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Improving the Effectiveness of Military Operations
Remarks by John P. White, chairman, Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces, Arlington, Va., Wednesday, February 15, 1995

Thank you [retired Army Lt.] Gen. [Larry] Skibbie [association president] for that kind introduction. Since I took office as chairman of the roles and missions commission, I have learned how tough this job is, so warm receptions are all the more welcome.

I have decided that Machiavelli got it about right when he wrote, "There is nothing more difficult to carry out or more doubtful of success, nor dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies ... and only lukewarm defenders."

He could have been describing the role that the commission on roles and missions is in today. Except for one thing -- I am having trouble finding those lukewarm defenders.

Well, no one said it would be easy. If it were easy, then Congress would not have created a commission on roles and missions in the first place. One of the systemic problems underlying the concern of Congress, in my view, is the belief that the improved defense capabilities intended by the history of reform and adjustment begun in Key West in 1948 and extending through the Goldwater-Nichols Act have not been fully realized. I am convinced that we have a major opportunity for substantial further improvement in preparing for and conducting genuine joint military operations. And in the future all military operations will be joint.

Congress also clearly recognized that the United States is facing a rapidly changing and unpredictable international security environment. Diverse new challenges were gaining prominence, ranging from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to increased use of U.S. forces in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. Pervasive change and future uncertainty generated the need to review existing roles and missions allocations, and to develop a more adaptable system for making these assignments.

One thing is very clear today: DoD must change. It must respond to a new, highly uncertain environment. There is change going on in DoD. And the department's leadership, civilian and military, is to be commended for all of the changes accomplished and under way. But is it enough and is it in the right direction? Major change is hard work. The need for change may not be obvious to all concerned. After all, DoD is the best institution of its kind in the world -- the gulf war proved that. Ironically, DoD's reward for victories in the gulf and in the Cold War is not a chance to rest on institutional laurels. Rather, it is a chance to begin the wrenching process of questioning the very policies and practices that delivered such overwhelming successes.

This commission has, since Day 1, viewed its primary job as improving the effectiveness of military operations. We measure all of our activities against that goal.

To do that the commission focused on three kinds of activities:

Designing an overall vision of what we think that the DoD needs to be in the next century and putting that in a context -- a framework -- to guide and inform those who must make roles and missions decisions now and in the future.

Second, an intensive analytic effort to identify and make recommendations concerning existing roles, missions and functions problems whether in military operations, infrastructure and support or the national security decision-making processes.

Finally, in wrestling with the first two, we have emphasized extensive consultations with knowledgeable people here and abroad, military and civilian, currently in the service and out.

Today I want to focus on the first of these activities. What is our vision and our framework? We are not finished, much of the really hard work is ahead of us. But I can give you a tentative (underlined) idea of where I think we are going to come out.

First, what is the commission's responsibility, and what should be the goals of its report?

We are trying to provide a view of the future, a description of the characteristics that should be emphasized in shaping the department early in the next century and a guide to getting there. If the DoD better meets the nation's needs in the year 2012 or 15 and the commission played a positive role in that achievement, that is success.

And by the way, we aim to do it in 85 pages in plain English.

That vision requires a framework. To be meaningful the framework has to include our view of the future world we will live in and the specific organizational attributes that the national security institutions must embody to operate successfully in that world.

But before I get into that view of the future and those attributes let me address the well-known 26 issues that we have identified.

Those specific issues represent our best judgment of the major roles and missions problems that exist today. We started out with hundreds of potential issues and narrowed them down to the current 26. Ongoing analysis may reduce that number even further.

We started that effort early, which is why you've heard so much more about it than anything else. There were two reasons for that: First, we believed analysis of the issues would yield insights that should inform our framework; and second, making responsible recommendations is such a huge task. With only a year to work, trying to resolve such contentious issues -- some of which are rooted in the 1948 agreement -- required an early start.

Can we make a difference in this regard? I think so.

