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Closing View From the Top

May 13, 2010
By Maryann Lawlor
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If there is one military leader who can be counted on to tell it like it is, it's Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, commander, JFCOM. And as the final speaker of the Joint Warfighting Conference, attendees were not let down. With the strength of words, he brought his depth of experience to thoughtfully describe what he sees as the needs for the future. In an international age, every nation brings something to the table, each country brings a tone to an alliance, Gen. Mattis began. This mind-set must be more than just words and become an attitude coalition partners admire. As panelists had discussed just moments earlier, Gen. Mattis called for building command and control-or as he prefers to call it "command and feedback"-from the ground up when it comes to interoperability with coalition partners. "In this age, I don't care how tactically or operationally you are: If you can't create harmony across military, international and civilian lines, you need to go home because your leadership is obsolete," he stated. The mantra of coalition cooperation extends beyond the international realm, the general stated. He reminded military commanders that they must set a command style of collaboration if the military is to remain relevant. Although the conference featured hundreds of technical solutions, the requirement for the future the general stated first has nothing to do with technology at all. "We need commanders who are critical thinkers," he said. Using the old solutions will not resolve new problems, the general added. Gen. Mattis also admonished the practice of over-reacting to relatively minor security incidents. While they should not be taken lightly, he believes overreactions that result in large programs that deplete the nation's treasure are not effective and can actually aid the enemy by robbing the U.S. of the precious funding it needs to fight large battles. "Too often, the enemy does something small and we spend a lot of money because of it. We have to reverse that," Gen. Mattis said. One tool the enemy has learned to use but the United States has been overtly opposed to is openness with the media. "The enemy is dancing around us because they are eager to engage with the media. Our leaders are often reluctant to speak to the media and understandably so. But we have to speak out or it won't be the battling of the narratives, it will be a case of losing the narrative," Gen. Mattis stated. "Right now, we are winning in Afghanistan, but the enemy is winning in the press." Along these same lines, the general introduced a new word to the military's lexicon: lawfare. Essentially, the enemy uses the laws allied nations follow against them. Although he does not encourage the United States or any other peaceful nation to break regulations, it is time to reevaluate them because many do not apply to conditions in the world today, he said. From a technology standpoint, Gen. Mattis encouraged companies to work at enabling the human-machine interface. "We don't want things that take geniuses to operate," he said. "Create systems, organizations and equipment that can be run by people who don't have a master's degree in math. Create them for warfighters who have a master's in defense."

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