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U.S. Forces Face Transformation Amid Combat

April 2002
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

Changes are needed now to shape the military for the long-term war on terrorism.

The military services must accelerate their incorporation of new technologies and methodologies to ensure victory in the war on terrorism, and information systems lie at the heart of these efforts. These technologies are likely to be the glue that bonds conventional and unconventional forces, the cornerstone of homeland security and the basis for ensuring continued military supremacy in all situations around the globe.

Many of these points were aired at West 2002, the conference and exposition hosted jointly by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Titled “The Art of Change: Top to Bottom, Nothing’s Sacred,” the January 15-17 event at the San Diego Convention Center introduced timely topics focusing on a military both in transition and at war. The conference opened with two trend-setting addresses, a provocative panel and large crowds on the exhibit floor. Among the various topics discussed in speeches and panels were calls for the ouster of Iraqi and Saudi governments, establishment of maritime domain awareness and greater science and technology experimentation.

The importance of information technology was reflected in the address by the event’s kickoff speaker, Vice Adm. John B. Nathman, USN. The commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Adm. Nathman was filling in for Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, the Pacific Fleet commander in chief. In turn, Adm. Nathman filled in the audience with a detailed description of how revolutionary the air war over Afghanistan was in terms of its overwhelming success.

Stating that operation Enduring Freedom is validating the Navy and its mission, the admiral described how the fleet’s “sovereignty” helped overcome a refusal of basing rights by three friendly countries in the region. The carrier-based aircraft, working in concert with the U.S. Air Force, engaged in joint targeting, attack and refueling operations that generated overwhelming air supremacy. By comparison, the Gulf War on average required tens of aircraft to destroy one target, but U.S. forces in Afghanistan achieved a rate of one aircraft destroying two targets. About 93 percent of the bombs dropped were precision-guided munitions.

“Our bombs over Afghanistan fell faster than 1,000 shares of Enron stock,” Adm. Nathman stated. “Our pilots were kicking somebody’s butt.”

The admiral also described how interoperability with the Air Force played a key role in the success of air operations. U.S. Navy F-14 aircraft passed data collected by their low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) systems to other Navy and Air Force fighters and bombers. Navy fighters escorted Air Force bombers into the theater, while the Air Force provided 80 percent of the mission tanking. The Air Force also supplied the Navy with vital munitions and intelligence, the admiral noted.

As successful as the Afghanistan operation is proving to be, the military still must undertake radical changes to be effective in the 21st century. That was the message from Adm. Dennis C. Blair, USN, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command. Speaking at the West 2002 keynote luncheon, Adm. Blair warned that the current U.S. Defense Department transformation approach must be changed or it will break the U.S. military.

He singled out the acquisition process as the area in greatest need of change, describing it as “fundamentally broken.” Adm. Blair charged that the existing process is wasting money and missing opportunities, as the current reward system discourages taking advantage of emerging technologies.

One key is to connect operators with system providers. Many individual pockets of the military do a good job of connecting the two, but the big money still goes to replacing large systems. There, requirements often change over the long time of the acquisition.

Another problem is that acquisition is by service, but operations are joint. “Not all programs can be joint,” the admiral allowed, “but they should die an early death if they don’t add to jointness.”

The military should “experiment as we operate,” Adm. Blair continued. He noted that during a November 2000 command and control experiment, component headquarters could not share a common operations picture. Less than six months later, this capability became a reality. These command and control experiments “raise the bar” for information technologies each time they are held, he stated.

Almost everyone agrees that the nation must change its defense structure. Almost no one can agree exactly how that should be done. The show’s first panel, which focused on what change means to the new national strategy, was no exception.

Thomas Barnett, professor at the Naval War College, warned that the United States must restructure to face “system perturbation.” He related how a year 2000 worst-case scenario envisioned more than two years ago at the war college produced results almost identical to those of the September 11 attacks—catastrophic terrorism in New York and Washington, opportunists spreading chaos, a global economic downturn and worldwide military responses, including a lot of covert actions.

“Nine-11 was not a harbinger of future conflict—it has arrived,” he stated.

He continued that the concept of a Department of Defense is dead, but the department does not know it yet. The three services are coming together in a concept that more closely resembles the Department of War.

Rear Adm. Miles B. Wachendorf, USN, director, Strategy and Policy Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, outlined the many reviews that are underway. He described homeland security as “a work in progress.”

Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, USA (Ret.), former commandant of the Army War College, noted that all great powers have crafted a style of war that suited their particular time. U.S. special operations forces riding on horses in Afghanistan while carrying a satellite transceiver and a global positioning system targeting system to send data to B-52s were a metaphor for this era. Maneuver from the air is the tip of the spear, and the base element of maneuver is the brigade.

For the military in its state of transformation, the rate of change is picking up, observed Vice Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN. Speaking at the second day’s leadership breakfast, the deputy chief of naval operations for resources, requirements and assessments stated that the Navy is poised for a great leap in delivering combat capabilities to the nation’s leaders.

He cited as an example the rapid pace of advances in Tomahawk cruise missile cycling time. During the Gulf War, it took three days to target and launch a Tomahawk. By the Kosovo operation in 1999, that time had dropped to 90 minutes. Now, it takes only 19 minutes to target and launch a Tomahawk, and Adm. Mullen predicted that real-time in-flight targeting capability would become a reality by 2004.

In the Afghanistan campaign, the Navy had operational assets in place within a matter of hours. Roughly 70 percent of the strike sorties were flown by Navy pilots, which were over the target around the clock. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was the first significant-size U.S. force on the ground early in the combat. Adm. Mullen called these features a model for future operations in the global war on terrorism.

The Cold War featured a concept of ground warfare that dates back to the 16th century, he continued. The Navy has been transforming itself steadily and stands poised for a great leap in delivering combat capabilities.

“At this crossroads stands a Navy in renaissance,” the admiral declared.

Experimentation is the key to developing the right systems for the transformed Navy, he continued. The service is banking on its extensive science and technology infrastructure to deliver new capabilities. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance offer some of the greatest return on investments, he added.

The second day’s first of three panel discussions focused on experimentation and the need to identify changes. Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, USN, chief of naval research/director, test and evaluation and technology requirements, explained that experimentation is the way through which innovation must be validated. A constant transformation leads to new ideas, he emphasized.

Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN (Ret.), director of the Office of Force Transformation in the Department of Defense, told the audience that change in warfare is driven by the transformation of society itself. All other efforts in this information age are subordinate to it, and the United States will be at a disadvantage if it cannot keep up with this pace of change. The threat character is changing to reflect a new emphasis on value-based warfare. Technology is characterized by falling barriers to competition, and transformation efforts must take that into account. The admiral stated that the United States has tremendous advantages in all these areas, but it can expect adversaries to compete in alternate areas—asymmetric warfare.

“The age of optimization is over,” he emphasized. Instead, the transformation must be dynamic, as no one can predict the future. For the past 10 years, policies have acted against the very aspects that make the United States strong. Experimentation and prototyping must be a main focus area of the transformation, Adm. Cebrowski declared.

Col. Anthony A. Wood, USMC (Ret.), director of applied research, CAD Research Center, California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo, echoed the call for experimentation by stating that it is the only way to tie requirements to the changing battlefield. He noted that the Hunter Warrior experiment used surrogates, such as general aviation aircraft instead of unmanned aerial vehicles, to save money while exploring new network-centric concepts. The focus was not on “could we communicate” but instead on “what we could do,” he emphasized. The military should experiment “if we are willing to put our best commanders against one another, where failure is an option,” he declared.

The day’s second panel discussion embraced controversy as an element of change. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman threw down the gauntlet as a participant in this panel, which focused on the next step in the war on terrorism. Lehman said that phase two of the war should not involve smaller nations such as the Philippines, Sudan or Somalia. Instead, Lehman declared, the United States should “go for the jugulars—two of them—right away.” Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is one of those jugulars, as Hussein has 400 sites involved in providing nuclear materials and 50 different locations manufacturing biological weapons such as weaponized anthrax. “Saddam Hussein cannot be ignored or left to the State Department or the U.N. [United Nations],” Lehman told the audience, adding that the United States would not need a coalition to depose him and install a reasonable government in Iraq. “Don’t worry about basing rights—no one will oppose us,” he declared.

The second jugular Lehman cited is Saudi Arabia. He noted that the Saudi regime has been funding terrorists and supporting fundamentalist schools that continue to turn out radicalized students. The Saudis either must be made to understand that they must change their policies or the United States will change the regime there if necessary.

