Facing the Future: Preparing Today's Military for Its Next Challenges
Facing the Future: Preparing Today's Military
for Its Next Challenges
Transformation Requires Adaptation :
“Change,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker recently noted, “tends to
indicate an end state,” while military transformation requires “constant
adaptation” in response to a changing world. Part 2 by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFIS)
March 21, 2005
One of the hardest parts of transforming the military is the lack of a clear
picture of the challenges it will face, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff said in a recent interview.
“The transformation of the United States military (today) is to get us ready
for what’s around the next corner,” said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. “And
this is difficult, because we don’t know what’s around the next corner.”
The chairman said that while the United States may not know specifically
where the next threat will come from, “we know that the forces we came out of
the last century with are not the forces we need today, or probably the forces
we will need in the future.”
Myers credits the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 as starting transformation in
the military by forcing the services to work more closely together. He said the
landmark law laid the groundwork for the success of today’s forces.
The global war on terrorism highlights the accomplishments and needs of the
military. In Afghanistan, innovative ways of using air power and special
operations forces embedded with indigenous forces were the key to defeating al
Qaeda and the Taliban. Around 20,000 U.S. servicemembers continue to provide
support to the Afghan government and to hunt al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in
some of the most forbidding terrain in the world.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first “really integrated joint fight” in U.S.
history, the chairman said. In the first Gulf War, the services were “deconflicted,”
meaning the Marines were given a certain area, the Army another and coalition
forces still another. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the services depended on each
other for combat power and support. In one instance, a Marine commander, serving
under an Army commander, was in charge not only of Marine forces, but also
British and U.S. Army units.
“Any unit making the approach to Baghdad relied heavily on airpower to be
there at the right time, in the right place and with the right ordnance,” Myers
said. It didn’t matter if the aircraft were from the Air Force, Navy, Marines or
Army – all worked off a common knowledge base, common mission plan and were able
to speak directly with the supported units on the ground.
But the military can do better, Myers said. Command and control is the area
that will give warfighters the single biggest payoff. “We need to put efforts
into command and control and link all players on the battlefield so information
flows seamlessly between soldiers in foxholes and airplanes and tanks and ships
and air defenses,” he said.
The joint task force commander should have the visibility of the battlespace
and the tools needed to make changes in the plan quickly, Myers said. Right now,
the Defense Department is ensuring that “legacy systems” – those systems already
in use – can speak to each other. “If every commander in a joint task force –
from platoon on up – sees the battlefield the same way, then they can very
quickly apportion forces to get the job done,” the general said.
This flexibility and agility, Myers said, is key to new capabilities needed
to defend against unknown threats. The U.S. military must be able to adapt
quickly to changing circumstances. It must have the capabilities honed and ready
when they are needed.
New technology plays a part, but only a part, said the chairman. “Technology
can help you transform, but the real nuggets are how you employ what you have or
how you develop systems that have inherent agility and flexibility and that
aren’t single-purpose,” he said.
The bottom line, the chairman said, is that people are necessary for
transformation in the military. Commanders cannot be threatened when
subordinates have new ideas, but rather need to encourage new ideas and give
subordinates the room and budget to try those ideas out, Myers said.
“We need people who say ‘I understand what the doctrine says, but the
situation we’re confronting is quite a bit different, and here’s what I think we
ought to do,’” the chairman said. “Most of this transformation will be cultural
and will happen between our ears.”
Air Force Gen. Richard
B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff