Jointness Remains An Elusive Target

May 2004
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Adm. Vern Clark, USN, chief of naval operations, addresses a standing-room-only luncheon at West 2004.

Despite recent gains, more hurdles remain.

The challenge to achieving true joint operations is growing as the services interoperate to a greater degree for homeland security and in combat. As new technologies are impelled into the force at all levels, the need for interoperability becomes more basic. And, the complementary nature of the U.S. services now requires that systems, architectures and force structures are planned around joint operations.

Many high-ranking military officers and officials contributed these and other views at West 2004, the annual conference and exposition sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Held February 3-5 in San Diego, the three days of speakers, panels and courses were titled “Born Joint?” The interrogative sense of the title reflected part of the ongoing debate over achieving truly joint operations.


Vice Adm. Terry Cross, USCG, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, launches West 2004 with a discussion of Coast Guard jointness issues.

In the spirit of jointness, the event’s first speaker was Vice Adm. Terry Cross, USCG, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area. Speaking at the Kickoff Address on Tuesday, Adm. Cross described how the Coast Guard must interoperate with other services and local authorities in its wide range of missions—and with a total force equal in size to that of the New York City police department.

The Coast Guard has been engaged in homeland security for most of its history, but the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have changed the nation’s approach to that discipline. Adm. Cross noted that the Coast Guard has developed a homeland security plan that parallels the Bush Administration’s own plan.

“We’re small, but we’re not stupid,” he observed.

The Coast Guard is pushing two major programs to upgrade its assets and capabilities—Deepwater and Rescue 21. Deepwater is key to extending the borders of U.S. defense, the admiral declared. And, Rescue 21 will bring about vital new communications systems.

Among the individual capabilities that Adm. Cross cited as necessary is true global maritime domain awareness. Achieving this will require technologies that enable the Coast Guard to track, monitor and identify ships anywhere in the world. This would entail knowing who and what are on ships, where the vessels were loaded and where they have been.

The national fleet concept will help ensure complementary, nonredundant forces among Coast Guard and U.S. Navy assets. This approach will synchronize budgets, planning, and research and development, he said.

The admiral added that, even as new technologies are being incorporated into the Coast Guard, the march of innovation already is threatening to make them obsolete. He directed his remarks at industry to “bring us your new ideas,” to keep the Coast Guard technologically advanced.


Adm. Walter F. Doran, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Joint Task Force 519, gives the keynote luncheon address at West 2004.

Tuesday’s keynote luncheon speaker was Adm. Walter F. Doran, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Joint Task Force 519. Noting that the role of the Pacific Fleet commander has evolved over the years, Adm. Doran described how being the Joint Task Force 519 commander has helped provide him with a true perspective on the systems that are helping define the Navy. This fully distributed and deployable task force is spread across the globe from the western Pacific Ocean to the East Coast of the United States.

Last October, the task force took a new tack by building a temporary base camp in a park in Hawaii. This concept focused on establishing command and control on land instead of deploying 400 people to a command ship. By being able to share information across the entire network, the task force demonstrated that it has the flexibility to operate anywhere, the admiral declared.

The admiral noted, however, that demonstrating interoperability is not a full solution. “For future command and control to be relevant to the military, it must be born joint,” he said, echoing the conference theme. He said that he looks forward to the day that a U.S. Air Force airman can sit down at a console on the USS Blue Ridge and fully operate it without any additional instruction or training. The same goal holds true for a Navy sailor at a console in an Air Force air operations center.

And, the Navy admiral touched on the theme stated earlier by his Coast Guard counterpart on maritime situational awareness. Adm. Doran’s command is looking at Pacific theater maritime security problems, such as terrorists, smugglers and pirates, and it is seeking solutions that are joint. Calling for the same situational awareness on the water as exists in the skies, the admiral stated that technology tools at hand or on the near horizon could lead to “the elimination of the barrier between the Free World and victory in the war on terrorism.”

He cited India as one nation where the United States could increase cooperative efforts. The Indian military is starting to delve into the joint arena, the admiral stated, saying that the United States has a window of opportunity with the Indian navy now.