I am an optimist, though to you I probably look like the cowboy -- Shorty -- who decided with his friend Tex to become a bounty hunter. He and Tex went into town, filed the necessary papers and got deputized. They packed up their supplies and headed for the badlands. After their first night's sleep in the badlands they woke up. Both cowboys looked around and found themselves surrounded by 40 of the meanest desperadoes in the country. Shorty turned to Tex, a huge grin on his face, and said, "Tex, we're rich!"

We divided the issues into two large blocks -- operations and infrastructure. In operations we identified four types of issues. Areas of duplication among the services, such as in close air support. Areas where no one had clear responsibility, such as providing and training constabulary forces. Others where there were new opportunities for improvement, for example, in peacetime presence where withdrawal from overseas bases encourages new thinking. And finally, seam or system-on-system areas where overlapping capabilities require complex integration, for example, in joint war-fighting and in providing command and control of theater air and missile defense systems.

On the infrastructure side we are examining central support functions performed by the services, OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] and defense agencies to identify opportunities for improvement. These include acquisition, central logistics, central medical and others.

The next effort we started was to look at the government's national security decision-making processes, including DoD's system for developing budgets and weapons requirements, which affect the allocation of resources to accomplish roles, missions and functions. The allocation of resources has a major impact on roles and missions, which the commission could not ignore.

These three efforts continue. Teams of analysts have been working with small panels of commissioners to give a very thorough scrub to the issues.

You probably also have read some of the criticism, so far anonymous, of these efforts. We don't have enough time, we don't have the right data, etc. Much of this criticism misses the point. It displays a lack of understanding of the commission's goals.

We are not in business to make 26 recommendations on 26 issues. This is not a program review. These issues are important, and we will speak directly to many of them, but more importantly, they are being used to help us deliver an operationally useful national security framework for the next 15 to 20 years.

So let's turn to that framework. Our framework effort began on the first day -- as the various commissioners started discussing their own views about the future and changes required in DoD. But it did not spring to mind fully constructed. Developing our view of the future and the values the DoD should emphasize took study, consultation and reflection. We are far from finished, but I think we have a good sense of where we are headed.

The first step was to develop an assessment about the realities of the international security and domestic environments of the future. Let me summarize some of the results of that effort. We think the U.S. will live in a world in the next 20 years where:

First, major regional threats to vital U.S. interests such as in the Persian Gulf or Korea will persist and widespread instability will afflict various regions. For a host of national, ethnic, religious and economic reasons, some of these instabilities will be inconsistent with our national interests. New types of serious threats also may emerge quickly and with little warning.

In addition there may be a continued need to use military forces for operations other than war. U.S. interests will continue to generate requirements for U.S. forces to conduct humanitarian, peacekeeping and other noncombat operations around the world.

Third, scientific, technical and organizational innovations will increasingly come from outside DoD's sphere of influence. Reduced budgets will not allow DoD to underwrite the breadth and depth of research that was possible in the past. This raises a major challenge, namely identifying civilian technologies and adapting them to military uses.

Related to that point is the fourth: New technological capabilities that could nullify our technological advantage may be controlled by others. For example, another nation develops the ability to defeat our chemical warfare protective measures or new means for conducting information warfare. We must protect our own advantages with continued investment in people and technology while countering those of others.

Fifth, the new global market economy is critical to our economic well-being, and its functioning is a national priority.

Sixth, we must maintain a complex set of formal and informal alliances. Constant, skilled attention is required because the participants may have diverse, or even contradictory, interests.

Domestic factors are also important in our assessment. Most economic and budget analysis, as well as political trends, indicate continued pressure on the federal budget. DoD is not exempt from this pressure, so there will be a premium on efficiency and cost reduction.

At the same time we don't see the emergence of a major enemy that would serve to unite the American people in support of defense spending. Thus it may be difficult to keep the foundation of public support necessary to maintain required levels of defense spending and attract the high quality people on whom we rely.

We may not have the future exactly right -- we are not clairvoyant. But we are confident of our overall conclusion -- uncertainty and change will dominate the future. The question then becomes, how can DoD deal with that? Or said another way, what should the DoD of the future look like in order to be successful in a world characterized by change and uncertainty? What attributes are necessary to assure that the department achieves its overarching goal of military operational effectiveness?

