Pace of Military Evolution Accelerates

August 2004
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Services pursue new paradigms.

Lessons learned from operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are influencing transformation efforts across the U.S. military. Speakers and panelists featured at Transformation TechNet 2004 emphasized that information technology tools enhanced mission effectiveness; however, much work remains to improve capabilities, concepts of operations, acquisition methods and force structure.

Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, opened the event, which took place at the Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center June 8-10, by pointing out that today’s transformation plans can be made irrelevant by zealots among our adversaries who “did not read the plan.” Although some Cold War threats continue, the hardware, force structure and acquisition policies developed to deal with them do not always address the threats that the military now faces, Adm. Fallon said.

“We were strong as long as the enemy would fight the way we wanted to fight. But the armed forces as structured could not fight nontraditional enemies. We had to redefine what we meant by sophisticated. It used to be the high-tech advantage. Now it has to be the speed of decision making,” the admiral stated.

Adm. Fallon cited the Sea Trial initiative as one way the U.S. Navy is exploring new technologies and getting information to commanders faster; however, he added that processes still need to be improved. “Conventional wisdom says don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. But we were bringing the big guns and wondering where all the knife wounds were coming from,” the admiral stated. The Navy is working to identify bottlenecks in the decision-making cycle, and the Sea Trial effort focuses on this problem, he said.

In acquisition efforts, the challenge is balancing what the service truly needs with what it wants and can afford. Equipment is still funded by the individual services, and the admiral said he would like to see a coordinated effort to identify requirements. In addition, he acknowledged that the service asks for and receives many ideas but needs a procedure to sift through them and cultivate them.

Rear Adm. Rich O’Hanlon, USN, director of the Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ) Core Element prototype, U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), moderated the first panel session of the conference where experts discussed the operational challenges encountered during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. For the first time, an operations assessment team was embedded within forces to examine joint force effectiveness, the admiral explained.

“It is not the plan but the planning that counts because it results in better staff situational awareness, provides a foundation and speeds decision making. The first lesson we learned was that joint integration and adaptive planning worked well,” Adm. O’Hanlon said. Collaboration was key; however, the commercial world fails to understand the level of collaboration military operations require, he noted.

Operations in the Persian Gulf were the first to benefit from the SJFHQ prototype, and the admiral allowed that, although the current SJFHQ’s form may not be final, it will be a core piece of future SJFHQs. In fact, the name is in the process of being changed to Standing Joint Force Core Element.

Panelist Col. John Hayes, USAF, commander, 609th Air Communications Squadron, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Air Forces A6, agreed that the planning process is the key element in successful operations. In evaluating operation Iraqi Freedom, he pointed out that, while intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information could be transmitted to the combat air operations center, there is still a problem talking to the “pointy-nosed aircraft,” so missions cannot be changed quickly. This is an issue that needs to be addressed in both the technical and procedural arenas, he said.

Modularity and scalability in equipment provided the military with a lot of flexibility during operations, Col. Hayes shared; however, lighter weight communications equipment is still needed, he added.

Several challenges remain, the colonel noted. First, sharing information with other countries was difficult because allies could not view information on the secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNET). To address this issue, a coalition wide area network is being created, he said. Second, many spectrum issues continue in Iraq, and these problems must be solved. Finally, he reiterated the need for machine-to-machine communications to extend the network and connect ground and air assets.

Col. R.W. Holm, USMC, team leader, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, JFCOM, shared some of the problems his lessons-learned team identified in operation Iraqi Freedom. Battle damage assessment is a key issue. “In ISR, our ability to touch the enemy exceeds our ability to know how we touched him. We had an unprecedented ability to know the enemy, but the analysis and dissemination of that information lagged to operations,” he said. “The gap ran as high as 10 days. We had achieved the effects, but by the time the commander received the information, it was too late to do anything with it.”

