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Transforming the Military: Putting it All Together

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2001 – By 2010, the transformation of the military could be a fifth to a quarter accomplished, U.S. Joint Forces Command officials said.

The transformation is not haphazard and is well-thought out, said Army Col. Dan Bolger, chief of strategy division at the command's Strategy, Requirements and Integration Directorate.

The division is integrating the plan that will lead to the military capabilities proposed in Joint Vision 2020, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff statement of future capabilities. Bolger's office is the advocate of the idea known as jointness.

"It's a moral authority," he said. "It's sort of like walking point on a recon team: You're not sure when you're going to draw fire."

The new strategy is a far cry from the days of U.S.-Soviet confrontation. "The strategies now are laid out in dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics and full- dimension protection rather than the old joint picture," Bolger said. "When I joined the military you were focused on containing the Soviet threat and their allies. Today, we're looking at what capabilities we want."

He said the strategy depends on the conditions facing the United States. U.S. service members will probably be fighting a long way from the U.S. homeland. There will probably not be an infrastructure present so U.S. forces will have to fight with what they bring with them.

"The joint force team is going to have to work together because there isn't going to be as many of us as in the past," he said. "We won't have the luxury of setting up a separate Navy theater in the Central Pacific and an Army theater in the Southwest Pacific like we did in World War II, when we had hundreds of ships and 90 divisions of soldiers."

But U.S. forces will not need the numbers they did in the past. One key is the U.S. advantage in information technology.

"One of the things we've figured out, which shouldn't surprise anyone, is we're very much in same situation as the military 150 years ago trying to deal with the new telegraph or how to deal with steam power in ships," he said. "These are basically technologies that evolved for the civil sector, but we can see they have military utility. So trying to see how best to fit them in and how to get the most use out of them are really our challenges."

Information technology is different because it comes with a whole different management concept. "Your average 'dot-com' company runs a lot differently from any military unit," Bolger said. "That's a challenge for the military."

The military has a rigid hierarchical structure that has proven its worth over the centuries. "It has been proven over the years in terms of morale and discipline and helping guys deal with the shock and fear involved in combat," he said. "And so, what parts do we need to keep and what parts do we need to change in order to transform the military?"

Joint Forces Command is also looking to ensure a joint force has the right procedures. "What we're looking to see is if we have the right radios, data exchange and all that kind of stuff," Bolger said. "Because you're talking about folks who are going to exchange the equivalent of a pilot's head-up display.

He said in a true joint force "you could conceivably have a Marine expeditionary unit fighting somewhere on the coast of Southwest Asia and fly in an Army airborne battalion or and armored battalion and plug them right in. They'd be able to fight under that Marine command. Right now, that would be very difficult to do."

Joint Forces Command has focused on an integrating concept of "rapid decisive operations," Bolger said. The term means exploiting every U.S. advantage including command and control, precision weaponry and battlefield awareness. It means capitalizing on U.S. space weaponry, combat power and power projection -- and executing plans very, very quickly.

JFCOM officials have set some goals for their various experiments. "We think that by 2005 we're going to have an idea whether a transformed military with these capabilities can really exist, whether a joint task force can do what we need," he said.

DoD has validated the notion of rapid decisive operations in some exercises. Parts of it were used in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, the colonel noted.

"Just Cause happened very fast. We brought in a lot of forces from many different services quickly," he said. "Our biggest challenge now is whether we can do that on a large scale against a more capable enemy. That's where we need to do the experiments in the computer world and in real life."

"If we find we can do rapid decisive operations, then by 2005 we can begin to move toward the forces outlined in Joint Vision 2020," Bolger said. "We think by 2010 we will have converted about one-fifth to a quarter of the armed forces of the United States to that capability." This would include active and reserve component forces and the Coast Guard.

"By around 2020, we'd have the entire force converted to this style of fighting," he added.

He said Joint Forces Command's timeline is flexible. A technological breakthrough might speed it up and a problem could slow it down. Furthermore, DoD cannot devote all its attention and efforts to transformation.

"We have to keep things balanced because of the daily operations we do around the world," Bolger concluded. "We still have to have carriers in the Persian Gulf, we still have to forward deploy air forces and army forces to Kuwait, Bosnia and all that. The business of defending U.S. interests around the world will continue."

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Related Sites:
Transformation Study
Transformation Study executive summary

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