Echoing the sentiments of many of the speakers and panelists during the conference, Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, commander, JFCOM and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, wrapped up the 2008 Joint Warfighting conference by reiterating that the war the U.S. and its allies are now fighting will not end quickly or soon.
The snail's pace at which capabilities are moving into current operations is a frustration for both military and industry leaders, and members of the final panel of the Joint Warfighting Conference agreed that lessons can be learned from the commercial sector. From outlining the requirements faster and more succinctly to having the courage to break the rules to meet needs faster, deep changes are needed from the Halls of Congress to the commanders in the field, they said.
Breaking with tradition and to a rousing round of applause, Gen. John D. Corley, USAF, commander, Air Combat Command and Air Component Commander, JFCOM, opened his presentation with the announcement that he would not be using PowerPoint slides to complement his speech. Instead, he invited the audience to have "a bit of conversation, a bit of a chat" about how the Air Force can help the services achieve dominance in the 21st century.
Warfighters in the future will need a mix of old-fashioned values and 21st-century knowledge of high technology, members of Wednesday's final panel agreed. All agreed that the current force is filled with dedicated young people who have chosen to serve even under trying circumstances. Tomorrow's warfighter will possess coordinated skills that enable them to fight in irregular warfare, Cmdr. William E. Noel, USN, commanding officer, Explosive Ordnance Devices Test and Evaluation Unit Two and former deputy commander, Task Force Troy, Baghdad, said.
This afternoon, panelists discussing challenges the military is facing today in recruiting, training and retaining personnel agreed that parents are playing a larger role in young people's decision to join the military services. Many recruiters today find themselves explaining the benefits the armed forces offer ot only to 17- to 24-year-olds but also to their parents as well. In addition, despite reports that the military has lowered its standards for recruits, many of the panelists contended that this is not the case.
If there was one message that Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, USA, director, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, wanted the full-to-capacity luncheon audience to remember, it was this: The IED is a strategic weapon and it has to be dealt with as a strategic weapon. While most of the public sees it as a tactical device, its goal is to wear down the will to fight, he stated.
Attempting to look into a crystal ball to determine the challenges future joint forces will face, Wednesday morning's panelists discussed changing threats, changing enemies and the ways the joint force will have to change to address them. One major change has been the U.S. shift from supremacy in the battlefield and national security to the quest for dominance in these areas. While supremacy is designed, dominance may be the best we can achieve and will be enough, the panelists agreed.
The first speaker today at the Joint Warfighting Conference shared insights with another packed crowd. Lt. Gen. David P. Valcourt, USA, deputy commanding general and chief of staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about why the U.S. needs to become land dominant in warfighting once again. To do so will require a change in training. This already is going on as the land forces become trained not only in warfare but also in how to handle stability operations. This requires education about languages as well as cultures, the general stated.
The Honorable Jacques S. Gansler, former undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, opened the afternoon panel by identifying what he perceives as the problems facing the military's acquisition community. The top two identifiable problems, he said, were that IT systems cost too much and the acquisition process takes too long. A third issue is that the U.S.
Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN, commander, U.S. Southern Command, stepped away from the traditional IT conference speech after lunch today by talking about the need for everyone to think, read, write and publish. While it may be necessary during the 21st century to launch Tomahawk missiles, Adm. Stavridis proposed that it will be just as important for members of the military to launch some ideas.
Members of the first panel of the morning presented their own service views about dominance, relevance and readiness in the joint domain. Several common themes emerged as areas that are challenging to each of the armed forces as well as the Coast Guard. All of the military leaders agreed that the level of complexity has increased significantly since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and operations began in the Global War on Terrorism.
Speaking to a packed room at the opening of the Joint Warfighting conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Lt. Gen. John R. Wood, USA, deputy commander, JFCOM, pointed out that the question posed by this conference is apropos. While the U.S. military has made much progress in bringing the joint force together, it is now time to take a serious look at how well the services are doing in this area.