Millennium Challenge 2002: Setting the Mark

By Myers, Grover E. | Joint Force Quarterly, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Millennium Challenge 2002: Setting the Mark


Myers, Grover E., Joint Force Quarterly


New enemies with old grudges are using innovative ways to challenge American leadership around the world. To meet this threat, the Secretary of Defense has given the task of transforming the military to U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). Millennium Challenge, conducted in the summer of 2002, was the pinnacle of this effort thus far. JFCOM believes this multilevel exercise was successful enough to warrant immediate implementation of some of its recommendations.

Equally important as decisions on change for those who must confront emerging enemies are the lessons of recent operations and deliberate experimentation. New adversaries are not likely to wait as we adapt to fresh tactics and threats in the traditional methodical Cold War fashion. And the lessons from transformational experiments need to be immediately recognized and incorporated into plans and, more importantly, into doctrine. As one observer noted, "Experience in the private sector demonstrates that successful corporations do not plan to transform in the distant future: they transform constantly." (1)

The Challenge

The United States finds itself in a unique historical position that is both highly perilous and full of opportunities. With the end of the Cold War it is the most powerful nation on earth. After some forty years of superpower confrontation and a nuclear standoff, many Americans believe that the country has earned a respite from the burden of global leadership. But its role in the world presents new challenges to national interests.

Technological advances offer unprecedented capabilities to friendly and enemy forces alike. Political, economic, cultural, and other pressures in the post-colonial, post-Cold War environment make conflict more likely. Globalization seeds unrest in distant lands that is potentially damaging to national interests. The possible consequences of future conflict were brought home when the United States came under terrorist attack in September 2001.

The latest defense planning guidance acknowledged new challenges and recognized that current forces and operational concepts designed for symmetrical warfare against similarly armed enemies were inadequate. Thus it tasked JFCOM to develop joint operational concepts to support military transformation while exploiting asymmetric advantages and emerging joint capabilities.

A Response

The rapid decisive operations (RDO) concept developed by JFCOM responds to defense planning guidance and to the new operational realities driving it. Fostered by the requirement to meet a wider range of enemy capabilities, this concept presents new ideas on achieving national objectives and is centered on effects-based methods and processes. It describes a way to apply military capabilities in conjunction with the other instruments of national power--diplomatic, informational, and economic--in a campaign centered on the effects required to achieve national objectives. Unlike traditional military operations, an effects-based campaign does not focus primarily on attrition of an enemy, although that option remains, but on affecting the will and ability of opposing leaders to resist U.S. objectives--on creating desired actions or reactions or even an inability to act at all. The goal is to apply the right set of capabilities to control the circumstances and the enemy and conclude conflicts as quickly and resolutely as possible at minimum cost in lives and treasure.

Since JFCOM was assigned the mission to lead joint experimentation, the command has worked a robust program of experimentation and wargames to initiate and develop key warfighting concepts. For example, Unified Vision, an experiment conducted in May 2001, assessed the value added of a standing joint force headquarters in a rapid decisive operation. From its findings and insights, the RDO concept was further developed through a series of smaller limited objective experiments so that a mature concept with supporting systems, procedures, and tools was ready for rigorous analysis when Millennium Challenge was conducted. …

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