Maj. Gen. David Grange, USA (Ret.), former commanding general of the First Infantry Division, offered that the United States should view terrorism holistically, as it is a worldwide web of organizations comprising terrorists, drug runners, black marketeers and other criminal elements. The country must stay on the offensive and maintain its momentum to keep terrorists on the defensive, and it must demonstrate the will to go the distance.

“Against terrorists, intelligence is fleeting,” Gen. Grange warned. He called for demonstrating both strength and the will to strike. The United States must improve the synchronization of covert and overt actions between the Central Intelligence Agency and the military. Information operations are just as powerful as bombing, but the U.S. either must win the war of ideas or risk losing the war on terrorism.

Rear Adm. Joseph J. Krol, USN, assistant deputy chief of naval operations for plans, policy and operations, stated that many issues over Afghanistan must be resolved. These include sustainability for long-term deployment, interagency intelligence sharing and closer coordination between conventional and unconventional capabilities.

A foreign perspective was presented by Cdre. Jack McCaffrie, RAN, naval attaché to the United States, Embassy of Australia. Pointing out that Australia invoked the Australia/ New Zealand/United States (ANZUS) Treaty for the first time and sent special forces into Afghanistan, he warned the United States not to forego the opportunity to take action elsewhere, especially in the Philippines. He also warned that container-ship traffic is an ideal means of moving terrorists and materials around the world, as most containers are not inspected. “We have a real problem on our hands,” he said of this container traffic.

New homeland security missions are severely taxing the U.S. Coast Guard’s ability to maintain safe and secure maritime borders, according to its commander of the Pacific area. Vice Adm. Ernest R. Riutta, USCG, told attendees at the Coast Guard luncheon that these new, but necessary, missions are vying for vital resources with the guard’s traditional missions of port security and drug interdiction.

Nearly every port in the nation, especially on the West Coast, is expanding, and the next 20 years may see a doubling or even tripling of maritime trade. About 95 percent of foreign trade and 25 percent of domestic trade travels by ship or barge. Now, port security measures must be tightened to guard against further acts of terrorism, the admiral related.

Before September 11, the Coast Guard operated on a firehouse model—it waited to react to an emergency. Now, the admiral notes, it is “the active cop on the beat.” Not only will this new emphasis require changes within the Coast Guard, it also threatens to hamper the service in its traditional missions. Without additional resources to meet these new security commitments, as much as 100,000 more pounds of illegal drugs will wind up on the streets, he predicted.

As with the other services, the Coast Guard is relying on information technology to help it deal with new asymmetric threats. Adm. Riutta cited command, control, communications, computers and intelligence technologies; sensor systems; and security as key elements to developing what he called “maritime domain awareness.”

Information is the key, and industry will design the systems, he stated. Requirements include the ability to detect anomalies in ships, containers and people, as well as intelligence fusion centers that combine public and government information. The goal is to push security borders beyond current operating zones.

The arcane world of information warfare was the focus of the closing panel discussion of the conference’s second day. Col. Timothy Gibson, USA, director of technology, Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations, Department of Defense, warned that the United States is the most information-technology-dependent country in the world, with the possible exception of Singapore. Accordingly, the United States must protect its infrastructure. However, the greatest shortfall is in personnel, both for computer network defense (CND) and computer network attack (CNA). Noting that the United States does not have good visibility of its available CNA assets, Col. Gibson called for establishment of a large-scale CNA test range that can show how a CNA weapon can be used.

Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, USN, director, space, information warfare, command and control, U.S. Navy, noted that information warfare is increasing in importance as the military expands its opportunities in network-centric warfare. Information operations—which are defined by electronic warfare, CND, CNA, computer network exploitation and psychological operations, among others—are an integral part of Navy operations around the world. CND is “absolutely critical,” and the Navy/ Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) will allow extending CND across the entire Navy, he added.

Rear Adm. Kenneth D. Slaght, USN, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, continued that the NMCI is a core construct to provide network security. However, the Navy will need help to provide interoperability across other systems, such as IT-21. These needs include intelligent agent security models, multifunction cryptography, secure voice over Internet protocol, biometrics and integration of public key infrastructure throughout all aspects of the infostructure. Future challenges include the ability to turn data into actionable information, visualization techniques and distributed networking.

