Introducing Information as a Joint Function

By Grynkewich, Alexus G. | Joint Force Quarterly, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Introducing Information as a Joint Function


Grynkewich, Alexus G., Joint Force Quarterly


In July 2017, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a change to Joint Publication (JP) 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, introducing information as a new and seventh joint function. This issuance portends significant changes in how the joint force will plan and execute transregional, multidomain, and multifunctional operations. As such, it represents an opportunity to reimagine what "combined arms" means in 21st-century warfare.

While the underlying nature of warfare remains constant, the character of modern warfare continues to evolve. The economic and social revolutions wrought by the industrial age rapidly changed how wars were fought and won in the 19th and 20th centuries. Leaders who grasped the implications of those changes developed the strategies and designed operations that led to success, while those who did not were doomed to failure. Today, in the midst of an information age that has similarly transformed economies and societies, we must likewise adapt our thinking and deepen our understanding if we hope to succeed in 21st-century conflicts. A key part of this adaptation is to develop a joint force that proactively uses and employs information across a wide range of activities. The incorporation of information as a joint function is but the first step toward enhancing joint warfighting and developing a future joint force able to dominate in the conflicts of tomorrow.

Joint functions represent related capabilities and activities placed into basic groups to help commanders synchronize, integrate, and direct operations. The original six joint functions as described in JP 1 are command and control, blurred for security and privacy concerns] intelligence, fires, movement and maneuver, protection, and sustainment. The newly released JP 1 adds information to this list, stating:

The information function encompasses the management and application of information and its deliberate integration with other joint functions to influence relevant-actor perceptions, behavior, action or inaction, and support human and automated decision making. The information function helps commanders and staffs understand and leverage the pervasive nature of information, its military uses, and its application during all military operations. This function provides [joint force commanders] the ability to integrate the generation and preservation of friendly information while leveraging the inherent informational aspects of all military activities to achieve the commander's objectives and attain the end state.

The elevation of information in joint doctrine--the first addition to the list in 20 years--underscores the Department of Defense (DOD) focus on how to adapt in order to most effectively use the military instrument of national power in a changing strategic environment. Although conflict, violence, and war endure, the methods through which political goals are pursued are evolving due to technological changes. (1) Technologies such as autonomy and new forms of human-machine teaming have resulted in new concepts of operation that include data-focused intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, increased speed of decision, and enhanced lethality. The race to develop, leverage, and master such technologies and concepts poses a critical challenge. (2)

The joint force is rising to the challenge. As just one example, an Office of the Secretary of Defense artificial intelligence initiative--Project Maven--is examining how to find meaning in vast amounts of data at the speed of warfare. (3) The Department has also implemented a DOD Cybersecurity Campaign, developing a framework that integrates defensive cyberspace and information operations across the force. Furthermore, a newly completed electronic warfare strategy is driving a renewed focus on the use of emerging electromagnetic spectrum systems and technologies.

Ultimately, of course, war is a uniquely human endeavor. …

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