Based on our efforts to date we have assembled a set of six key attributes that we believe should characterize a successful DoD in the first two decades of the next century. They are each designed to contribute to attaining our major goal -- military operational effectiveness. If we are correct, DoD's priorities, policies, practices and procedures should be adjusted to advance these attributes. The six are responsiveness, robustness, cooperation, innovation, competition and efficiency.

Now, before I describe them, let me say up front that we recognize these are not the only attributes relevant to future military capabilities. I am sure that everyone in this room could add a couple of important characteristics to the list, but these are the ones that appear to deserve the most emphasis in preparing for an unknown future.

The first is responsiveness. The unknown nature of future threats and the pace of continuing change place a premium on an organization that can respond to change quickly. While responsiveness has always been valued by DoD, we are suggesting a form of responsiveness emphasizing the organizational agility and adaptability required for quick response to changes in the international security environment, the emergence of a new threat or an adjustment in national strategy and policy.

Planning must be adaptive as the future unfolds. While stable long range defense planning is desirable, it does not take precedence over responsiveness. If changing threats or operational concepts obviate the need for a weapons system, it should be canceled promptly. Similarly, force readiness levels must be tailored to meet changing needs.

The responsiveness attribute has broad implications for the commission's recommendations in a number of important areas, certainly in all planning and decision-making issues. For example, one proposal currently being examined involves substantially shortening the time it takes the DoD to prepare each new budget proposal.

Long-term responsiveness should be coupled with near-term robustness. Multiple regional contingencies, increasing use of military forces for noncombat operations and the still-potent nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals present in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere give urgency to this attribute.

A robust force is also required simply because the business of defense is so important that we cannot afford a mistake -- including not being able to provide the president with a sufficiently broad range of options.

Included in our definition of robustness is reliability -- that is, ensuring that our defense forces can perform as advertised.

This attribute, perhaps more than the others, also speaks to the element of risk. There is always some risk in the national security equation, but a robust organization has the breadth, depth and diversity of military capabilities needed to limit risk to acceptable levels. This is important, for example, in areas such as forcible entry, close air support and deep strike.

Robustness is not a euphemism for doing all things always. Rather, robustness defines an organization that recognizes its capabilities and its limits. These are important characteristics in an era of constrained resources and uncertainty. The weight assigned to this attribute will have significant impact on some issues. For example, it will affect any decision about the extent to which the nation needs the forced entry capabilities of both the Army and the Marine Corps.

We need more cooperation among all elements of the DoD. All future major operations will be joint operations. Every current and former CinC [commander in chief] who testified to the commission carried the same message: Cooperation is essential, trust between services and combat commanders is vital to success in combat -- and there is no room in the joint arena for lack of trust.

Unfortunately, lack of trust was continually cited to the commission as the major impediment to effective cooperation, mutual reliance and joint operations.

The unique capabilities of each service must be blended into an effective team by the unified commander in time of crisis. That requires intense cooperation prior to the crisis. Jointness is the means to that end. It has to be a way of life. Its impact is especially important in the areas that define how joint operations will be conducted. Peacetime incentives for cooperation must be in place to assure effectiveness in war. For example, joint training, joint readiness standards, definitive joint doctrine and, in particular, more effective involvement of "joint" actors in future force design and weapons acquisition.

A world of change must be a world of innovation. For more than four decades we have relied on our ability to innovate -- to build technologically superior military capabilities -- as a key to successful military operations. But in our view this attribute extends well beyond technology to include innovation in strategy, tactics, support, organization, infrastructure and so forth.

The challenge is more complicated today. Reduced budgets require new approaches, such as systematically reaching out to the nation's industries, laboratories and universities to access future innovations.

Innovative approaches may provide new means of conducting required missions or achieving desired results. For example, forward presence might stress the more innovative use of exercises, visits, coalition training and other activities that achieve the desired effect through closer contact with other countries, their institutions and leaders. We need not always look to traditional practices.

