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Sheehan Calls for More Jointness in Military

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Sept. 10, 1996 – America's global interests require a radical restructuring of the military services, according to Marine Corps Gen. John J. Sheehan, commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command.

"Only with a properly conceived, trained, equipped, deployed and commanded military force can we provide a more effective defense, usable in more circumstances, with less risk to our citizen soldiers," Sheehan said at the Naval Warfare Exposition and Symposium Sept. 4. He said the services still are struggling to work together effectively and must stive harder for true joint operability.

The general provided opening remarks at the two-day symposium sponsored by the Naval Institute, a private organization. More than 1,000 current and former Navy and Marine Corps officers and others attended the meeting, including retired Adm. Frank Kelso, former chief of naval operations, and retired Gen. Carl Mundy, former Marine Corps commandant.

Sheehan said DoD must better understand how the armed forces fit into America's global security strategy in order to chart an appropriate course for the next century. An objective assessment, he added, is long overdue.

"Is the United States a continental power with a global reach or truly a maritime nation with global interests? Until you answer that fundamental question," Sheehan said, "you can't discuss where ... maritime forces fit in the strategic concept." In Sheehan's view, current DoD and service programs and recent actions suggest the United States has become the former by default. "Unfortunately," he added, "we did not arrive at that decision by a careful strategic analysis."

America's definition of security is changing, he suggested. "In order for the United States to field a modern and relevant military capability for the next century, all of the services must ... evolve from independent, single-service institutions ... ."

He called for complementary land, air and sea forces that contribute to a "coherent joint force team."

The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 provides the legal imperative for improved joint capability, he said. When Congress passed the act to "streamline confused command initiatives," he said, "they were not trying to undermine service identities. Their intent was to make the services work together as a joint team."

The act called for joint education and career development of mid- and senior-level officers to operate in a joint environment. These officers "would understand the capabilities and limitations of each service's combat forces and would eventually command a joint force," the general said.

Since 1986, DoD has conducted "competent joint forces in Panama, the Persian Gulf and Haiti with increasing degrees of coherence and success. However," he added, "we must become more efficient. Congress will not allow us to return to old ways of doing business."

Congress and the American public also will continue to challenge DoD on its budget, Sheehan said. "Defense spending will increasingly find itself in competition with the public's strong desire to balance the budget, maintain popular social programs and reduce the taxpayers' burden."

Even with recent sharp reductions in defense spending, the government still spends a quarter of $1 trillion annually on defense, or a little more than $1,000 per citizen, he said. The current DoD budget is 90 percent of what it was during the Cold War, supporting a force that is 64 percent as large, the general said. "But we are still struggling to build a modern military."

Of the $245 billion DoD spends annually, more than 60 percent goes to pay operations and maintenance, Sheehan pointed out. By contrast, only $39 billion is spent on procurement and modernization.

"Former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff (Adm.) Bill Owens suggests that if we continue to buy equipment at our current rate, we are on the road to block obsolescence," Sheehan said. For example, he said, if the Navy buys four or five ships a year that last 30 years, the fleet will in time dwindle to under 200 ships. But more than a quarter of all procurement funding currently goes to fighter aircraft, including the Navy and Marine Corps F-18E and F, the Air Force F-22 and the joint defense strike fighter. "Yet I would argue that naval aviation still doesn't have a clear concept of where fixed-wing aviation fits into strike warfare," he said.

While procurement declines in DoD, headquarters staffs are growing larger, Sheehan said. He said some 150,000 service members are based in and around Washington, while just 129,000 serve in the Atlantic fleet. In 1995, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cost $22 billion to operate, he said. Excluding individual service headquarters, DoD's "command cost over two-thirds of the United Kingdom's entire annual defense budget," he said. "Yet the way the current debate on defense spending is shaping up, we are told we must choose between modernization and force structure.

"If we insist on funding redundant command layers and other overhead activities at little value to warfighters, we will starve the investment accounts that are supposed to produce the warfighting materiel needed for the next century." Without an adequate combat force structure, he added, overtasking will further erode combat capability.

While the services struggle with joint doctrine and operations, the general said, emerging global security requirements "force us to think well beyond the joint world we currently live in. Many threats to our security -- terrorism, drugs, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal migrations and the proliferation of weapons in the streets of America -- are primary law enforcement and diplomatic activities for which the military performs a critical supporting role." To succeed in this environment, the United States and its allies must integrate all its resources, he said.

The military's constitutional role is not just winning wars, Sheehan said, but to provide for the common defense of America and its global interests. "We are entering an era in which a commander's understanding and ability to mass the cultural, economic and political dimensions of a conflict or crisis is as important as massing the traditional firepower solution."

Ask platoon commanders who served in Bosnia or Haiti which tools they most used, and "you will likely find that lethal weapons were only one small part of their tool kits," the general suggested.

The Information Age greatly influences modern warfare, the general said. He predicted commanders on future battlefields will be able to locate, identify and track multiple targets with airborne warning and control and other support capabilities already available.

"The same commanders will also be able to rapidly destroy or disable those targets using long-range, over-the-horizon weapons," he said. "In such an environment, the idea of individual services fighting in isolation is [as] quaint as a horse cavalry charge and probably as practical." Sheehan said DoD must learn to use information dominance to develop a synergistic capability that denies enemies sanctuary.

"For each service to provide a credible voice in the coming defense budget debate, we must examine our data, conduct a sober assessment and examine the way we do business," Sheehan said. "If we intend to seriously influence the upcoming debate, we must honestly assess the global security environment, identify our core competencies and decide ... how and where those core competencies are best suited to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

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