do."

Citing a shortage of manpower as a reason for opting out of training opportunities with the military "is sort of a self-defeating attitude," said Paul Mayberry, deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. He said the Pentagon wants "creative thinking and ideas of how we can build partnership capacity within the context of interagency" training. The lack of progress has been a source of frustration, he added.

The Defense Department has made its training exercise schedule available in advance so that organizations can plan accordingly, said Mayberry. "In most cases we totally overwhelm them, and show them training and exercise plans of thousands of exercises in the course of a year," he said. "So I think it is incumbent upon us in the policy world to think through priorities, as to where the interagency [players] can best plug into our training and exercise events."

The Pentagon also must ensure that the training events can capture those organizations' non-military training needs, so "they are there not as a training aid, but rather as a training audience," Mayberry said.

Non-defense entities are aware of the urgency behind establishing better interagency training, particularly for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is such a dynamic environment for both military and USAID that we can't afford to send people over there without having any training and education on what it means to operate effectively in that kind of environment," said Baltazar.

Large-scale exercises, such as those at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., require substantial investments of time and resources. A pre-deployment training rotation for a brigade often spans four to six weeks.

"I think we can simulate a lot of that," said Baltazar. "Why can't we develop a virtual forward operating base that allows the USAID person to understand what it means to get onto a military base, to actually operate on a military base, who to talk to, what they're going to be looking at, how to get engaged with the military decision-making process and do it all before deploying," he said.

Simulations can provide useful training tools when live exercises are out of reach, said Gardner. "What we've found is, if we can build this live-virtual-constructive training environment where people can plug in from a distance, you don't have to be face-to-face."

The trick is making those training environments available to agencies outside the Defense Department, through the Internet and various governmental hubs, so that organizations can "plug into the network and play from their office instead of having to travel," said Gardner.

But plugging into the military network is easier said than done. "One of the challenges is trying to make the standards flexible enough and interoperable enough so we don't build barriers--we build networks," said Gardner.

"We need to work through those, to make sure we can remove those barriers--very serious as they are," said Mayberry.

As part of the "Training Transformation" initiative, the Defense Department created a virtual network of training centers throughout the continental United States and Hawaii. It soon will be extended to Australia and Europe, said Gardner.

"My sense is we will very soon be able to link with that network," so that groups from around the world can participate in simulations, said Gardner. "I think that's the wave of the future and it's just a matter of how fast we can get there."

Interoperable simulations seem like a pipedream given the current state of technology, some officials said. "Right now, we have trouble within the Army talking between systems, talking between the virtual trainers, talking between virtual constructive trainers," said Army Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, deputy commander of the combined arms center for training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. "I'm all for live-virtual-constructive training, but I'm also a skeptic."

Mayberry said he recently observed a mission rehearsal exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., for the 82nd Airborne Division, which was preparing to deploy through the United Nations' International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Afghanistan. Participants included the Pakistani army, Afghan security forces, individuals from Afghanistan's education department and current ISAF officers and staffs.

"It was an outstanding effort that shows the progress that has been made as we go forward," said Mayberry.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report published last year, criticized the Pentagon for not implementing a cohesive training program that involves interagency players. "Without consistently training its forces in a recurring, realistic, joint operating environment, the Defense Department will lack assurance that forces deployed to its theaters will have the necessary skills to operate effectively in today's

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Title Annotation:WARGAMES
Comment:Interagency training: lack of military-civilian coordination hinders war-zone rebuilding efforts.(WARGAMES)
Author:Jean, Grace
Publication:National Defense
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:1166
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