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Joint Warfighting Conference 2009 concluded its three days of seminars and exhibits May 14. 6,200 attendees, exhibitors and participants joined together for this year's event – co-sponsored by the U. S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International.
By James J. Lidington
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – U. S. military forces will need to be more imaginative and agile in coming years if they are to successfully counter threats ranging from counterinsurgencies to potential peer competitor states. That was the consensus among speakers May 12 at the Joint Warfighting Conference (JWC) 2009 in Virginia Beach.
MajGen Tom Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.)
Gen James N Mattis, USMC
"I come at this with a certain amount of urgency," U. S. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and Commander of the U.S Joint Forces Command, told more than a thousand attendees gathered for the event co-sponsored by the U. S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International. "The enemy is meeting like this now, maybe not in nice surroundings like Virginia Beach. We are at war, though some may need to be reminded of that."
The conference, titled "Building a Balanced Joint Force: How Best to Meet Demands of the Future Security Environment," explored changes in the operating environment joint forces will encounter in coming years, and ways the military must adapt in order to prevail. Many of the considerations discussed – among them demography, urbanization, and cultural understanding – differed, said speakers, from issues traditionally discussed by military planners.
Mattis said U. S. involvement in conflict around the world will continue – and not always in ways with which it is comfortable. Some such conflicts, for instance, will not have certain beginnings and endings. "It's going to require the greatest rethinking of our military in recorded history,"" Mattis said. That rethinking will mean developing a national ""grand strategy," which Mattis noted the Nation had lacked since the end of the Cold War.
"Our predicaments today are complex," he said. "Through history we can learn lessons. We can't subordinate our military strategy to a non-existent political strategy."
Mattis was outspoken in describing the Nation's present wartime opponents. "They are enemies of our values," he said. "We're going to see (our values) are under attack today by tyrants dressed in false religious garb."
He noted that defending against such enemies is not just a U. S. endeavor. "These people we defend are not just Americans; they're people around the world…who believe that girls have a right to go to school."
A noted student of military history, Mattis described how "failures of imagination" had plagued political and military planners for many hundreds of years. The Founding Fathers, for instance, could never have known, said Mattis, that just a few years after the Declaration of Independence was signed British warships would sail ships into Hampton Roads to lay waste to the Norfolk waterfront. Likewise, it would have been hard at the end of the Indian Wars to anticipate America's involvement in World War I. While few predicted the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he noted, in hindsight the scenario seems plausible, even probable – given a succession of preceding attacks, including a previous assault on the World Trade Center itself.
Mattis said that serious efforts at imaginative wargaming – combined with creation of agile forces led by well-educated small unit leaders – can mitigate against surprise.
"We're not very good at predicting the future," he said. "So we're going to have to keep modest expectations to adapt when crisis hits. We will not use buzzwords masqueraded as concepts. We're going to have to root out our complacency."
Panelists at a JWC 2009 seminar examining what the world will look like to future joint force commanders described a range of threat environments.
Carmen Medina, director of the Central Intelligence Agency's Center for the Study of Intelligence, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell enemy combatants and criminals from civilians on an asymmetrical and urban battlefield. This creates a slippery slope for American forces, she noted, who find that consumer technology – cell phones, video cameras – can distribute instant news of civilian casualties.
"We now have a world where all computer apps will run off your cell phone, the ability to send images out like that," she said, snapping her fingers. When that happens, she said, ""You have already lost that battle of ideas."
Panel moderator Richard L. Haver, corporate vice president for intelligence programs at Northrop Grumman, a veteran of 40 years in the intelligence field, said the group Hezbollah in the Middle East stands out as an example of what could be a typical future enemy because of its use of technology and organization.
He cited a recent New Yorker magazine article in which author Malcolm Gladwell analyzed the reasons underdogs sometimes win. Citing political science research, Gladwell said data from force-on-force wars between strong and weak combatants showed that the strong won in 72 percent of cases. Conversely, when the underdogs chose unconventional strategies their winning percentage rose from 28.5 to 63.6 percent.
"The obvious strategy," Haver observed – and that employed by Hezbollah and others, "is to not fight by Goliath's rules."
Gen James N Mattis USMC and
GEN Martin E Dempsey USA
In luncheon remarks during the May 12 session, U. S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commanding general of the U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said American military planners should become comfortable with discomfort. If anything is to be learned from conflicts in Lebanon, Georgia and Gaza, he said, it is that operating environments are becoming increasingly decentralized. The solution: Become more comfortable with that fact and develop a less centralized, "networked" units and processes to counter decentralized opponents.
