Magazine article National Defense

War-Gaming a Future That's Much like Today: Army, Joint Forces Command Test Radical Concepts That Promote 'Jointness'

Magazine article National Defense

War-Gaming a Future That's Much like Today: Army, Joint Forces Command Test Radical Concepts That Promote 'Jointness'

Article excerpt

Army war planners project that, by 2015, the world will be deja vu all over again--trouble persists in the Middle East and throughout Asia, while terrorists threaten at home. U.S. military forces deployed around the globe continue to battle asymmetric foes and struggle with nation-building.

There is some good news, however. By 2015, the U.S. services no longer will have interoperability problems and will fight under leaner chains of command, where the customary divisions of labor--air, land and sea--become less relevant.

The weaponry that U.S. forces will employ in 2015, for the most part, will be similar to what they used in the recent war in Iraq. Future enemies, meanwhile, will have spent lots of money amassing stockpiles of "off-the-shelf" military equipment acquired from the open market--cruise missiles, night-vision sensors, robotic aircraft, GPS jammers and advanced radios.

The strategic setting just outlined served as the backdrop for Unified Quest '03, a war game that the Army and the Joint Forces Command co-sponsored in an effort to experiment with new war-fighting concepts.

Unified Quest was the first of a series of war games designed to give Joint Forces Command real power to bring about "jointness" in U.S. war fighting.

The military success seen in Iraq in large measure was attributed to the services' close cooperation in developing tactics and executing missions. But the Pentagon is still not satisfied and wants jointness to become institutionalized, keeping the services from developing any new equipment or tactics that do not take into account the "joint perspective."

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, inter-service coordination was better than it's ever been, according to experts. But the command structure nevertheless followed the traditional component-commander organization, with an Army general running the land war, a Navy admiral in charge of the maritime forces and an Air Force general overseeing air operations. The component commanders all report to the joint commander, who in Iraq was Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

War games such as Onified Quest are testing alternative approaches. The Joint Forces Command specifically was tasked to come up with viable options to the current command structure.

"There is a steady pressure from Rumsfeld to eliminate the component commanders from within the combatant command headquarters," said an industry source who works closely with the Army.

A tussle over the role of combatant commanders ensued last year after the 2002 Army Transformation war game, titled Vigilant Warriors, which concluded that combatant commanders are effective and should not be eliminated.

By co-sponsoring this year's war game with Joint Forces Command, the Army wanted to send the message that it was serious about experimenting with unconventional battle command structures, where Army generals mayor may not run the ground war.

"They'll test that, because it's something Rumsfeld won't drop," said the industry source.

One of the architects of Unified Quest is Brig. Gen (P). Michael A. Vane, the Army's deputy chief of staff for doctrine, about to become commander of the Army's Air Defense Artillery Center. Viewed by insiders as one of the brightest thinkers in the Army today, Vane believes that jointness can be improved without undermining the cultures that make each service unique.

"Each service has its culture. And there are important parts that you might want to retain," Vane said. "But there are some joint cultures that need to get established."

In the heat of the battle, when a commander must decide how best to kill a target, it should not matter whether the munitions come from tanks, Bradleys or airplanes. "Now you are starting to think joint," Vane said. "We don't all think that way."

The lessons from Unified Quest will begin to shape a new definition of joint, said Dave Ozolek, assistant director for experimentation at JFCOM. …

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