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Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Exploring New Ways of Operating

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2002 – Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has watched the military evolve over the past 35 years. During a recent interview with the American Forces Press Service, Pace talked of the changes he's seen and of the changes yet to come. Here is the second in a three-part series on the general's views.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace visits with Marines in "Tent City," Afghanistan, during a trip to the area in August 2002. Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the first Marine to hold the position. Photo by Lt. Andy Sullivan, USN.

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In a world turned upside down by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States, U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace is one of the nation's senior military leaders exploring new ways of defending America.

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said transforming the military calls for a change in mindset. Transformation is the U.S. military's term du jour encompassing the need for new ways of thinking, planning, training, transporting, fighting and defending to better prepare the United States for today's challenges and those of the future.

According to Pace, transformation goes beyond the need for ever more high-tech weapon platforms and equipment.

"I do believe that without any new toys at all, we can in fact go a long way down the road to transformation by simply re-thinking the way we do business," he said.

"You have ships in the U.S. Navy right now that spend a lot of their time transiting the oceans between the United States and either the Pacific or Europe," Pace said as an example. "Right now, the CNO (chief of naval operations), Adm. Vern Clark, is looking at manning those ships with a crew that takes the ship over, let's say, to the Pacific. Then, when that crew is due to come home in six months, rather than bringing the ship home, simply sending a plane with a new crew and bringing the crew home."

Ships in the Pacific currently spend two months in transit time. Clark's new approach would save one month going each way and provide a full-time presence instead of a part-time one, Pace said.

"If you do that times 300 ships," he noted, "you've darn near doubled or tripled the size of your fleet because you have that many more months that they're deployed. Now do you have to bring them home and get them repaired? Of course you do, but over time you can at least double the amount of time you get overseas by various ships. That's a transformational thought."

A combination of new thinking and redesigned weapon platforms is also part of the transformation picture, Pace said, turning to another example. An operational study is under way to determine how much U.S. combat power defense officials want to be able to deploy anywhere in the world within a certain period of time.

For example, the vice chairman said, "if you are able to get five divisions anywhere in the world in 90 days, what might be the impact on your war plans if you could get those five divisions anywhere in the world in 30 days or 45 days? Or, might you be able to have the same impact by getting three divisions someplace in 30 days, and be able to concentrate that power quickly, rather than having to wait 90 days for all five divisions to show up?

"Right now, most of our ships, give or take a little, go about 20 knots for transport," he said. "That's 500 miles a day. If you could double or triple that, then you'd significantly alter the enemy's planning time and your own ability to concentrate power quickly. But current hull design doesn't support a 40- or a 60- knot ship. If you thought you'd want to do that, maybe you should spend some money and do a transformational ship design."

U.S. and coalition operations in Afghanistan highlighted the need for transformational thinking, Pace pointed out. "The Army Special Forces soldier with a laser-designator riding on horseback going into combat -- that's transformation," he said.

The Marines' amphibious assault from the sea 400 to 500 hundred miles inland was another example. "To my knowledge, this was the longest such move in Marine Corps history," Pace said. "So again, using the same platform, the same Marines, same toys, but using them in a very different way -- that's transformation."

Operations in Afghanistan clearly showed that the United States has the military capabilities it needs, Pace said. "No other nation in the world can, inside of three weeks, do what this nation did to deliver a combat force into Afghanistan," he said.

But once the conventional force was there, the mission involved what Pace called "the manhunt stage." That called for "small teams fed with very precise, very timely intelligence that allows them to take rapid action inside the other guy's planning cycle."

"Because the enemy is in small teams not encumbered by logistics like main battle forces are, they're going to be able to learn, and adapt and change very quickly," he said. "Our forces need to be able to do the same things. Special operations, Special Forces, communications, intelligence -- all become of greater utility in a counterterrorist mode.

In Afghanistan, small teams worked directly with friendly Afghan forces to hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban forces. "If you happen to be a Special Forces captain or sergeant, you and maybe two or three other guys are the only folks with an Afghan battalion," Pace said. "You've got to know the impact that you're having. So I think the smaller the (team needed to have) a significant impact, the more the individual (team members) are going to feel good about themselves, about their ability to contribute, and their ability to influence the environment."

Small specialized teams will be "a part, at least, if not a major piece, of each foreseeable future conflict," he said. Possible scenarios would have small teams going after targets that have weapons of mass destruction and individuals who are key leaders or nodes in a network, he said.

At the same time, the United States needs to maintain the capabilities needed to take on any countries that might attack the American homeland or U.S. allies and friends, Pace added. Defense officials need to be wary of learning "the wrong lessons" from Operation Enduring Freedom, he warned. They should not learn lessons that apply only to Afghanistan.

