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Joint Force Concept Comes of Age in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2001 – The media have done a good job of covering the war in Afghanistan, but the coverage contains only "snapshots" of the military action, said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. The press could not cover the broader, more important, issue.

Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told attendees at the Fletcher Conference here that the real story was the way Army Gen. Tommy Franks and the entire U.S. Central Command team have choreographed and executed the overall effort.

The Fletcher Conference is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Army. The theme this year is "National Security for a New Era."

"In my view, General Franks is an absolutely outstanding commander and leader, and he has effectively called on the strengths and unique capabilities that the different services bring to this fight," Myers said.

Franks has bonded the services together and created the synergy of a joint effort. "This is really what joint warfighting is all about, and why joint warfighting is so important," Myers said.

He explained that the best way to make coordination smoother is to field a joint force. This has to include interoperable weapon systems and interoperable command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "If we're going to focus on anything in my tenure, we've got to focus on better C4ISR in a way to give our operational commanders the tools they need to make decisions," Myers said.

Taking the lessons learned from Kosovo, U.S. military forces have developed much better interoperability, "particularly for fleeting targets," he said.

"In some cases, we've been forced to cobble together 'work- arounds' because some of our existing systems do not 'plug and play' in this joint war fight," Myers said. One example was is the B-2 bomber's use in Operation Enduring Freedom. The B-2s, based in Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., fly almost two days to hit targets in Afghanistan.

"If it takes you that long to get to the target, you're going to have to have updates along the way. The threat can change, the targets can change -- and they did," he said. "You would think that a modern aircraft that cost as much as the B-2 would have this interoperability built in, but it doesn't.

"They had a special antenna with a special communications set up that came to a laptop, which one of the pilots would hold on his lap. That's how they did their communications and got their updates on the targets. Effective, but a lot cruder than we need ."

Weapons systems must be designed up front with interoperability within the U.S. military and with coalition allies in mind. "We hear this term 'born joint,' and that's certainly what we'd like to do," he said. He said the military would not field new systems without this interoperability built in. The military will also upgrade 'legacy systems' to ensure an effective joint force.

In another example, F-22s have superior sensor avionics that communicate well among F-22s. Unfortunately, Myers said, they cannot communicate with other systems. The Air Force is working to fix this before fielding the craft. "If a system does not contribute to the joint fight, then it is probably not right," he said.

Policies and procedures are also being changed to foster joint warfighting capabilities. Myers said he has high hopes for standing joint task force headquarters that would assigned to every commander-in-chief. These fully staffed, ready-to-go headquarters would have robust command and control suites, be fully versed on theater activities and be able to interact with subordinate commands.

"What we're really trying to do here is dissipate, as much as possible, the fog of war to allow timely, decisive action on the part of our commanders," Myers said.

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