"Joint Vision 2010" Hale or Hollow?

By Major Jon A. Kimminau, U.S. Air Force

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Strategic vision statements can unify an organization around common purposes and advocate actions and plans to external audiences. Done well, they become the hallmarks of leading corporations and industries; done poorly, they are lampooned by cartoonists and the media as examples of management mumbo-jumbo. There is very little middle ground-either the vision appeals to its audience and mobilizes it toward practical ends, or it languishes on office walls and coffee tables.

Warfighting organizations are no strangers to strategic visions. "Joint Vision 2010," however, is a landmark attempt to set a path for the entire joint warfighting team-to produce a "template" for the evolution of the U.S. armed forces. If we take this literally, then "Joint Vision 2010" (JV 2010) is meant to be a pattern from which we can trace or build.

Unfortunately, more than a year after its publication, JV 2010 presents a quandary: Are we merely polishing up our old doctrine and organization with flashy words and mottoes? Is new technology the only change affecting the U.S. military? Do we have any guidance linking our vision and doctrine to planning and programming? A rough summary of the 23-page document includes three basic points:

#1 We have nearly the same interests and tasks as in the past.

  • "Our fundamental interests lie in enhancing U.S. security, promoting prosperity at home, and promoting democracy abroad. . . . On the whole, there is likely to be far more continuity than change in these interests and policies."
  • "The primary task of the armed forces will remain to deter conflict-but, should deterrence fail, to fight and win our nation's wars."

#2 Technology is changing warfare and enabling new operational concepts.

  • "This era will be one of accelerating technological change. Critical advances will have enormous impact on all military forces."
  • "In sum, by 2010 we should be able to enhance the capabilities of our forces through technology."
  • "Enhanced command and control, and much improved intelligence, along with other applications of new technology, will transform the traditional functions of maneuver, strike, protection, and logistics. These transformations will be so powerful that they become, in effect, new operational concepts."

#3 Using our current institutions and procedures, we need to make some hard choices.

  • "These institutions and procedures and the high quality forces they have produced remain at the very center of Joint Vision 2010."
  • "We will have to make hard choices to achieve the tradeoffs that will bring the best balance, most capability, and greatest interoperability for the least cost."

Each of the service chiefs has endorsed JV 2010 and the new operational concepts for joint warfighting. But without a firm fix on what the military purpose (our position) is and some amount of guidance on how to get there (some velocity), the best JV 2010 can hope to achieve is bumper-sticker status (a vector in empty space.) Is there an alternative that can complete this "conceptual template" for the next century?

Position Fix

The first problem with JV 2010 is the underlying assumption that basic principles have not changed with the end of the Cold War, combined with laudatory comments about the continuing dominance of the U.S. military. As writer Andrew Krepinevich-and others-has pointed out:

We know the United States has by far the world's dominant military. It has the world's biggest defense budget. It has the best technology and better people in uniform than any other nation. But we also know that in a rapidly changing global environment characterized by dramatic technological advances, enjoying a dominant competitive position now is no guarantee of success in the future.

Just as many private corporations have had to revise their understandings of their competitive environment, so too must our joint military forces recognize a new strategic environment and the attendant tasks the military is and will be called on to execute. As Anthony Lake, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, said in 1995:

Old threats like ethnic and religious violence and aggression by rogue states have taken on new and dangerous dimensions. And no one is immune to a host of equal opportunity destroyers: the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, environmental degradation. Individually, each could undermine our growing security. Together, they have the potential to cause terrible chaos around the world and in our own society.

His expression of the resulting tasks that may call for the use of military force includes: defense against attacks on the United States and its citizens and allies; countering aggression; defending key economic interests; preserving and promoting democracy; preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, international crime, and drug trafficking; maintaining our reliability with allies; and performing humanitarian assistance to combat famines, disasters, and gross human rights violations. This does not jibe with JV 2010's statement that the primary task of the armed forces remains deterrence of conflict or fighting and winning wars. In fact, all of these tasks are of relatively equal value, for in today's environment it is difficult to discern which problem will most threaten U.S. security.

The distinction is critical to a new vision. As one writer observes:

The various Weinberger-Powell-Cheney doctrines, which set out to define several preconditions for any decision to send U.S. military forces into combat, are based squarely, tacitly, and without discussion on the same concept of war . . . they all require vital, fervor-arousing U.S. national interests to be clearly threatened, and that the United States employ forces powerful enough to win not only decisively but also quickly, before the fervor abates and the nation is no longer aroused.

This is a self-defeating proposition. It could lead to a military that might deny, given the same conditions today, that there are any benefits to executing a Berlin Airlift. It could present senior military leaders with no better answer to queries about readiness for large-scale terrorism, environmental disasters, or peace-enforcement operations than, "Let me tell you about our two-MRC capabilities."

Some writers, even within the military, are grappling with this problem and proposing a new concept of warfare, one that is predicated on defining warfare as those events for which one creates, trains, and uses military forces. In brief, it says that military forces provide a nation's ability to: compel adversaries by defeating or destroying their forces; coerce them with selective applications of force against critical targets; deter them with credible threats of punishment and dominant knowledge of their capabilities and intent; and reassure and sustain allies by deploying forces, resources, and services to meet critical needs.

JV 2010 must fix its position on this new identity and purpose.

Right Vector, Wrong Setting

The second step in creating a vision is to set a course or vector. It is recognized across business, academic, and government circles that society is undergoing a transformation. Just as we progressed in the l9th century from agrarian to industrial economies, so now we are moving from industrial to service-based economies. Service economies are marked by wide variety and depth in products and services; a reliance on information volume, speed, and availability; redundancy in product and service lines (the search for niche markets); and horizontal management structures that leverage the advantages of specialization and outsource any activities not directly relevant to the enterprise. Most organizations are struggling to get ahead of this transformation, and a key step is identifying capabilities that are essential to the organization's existence and purpose-the so-called core competencies.