Headlining the speakers on the conference’s second day was the chief of naval operations, Adm. Vern Clark, USN. Speaking to a packed crowd at the Wednesday luncheon, the admiral emphasized the concept that the United States is the best nation in the world at waging asymmetric warfare and that innovation and technology are keys to this continued success. The United States has technology that “can be blinding in its effect” and the people “with the genius to bring [asymmetric war success] about,” he stated.

The services must commit themselves to jointness by implementing a stronger and more effective joint development process, Adm. Clark declared. This must be coupled with a thrust toward bringing legacy systems into the joint realm.

“While we want our systems to be born joint, it is our responsibility to take the systems of the past and make them joint today,” he stated.

Addressing the Navy, Adm. Clark allowed that the future of the sea service is more entwined than ever with ground forces. Ships will be designed from the keel up to be a network. The admiral also discussed the need for the creation of a maritime equivalent of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The admiral continued that all the services must capture other services’ resources to maximize return on research and reduce redundancy. He called on industry to help break down stovepipes, adding that this will require changes in acquisition methods.

“Here we are in a world where Moore’s Law has technologies moving at the speed of light, but acquisition is moving at the speed of a fast-moving turtle,” Adm. Clark pointed out.

He listed several technologies that will be vital to future U.S. military supremacy: self-forming and self-synchronizing networks; unmanned ground, air and underwater vehicles; and improved sensors, communications and dataflow. And, industry will play a key role in enabling these breakthroughs.

“We need the help of industry to create that future that must be born joint,” he concluded.


Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, USN, commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, gives Wednesday’s breakfast address. 

The day’s other speaker, Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, USN, addressed the issue of jointness in the context of lessons learned and requirements. The commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, Adm. Giambastiani told attendees at the Wednesday breakfast that the Iraq War provided three insights into jointness: The United States does not send an individual service to war but instead deploys joint. The power of this joint force is greater than the sum of the service, interagency and ally parts. And speed of operation denies an enemy options and speeds its collapse. Situational awareness reduces the decision time, denies an enemy options and hastens its collapse, the admiral explained. “Speed kills,” he declared.

Adm. Giambastiani related that more than 100 operational detachment teams in Iraq were closely connected with conventional forces. In some cases, they merged ground and air force capabilities. A major change underway is a shift away from deconflicting service forces that win by attrition to integration at the joint and combined level.

Rapid warfighting need not follow a plan strictly, he continued. “It’s not the plan—it’s the planning,” he emphasized. The ability to adapt is a result of successful planning. In many cases in Iraq, lower ranking officers were fully aware of changes in the commander’s intent, and this is essential for future combat.

The admiral cautioned, however, that the United States has had mixed results in turning lessons learned into practical change. He observed that “1,000 lessons is a laundry list,” not the keys to harnessing command and control. One vital task is to develop a process to link concepts with the acquisition process and with lessons learned, he offered.


Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni Jr., USN, deputy commander and chief of staff, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, gives the luncheon address on the final day of West 2004.

The key to jointness may be top-down action, according to Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni Jr., USN, deputy commander and chief of staff, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Speaking at Thursday’s luncheon, the admiral charged that the military does not have the protocols that would provide joint systems from day one. Yet, it must have those protocols.

The admiral stated that jointness efforts today largely have focused on the creation of large joint staffs. Having those people take a couple of courses is not enough to bring about jointness, he added. These large staffs actually stand in the way of jointness, and their elimination is one goal of achieving true jointness.

“As soon as we can implement jointness, we will pull away from huge standing joint staffs that have very little to do with jointness,” he declared.

This will require a cultural change, he allows. However, that will not be as difficult as it sounds. The admiral offered that it takes only about three years for a cultural change to take hold in the military. After that period of time passes, personnel are comfortable with the new culture and are fully acclimated to it.

Adm. Konetzni warned that the Navy faces a more difficult time as its fleet continues to shrink. The number of ships is down to 290, but the nation’s global commitments have not been cut back and the threat has not diminished. True jointness will be necessary for the Navy to be able to continue to meet its commitments. If jointness is not achieved, then the Navy will go on with noninteroperable systems for which the Navy will have to pay much more, he warned.


Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, USA (Ret.), addresses the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Advisory Council breakfast on Thursday. 

The final day’s other speaker, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, USA (Ret.), offered that major changes already are underway in the military. Speaking at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Advisory Council breakfast, Gen. Scales compared the two Iraq wars and outlined how their successes—and failures—are defining the changes at hand.

He stated that the first Gulf war was an operational failure in that the United States had to return 12 years later to finish the job. Jointness was not nearly as strong then as it was in last year’s war. In the most recent war, for the first time two U.S. ground forces from different services conducted a dual-thrust maneuver. In that action, heavy U.S. Army forces became lighter and U.S. Marine Corps forces became more robust. This represented a growing and defining trend in the U.S. military—convergence. The military now has two basic elements: the delivery of precise killing power from the air and rapid maneuver warfare on the ground.

However, adversaries also are applying lessons learned. Gen. Scales warned. In Iraq, the generals proved to be far less intelligent than the lower ranking soldiers, who shed their uniforms and adopted guerrilla tactics to negate the strengths of U.S. ground forces. These ad hoc organizations adapted better than the generals did, Gen. Scales observed. He offered that the current Iraq insurgency is a corollary to chaos theory, as independent insurgents fight seemingly at random, but with a core purpose of driving U.S. forces out of Iraq.

The general predicted that two elements will define future warfare: The center of gravity will be tactical, not strategic or operational; and enemies know that success is achieved by killing Americans and letting the world see it, as happened in Somalia. “This is the future,” he said, adding that the United States must improve its knowledge of the arena to stay ahead of an asymmetric enemy.


Fielding queries in a Tuesday question-and-answer session on the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet are (l-r) Capt. Kevin Uhrich, USN; Gary Graupmann of EDS; Lt. Col. Henry J. Costa, USMC; and Capt. Chris Christopher, USN.

On Tuesday, West 2004’s first panel focused on the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. The panel was moderated by Capt. George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.), former director of the Decision Support Group at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. A collection of military and civilian officials involved in the program took questions from the audience on issues pertaining to the giant government information technology effort.

Gary Graupmann of NMCI prime contractor EDS stated that NMCI “is all about stewardship.” Graupmann, responsible for service delivery, noted that the contractor can take only one out of 100 good ideas offered by industry. NMCI was outsourced because it was very difficult, he observed.

Capt. Chris Christopher, USN, office of the director, NMCI, described how the program is about managing the acquisition of information technology, but it wants to be open to new technologies. Capt. Kevin Uhrich, USN, director, Naval Networks Division, Navy Network Warfare Command, said that NMCI is about the enterprise, “my Navy,” rather than “my ship” or “my command.”

Not all of the discussion lauded the NMCI effort. Graupmann admitted that the program “had warts” that include seat quality and customer service, and some audience members contributed their own accounts of customer service shortcomings. Capt. Uhrich noted that taking an enterprise approach with Microsoft Windows software did entail risks, especially in security. Capt. Christopher allowed that, if the program could be done over, planners might have taken a more methodical approach. However, even this more conservative tactic might have risked the network never being fully built, he said.

The day’s final panel generated a lively discussion on lessons learned in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Moderated by Adm. Leighton W. “Snuffy” Smith Jr., USN (Ret.), former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, the panel blended philosophy with anecdotal accounts of the complex operations that characterized the two victories.


Panelists (l-r) Brig. Gen. Gregory Power, USAF; Vice Adm. Terry Cross, USCG; Rear Adm. Barry Costello, USN; and Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, recount lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Rear Adm. Barry Costello, USN, chief of legislative affairs and the former commander of Cruiser Destroyer Group One, allowed that one key element of success was that, unlike during the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy and its coalition allies controlled all of the Gulf waters, not just the southern part. In 1991, Iraqis were able to sow mines that inflicted heavy damage on some U.S. ships, but they had no such opportunity last year. He also declared that the investment in precision weapons paid great dividends.

Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force, noted that a lot of joint interoperability issues had to be solved before U.S. forces crossed into Iraq. This enabled U.S. services to work well together once in Iraq. Gen. Conway related how a Marine Corps Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) detected an Iraqi column moving to attack the U.S. Army V Corps. The Marines worked some rapid cross-boundary coordination and brought U.S. Air Force firepower to bear on the Iraqi forces with great success, he said.

Brig. Gen. Gregory Power, USAF, vice commander, 8th Air Force, described the Global Hawk UAV as “awesome” and the amount of data it collected as “incredible.” In fact, he noted that at one point the Global Hawk had collected so much data that the UAV had to be put in a holding pattern until analysts could digest what was already in hand.

Adm. Costello also related how five United Nations (UN) officials who were monitoring Iraq’s Gulf oil terminals slipped word to U.S. officials that they were going to be taken against their will by Iraqi forces to an undisclosed location inland. Working with Australian forces, the U.S. chain of command moved quickly, and the UN personnel were rescued before they could be taken hostage. In turn, these officials warned their rescuers that Iraqis had mined their large oil terminals and were planning to blow them up. A quick strike by U.S. Navy SEALs took the terminals and saved them from destruction without firing a shot.

But, Gen. Conway sounded a cautionary note about applying lessons learned in Iraq too liberally across the military spectrum. Not everything done in the desert against Iraq’s fragmented forces can be applied to other conflicts, especially in different environments such as triple-canopy jungles, he warned. “Don’t fall into the pit of fighting the last battle,” he concluded.


Gathering at West 2004 to examine how weapon systems can be “born joint” are (l-r) Rear Adm. Thomas E. Zelibor, USN; Rear Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, USN; and Col. Leonard A. Blaisol, USMC. 

The first Wednesday panel asked how weapon systems can be “born joint.” Moderator Dr. Scott Truver, group vice president, national security studies, Anteon, cited the recent joint defense capabilities study headed by Pete Aldridge in noting that jointness is being forced into a program late in the process.

Col. Leonard A. Blaisol, USMC, director, Materiel Requirements Division, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, offered that the services often strive for jointness informally. However, they are entering more joint partnerships.

The colonel continued that, anytime a new piece of materiel is introduced into the force, it brings with it new doctrine, force structure and training. These must be joint too, he added.

Rear Adm. Thomas E. Zelibor, USN, director, Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control Division, called for a joint testing domain that would link all the service laboratories and test facilities. This would allow testers to plug in all of their boxes to determine whether they “play joint.” Customers would reap dividends in     the battlespace.

Building in certain characteristics will permit composing whatever is needed without resorting to middleware, he continued. “It’s not plug and play; it’s plug and fight,” Adm. Zelibor declared.

Rear Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, director, Naval Air Warfare Division, observed that the United States military no longer is platform-centric—it is capability-centric. Future warfighting attributes will revolve around range, standoff, persistence and speed, he predicted. This will include a push toward more time-critical striking along with smaller and more tailored payloads. He warned against “getting locked into the platform being the end-all.”


Subject matter experts (l-r) Maj. Gen. William A. Whitlow, USMC (Ret.); Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur, USN; Rear Adm. Stephen E. Johnson, USN; and Lt. Cmdr. David Adams, USN, discuss how experimentation might speed new systems to the warfighter.

Wednesday’s final panel examined how experimentation can be a key to moving new systems to operators faster. Moderated by Lt. Col. Frank Hoffman, USMCR (Ret.), a research analyst for the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, this panel discussed the worth of experimentation down to its very definition.

Maj. Gen. William A. Whitlow, USMC (Ret.), former director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, called for a more robust effort to identify capability gaps. In turn, experiments must be tailored to fill those capability gaps. He emphasized that people should not confuse experimentation with demonstration.

Rear Adm. Stephen E. Johnson, USN, director of undersea technology at the Naval Sea Systems Command, agreed with Gen. Whitlow on the need to distinguish between experimentation and demonstration. He added that, in good experimentation, there will be some failures—and those will be as satisfying as the successes because of their value to the experimenters.

He cited the need for discretionary funding as “a fundamental issue.” With it, the Navy can undertake quickly the spiral development that it wants to do, the admiral added.