"There are no silver bullet solutions to the uncertain challenges we face," Dempsey said.
He pointed out a need for nuanced understanding of cultural and political circumstances on the battlefield – by even junior leaders of small units. He described his own learning of that lesson when, before beginning ground operations early in the Iraq War, he sought advice from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who counseled that in the undertaking of operations, the general "be careful not to alter the face of Islam." It was only after some months in Iraq – and the encountering of post-invasion insurgency, that General Dempsey came to understand the critical and fragile political balance between Sunni and Shi'a factions.
"I was viewing Operation Iraqi Freedom as a narrow military problem," he said. Providing safety and security in Baghdad was "an uncertain problem. We weren't prepared for the transition from combat to counterinsurgency to stability operations. Campaigns mean time and time means change and change requires versatility." And, importantly, he noted, warfighters – even at the small unit level – educated in cultural issues necessary to helping them toward day-to-day success on the battlefield.
Will be mostly between conventional forces or mostly against foes using asymmetric tactics? Such argument is not worthwhile, suggested retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Frank G. Hoffman, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, as he opened a panel titled "Hybrid Warfare: What are the Implications for Future Joint Force Commanders?"
"It's an erroneous mental concept we need to shatter," he said. Instead, there is a broader continuation of conflict. "Enemies are not bifurcating. They are converging in modes of warfare -- criminality, terrorism – blurring, blending in time and space."
An increase in irregular threats does not eliminate the prospect of conventional warfare, Hoffman said. "Those who have predicted it have been fools," he said. "I think there is a clear argument that the future has an increasing probability that blend all four modes of warfare at the same time: irregular and conventional, criminals and terrorists, all at the same time."
Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Jr., deputy commander of the U. S. Joint Forces Command, said hybridized threats can be traced back to the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, which he pointed out as constituting a seismic shift in global conflicts. Events since then follow the pattern, he said: the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, an attack on the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, bombings of U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and Hezbollah action in Lebanon.
Another of the irregular threats discussed by conference participants as likely included among the hybrid facing future joint forces was that of cyber warfare.
The Cyber Factor Panelists and
VADM Herb Browne USN (Ret.)
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Herb Browne, the moderator of a panel titled "The Cyber Factor: What is the Impact on Future Joint Operations?," said attacks on computer and communications networks were a key part of all future conflicts his panel could envision. Computer attacks, he noted, were among the most pressing concerns listed in a recent interview with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.
With good reason, observed panelist Maj. Gen. Koen A. Gijsbers of the Royal Netherlands Army, and assistant chief of staff of Supreme Allied Command Transformation. Recent physical attacks in the former Soviet republics of Estonia and Georgia, he noted, were accompanied by cyber attacks. Preparing for those threats will mean sharing information more effectively, said Gijsbers, citing the example of a commander he worked alongside in Afghanistan, who had seven computers on his desk because each was attached to a discreet network.
The threat, he concluded, however, "should not distract us from a bigger problem: sharing information. We are not good at it. There needs to be a balance between sharing and defending. We need to assess the risks."
By James J. Lidington
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – On rapidly changing battlefields around the world, American forces have proven themselves adaptive to unexpected challenges, willing to improvise to overcome an opponent.
But during the May 13 session of Joint Warfighting Conference 2009, speakers agreed that adaptive spirit might not always be in the services' best interests. Today, America's fighting men and women serving abroad are just as likely to find themselves repairing civilian automobiles in Afghanistan and building schools in Iraq as they are to perform the warfighting jobs they were trained to do after they enlisted. Some speakers wondered if that's not taking them too far afield.
In its second day, the conference at the Virginia Beach Convention Center – co-sponsored by the U. S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International – brought together speakers from the armed services, other agencies and nongovernmental organizations for ongoing discussion of its theme "Building a Balanced Joint Force: How Best to Meet Demands of the Future Security Environment."
The day began with provocative defense analyst and best-selling author Thomas P. M. Barnett. Synthesizing arguments made in his recent series of books on the subject, Barnett presented a whirlwind overview of trends – historical, economic, political and demographic – shaping battlefields of the next several decades.
In a session on employing a more comprehensive (i.e., not entirely military) approach in future conflicts, moderator and former U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, now retired from active duty, said he saw the problem of skill misalignment on full display during a tour of Iraq – as commanders there prepared a strategic plan for the Obama administration on the withdrawal of combat forces.
