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Joint Forces Command Focusing on Current, Future Operations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2006 – Ensuring military services are able to work seamlessly with each other, coalition partners, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations is no small feat. But U.S. Joint Forces Command's top officer said work on the challenge is progressing well.

Air Force Gen. Lance Smith told Pentagon reporters yesterday the top focus for the Norfolk, Va.-based command is supporting ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But at the same time, JFCOM is looking to the future. It's playing a major role in the sweeping military transformation under way, Smith said, and ensuring U.S. forces have the capabilities they need to confront 21st-century challenges.

A top priority for the command is improving the way military forces work together and with coalition partners, he said.

And at a time when defense and military leaders consistently emphasize that the war on terror can't be won with military might alone, JFCOM also is working to ensure the military operates smoothly alongside other U.S. and international government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"It's been a challenge up to now," he said. "What we're trying to do is make sure that people have a grasp of what would be expected of them and give them a chance to exercise in a realistic scenario so they would know what to expect and so we learn lessons from that on how to work together and how to ... split up the roles that each of us would have."

An example of those exercises was Multinational Experiment 4, conducted earlier this year to help create a blueprint for future coalitions. Participants from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO studied the impact of various aspects of international power on a mutual adversary. These include what JFCOM officials call the "DIME" elements -- diplomatic, information, military and economic.

While addressing these issues, JFCOM also is focused on ensuring interoperable command and control for units, agencies and organizations supporting a mission, Smith said. "Included in that is the ability to provide commanders and staffs with situational awareness to be able to make decisions inside the enemy's decision cycle," he said.

But the concept applies not just to the Long War against terrorism and the insurgency in Iraq, but also to noncombat operations such as humanitarian relief efforts, Smith said.

Last year's August Hurricane Katrina in the United States and October earthquake in Pakistan reinforced the need to respond immediately when a crisis arises, Smith told the group. To ensure that capability, JFCOM is establishing, training, organizing and equipping joint force headquarters that help joint task force commanders stand up quickly and focus immediately on their mission, he said. Ultimately, every combatant command will have a standing joint force headquarters in its organization.

JFCOM also is providing these standing joint force headquarters with specialized capabilities to ensure they're ready to hit the ground running when they stand up, he said. He pointed to examples in the Joint Communications Support Element, which provides command and control expertise, and the Joint Public Affairs Support Element, which came online with initial operational capability last week.

The public affairs support element trains joint public affairs professionals to rapidly deploy as a team to help combatant commanders properly disseminate information through interviews, press releases, press conferences and the Internet.

At the same time, JFCOM is helping ensure maximum support to warfighters as it works "to marry intelligence and operations so they are closely linked," Smith said. By eliminating the traditional "stovepipe" approach to intelligence that focused more on protecting than sharing information, the command is helping get intelligence to warfighters faster so they can act on it, he said.

The goal, he said, is "to be able to get intelligence in a way that's actionable, that you can use in the field in a timely way and be able to act on it and immediately give feedback so you can start the cycle all over again."

Meanwhile, one of the most exciting initiatives at JFCOM, Smith said, is its focus on the future through its concept development and experimentation efforts. The command's staff takes ideas -- whether from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or from junior troops in the field -- to find ways "to transform them into something you can actually do in the field and be able to execute better," he said.

Industry and academia have proven to be solid partners in this effort and keys to DoD's transformation plans, he said.

"We go out and explore and discover where that new technology is and where it is heading," Smith said. "And then we will work that into what we have learned or what the services or combatant commanders have told us (where) capability gaps (exist) in the joint force."

Contact Author

Gen. Lance Smith, USAF

Related Sites:
U.S. Joint Forces Command

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