Lt. Cmdr. David Adams, USN, said that experiments should not be “gadget tests.” These efforts should start with concepts and look at capabilities. He cited several technologies that will be important to the Navy. Electromagnetic rail guns can meet every Navy requirement in the near, mid and long term, he said. The service also needs hypersonic velocity for its attack capabilities.

The lieutenant commander said that “we have good reason to be fond of technology,” as the United States comprises “the most innovative people in history.”

Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur, USN, commander, Surface Forces Pacific, cited some successful experiments. Sea Swap, for example, is working well. Another experiment is evaluating whether the Navy can reduce the crew of a ship. The first one and one-half years of the X-craft already is filled with experiments, he noted.

However, he warned of how efforts can go astray. Some officials in the military will develop “science projects” just to show that they are spending funds on a program, the admiral claimed. Sometimes industry does an excellent job testing equipment, then an individual in government tests it for a requirement that was not in the original specifications. Adm. LaFleur called for closer coordination between industry and the military in experimentation.


Panelists discussing the Navy’s Fleet Response Plan on Thursday are (l-r) Flt. MC Manuel C. Rodriguez, USN; Capt. Jeff Niner, USN; Capt. Douglas J. McAneny, USN; and Capt. John C. Christenson, USN. 

The first of two short panels on Thursday discussed the Navy’s Fleet Response Plan. Moderator Capt. Peter Swartz, USN (Ret.), Center for Strategic Studies, CNA Corporation, related that the forward presence that served the United States well in the Cold War continued into the 1990s and surged for the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.

Now, however, the Navy needs a new philosophy for the unpredictable environment it faces for the future, said Capt. Jeff Niner, USN, deputy commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Three. The Navy cannot hold the peak of manpower readiness with long deployments, as ships tend to lose crew members when they return to port. The Navy cannot afford to continue with this pattern in the unpredictable environment that defines the future, he said. 

A surge deployment is different for a carrier battle group than for an expeditionary strike group, the captain observed. Implementing the Fleet Response Plan will require more training earlier in a sea tour, and ships must continue training during a deployment and after returning home.

Capt. Douglas J. McAneny, USN, commander, Submarine Squadron Eleven, discussed “establishing a culture of readiness.” Problems may arise when submarines try to achieve their training goals—which may not be possible without extensive participation by partners in Pearl Harbor and among ballistic missile submarines, he warned. He offered that he would like to spend more time on antisubmarine warfare training without having to assemble 10 ships for the effort.

“Remain flexible” should be the byword, said Flt. MC Manuel C. Rodriguez, USN, fleet master chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Expressing concerns about deploying, Flt. MC Rodriguez noted that, during the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States remained watchful toward each other, but they both knew that they were not about to go to war. Now, however, all bets are off, and it is the Navy’s duty to deploy.

“Operational availability is a joint term. That is what the Fleet Response Plan is all about,” concluded Capt. John C. Christenson, USN, commander of Cruiser Destroyer Squadron 21.

The day’s—and the show’s—final panel explored the limits of expeditionary strike groups (ESGs) and how they can substitute for carrier strike groups. Moderating his second panel of the conference was Adm. Smith, the former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

Vice Adm. Kevin P. Green, USN, deputy chief of naval operations for plans, policy and operations, stated that ESGs are inherently joint in terms of providing naval capabilities to the joint force commander. ESGs can be scaled and combined with other forces to help them carry out a mission according to the type of conflict. The ESG approach is still experimental, he noted, but it should be around for a while.


Discussing expeditionary strike groups are panelists (l-r) Robert Work; Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, USMC; and Vice Adm. Kevin P. Green, USN.

Robert Work, senior analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, stated that guaranteed delivery of goods and services in littoral waters is the name of the game. He offered that up to 37 different ESG packages can be mixed and matched for whatever access challenge must be faced. The Navy and the Marine Corps “have come along fast” in cooperative action, he added.

Picking up on those points, Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, USMC, noted that littoral combat ships can add antisubmarine or mine warfare packages to address specific threats. These are the two threats that scare him, he added. The commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three, Gen. Medina warned that ESGs need joint command and control capabilities to operate in a joint world. “Our common datalinks are not always common,” he allowed.