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Departing JFCOM Commander Reflects on Military Transformation

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2007 – Military transformation is a perpetual work in progress, the chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command said today in his last briefing with reporters before he retires next month.

During a conference call from JFCOM headquarters in Norfolk, Va., Air Force Gen. Lance L. Smith was asked if military leaders will one day announce the completion of military transformation, to which the general responded earnestly, “I hope we can never say that.”

“If you were to go back and look at the last six, seven years both in the U.S. and in NATO, I think it’s fair to say that transformation is evident and has been hugely successful,” he said. “But there’s a lot longer road ahead of us and a lot more to do.”

Since 2005, Smith has led JFCOM’s efforts to ensure that 1.16 million active-duty, National Guard and reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians operate with each other seamlessly and interdependently. The general, who is dual-hatted as NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, also has overseen the evolution of the international coalition’s military structure, capabilities and doctrine.

Ahead of his Nov. 9 retirement, the general today reflected on his work to transform military capabilities over the past two years and described improvements he anticipates will occur over the next decade.

The general’s No. 1 priority during his tenure was to balance JFCOM’s focus on current operations while continuing to plan a future force among the four service branches that’s equipped to handle the challenges of an unpredictable security environment.

“We can’t (support current operations) at the exclusion of really looking towards the future,” he said. “So we try to divide our responsibilities and make sure that we are giving equal time to taking looks at what the future force structure ought to look like, what we think the future security environment is going to look like, and what we think we need to do to work with the services to build the right forces to operate in the future.”

Smith said the other part of his mission has been to increase cooperation -- or “synergies” -- between JFCOM and NATO’s allied command transformation.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Allied command transformation, and NATO in general, helps inform what we’re trying to do, and (JFCOM) spends a considerable amount of money in areas that are of interest to NATO.”

In operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and in efforts in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, JFCOM and NATO have ramped up efforts to share lessons learned and innovations in technology and training, he added.

Speaking about NATO, the general said the coalition of 26 countries has evolved greatly since 1999 when NATO forces entered the Balkan province of Kosovo to stabilize the region by tamping down violence between Serbian and Kosovar paramilitary groups.

“When they started operating in the Balkans, it was the first time they had operated out of their geographic boundaries,” he said. “To imagine that (NATO) is now in Afghanistan … operating on the ground and sustaining that force a long way from the borders of NATO, (marks) a huge transformational capability, and it’s getting better all the time.”

To better prepare for future threats, JFCOM and NATO must look at all forms of warfare, Smith said, instead of a myopic outlook focused solely on countering insurgencies and irregular war.

“The danger now, of course, is that we get so focused on counterinsurgency and irregular kind of warfare that we are not prepared for a different kind of war,” he said. “Whether that’s conventional war or whether it’s what I think is the likely future: a hybrid of large conventional war and irregular warfare.”

Smith said JFCOM is working with civilians on how to marry military muscle with civilian expertise in a burgeoning use of government elements that he referred to as “effects-based.” Some 3,300 civilians will comprise a deployable rapid-response team and reserve component made up of State Department and other agency members skilled in non-military fields such as law enforcement, diplomacy or agriculture.

During the upcoming fifth JFCOM-sponsored multinational exercise, such disparate “players,” which also include the International Committee of the Red Cross, European Union, and United Nations, will train together, Smith said. For JFCOM, the goal of such exercises ostensibly is to prepare U.S. forces for increased interagency cooperation military officials expect in the future.

“It’s really about bringing the military together with the diplomatic, economic, and the nongovernmental and international organizations all in an experiment to see how best to operate together,” Smith said.

Contact Author

Gen. Lance L. Smith, USAF

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