Zinni said he was struck most immediately by the variety of non-military things uniformed coalition forces were doing: everything from agriculture to zoos, opening and operating swimming pools and providing electricity. After sitting through a meeting in which General Ray Odierno's staff apprised the Iraq commander on the day's activities, Zinni remarked to Odierno, "If I closed my eyes, I wouldn't know this was a military briefing."
"The reason that Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Odierno took on those jobs," Zinni told his session, "is they needed to be done. But what happens when uniforms are pulled away to do this?"
The ongoing issue is the combination, or balance, of so-called "hard" power (conventional combat strength) with "soft" power (extra duties that help the coalition forces win hearts and minds) – creating "smart" power. Those types of stabilization and reconstruction duties have largely fallen to the allied military forces.
"God bless them that they do take this on," Zinni said. "This isn't the right role for military. They are not the experts." Instead, he said, civilian government agencies – and even contractors or non-governmental organizations – should take over, or at least partner with the military to get the jobs done.
Heather Hanson, of the international aid organization Mercy Corps, said that in many of the 38 countries where her group provides relief assistance, they work in areas where military forces are also operating. Sometimes, she said, it's better for her organization to function separately from the military. Such independence can be useful, she said, to gain the trust of people they try to help, as well as forces unfriendly to those people or to coalition troops. The goals of Mercy Corps and other NGOs, she pointed out, often differ from those of military forces. Trying to work together, she suggested, might keep both groups from fulfilling their respective missions.
"When we're talking about the three D's -- defense, diplomacy and development -- there is lack of knowledge about how development is tied to security," Hanson said. "Where people have enough security they're not liable to join extremist groups."
If soft power is to be properly applied, it must be planned into military activities, said Len Hawley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state. The secret lies, he proposed, in a whole-of-government approach in which multiple government agencies, most of them civilian, combine to address situations in underdeveloped parts of the world. It is an approach, ironically, that some unfriendly non-state actors have already taken up.
"Is the Taliban a military organization? Is it a political organization? Is it an economic organization? Is it a social organization?" he asked. "We have to think smarter and long-term. They are fighting for hearts and minds as we are."
Air Force Maj. Gen. Christopher D. Miller, director of plans, policy and strategy at the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said the problem will be getting other agencies to support the needs of such an approach. During a recent tour in Afghanistan, overseeing Air Force-led provincial reconstruction teams, Miller's group included a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "We could use 10," he said. "But the department doesn't have the resources."
"We can do all the planning we want. If the resources aren't there, then that expertise that is part of smart power in the AOR isn't going to be there when we need it."
A map shown by Thomas P.M. Barnett during his plenary address told the story of future conflicts in which he believes America and its allies are likely to be involved. Barnett plotted on a global map all the locations to which the U.S. has sent troops abroad since the Cold War. The plots left out a huge swath of territory stretching from South America through most of Africa to Western and Southeast Asia.
This band Barnett calls "The Gap," territories that also have been economically dependent on other countries. Gap countries also rank among the top in food imports and will likely suffer most from global climate change and heightening tensions within their borders. Consequently, they are likely to become hot spots where American military forces could be called, he said.
Further, he suggested, the Gap will tend to shrink over time as the nations of the East, flush with the fruits of capitalism, rise to meet the needs that an economically troubled America cannot, he said. Barnett said the U.S. should work to shrink the gap by exporting security, not arms, to the "worst security sinkholes" the Gap has to offer.
Bringing the Gap countries up to speed points out a difference between the current abilities of the U. S. – which he termed a "leviathan force" and "the biggest gun" – and burgeoning economies in India and China, which apply what he called "system administrator forces," – "more civilian than uniformed, more private-sector-funded than public-aided." Americans could stand to apply more soft power abroad, he said, focusing more on economic development.
Creating economic opportunity is key to smothering developing world conflict, concluded Barnett. In other words: "Jobs are the only exit strategy."
In a luncheon address, Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, highlighted his perspective on the joint fight by offering the following line: "Presence without value is perceived as occupation." He went on to detail ways in which the special forces community is working alongside other entities, while trying to promote foreign language skills to deepen relationships they form with locals in and around the battlefield. "In this we must invest," he said, adding that countries like Afghanistan have a long history of rejecting outsiders.
