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Force Balance Requires Multifacted Approach

May 13, 2009
By Henry Kenyon

Members from each of the four services offered their insights into how to build a balanced joint force at Wednesday's final panel session at the Joint Warfighting Conference. They may be coming at it from different angles, but all agreed that the need for agility requires the definition of the problems and the adoption of new concepts, platforms and technologies.

Moderator Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (Ret.), former commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, emphasized that a balanced joint force needs not only to be able to fight but to be able to operate. The Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO), referred to several times during the conference, challenges the ability for the military to attain a balanced force, but it is not the only document that must be considered as the services move forward. Although a "foreseeable future" does not exist, Gen. Van Riper said, the Joint Operating Environment document is helpful in understanding challenges to the future force, and the services should also take into consideration the National Security Strategy and eventually the Quadrennial Defense Review, due out early next year, as they concentrate on balancing their forces.

From the U.S. Army standpoint, Lt. Gen. David P. Valcourt, USA, deputy commanding general/chief of staff, U.S. Army TRADOC, said that his service must first define the problem, which includes ever-changing fighting environments, the need for versatility and the requirement to continue to conduct intelligence-gathering while fighting combat operations on the ground. "We have redrawn the sweet spot too many times. We need to be able to operate along the full spectrum [of operations] and then anticipate the enemies changes," Gen. Valcourt said.

Vice Adm. Peter H. Daly, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, pointed out that the services are always told that they must fight with the force they have. Well, in the case of the Navy these forces include ships like the USS Enterprise, which is more than 50 years old. "This is the Navy that we've built, and you can plan to change it today, but it will take a long time," Adm. Daly pointed out. As a result, the Navy will have to bend the force to the situations it needs to address, whether that means high-tempo missions or low-end operations, he added. One way to address the issue is the development of the littoral combat ships, which will provide the Navy with more versatility in how it operates.

The Air Force perspective on balancing the force was presented by Maj. Gen. R. Mike Worden, USAF, vice commander, Air Combat Command, who said that while the CCJO provides a framework, the Air Force must narrow it down to define its role in the joint environment. "Once we understand the balance as a joint force, we can figure out how to fight today's wars and stop future conflicts," Gen. Worden stated.

Future force balance will rely on three areas, Gen. Worden said. First, the military does not win with technology but rather it equips the troops with technology, so the focus must be on developing and training the troops for the future. Second, the services must build in-depth relationships with each other and other nations to increase the trust among them. Third, the services must exploit technology and push it to the lowest echelons. Gen. Worden called for collaborative technologies to help make this occur.

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