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Shelton Looks to Military Strategy of the Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 17, 2000 – The nations top military officer believes the security environment will become more complex and the United States must develop and experiment with new operational concepts and transform accordingly.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States will face clever, adaptive adversaries who will examine U.S. military capabilities and operations and take stock of U.S. successes and failures.

They will continue to seek and exploit our perceived weaknesses, he said. I believe they will use asymmetric warfare to thwart or sap our will. The latest example of that was the USS Cole.

Shelton spoke here Nov. 16 at the Fletcher Conference, a gathering of current and former military and civilian defense leaders, legislators and academicians that this year is examining national security issues facing the first U.S. administration of the 21st century.

The chairman gazed into the future to determine the type of strategy the country will need in 2020 and what forces the military will need to make the strategy work. He said the mission of the U.S. military will not change -- its prime mission will remain to fight and win the nations wars.

But U.S. forces must be prepared to fight the full range of threats, he continued. Capabilities must include everything from peacetime engagement to warfighting. He said the United States can expect threats from nonstate actors such as terrorists and transnational narco-terrorism and other asymmetric threats. He also said enemies may try to expand their battlespace by attacking U.S. critical infrastructure or by launching a strike using weapons of mass destruction.

For those groups or nations that lack technology, we can expect a retreat to the lower end of the combat spectrum, he said. Shelton said this is not an unrealistic scenario. He cited U.S. experiences in Southwest Asia, Haiti and the Balkans as the basis for much of the thinking going into U.S. defense strategy.

Shelton said the military capability based on defending against two major theater wars serves the country well. This capability allows us to go in two directions at one time, he said. When were committed in one area of the world, it deters opportunist aggression in another.

This capability will also help the United States against the possibility of a peer competitor rising or for one or more foes combining against U.S. interests.

At the core of any future national military strategy is rapid decisive operations. This capability will create a truly joint total force -- a seamless and unparalleled force, Shelton said.

Rapid decisive operations will depend on the joint force, he said, explaining all the services must combine their visions for the future to accomplish this joint transformation. The U.S. Joint Forces Command is the epicenter for joint operations and doctrine.

Planners at the Norfolk, Va., command are working to combine capabilities of the active and reserve components. Working this way will leverage and enhance U.S. military capabilities. The command is already conducting joint experiments to develop joint operational concepts and doctrines, Shelton said. This will form a joint context for service concept development and experimentation, he said.

Military leaders are taking a hard look at technologies. Interoperability is a key performance parameter for all major high-dollar acquisitions," he said. This parameter is not waiverable; it is nonnegotiable.

Shelton said the services must capitalize on and experiment within existing joint capabilities. We have yet to realize, for example, the full potential of such opportunities as joint over-the-shore logistics, he said. Our goal is for the joint operational concepts and architecture to guide service transformation efforts. I believe that only then can we reap the true warfighting benefits of jointness. Only then will we be truly joint. Only then will we be ready to face an uncertain future.

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