The EDA is working with partners to develop new, more effective information sharing and decision-making architectures for military and civil emergency operations, writes Philip Butterworth-Hayes
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Philip Butterworth-Hayes, Editor-in-Chief, European Defence Matters
Sometime soon there will be another humanitarian crisis emerging in a remote part of the world. The European Union (EU) will send military forces to help stabilise the area while security, aid and medical services are mobilised. Many nations and many different government and non-governmental agencies will be involved – but how should they communicate and share information so the correct decisions are taken on the ground to protect all personnel, including the host nation, while ensuring the effectiveness of the mission?
Network Enabled Capabilities
While the concept of network enabled capabilities (NEC) has become integrated into European national military structures over the last few years only recently has work begun to take this to the next stage – to develop a single secure command and control (C2) network to support multinational operations involving military and civil organisations in support of the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP).
“There are three elements to this: technology issues, the way you deal with the information being exchanged and an understanding of the people who use it,” said Chris Stace, Project Office Command and Control -Information. “We now have a series of work-streams to address these specific challenges in these areas and to connect to communications technologies.”
Developing a common information sharing and decision-making architecture for military forces of allied nations is difficult enough, as different national headquarters (HQs) have different standard operating procedures, different ways of managing information and different technical ways of communicating between different levels. “For operation Atalanta, for example, the UK provided the operational headquarters but the force headquarters is based on a ship and rotated every six months, so the C2 challenges are substantial.”
But when there is a need to involve civilian organisations in the C2 network the challenge becomes even more complex. As EU expeditionary missions are becoming increasingly multi-national, involving growing numbers of small size deployments and linked to civilian missions, the flow of information at the strategic, operational and tactical levels needs to be carefully managed.
Need for Operational Security
“A general can use a Smart Phone to speak to, and exchange data with, anyone in the world along with a map of anywhere in the world,” said Chris Stace. “But we face constraints in providing the ‘military iPhone’: operating in areas where there are no Wifi connections can be addressed but principally it is facing security threats that most developers simply don’t worry about; and balancing the need to share information while securing information, and therefore maintaining operational security.”
The EDA’s NEC work culminated in November 2013 with a demonstration in Poland of how information could be exchanged between participating member states during a multi-national expeditionary operation (see “Shared situational awareness in Warsaw”). This demonstration has led to the formation of the latest EDA project team which focuses on the information sharing needs within the EU’s command and control arrangements. This involves linking C2 information technology (IT) and communications networks between participating Member States and developing new ideas for exchanging information between military and civil agencies during operations and missions.
Integration with national networks
The first part of the work is to study how the separate the functional area services (FAS) can be better integrated with C2 national networks – as used in EU HQ-providing Member States. The benefit is to improve the access from C2 platforms to key information areas such as administration, personnel recovery, operational planning, countering surface to air fires (C-SAFIRE), and logistics.
“We shall be researching what are the hurdles and what needs to be agreed between Member States – the technical standards, procedures, training regimes for example - by the end of 2014,” said Chris Stace. “Next year we will develop a business case for follow-on capability demonstrations, providing evidence to decision-makers on a more integrated approach to be followed in the future.
“By the end of 2015 we will also have the outcomes of the information-exchange gateways demonstration project,” said Chris Stace. “This will look at linking two C2 systems - one national and one EU system. That won’t solve the whole problem; but it is an important technical building block.”
“We are trying to add value by seeing whether best-practice military solutions can be taken on board by the civil side.” This also involves linking to the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, where there are proposals to research work into civil mission “situation assessment, information exchange and operational control” systems.
Command and Control in the Information Age
The success of military operations has for centuries depended on sound command and control. This has not changed. But the realities of the information age, the current security environment and the shape and size of the EU’s comprehensive approach to security and defence challenges have all made it more important than ever to develop a more systematic approach to deploying effective command and control networks. Decision-makers at all levels need improved situational awareness and they need to interact with growing numbers of actors, to speed-up processes and to keep ahead of their adversaries. The EDA is working with Member States to put in place such enabling C2 measures.