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Keynote Discussion: “Joint & Coalition Operations: What’s the Way Ahead?”
What lies ahead for joint warfighting, particularly as U.S. conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia are winding down and the budget process is trending toward military cutbacks?
Retired Lt. Gen. John R. Wood, the former deputy commander of the U.S. Joint Forces command echoed the theme of the conference and said it is “knowing what to hold and what to fold.”
“It really does seem that we’re at another inflection point but it’s not unusual that we are,” Wood said. “It’s May. Spring is coming, or spring is upon us. Summer is ahead and the budget season is playing out, no different than we’ve seen in the past and other times in history in which we’ve approached an inflection point at the conclusion or beginning of war.”
Wood called it the result of an 11-year cycle of war, but said something will come the fall that will determine the ultimate “way ahead” and called it similar to other historical events that signified other inflection points in these cycles – be it the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, or a terrorist attack like Sept. 11, 2001.
“What may come this fall – I don’t know whether it will be a military event or a budget event,” Wood said.
The budget impact appears to be a real one for now. Congress’ failure to strike a deal on the budget has resulted in automatic cuts, which are coming at the military and even more will follow over the next decade.
“We always have that budget impact coming at us,” he added. “And certainly sequestration faces all of us of thinking about going beyond the $487 billion cut that is already on the table and think more about the $890 billion cut that could spread out over the next 10 years.”
Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Combat Development and Integration and commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Va., said there were other not-quite-as obvious concerns for joint warfighting that lie ahead.
“Another thing that is going to change as an inflection point is cyber is a new domain and offers both symmetric and asymmetrical advantages and also vulnerabilities,” Flynn said.
And cyberspace is just part of the larger technological equation with a not-so clearly defined battle space.
“Technology, which used to be our advantage, can also become a critical vulnerability or a disadvantage,” Flynn said. “The battle space of the past was linear with clear definition through physical boundaries. Coordination was easy. Future battle space will be non-linear and multi-directional.”
Lt. General Keith Walker of the U.S. Army had a similar survey of the landscape ahead. But he pinpointed four key areas to watch through the year 2020: The economy, a military shift to the Pacific, the Arab Spring, which he deemed “the gift that keeps on giving” as far as uncertainty goes and cyberspace.
“Those were the big four pieces of the overall environment,” Walker said. “So, we got the strategic guidance. We got the environment and we can set about looking at our concept work in what the Army must do, how the Army operates, etc.”
Also on the panel was Rear Admiral Philip S. Davidson, who spoke less on the future and more about the current shortfalls. According to the director of operations and intelligence (N3/N2) and deputy commander of task force zero, the U.S. carrier force strained because demand for it is up. He noted it the U.S. Navy was operating in disaggregated manner. And in addition to the carrier shortfalls, he said there was also a strain on the United States’ Cruiser destroyer force.
And with advances by the Chinese Navy, having tested their own aircraft carrier and the Iranians causing mischief with their own navy, he made the case that these concerns could not be ignored.
Finally speaking on the subject of “What’s the Way Ahead?” was Vice Admiral C.A. Johnstone-Burt of the Royal Navy and chief of staff of NATO.
Johnstone-Burt said the same “know what to hold and what to fold” principle also applies to NATO perspective. He explained while there’s probably no political appetite for another war effort like Iraq or Afghanistan, NATO still made gains in the types of warfare used in those conflicts, particularly with land and air. Yet he said it was gains in sea warfare that lagged behind and needed to catch up.
“That is the challenge we are facing today, with the U.S. as our leader and in my view, which will be an explicit leader, not an implicit one,” Johnstone-Burt said.
Profession of Arms: How Do the Services Meet Tomorrow’s Expectations & News Challenges?
After identifying some of the changes in the landscape of joint warfighting, the second panel session of the conference took on meeting these challenges, with a renewed focus on the importance of the education.
The panel was moderated by Major Gen. Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret.), former commandant of the U.S. Army War College. He made the same points that were made in the panel, which throughout the last 200 years, the changes in the paradigm of warfare occur at the beginning and end of conflicts.
But it was Scales’ first panelist U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Thomas K. Andersen, the commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education that said with the budget looming, putting an emphasis on education is as important as ever.
“I like to say that we have to convince our bosses at the Air Force that education is an investment and not an expense,” Andersen said.
That so-called “investment” according to Andersen’s co-panelist, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John N. Christenson, president of the U.S. Naval War College, is important because to prepare for new challenges it is important to study human nature, which he says never changes.
“We study history, we study planning and we study cooperation,” Christenson said of the U.S. Navy War College. “Those are kind of the big three.”
That cooperation Christenson said extends beyond just the U.S. Armed Forces, but with other nations as well.