JV 2010 tackles this problem head on, using the term "operational concept" in place of "core competency." It correctly observes that technology, particularly the revolution in information systems, is pulling military capabilities into a new era. Long-range precision and delivery capabilities, new weapons effects, stealth, and a command-and-control "system of systems" combine to increase the lethality and tempo of military operations, enabling extensive use of asymmetric warfare, which in turn offers the United States a relatively low-cost and low-risk means to compel adversaries in order to achieve national objectives. Some may debate whether precision capabilities can replace the requirement for equivalent physical mass in our forces (JV 2010 adroitly sidesteps, and mentions the need for both), but much of the overall construct is supported in doctrinal discussions and writings today.

The result is four new operational concepts-dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, and focused logistics-with one overarching end, full-spectrum dominance. Spanning and supporting the four concepts is information superiority, which, strangely, is not considered an operational concept in itself. (The Air Force incorporates information superiority as one of its six core competencies.) Nevertheless, the construct is consistent and sufficient in describing and linking current capabilities with new technological advantages.

These new concepts fulfill the role of core competencies, but there are two problems. First, the concepts are grounded in and described in terms of fighting classic war, or compelling the enemy. They could be projected into coercion, deterrence, and reassurance tasks, but that is left to the reader, and that is contrary to a good strategic vision in not unifying its audience. Second, any mention or thought as to a particular service's competitive advantage in any of the concepts is avoided. This minimizes controversy, but it also limits the utility and protracts the discussion of the vision-if the Joint Staff does not have any idea of the advantages service specialization offers, how does one even begin to implement the vision?

A Lack of Velocity

Strategic visions generally conclude with strong statements about the organization's intentions and some ideas about how to implement the vision. In this area, JV 2010 is at its nadir. The intention is to make full-spectrum dominance a reality by transforming joint team capabilities so that they fulfill the four operational concepts. How is this done?

Achieving the full promise of this vision will largely depend on how well we structure our defense program. . . . As we implement this vision, we must acknowledge that strong leadership, warfighting skill, and innovative thinking will be central to developing the detailed requirements and decision points. Our organizational climate must reward critical thinking, foster the competition of ideas, and reduce structural or cultural barriers to innovation.

These are important ideas, but do we change doctrine?

Joint doctrine will remain the foundation that fundamentally shapes the way we think about and train for joint military operations.

Do we change our organizations and procedures?

All organizations must become more responsive to contingencies, with less "startup" time between deployment and employment.

These are only two samples, but they are about as specific as JV 2010 gets in providing guidance. For such a far-reaching and important vision, the lack of guidance is potentially devastating.

The challenge can be met, however. The first step is to examine how doctrine-how one intends to develop, organize, train, and employ military forces to accomplish objectives-is linked to the vision's position and vector. Because warfare is no longer merely deterring, fighting, and winning wars, doctrine should incorporate the vision's new operational concepts. Similarly, if full spectrum dominance is to be the basic concept of U.S. warfare capabilities, then its operational concepts or core competencies should show some direct relationship to military tasks or purposes. JV 2010 should delineate each of these linkages; one possibility is shown in table 1.

The effort to create these linkages alone will generate some movement toward the vision. For example, even as a concept rather than background support, is information superiority the only capability leveraged off technology that can execute peacekeeping operations and ensure freedom of navigation effectively? Is it possible to propose and change the basis for force structure from a twomajor-regional-contingency strategy to a one-major regional contingency (compel), two-LRC (coerce), one-terrorist-incident (deter), and two-support-event (reassurance) strategy? More important, if JV 2010 is to "become a benchmark for Service and Unified Command visions," can there begin serious discussion of service roles and missions-for which tasks do they provide distinct advantages and capabilities, and in what combinations might we structure both our unified commands and our overall force?

Borrowing from the various service vision statements and basic doctrine, one possible alignment is shown in table 2.

As the services begin to grapple with how they offer specialized capabilities, or jointly fill undeveloped capabilities, they will face institutional challenges to meeting the vision, particularly in planning and programming. This is the final area for which JV 2010 should offer guidance: changing procedures and priorities. For example, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and the Joint Warfighting Capabilities Assessments (JWCA) are two direct influences on service programming and budgeting that are under the control of the Joint Chiefs. The JWCA's focus on 11 mission areas either should be replaced by a focus on the 4 operational concepts or should clearly note which of the operational concepts each of the 11 areas primarily support. JROC should evaluate all requirements and programs as to full-spectrum-dominance applicability. If this is "too difficult" or "the vision is not appropriate at this level," then JV 2010 carries no weight. Implementation must start with the Joint Staff, or the vision should be abandoned.

An Alternate Template

"Joint Vision 2010" is a monumental effort to chart a path for 21st-century military forces. Left in its present form, however, it will produce little more than fodder for speechwriters. JV 2010 needs to be founded on a correct vision of the modern nature of warfare, projecting its conception of U.S. military core competencies and providing practical guidance on implementing the template it intends to be. It demands a U.S. military team that compels, coerces, deters, and reassures through full-spectrum dominance: a dynamic combination of joint core competencies that will be reflected in joint doctrine, service strategic visions, and future plans and programs.


More by this Author

None found for this author.

Events and Conferences

None found for this author.


Conferences and Events

2014 U.S. Naval Institute History Conference

Wed, 2014-10-01

The 2014 Naval History Conference is hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the U.S. Naval Academywith support from The William M...

2015 WEST Conference

View All

From the Press

Meet the Author & Guest Lecturer

Sat, 2014-08-09

CDR Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, USN

Meet the Author & Book Signing

Tue, 2014-08-12

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership