Academic journal article Military Review

Fulfilling the Promise: A Joint Corps for a Joint Military

Academic journal article Military Review

Fulfilling the Promise: A Joint Corps for a Joint Military

Article excerpt


BARRETT TILLMAN WRITES, "Long before jointness became doctrine and purple entered the military vocabulary, U.S. naval and air forces were operating hand in glove in a manner not possible today. The best example remains the Doolittle Raid against Japan ... a bold concept devised by a naval officer--a submariner, no less--and executed by sailors and airmen." *

For almost 30 years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has formally wrestled with "joint operations," with varying degrees of success. Despite almost universal agreement on its importance, the idea of joint operations remains more of a personnel management reality than an operational one. Starting in the mid-1970s, the DOD has attempted a bureaucratic top-down implementation of joint operations that all four service cultures have resisted with great success. The successful "purple-suited" officer simply doesn't exist in a meaningful way within the DOD.

Decades of unsustainable military spending papered over many of these issues, as budgetary pie slices were large enough to isolate the services from one another. However, the likely enduring global operational environment and future manning realities stemming from coming budgetary constraints makes change imperative. The DOD budget appears to be on the chopping block for the foreseeable future. All discretionary spending will be crowded out by entitlements and servicing the growing debt. This reality alone makes the existing DOD joint calculus obsolete. A new version of "joint" is needed. It must be organic to the DOD but amenable to other government participation, adaptable for in extremis operational design and planning, and capable of sustaining long-term force generation requirements. It requires a true joint officer, as part of a corps of such men and women.

A Bureaucratic Shift

The newest Army Doctrinal Publication 3-0 should prompt the military to field and fight the joint force in the manner intended, something not accomplished by current joint doctrine. For the cadre of experienced officers coming out of the nation's recent wars, the promise of joint execution has been a mixed success. Now is the time to capitalize on that experience. A restructuring of the DOD officer corps, something on par with reforms of the National Security Act of 1947, is called for and appropriate.

Such a bureaucratic shift requires flexibility, adaptability, and intentional planning that our current system barely accomplishes, and then nearly in spite of itself. The effective emplacement and employment of the full range of combat forces in a joint environment requires an exacting synchronization of military and nonmilitary elements. This synchronization in turn requires officers and leaders with broad knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of all facets of American power. Our current systems of officer development and training often fail this most crucial test. We then rely on our technological overmatch and individual excellence to carry the day. Neither condition is a given, and we must look to create more effective military minds. Joint planning has widely been hailed as part of the solution, but is its current execution part of the problem?

The concept of joint operations in its current incarnation is not a synergistic combination of the various branches of service. The reality of "joint" is its existence as the fifth branch of service. An officer completing a joint tour has not learned much about other branches aside from stories around the water cooler. Rather, he has learned "the joint world." The requirement for joint experience as a prerequisite for general officer creates a dynamic whereby the most talented officers from all branches avoid their mandated joint tour until already successful at the lieutenant colonel and colonel (O5 /O6) level, and thus are practically ensured of future success. A quick joint tour allows this officer to "punch his ticket," remain competitive for promotion, and quickly retreat back to his branch of service. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.