Myers Stresses Transformation in War on Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2004 The United States is doing "pretty well" in the war on terror, but more needs to be done and more progress is necessary to transform American military capabilities, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said Feb. 18.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke at a "Space at the Crossroads" conference co-sponsored by the Space Foundation and Space News. The audience came mostly from industry, and Myers seemed to relish the chance to speak on military transformation and what it means for civilian partners.
But first, he gave a report on progress in the war on terror. In the informal talk, the chairman expressed guarded optimism on the progress in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said the new constitution in Afghanistan is a sign of progress. The constitution guarantees the rights of minorities and women. It gives the 25 million people of the country hope for a better future, Myers said.
"Does that mean there won't be a car bomb in Kabul tonight? No," he said. "Does that mean that coalition folks aren't going to lose their lives in Afghanistan? No."
The remnants of the Taliban and the al Qaeda in that country will do their utmost to try and sidetrack progress, Myers said. Coalition forces including the NATO contingent around Kabul will continue missions to eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda. "All the trend lines in Afghanistan are up," he said.
In Iraq, the chairman said he sees the glass as half full, not half empty. He cited the progress toward sovereignty and the numbers of Iraqis volunteering to work toward a new, democratic Iraq as examples of this progress. He said the infrastructure rehabilitation is going well, and that the men and women of the coalition force understand why they are there and believe what they are doing is important.
Anti-coalition cells will try to subvert progress, Myers said. Security remains a problem of keeping ahead of the terrorists. Intelligence, tactics and procedures all need to enable commanders to make changes quickly to stay ahead of the tactics of the anti-coalition cells, the chairman said.
Myers said the letter written by al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi shows that the terrorists consider the war in Iraq a central theater of their campaign. "They talk about what cowards the coalition members are, but they have great resolve; they're not leaving," Myers said.
The war will take patience, Myers said. It's not enough to combat the terrorists in the field today, he said. Stopping young people from embracing philosophies that lead to terrorism, he added, also is part of the battle.
Myers turned to transformation philosophies. He told the audience that transformation is more than just new technologies. "It's much more about the cultural and intellectual" changes than technological ones, he said.
Myers spoke directly to the audience's private industry representatives about what that means to them. He said he's aware that their presentations and promotional materials frequently call their systems "transformational."
"That may or may not be true," Myers said. He added that while technology plays a role in transformation, the more important role is "in thinking how we're going to act and interact with each other."
The war on terror requires government to do many specific things it has not done before, the chairman said. Federal agencies have to share information far beyond typical past recipients. Myers said the Commerce, Treasury or Homeland Security departments may need information gleaned by the CIA. Further, the federal government may have to share that information with state and local governments. Ultimately, he said, that information to be acted upon may have to go to the "cop on the beat."
Myers emphasized that sharing has to happen not just within the United States, but also with friends and allies. "The war on terror will require us to share information in a way that we're not yet able to do," he said.
He said this points out a failure in government and the private sector. "We have been way too stovepiped," Myers said, not reaching outside respective areas of expertise enough to amalgamate technologies or ideas from other fields.
Using satellites as an example, he said space engineers see a new need and think of it only from the realm of space. But there are airborne platforms that could provide the capability, he said, and the space engineers ought to be speaking with colleagues in those projects to come up with a "holistic" approach to solving the problem.
Another example the chairman used is in government. He asked what the difference today is among the ISR components: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "It may have made sense at one point to separate those out," he said. "Yet we still have offices that think that way."
Industry too, segregates functions like that, he added.
Myers said both industry and government have to break out of these stovepipes and share ideas and information freely across areas. He said one strength of the American military is the way military and civilian officials can talk. He stressed this conversation must be done ethically, but that it has to happen.
He urged military and civilian officials to work together to fashion these new ideas, capabilities -- and yes, technologies -- that will enable transformation.