With regard to language training, Olson said his command is slightly ahead of the larger force. For example, every Green Beret has to speak a non-English language. "We are victims of a culture that does not recognize those types of skills as essential to fighting," he said, referring to the military's failure to value foreign languages. Olson said he's convinced that on his 12-man special forces teams, he'd rather have one excellent speaker of the native language than 12 with basic language competency. "That level of language skill develops that level of relationship with someone from another country. It is not 70 percent accuracy; it's exchanging family photos because of a relationship that is face-to-face over several years."
The key to creating balanced forces, Olson said, capable of dealing with the range of threats, is partnership building – fostering relationships between military branches and units that survive "the vagaries of political situations." The effects of these relationships can be seen in the Philippines, he said, where missions have brought an atmosphere of stability in the southern islands. Colombia is another example, in his view, where decades of training resulted in such successes as last year's highly innovative and successful rescue of three Americans held hostage by rebel groups. "That operation was imagined and conducted by a major in the Colombian special forces. There was only a modicum of U.S. assistance after that. They were inspired, motivated, they had confidence built by U.S. forces, but in the end it became their operation," Olson said.
In a separate discussion on how to develop men and women in uniform to counter complex hybrid threats, panelists sparred over the readiness of incoming service members and how the armed forces deal with dissenting viewpoints.
Developing human capital is "all about ownership," said moderator and retired Navy Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni Jr. "The youngest junior (service member should) have the right to think he's as important as the commander."
Army Lt. Gen. David P. Valcourt agreed. "Our own training and education in leader development must provide lower-echelon leaders with skills that allow them to operate in an environment of human terrain. Our most precise weapon is a soldier on the ground."
Junior officers might not perceive that level of development when they have a dissenting opinion from their commanders, said retired Navy Capt. L. David Marquet, a former submariner and a strategist with the Navy's QDR Integration Group.
"You hear words like 'consensus,' 'collaboration': those values are valued," said Marquet. "You say, 'He's a maverick' and then we don't want that guy…we want to think we embrace diversity of opinion. But we have a way to go."
By James J.Lidington
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The political climate in the African nation of Somalia, long the source of unrest there, and port delays were mostly to blame, said Stephen Carmel, senior vice president of maritime services for Maersk Line Ltd., the Norfolk-based owner of the Maersk Alabama.
Carmel opened the May 14 session of Joint Warfighting Conference 2009 and told a rapt audience he could not address specific aspects of the incident, which is now the subject of a criminal case, nor would he specify what security improvements have been made on Maersk ships.
Four Somali pirates seized the Alabama on April 8 in waters southeast of the Somalia port city of Eyl. With a crew of 21, the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. The largest shipping firm in the world, Maersk is one of the United States Department of Defense's primary shipping contractors, although the vessel was not under military contract at the time.
"I don't think anyone disputes that security of our ships is our problem," Carmel said. "In terms of what we're going to do to deal with that -- and there is a lot -- it's never a good idea to broadcast to your adversaries what you are doing to protect yourself. We're not just sitting back and saying to governments of the world, 'That this is your problem.' We're upgrading what we do to protect ourselves."
Carmel said the taking of the Alabama fostered a lot of conversation about global instability. He joked that he was thankful for all the hysteria directed at the Swine Flu outbreak for getting his company off the front page.
Long-term danger will continue to come, though, he said, so long as the world community does help restore failed states. "No one is truly off the grid," Carmel said. "Nowhere is that more painfully evident than Somalia. Piracy has been around the Horn of Africa for some time. The fundamental facts that drive piracy have not changed."
As it stands, commercial shippers can no longer exercise freedom of navigation, he said. Carmel noted that minimum standoff distance for U.S. flagged merchant vessels is now 650 miles off the coast of Somalia – precluding their passage across 1 million square miles, an area larger than the Mediterranean Sea.
The Horn region is where piracy and Western interests intersect, he said, and piracy in the region is "100 percent the result of the failed state of Somalia," Carmel said. "These guys are not going to do something else. They will continue to do what they have the capability for, which is to adapt. They will be around no matter what we do."
Speaking tangentially to the conference theme of developing a balanced joint force, Carmel said response to the root causes of piracy is a job not just for the U. S., but for all nations. "We lack an international consensus on how to deal with Africa," he said. "We cannot expect that we can leave the entire continent of Africa to fester without spillover. The lack of international will...tells me that we should expect more of the same for a long time to come."
Beyond political instability, said Carmel, port congestion also is partly to blame for the Alabama incident. Forcing ships to loiter at sea due to refinery or unloading backlogs increases the likelihood pirates will attack successfully, he said. With no new refinery construction since the 1980's, he said that situation is also unlikely to improve.
