Pacific Army unit gaming out data and identity pilots with international partners

I Corps is helping test and establish the tactical mission partner environment to create a common operational picture with allies.
Joint Pacific Forces conduct Air Assault training during the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) rotation at Townsville Field Training Area (TFTA), Townsville, Australia, August 1, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Mariah Aguilar)

One of the Army units leading the pilot efforts for tactical multinational interoperability is working to advance voice, video and chat to improve how the service collaborates with foreign partners in the Pacific.

Through a series of ongoing exercises, bilateral and trilateral agreements, I Corps is helping the joint force and Army understand how to build a tactical mission partner environment that involves a common operational picture and authenticates users.

“Some of the things that we really focused on is basically voice and video: How are commanders collaborating with and seeing each other? Chat: How can the Australians and the Japanese chat knowing that information can’t transcend because classification levels?” Col. Rett Burroughs, I Corps chief information officer and G6, told DefenseScoop in an interview. “Email: How do we make sure email spillages, you don’t send something you’re not allowed to? … Then access to our SharePoint and our folders: What are you allowed to see?”

While the broader U.S. military is developing a mission partner environment, I Corps is working with partners in the region to develop a tactical instantiation of that, which will inform these larger efforts. The unit is also helping to pilot tactical zero-trust efforts — a cybersecurity concept and framework that assumes networks are already compromised and require constant monitoring and authentication to protect critical information, including through identity, credential, and access management (ICAM).


Burroughs noted that they began their efforts at the Talisman Sabre exercise last year, enhanced them at another regional exercise dubbed Yama Sakura, and are looking to mature into the fall. Work has been undertaken thus far with Australia, Japan and South Korea.

“If you grow too fast, then you’re going to have a lot of growing pains, but if you grow deliberately, you’re going to be much more successful,” he said. “We’re kind of on our own right now, but constantly informing and taking guidance from Joint Staff, Army staff and [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] to ensure that what we are doing isn’t just a one off, we’re able to maintain, we’re able to sustain. And whenever our two paths meet — us and Indopacom … the goal is for us to be the first tactical network connected to the Indopacom Mission Network, because we’ve already been certified.”

Key to the ICAM and zero-trust effort is ensuring data is tagged properly.

“Zero trust is why big Army decided we need to go data centric. In order to become data centric you need to start tagging data, accounts, personnel and stuff of that nature. Once you start tagging individuals’ labels like, hey, this person is a Canadian, that’s his Canadian label, this person is American, get the American label, Australia, so on, so forth,” Lt. Col. Roberto Nunez, chief data engineer for the I Corps G6, said. “Once we identify who the end user is, through zero trust, we verify, OK, this person says they’re Canadian, here’s the server … you now have access. You are given access based upon your clearance.”

These ongoing events are providing lessons for the Army, Nunez said, so it has the foundation to be able to plug Australian, Japanese and South Korean allies into the mission partner environment. That’s only possible if the data is labeled and tagged correctly, he noted.


I Corps is gearing up for a series of engagements in the coming months. The unit just completed a staff exercise last week. In August, it will participate in the Yama Sakura 86 exercise with the Japanese and Australians, serving as a helpful planning event for Yama Sakura 87 in December.

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