At the same time there is a need for more constructive competition. Now I know that sounds rather odd coming from a commission chartered in part due to concerns about excessive duplication. But competition is a proven means of achieving greater capability than would otherwise develop. Competition for military missions, forces and funds -- when properly conceived, executed and concluded -- can be a strong force for innovation and increased capability.

The military services are a rich source of new operational concepts and new weapons. Ensuring that new ideas will have their day in court, regardless of originating service or branch or agency, provides a powerful incentive for creativity. For example, space offers enormous military opportunities, many as yet unspecified. It is desirable for all of the services to have a role in its exploitation. Achieving the benefits of competition requires a strong management mechanism that gives new ideas a fair hearing and provides the discipline needed to decide between winners and losers. Those tough decisions must be made before destructive rivalries develop or unproductive duplication begins.

Our last attribute is efficiency. Like the others, this is not a new value. However, the challenges facing the nation make efficiency an acute concern today.

We view efficiency simply as the least cost for delivering a good or service. Past standards, especially during the buildup of the previous decade, emphasized cost-effectiveness and affordability rather than lowest cost. The difference in emphasis is subtle, but real. A cost-effective emphasis asks, "Is this cost acceptable for this weapon system and can we afford it?" An efficiency emphasis asks, "Are the requisite knowledge, skills and resources used to obtain the required capability at the lowest cost?"

In measuring efficiency we are concerned with the extent to which the regional CinCs' needs actually dictate the type, level and quality of support from the services, DoD agencies or industry -- and just as important, whether the CinCs' operations plans are consistent with the near-term resource decisions made by the services, DoD agencies and others.

Most of the commission's infrastructure recommendations emphasize improving operational efficiency. In our construct, service to the immediate customer needs to be stressed -- and that means service to the regional CinCs. Acquisition of defense systems, for example, has one purpose -- to provide the regional CinCs with the air, land and sea combat capabilities needed for effective military operations.

In our infrastructure issues significant efficiency may be gained by privatizing some activities now performed by the military services or DoD agencies. Of course, large-scale privatization of particular functions is only a partial solution. But it is consistent with the innovation attribute as DoD reaches out for solutions. Other issues should lend themselves to public sector innovations and improvements as well.

Efficiency also applies to some military operations issues. Whether DoD can afford to provide a regional CinC with two systems to accomplish similar tasks -- such as the Army's tactical missile, known as ATACMS, and attack aircraft -- may make efficiency an important criterion for consideration. It may not deserve as much weight as robustness or cooperation, but it deserves consideration.

In proposing these attributes, we do not intend to preclude others. But these seem the most useful and descriptive of the qualities we believe important in a successful DoD of the future.

Now, at first these may sound like universal attributes, good for all seasons. But I don't think that is the case.

For example, during the Cold War some of the attributes would have been the same. That doesn't bother me. However, I think that their importance and meaning were quite different then. Responsiveness, for example, had a significant readiness dimension -- maintaining the alert posture needed to ensure deterrence. But it was focused on a single, major threat rather than a range of uncertain and unknown threats. Innovation was stressed to assure our superiority to the Soviet Union in nuclear and conventional military capabilities. In the future innovation is a much broader and more challenging concept. And efficiency was not nearly as highly valued as it needs to be in this new era.

What are we going to do with these attributes? First, they provide an integral part of the framework for decisions that affect roles and missions for the future. We are going to say to DoD: We believe these attributes represent the characteristics that will help ensure you are properly postured for the challenges of the post-Cold War era. Further, that you should weigh future decisions affecting roles and missions issues against these attributes. They should be useful as a compass for DoD in charting organizational changes.

In addition the attributes allow us to cast our specific recommendations in a larger context. These attributes will be reflected in any recommendations we make in the 26 issue areas -- as well as in other recommendations we will make.

Finally, they serve as a final check on the consistency and integrity of our total report.

Our deliberations to date have benefited from the use of these attributes. The central focus of the commission's work over the next few weeks will be developing specific recommendations for changes needed to speed progress toward our goal of increased operational effectiveness. The recommendations will reflect these attributes. Let me give you some specific illustrations.

