Service Secretaries Demonstrate Value of Jointness
By Jim Caldwell
American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK NAVAL BASE, Va., Oct. 16, 1996 The three service secretaries took another step toward greater interservice cooperation and joint operations in meetings Oct. 4-5 on board Navy ships of the Atlantic Fleet at sea and at Norfolk, Va.
"It's been very useful for us in joint warfare, learning how to work together at our level as well as the senior uniform level," said Navy Secretary John Dalton, host for the session. "And down on the deck plates, our sailors and Marines, airmen and soldiers fighting and training together is ... the sort of thing we'll see for the future."
Dalton, Army Secretary Togo West and Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall spent Friday night on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. They received briefings and watched Navy pilots performing nighttime carrier landing qualifications. Navy officials said West was especially intrigued by carrier flight operations, watching them until at least midnight.
More briefings followed on the USS Mount Whitney, a command and control ship of the Second Fleet. The Whitney served as the joint task force headquarters for the XVIII Airborne Corps' commander and staff during Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti.
Primary topic over the two days was command and control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I in military terms.
This is the third meeting of the secretaries. West hosted the first at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., in July 1995, where they discussed quality of life issues. That was followed by a gathering at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Va., in March where the subjects were training modeling and simulation.
West said one benefit of their meetings is to symbolize joint operations for members of each of their services.
"The second reason ... is that we have common problems, common concerns in each of our departments," he said. "The more we can talk to one another, the more we can share our concerns and the solutions, the better off we'll all be."
At the end of the latest gathering, the service leaders held a brief news conference. Questioned about interservice communications problems during Desert Storm, each secretary said the military has learned from past lessons.
Widnall said satellites are now giving all U.S. commanders around the world simultaneous common information pictures from the same data base. "I also believe it saves the taxpayer a good bit of money," she said.
"Don't forget the gulf war was a success," West said. "We are proud of what the men and women of all of our services did during that time."
Dalton and Widnall pointed out development of a joint strike fighter is an example of cooperation.
"If we designed it separately for the Navy and the Air Force and the Marine Corps, the design costs would exceed $33 billion," Dalton said. "By working together and combining 80 percent of the avionics and technology, we're doing it for less than $16 billion and saving the American taxpayers $17 billion in the process."