The third and final day of West 2002 began in spectacular fashion as the former head of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command brought a breakfast crowd to its feet with a ringing declaration of U.S. determination to defeat terrorism worldwide. Maj. Gen. Robert L. Nabors, USA (Ret.), now the vice president of enterprise solutions and homeland security for U.S. federal and government accounts at EDS, laid the war on terrorism on the table as he addressed the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council breakfast.

The general alternated between describing the current state of affairs in the new millennium’s first war and quoting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech as he put into perspective the United States’ commitment to defending freedom and liberty. The audience gave him a standing ovation as he concluded his speech with a declaration of will to friend and foe alike.

“Write [this message] in blood on the very chests of all would-be Osama bin Ladens that, in the noble cause of the defense of liberty, we will not be found wanting,” the general challenged.

September 11 would go down in history as a day of death—the death of thousands of citizens, the death of complacency, the death of our naiveté and the death of our national innocence, he stated. “We are at war with an enemy who is not in a faraway country. He or she may live amongst us. The battle is now down on the corner,” Gen. Nabors pointed out, adding that freedom is itself the target of this new warfare.

The general also outlined several requirements that must be fulfilled if the war on terrorism is to be won. These include establishing a true homeland defense strategy akin to the national military strategy; developing a standard information technology architecture to link federal, state and local emergency officials; standardizing laws on a national scale; and providing necessary funding, especially to state and local emergency response organizations.

The ongoing terrorism war and the transformation dominated the discussion in the Area Commanders’ Forum. Panel moderator Adm. Henry H. Mauz Jr., USN (Ret.), former commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, quoted the chief of naval operations as saying that the Navy was planning for a five-year war. Adm. Mauz also expressed doubt that the Navy will obtain the ships and aircraft it needs at current funding levels.

The Pacific Fleet’s Adm. Nathman reported that naval air forces on both U.S. coasts are being kept busy with accelerated carrier deployments. The high rate of training is costing money and is contributing to one of the biggest challenges, which is near-term readiness for nondeployed forces—they also need to train.

Rear Adm. Terrance T. Etnyre, USN, commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group One, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., reported that one experiment had crews being rotated rather than ships. The vessels would stay at sea for 18 months, and the personnel would rotate out to and from them during that time.

Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., USMC, commanding general, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, San Diego, stated that people are the first priority for U.S. Marine Corps aviation. He described base housing shortfalls as “my major readiness issue,” and he decried the physical encroachment of environmental limitations and civil aviation on Marine Corps air stations. He also cited the need for funding to acquire new aircraft and maintain current ones, noting that the Corps must bridge its current aviation fleet to 2015 or as late as 2020—almost two decades.

Rear Adm. John B. Padgett III, USN, commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, noted that the war on terrorism did not cancel other demands of commanders in chief. This especially is true of the submarine fleet, and the admiral warned that the next five years may see one-third of U.S. submarines in depot maintenance at any given time. While the new Virginia-class submarine is well-designed to accommodate future requirements and technologies, the current build rate of submarines is not sufficient to maintain fleet numbers, he charged.

The final day’s maritime luncheon proved especially poignant in light of the deaths of eight marines killed just prior to the conference when their C-130 crashed while supporting operations over Afghanistan. The original speaker, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones Jr., USMC, was unable to attend the luncheon. Filling in for him was Maj. Gen. David F. Bice, USMC, commanding general, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California. Gen. Bice discussed the broad transformation facing all the services, and he provided a prescription to ensure its success.

The first requirement for a successful transformation is leadership, he declared. Top-down leadership from the executive level is necessary to change the way the United States fights. The general noted that the military transformation is at the top of President Bush’s defense priorities.

However, leadership will not be successful without vision. This second requirement cannot be taught or assigned, but instead must be learned, he charged.

Just as leadership requires vision, vision requires funding. “Vision without funding is a hallucination,” Gen. Bice declared. He added that the United States already has the assets to meet the first two requirements, and he is confident that the military will receive the necessary funding to complete the trilogy.

Gen. Bice also discussed the importance of subcontractors to maintain transformation momentum. Noting that there are more subcontractors than prime contractors, he cited a need to facilitate information exchange among subcontractors, primes and the Defense Department.

At the conclusion of his address, Gen. Bice departed for a memorial service for the eight Marines, who had been based at nearby Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.