First, each of our military services has a long and proud history. Each has an important set of enduring core competencies rooted in these histories. Each of them has a vision of how the nation's wars can be fought best. You've all heard them: Global Reach/Global Power, From the Sea, Force XXI. These are valid and important visions, but they are quite different visions. Their differences are not mere semantic nuances. They are fundamentally divergent views of warfare and the proper application of military capabilities.

Integrating these diverse visions to guide joint war-fighting activities is a serious concern. [Army] Gen. [John] Shalikashvili [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and [Navy] ADM [William] Owens [vice chairman] already have efforts under way to expand the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] from a mechanism for validating the need for each new major weapon system into a forum for dealing with broader force structure issues. This is an important step in the right direction. I am hopeful the commission will make additional contributions in this area.

For example, we may recommend the chairman of the Joint Chiefs establish an integrated vision and a definitive joint doctrine that can better guide the development of operational plans for the employment of existing forces. One element of an improved process would assure the needed level of joint training in peacetime. Additionally we are looking at mechanisms for better harmonizing the "requirements" process -- not just for weapons systems -- but also for force sizing, shaping and peacetime positioning.

Second, our effort also has reaffirmed the observation that many routine services performed by government employees could be provided by the private sector with no additional risk to the public interest. Research shows that over time many activities are less costly in the private sector -- partly through increased flexibility and innovation. More important than prospective savings, however, are the opportunities for improvements in performance of the inherently governmental policy-making responsibilities when senior officials are freed from the distraction of hands-on management of routine support. The extent of the commission's support for large-scale, carefully planned privatization of support activities remains to be determined, but our analysis certainly points in that direction.

Third a final example is our decision to expand the examination of the role of reserve components in the overall planning of the U.S. military force structure. Some Guard and Reserve elements are sufficiently prepared and are well integrated into the nation's military planning. Others are not. As most of you know, the largest problem is that the major combat maneuver elements of the National Guard are maintained at readiness levels that have prevented planning on their timely use. The commission is investigating what it would take to prepare those reserve elements so they could be more fully integrated into the nation's force planning.

In closing I want to offer you one additional thought. In this rather heady business of reviewing DoD and making suggestions about how it might proceed in the future I am always struck by the uncertainty ahead -- and the anticipation of continued change. This has led me to appreciate a couple of sentences penned by a colleague. With apologies to the alumni at Harvard, let me quote Professor Paul Bracken of Yale: "No analysts in history immediately comprehend the logic of their own situation, in periods of transition; a long epoch of disorientation and confusion is usually necessary to learn the necessary rules of the new era. Observers of the contemporary period of military transformation are no exception."

We are nearing May 24th, the day we have to turn in our report. By and large we are on track, and I believe we are nearing completion. That does not mean all the hard work is done. Rather, it means that some of the hardest work is now under way -- finalizing our ideas about how DoD should look in the future, providing a framework to guide that development and making recommendations for change within the department.

So what can you expect from the commission?

First, let me tell you what not to expect. Do not expect the traditional approach. We are not going to give DoD and Congress a litany of the conventional criticism about service roles and missions or a catalog of popular notions of what's wrong with the department. We are not going to mimic past reports and simply tell the secretary and Congress what they already know. And finally, do not expect to see a list of quick fixes for problems.

Our goal is a product that provides DoD with guidance about how to deal with roles, missions and functions issues in a world dominated by change and uncertainty. You can expect to see a framework for decision making about roles and missions issues, and you can expect some very strong statements about the direction DoD should pursue in the future.

And finally, you can expect to see recommendations about how to deal with the roles and missions issues of today. Some proved to be more perceived than real, and we intend to say so. In some cases the issue is already being properly addressed, and we intend to make a very forceful statement of our support. And finally, some issues represent real opportunities for change -- and in those cases, we will make very specific recommendations.

In summary, we have a very rare opportunity to influence the future defense of the nation.

And that is exactly what we intend to do.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.