USFF Command Experimentation Director discusses Trident Warrior 2010

By Christen N. McCluney | Special to American Forces Press Service | July 15, 2010

WASHINGTON –U.S. Fleet Forces Command's (USFF) director of experimentation explained how members of USFF's Experimentation Directorate are finding new and innovative ways to properly equip warfighters with the latest technologies during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable event July 13.

"It's really about us going out and bringing things to the fleet, bringing it out in a real-world environment and trying to make things better for the Sailors and Marines that are out there," said Capt. Carl Conti.

Trident Warrior 2010 (TW10) is one of the largest and most complex afloat Navy experiments and serves as an opportunity to introduce new technologies to Sailors and Marines.

"What we try to do every year when we do Trident Warrior, is to go out and find things that are out there, it might be a technology, process or procedure, and take that information out to sea and see how it works in the hands of folks that are going to be using it," said Conti.

The experiment provides a venue to test out new ideas and innovations in a real-world environment, which maximizes results, minimizes costs and saves the taxpayer money.

Conti said in order to find things to test, the team looks at the challenges that different numbered fleet commanders are facing, for example.

"We look at things that are hurting their heads. 'What are their priorities? What is it that they need some help with?'" said Conti.

The team then gathers that information and passes it along for guidance.

"Based on the guidance, we look at and say, 'hey, we have an issue here, we have a seam, there's a gap that needs to be solved,'" said Conti.

In this process of determining the best technologies or processes to adopt, the team also checks for wholeness.

"We … make sure that it's not just a shiny object someone's trying to put in front of the military to buy; it's got to be something that's going to solve a problem," Conti said.

But, it doesn't end there, the team also seeks advice from various government laboratories and government system commands, identifying a list of gaps they have.

"We need some help solving these problems," Conti said. "And then they present their ideas and then we vet those ideas and say, okay, it might work or it might not."

The team also reaches out to industries, as well as, examines proposals that may help solve some of the same issues.

About 80 percent of their experimentation is based off of government suggestions, said Conti.

TW10 helps to align initiatives in interoperability as well. The experiment not only helps from a technological aspect but also from the policy aspect of how we share information, said Conti.

"We've really tried this year to expand our horizons and to tackle some of the real foundation issues that we have with information sharing with our partners," said Cmdr. Dave Varnes, the director of TW10.

Varnes added that one of the main things TW10 focused on was maritime domain awareness (MDA). MDA is one of their main focus areas and as a part of their experiment, one of the things they did was to develop a shared access tool called the "All Partners Access Network."

"It's basically a web collaboration tool that allowed us to communicate information via e-mails, via chat and via map displays," said Varnes.

With this tool, we were able to track people and items from one port to another, said Varnes.

Conti said experiments like TW10 allow the Navy to maintain their posture and to best understand what is currently available. The experiment also allows them to collect hard data, which in turn can be distilled into something that can be used or can help to decide to keep programs or move them into a different direction to be best utilized.

Conti added that the experimentation piece provides them valuable insight into best practices, which allows them to examine the best ways to accomplish the mission while avoiding possible problems.

"What I'm charged with doing here in Fleet Forces Command is exploring the art of the possible," said Conti. "For us to do that, we have to find out what is out there that is possible, what is out there that folks are working on and then taking that information and applying it to how the warfighter needs it."