"Some folks would tell you that because we only had Special Forces and primarily airplanes early on that's all that was needed," Pace said. "They forget that there were in fact ground troops. Although they weren't U.S. forces, they were certainly coalition forces. Afghanistan has also retaught us the value of ground troops."

Afghanistan spotlighted the need to rebuild the U.S. military's human intelligence service. "When we first went into Afghanistan we didn't know who our friends were or who our enemies were," Pace said. "We found ourselves in a Mad comic book, spy vs. spy vs. spy, not really knowing which corner your friends were around."

Few U.S. service members spoke languages prevalent in Afghanistan, he added. "We need to take a look at the future and determine perhaps the handful of languages that would serve us well 80, 90 percent of the time over the globe. We need to start training our officers and our NCOs to be able to communicate in at least one other language besides English. That would be an enormous transformational change for us."

The conflict also emphasized the benefits of forming coalitions. "Even though we're capable of doing what we need to do for our nation unilaterally," Pace said, "clearly, it is better internationally, politically, but also better militarily, to have friends on your left and your right when you go into combat."

Other countries offer some unique capabilities that "fill niches in the array of combat capabilities that we don't have strength in," he said. "They really do flesh us out very nicely."

Because of the benefits of small teams, he added, a country that does not have a huge military can still provide significant help. "Fifty or 100 Special Forces-type guys can go in and do some very, very good work for the world even though they may be coming from a country that doesn't have a really large military."

Overall, Pace said, operations in Afghanistan gave military officials "all kinds of lessons we can chew on and try to adjust to." One of the key aspects of the fight, he stressed, was the need to be adaptable, flexible and accepting of failure.

"If you want your subordinates to make decisions and take risks and do things without having to call back and ask permission, then you have to understand that when they try something new, sometimes it's going to work, and sometimes it's not," he said.

One of the great strengths Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld brought to the battle in Afghanistan, Pace said, was that he encouraged military leaders to try different approaches. The vice chairman attributes this to Rumsfeld's pharmaceutical background, where 99 out of 100 experiments fail and one makes a billion dollars for the company.

"I think his ability to encourage experimentation and to accept failure made a huge difference for Gen. (Tommy) Franks (commander, U.S. Central Command) and his subordinate commanders as they tried things, stubbed their toes a little bit, adjusted and went on to find the right solution," Pace said. "If we have that kind of leadership at the top, and if the rest of us in the chain of command can make our subordinates feel that same comfort level and encourage them to take those kinds of risks, that really does feed the kind of transformation we're talking about."

At first, he noted, people may not have felt comfortable taking risks or stepping out of the box. "I think that it took the secretary several iterations of telling people it was OK to experiment and fail, and then them going out experimenting and failing and seeing his reaction to that, before they got it in their heads, 'He really means this and it's OK,'" Pace said.

He said the war on terrorism also revealed the need to enhance existing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. "No commander is ever going to say he or she has enough of that," he said, "but the fact of the matter is that we need focused intelligence that is rapidly assessed and transmitted to forces that are capable of absorbing it, thinking it through, deciding and moving out without leaving a large footprint going in or getting out.

"Again, that does not mean that the standing forces shouldn't continue to exist," he said. "We need them to defend the nation. But to defend the nation against terrorists, the military contribution needs to be very flexible, very adaptive. Speed is a force multiplier. In fact, speed may very well make a difference between being effective and not being effective."

Whether conventional forces or Special Forces teams, Pace said, all are ready to take on whatever mission comes their way.

"We're ready for big ones," the vice chairman said. "We're ready for little ones. We're ready for the things we haven't thought about. We're always thinking. We're thinking about something that might happen in Korea. We're thinking about something that might happen in Iraq, and guess what? Afghanistan comes along."

Yet, inside of three weeks, the military's planning and adaptability enabled U.S. forces to go into "a place like Afghanistan, totally landlocked, and do what we needed to do for our country," he said.

"So I am very comfortable that taking what we are doing today, plus what is foreseeable to be done in the future, that we are ready and capable with the current force of handling our nation's problems," Pace concluded. "I can say that because I know that at the end of the day, there are Pfcs and lance corporals out there who will find a way to make it work. The lieutenants and the sergeants always find a way to get the job done."

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Related Articles:
Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Witness to Change
Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Leadership Enhanced by Global Communication

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDuring a recent visit to Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Peter Pace enjoyed chow with coalition forces and took time to thank the service members responsible for preparing the meal. Photo by Lt. Andy Sullivan, USN.   
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