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U.S. Must Exploit Asymmetric Advantages, Myers Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2004 – The United States has its own asymmetric advantages in the asymmetric war on terror, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today, and those advantages are at the cusp of transformation.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the audience at TECHNET 2004 that U.S. command and control capabilities are more than a match for the asymmetric advantages that terrorists possess. TECHNET is sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Several hundred members civilian and military, government and private industry listened as the chairman talked about command and control and its importance in the war on terrorism.

The chairman spoke about command, control, computers, communications and "battlespace awareness." Usually in the place of battlespace awareness is the acronym ISR, for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

There are two reasons the chairman stayed away from the latter term. First, "I don't think there is a distinct enough difference between the I, the S, and the R today to make it worthy of saying ISR," he said. Second, battlespace awareness encompasses more than just ISR.

The chairman explained how he sees it from "30,000 feet." He said that his view of command and control as chairman is definitely different from that of workers at lower levels the 100-foot altitude. He said the folks working at that level are the ones who actually make the new technologies or new methods work.

At the bottom line, the greatest asymmetric advantage the United States has in the war on terrorism is its people. But the link among all these people is the command and control system, Myers said. "It comes down to our capability to turn information into action across the globe," he said.

Myers spoke about the command and control advantage during Operation Iraqi Freedom, "when the media reported that the coalition was bogged-down. I think 'quagmire' was the sound bite. It was during one of the worst sandstorms the region had seen in years."

"But in reality, during that sandstorm, coalition forces effectively decimated two Iraqi divisions," he continued. "The Iraqi troops had thought they were invisible, but they were wrong. They were so demoralized that many just ran away and Iraqi battalions dissolved one after the other.

"Iraqi generals, as well as the press, didn't understand our capabilities. The advanced technology many of you in this room helped create looked like magic."

The command and control apparatus allows the United States to tie together agencies, services and nations. It allows the coalition to have a coherent strategy and "make the best and fastest decisions," Myers said.

The general said that on one hand command and control systems act like a glue that holds organizations and operations together. "But it also acts like a caulk filling the gaps and seams between our stovepipes and between commands and between organizations and missions."

Focusing all aspects of national and international power on a problem requires new ways of operating, Myers said. Harmonizing and synchronizing operations across agencies and nations is tough. Doing that with industry partners and non-governmental agencies adds new complexities to the mix.

"We're moving from an era of 'joint warfighting' where services would fight together to 'integrated warfare' where we'll tie many coalition partners and all of our instruments of national power together," Myers said.

But it is not all brightness and light for the U.S. military. "For all our strengths and advantages, we still have lots of problems to fix and lots of work to do if we are going to maintain our edge," he said.

Among the problem areas are combat identification, intelligence gathering and sharing, and developing common operating pictures. He said that just as ISR may no longer be useful, the ideas of tactical, operational and strategic levels may not be helpful either. "There are things that the president should know and perhaps a private should know," Myers said. "That was the case in Fallujah."

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Gen. Richard B. Myers

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