Generals Stress Need for Information Sharing, Allied Troops

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mattisWith the increasing work as part of multinational coalitions, U.S forces are part of a cultural shift toward more information sharing and closer collaboration with allied troops, said military leaders gathered Friday for a conference on joint warfighting.

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, which co-hosted the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference, said the responsibility will fall on young officers to build trust across the ranks to improve information sharing.

“In this age, I don’t care how technologically or operationally brilliant you are; if you cannot build trust [across various multiple participants], you might as well go home,” he said.

Air Force Maj. Gen. David M. Edgington, Joint Forces Command’s chief of staff, said a cultural change will change the information-sharing paradigm from “need-to-know” to “will-to-share.”

Edgington said the nation does not have the only military reluctant to share, but it bears more of the burden as a leader in coalition operations.

“We have the technology and the capability to gather more information and distribute it than other countries,” he said.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to not share information, especially when it involves intelligence that could put troops at risk, Edgington said. But often, he added, information is not shared because of unnecessary bureaucratic reasons.

Sharing information with coalition forces helps U.S. troops by relieving some of their burden from the fight, Edgington said. To those reluctant to share, he had a simple message: “Get over it, guys. They’re going to be fighting with us.”

The military leaders also spoke of the need for the ability of coalition forces to work interchangeably with the same equipment and doctrine. The shift will be a big change for anyone at the rank of colonel or above, he said.

French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial, NATO supreme allied commander for transformation, said the ability for all coalition nations to operate interchangeably “should be hardwired into our DNA.” An increasing gap between U.S. military equipment and technology and that of its allies is not being closed quickly enough, he said, and NATO is cooperating with the defense industry to close that gap.

Building trust also should decrease the number of “caveats” or restrictions some countries insist upon when agreeing to be part of coalition operations, Abrial said. Such restrictions can put a damper on troops’ involvement in certain operations or prevent information sharing, especially intelligence, he said.

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