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Pre-9-11 Exercise Forecasted First War of 21st Century

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SUFFOLK, Va., July 30, 2002 – "Nostradamus couldn't have nailed the first battle of the next war any closer than we did," Dave Ozolek, assistant director of the then-Joint Experimentation Directorate, said here.

Ozolek was talking about the scenario his office set up for Unified Vision 2001, an experiment involving U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command held in May 2001.

Unified Vision grew out of the realization that the threat was changing. Ozolek said the scenario was a major regional threat emanating from the Middle East. The scenario called for global deployment into a landlocked country with hostile terrain and a lack of basing and agreements with neighboring countries for U.S. access.

"We created a very interesting threat," he said. That's an understatement. "The threat we portrayed was an unstable and hostile state, but the primary enemy was not the state itself but a transnational actor based out of that area, globally connected, capable and willing to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. as part of that campaign."

He said the command didn't envision the severity of the terrorist strikes. Also, Unified Vision aimed the terrorists at U.S. military targets rather than civilian ones.

During the experiment itself, the commands refined the idea of an effects-based, rapid-decision operation. "The fundamental nature of (an effects-based operation) is it is more than just a military strike. It's a strike against the war-making ability of the enemy," he said.

Effects-based operations consider an enemy as a system of political, military, social, informational and cultural capabilities that, tied together, create the ability to wage war.

"Out of Unified Vision we had the realization that you can't defeat a globally linked enemy like that with a 'military only' solution," Ozolek said. The answer was to call in other federal agencies that could bring U.S. power to bear on the enemy. He said the interagency group included the intelligence community, the financial community, diplomatic experts and commerce officials.

These experts helped the combatant commander in Unified Vision to devise a multidimensional campaign against the terrorist threat.

"We looked at not only how to defeat the enemy militarily, but how do we defeat his ability to reconstitute and adapt via interagency actions," Ozolek said.

One hundred days later, real events similar to the Unified Vision scenario unfolded in the attacks of Sept. 11. The al Qaeda is a global terrorist network hosted by an unstable, landlocked Central Asian regime.

"Many of the participants in Unified Vision, 100 days later, were war planners," Ozolek said. They took their experiences in Unified Vision back to their commands and put them to use as the commands created plans for operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle, he said. They had an idea of the tactics, techniques and procedures needed to operate against such an enemy, he noted.

Ozolek said Unified Vision refutes the pundits who make a living out of critiquing the Department of Defense. "The first thing they like to talk about is that we always dwell on the last battle of the last war," he said. "What we're showing them is that this time we got it right: We really were looking at the first battle of the next war, and we nailed it pretty darned close."

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