Luncheon Keynote Address: Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, USMC (Ret.) former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Giving an unusually blunt luncheon keynote address on day one was Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the inaugural Harold Brown chair in defense policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to Cartwright, it is an unprecedented time for the United States and its military because these circumstances have never been encountered in our nation’s history.
“We are in an unprecedented time,” he said. “Almost everybody that gets up here will tell you that. With 10 years of war under our belt, there’s really no precedent for that. In this country, we generally think of going off, we stay until it’s done and then we come home. That’s just not the case in this conflict. This conflict is really the first big and extended conflict of the all-volunteer force.”
Cartwright identified three areas that needed to be addressed going forward as the military meets this “inflection point.”
“One is strategy,” he said. “The other is the resource side of the equation. And the third is how in fact we’re going to make those match up, which sometimes is called grand strategy, when you’re trying to line up ends and means.”
But looming large over the military are budgetary issues and while much remains uncertain, changes are inevitable.
“While we squeal a lot about debt reduction and about how terrible it was, we were heading in that direction anyway,” he said. “That’s the reality. We do not want to talk about the next increments. We’re willing to say the word ‘sequester’ without saying we’re going to do anything different.”
“The reality out there – your crystal ball is as good as mine,” he continued. “Given any given month, it looks like there’s going to be a sequestration.”
Cartwright’s guess was around 11 percent based on the $487-billion figure that has been reported and that historically after conflicts, reductions ranged between 20 percent and 26 percent, which the military is at the halfway point.
“If you think along those lines, at some point you have to change the strategy, or hollow the force,” he said. “And left to our own devices we would normally hollow the force.”
But that according to Cartwright is a recipe for disaster because you start taking out moving parts of the military and put in a vulnerable position. Thus, he said it calls for a strategy to accommodate these cuts instead.
Another change Cartwright noted had less to do with a budgetary standpoint and more to do with a geographical one.
“We are pivoting to the Pacific – a really poor choice of words unfortunately because the rest of the world interprets you’re turning your back on them,” Cartwright said. “That’s not our intent, but that’s what been interpreted from the word ‘pivot.’”
Cartwright said those changes with budget and strategy must be thought of in terms of the United States having an “occupation force.”
“We’re equipped as an occupation force and we’re trained as an occupation force,” he said. “When you go to battle by getting up in the morning in your compound, getting into your armored vehicle and go out and patrol and return to your compound at night – that is an occupation force.”
The former vice chairman explained that that was important because now your force is too heavy to move by air and requires a different means to move, which he said begged the question “is that what we want to be when we grow up?”
Other aspects of the military Cartwright discussed were the shift from manned to unmanned weapon systems. But he said it wasn’t necessarily a question of cost of the manpower, but that now man’s abilities weren’t capable of keeping up with the technology.
He examined how the technology eliminated the need for training of the human element to stay sharp in peace time, which lowers operations and maintenance costs.
“This is where the reality is,” he said. “We’ve got to start defining where the leverage is. The leverage is in systems like that that can exceed the performance of the human being – can be out there longer than the human can last in harsher environments.”
Cartwright said this change in warfare started back with the first Persian Gulf War, which precision warfare was implemented. The proof said was that the United States was able to wage war against Iraq under Saddam Hussein, yet not interrupt rush hour traffic in Baghdad because the Iraqis had confidence the accuracy of the U.S. weapon systems at the time.
The other change in the landscape Cartwright noted were the shift demographics around the world. While the average age of the United States is 44, the average age around the equator, 20 degrees north and south is in 20s. And he said the United States is remaining competitive largely because of immigration policy and diversity that came out of that immigration policy.
“This is a real shift that is going on,” he said. “And that belt of countries where that age is less than 20 – that age is represented where the wealth is mal-distributed, the resources are mal-distributed. They’re educating. They can’t feed their families and they can’t house their families. They have nothing to lose and they’re out there.”
Young Warfighters: What Lessons Are Worth Keeping & How Do We Keep Our Fighting Edge?
With the changes acknowledged and pending with our nation’s defense apparatus, is it possible under the circumstances for what remains to keep its so-called fighting edge.
Looking down the road, the moderator of the last panel of the day, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), asked his panelists how things will look in five years after the changes take place.
“I’m optimistic where we are going to be in five years,” Bowers said. “Everyone has heard, everyone understands that we’re going to have to operate the joint forces ahead of austerity. There’s going to be cuts. There’s going to be less people. We’re going to have less stuff.”
But Bowers explained that opened door for the armed forces to put quality ahead of quantity and recruit and train better individual as to he was optimistic.
Lt. Commander James “Cheeze” Presler said it would become more of matter of figuring out if these warfighters “want to be here” with these changes.
And despite these changes, according to Presler’s co-panelist Lt. Joseph “Grant” Thomas, the mission of keeping the edge remains the same with or without the cutbacks.