A backlog of unspent defense dollars will confront the military if shortages of contract experts aren't addressed, panelists at a Thursday morning session on defense acquisition agreed. Panelists from the military and defense contracting companies said acquisitions personnel are at critically low levels, due to increased regulations and oversight.
Dov Zakheim, vice president for global defense for Booz Allen Hamilton and a former undersecretary of defense, said the tendency is to blame the overseers. The only problem is, he said, "they keep coming up with stuff."
"Part of it is unique to Iraq," said Zakheim. "I hope that will not be repeated in Afghanistan. What it comes down to is we don't have enough people. We don't have a system to train those people, to reward, to promote. The guys in uniform, they are educated professionals. You can't become a senior officer without punching certain educational tickets. That doesn't exist in contracting."
Earlier this month, a contract to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan received a poor review from a panel investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending. Numerous deficiencies – resulting in overcharging the government – were found in the arrangement.
Others have been frustrated with the slow pace of getting new technology to warfighters, either because of staffing problems or project failure. Retired Navy Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, former undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, asked in general, "What are those contracts officers doing?" There have been no advanced engines developed for the Joint Strike Fighter, for instance; work has continued for years on the F-18 E and F.
"It's the quality of the contracts officers," he said. "I don't think we have a hard time finding quality people. What is the model and how much do we depend on them? That's what Secretary Gates is trying to do: bring responsibility and intellect back into government service."
Mark J. Lumer, a former contracting executive for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, noted that the number of Army contract experts is down 8,000 percent since he entered the service more than 20 years ago, perhaps because of too much oversight.
"Why would I come back and deal with 'gotcha' folks who aren't interested in helping the system?" he asked. Instead of handling contracts, he claimed, those personnel are handling whistleblower complaints.
Contractors also have failed because they are risk-averse, panelists agreed. Jerry Straw, a technical advisor to the Air Force Research Lab, said failure should be an option. "It's great to be that one guy who takes a risk and succeeds. That encourages people to take risks until someone does and gets fired if he does something stupid. If he does the right thing and something goes wrong, that shouldn't be death to his career."
Cohen concurred. He joked, "The way I would fix it is take an O6 and spot-promote him. If you take risk as an O6 and you are successful, the selection board will not promote you because there's something wrong with your genes."
Results are expected soon from a study of cyber defense measures, said William J. Lynn, deputy secretary of defense, during Thursday's luncheon address. The review was ordered by President Barack Obama and is a part of the new administration's commitment to balance in the armed forces; balance everywhere from the Horn of Africa to Iraq and Afghanistan; balance involving the entire government and civilian partners.
"Today's challenges can't be met with military power alone," Lynn said. "The whole package, our partners in industry, an indispensable part of our operation. We need all of you…to ensure that all Americans, our allies and friends remain secure."
That broader definition of a joint team is the reason Obama "reached across the aisle" and kept a Bush administration appointee, Robert Gates, as his secretary of defense, Lynn said. Washington is its own AOR, he said – using the military term to describe areas of operation, often sites of conflict – where important policy debates can devolve into pitched political battles. "You can be proud that your defense leaders are bringing a real commitment to bipartisanship every day," Lynn said. "America's armed forces are better for it."
Lynn laid out the administration's new defense budget, which he said gives its single-biggest increase to military personnel. Additional funding was committed for new pay raises, new barracks, new housing, child care centers and full spending for military health care, including $3 billion more to care for wounded soldiers. The president has also ended ad hoc funding through budget "supplementals," he said, putting the cost of war back in the annual defense budget.
"We will plan responsibly," Lynn promised. "We will communicate the costs of conflict candidly to the American people."
That responsibility has been seen in the administration's cuts of what it sees as wasteful defense spending, said Lynn. The threat to allies from ballistic missile attacks is growing, yet the administration found the DOD spent millions on programs with "questionable operational roles." It restructured the missile defense program to focus on threats from rogue states, among others. Defense leaders have also accelerated theater missile defense systems and proposed converting six more Aegis-class ships to theatre missile defense platforms. The president also cancelled a $13 million program for a new presidential helicopter; an unnecessary satellite program will be replaced with less-expensive models, Lynn said.
"It involves the very question we confronted: How do we better train and equip warfighters for the battlefield today? How do we respond? The secretary laid out one approach: a truly joint force capable of covering the full spectrum of threats."