During Empire Challenge 10 at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., participants monitor activities with the Base Expeditionary Targeting and Surveillance System-Combined. (U.S. Defense Department)
Faced with budget pressures, the Pentagon is overhauling its strategy for identifying and plugging gaps in intelligence-sharing capabilities.
Instead of a gathering technologists, intelligence aircraft and computers in the western desert once a year, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff plans to form partnerships with experts in the military services and intelligence agencies who are already running smaller scale demonstrations during the year.
The new program is called Enterprise Resolve, and it is part of the Pentagon’s plan to save money while still plugging intelligence gaps that would have been addressed by the annual Empire Challenge demonstrations at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The Pentagon ended the Empire Challenge series last year when it disbanded Norfolk, Va.-based Joint Forces Command as a cost-cutting move.
“DoD does not have X amount to do these big demonstrations,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rockie Hayes, who manages Enterprise Resolve for the Joint Staff, which took over many of JFCOM’s functions. “What we do have is a little bit of money to resolve problems, not to go demonstrate the problems.”
The decision to stop Empire Challenge has been criticized internally by supporters who saw it as their chance to solve real-world problems encountered by troops in Afghanistan. Companies small and large competed vigorously to have their products included in the Empire Challenge demonstrations, which began at the Navy’s blistering-hot China Lake desert range in California but were moved to Fort Huachuca in 2010.
In addition to Enterprise Resolve, the U.S. still plans to conduct a smaller scale interoperability demonstration renamed Enterprise Challenge, Hayes said. It will be sponsored by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and run by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which ran Empire Challenge before JFCOM took over in 2010.
As for Enterprise Resolve, Hayes said two partnerships have been formed so far. One is with an intelligence agency Hayes said he cannot name. The other is with a group in the Joint Staff. Hayes said there will be opportunities for companies to help fulfill unmet requirements identified as the program grows.
Enterprise Resolve will bring some funds to the partnerships that are formed, but Hayes said he could not reveal the projects’ annual budget without approval.
“If we come in and say we need you to add in three more functions, we would fund those three other function pieces of it,” he said.
In Hayes’ view, Enterprise Resolve will be an improvement over Empire Challenge because it will provide technologists opportunities to solve problems more than once a year. “That’s always been the rub behind the Empire Challenge series: You only got one shot at it once a year,” he said.
“Currently on the books we have over 3,000 requirements that we need to look at. If you go to an Empire Challenge type event, on the average they were knocking out about 30 of those,” Hayes said. “If you’re trying to do 30 per year, it’s going to take you a while to knock them all out.”