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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Joint Warfighting Conference Day 1 On Scene Report

By Toni Guagenti

To guarantee joint forces that are globally competent, confident, adaptable and agile in the future, the United States cannot continue on the path it has been while fighting the war against terror in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

That was the message delivered by Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., head of U.S. Fleet Forces (full text and video here), at the Joint Warfighting Conference 2011 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The three-day conference, sponsored by the U. S. Naval Institute (USNI) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International (AFCEA), aims to answer this year’s overarching question: “How Do We Leverage Successes of Joint & Coalition Warfare?”

“We generated that surge capacity” fighting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and “immediately began to consume it,” Adm. Harvey told a crowd of about 1,100 during a lunchtime address. “Surge capacity has become routine delivery.

“We have to hit the reset button.”For example, Harvey said, the demand on the Fleet and continued deployments have caused a lapse in maintenance, with a record number of ships failing inspections from 2005 to 2009. Add burgeoning budget problems to the equation, and the Navy’s future is more uncertain unless hard, important decisions are made.

“The years of plenty are over,” Harvey said. “The piper will be paid in his time.”Harvey acknowledged focusing more specifically on the Navy’s needs during his speech, ironic during a Joint Warfare Conference. But, he said, before the whole can be strong, individual components need to be strong, as well. "You cannot separate the performance of the joint force from the unique capabilities each service delivers to the joint force."

That’s why the Navy needs to re-establish certainty in areas that it can control, returning to core competencies, such as sustainable deployments, maintenance and training.

This will help the U.S. maintain strong armed forces in the future, those capable of developing and training joint forces that can rapidly respond to whatever situation or crisis occurs in the world, Harvey said. It’s more important to make those hard decisions now, then to take a percentage cut.

Harvey also talked about partnerships that have formed between 32 nations fighting the war on piracy in the Indian Ocean and Somalia, a response that cannot be legislated. America has a duty to respond to that threat, he said, even though the direct impact to U.S. shores and businesses is still low.

During the conference’s first day, Harvey and other military elite hit on the need for expanded communications and trust when it comes to not only connections between the joint forces, but relationships with other countries across the globe.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command based with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., kicked off the conference with a talk about rapidly growing threat in cyberspace and the military’s response.

Schmidle explained that cyberspace “is a domain that doesn’t understand geographical boundaries.” The threat has evolved from one of exploitation, downloading files pulling data from sites, to one of active destruction. The most disturbing thing nowadays is the development of destructive tools – software – that can destroy data bases and even cause physical destruction, Schmidle said.

That’s why information sharing and creating proactive security measures among the joint forces are vital to fighting the cyber threat, he said. “You have to be out in the network hunting – looking for malware.” You defend and attack simultaneously in this realm, Schmidle said, focusing on the dot-military domain, where they have the authority to operate.

Other top military leaders expressed their own concerns with cyberspace attacks during a panel discussion on “Looking Ahead: What’s Working That We Can Use in Full Spectrum Ops?” One area that joint forces are lacking doctrine-wise is cyberspace. “I always worry about who’s out there, who’s going to take some of those magical moments from us – there are some smart enemies out there,” said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Al Krekich (Ret.), former commander of Surface Forces Pacific. 

Still, the military has come a long way since invading Iraq and Afghanistan back in the early 2000s, especially when it comes to working together for air and ground ops. The military is much better at syncing air and ground operations, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. William J. Rew, vice commander, Air Combat Command. “It wasn’t like that when we first invaded Afghanistan.”

Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., commanding general, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, agreed.

Lt. Gen. Caslen said the Army has developed a Rapid Adaptive Initiative that calls for immediate conversations on lessons learned, a capture lesson and a push-out of an informed doctrine.

Caslen also said that the armed forces are much better at building coalitions, teams, among people of other countries. Education and training are keys in developing future leaders, he said.

Some of those lessons learned came during natural disasters like last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan, another keynote panel talked about during the conference. Communication across the board is key, from military members to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the panel said.

Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, commander of the Joint Task Force Haiti, emphasized the need to partner with “everyone who is responding,” including the public-private sector. Keen, who could communicate only with text messages and an international calling card after the Haiti earthquake, also said it’s important to “coordinate and collaborate in an unclassified manner” so information can be shared and released.

Before a disaster hits, though, it’s important to have already established relationships, said Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, director of the Navy Irregular Warfare Office. He said when a disaster strikes, officials will always be in “catch-up mode” regardless, but, there are ways to get on top of the disaster and transition afterward.

Finally, to end the day’s panel discussions and speeches, former Good Morning America host David Hartman mediated a panel on the Chinese-American relationship compared to the American-Russian relationship of the Cold War World.

The three panelists, drawing extensively from their experience with Chinese-American relations, said there is no comparison between the two.
Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in national defense with the Congressional Research Service and author of “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities,” said America used its military, economic, political, diplomatic, cultural and ideological might to eventually bring down the former Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago.

The United States formed steadfast alliances with Europe and Asia in its protest against Communist Russia. With China, the issues are different, said Wallace “Chip” Gregson, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. “None of our friends want us to pick a fight with China,” Gregson said, but keep a peaceful presence in Asia.

Gregson, O’Rourke and retired Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, agreed that the U.S. should maintain a visible presence in various Asian countries, and continue its allied relationships with South Korea and Japan, maintaining its economic, political and military presence in the Pacific Rim.

“This notion of distrust is simmering and sometimes flares,” Keating admitted about America’s relationship with the Chinese. But, he said, almost “pedestrian communication,” simple communication, could help the situation.

America’s physical presence will “engender confidence in the Pacific Rim countries,” O’Rourke said.

Toni Guagenti is a freelance writer who lives in Norfolk.

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