Although new concepts like effects-based operations were effective, when the execution exceeded the commander’s capacity to understand the changes in the battlespace, operators reverted from the effects focus to the attrition focus, Col. Holm added.

Col. Victor Janushkowsky, USAF, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) representative at JFCOM, wrapped up the panel session with additional insights about current operations. He pointed out that intelligence from all sources needs to be fused to be effective. However, security is critical, and in its zeal to share, the military must not divulge sources and intelligence-gathering techniques. STRATCOM is embracing emerging technology before existing technologies submerge,he added.

Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, USAF, vice commander, Air Combat Command, spoke at Tuesday’s luncheon. Although technology is an important element of communications, the center of gravity in information operations is the people, he stated. One way to keep up today is to put as much of the decision-making capability as possible at the troop level. Gen. Wright called this approach down-echelon empowerment.

The general used military activity during the sandstorms in Iraq on March 26, 2003, as an example. From interrogations of Iraqi prisoners, the military determined that Iraqi troops did not believe U.S. forces could see them during the storms. However, technologies like the joint surveillance target attack radar system (JointSTARS) allowed U.S. troops to observe a convoy moving south out of Baghdad, and once this information was communicated to the air operations center, joint direct attack munitions could be put on target.

Technologies have facilitated tightening the kill chain, Gen. Wright said. The Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle allows commanders to find and assess a target. Images can be sent directly to the air operations center to fix the target. Technologies like JointSTARS and the airborne warning and control system enhance tracking, targeting and engaging targets. However, the general agreed with members of the first panel that battle damage assessment is still a challenge.

Intelligence and decision superiority was the topic of Tuesday afternoon’s panel. Led by Brig. Gen. Neal T. Robinson, USAF, vice commander, Air Intelligence Agency, participants discussed the many challenges intelligence agencies face today.

Col. J. Manning Bolchoz, USA, chief, J-2 systems division, CENTCOM, said that from an architectural standpoint, no central data repository exists; multiple organizations are involved in intelligence gathering and dissemination; the data is not organized; and network discipline is lacking. Col. Bolchoz said that, from a technology standpoint, unless standards are put into place across the entire U.S. Defense Department, interoperability will not be achieved.

Panelist Dr. Donald Get, executive director, Air Intelligence Agency, shared some of his ideas about ways to improve intelligence efforts. He identified cultural barriers as an issue that could be addressed by creating a single intelligence enterprise, a move that would be similar to the integration of special and combat operations under the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The intelligence community cannot survive “drive-by applications” where technical support is spotty and interoperability does not exist, Get said. Instead, intelligence personnel need a “killer architecture” and modular technologies. Among the opportunities for industry, Get listed technologies to track and target individual terrorists, assess cultural influences, determine the best sensor mix and offer stand-off surveillance capabilities.

Susan Swigart Lichacz, supervisor, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), explained some of the ways intelligence efforts have changed at the bureau. Each FBI field office now has an intelligence group that sends information to headquarters where it is collated and distributed to all the sites. In addition, three counterintelligence groups have been formed, and the bureau is in the process of connecting to the SIPRNET. Although the FBI has not excelled at intelligence dissemination, it is improving, she said.

Gen. Robinson concluded the panel discussion by saying that adversaries today use different techniques than those used by Cold War enemies, so traditional ISR tools are not as effective. Terrorist groups are mobile, have no center of gravity and use throwaway cellular telephones and e-mail to communicate, and as a result, the distinction between intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance must be refined, he affirmed.

The general called upon the commercial sector to help solve several challenges, including intelligence collection, surveillance information integration and information-centric information-sharing technologies.

To open Wednesday’s activities, Vice Adm. James D. McArthur Jr., USN, commander, Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM), said that defending networks is one of his primary concerns, and he admitted that the service is not aligned as well as it should be in this area. One of the command’s goals is to expand work in information security for all networks as well as to develop a strategy for ships at sea.

He noted that a global network with toe-to-toe interoperability between the services and coalition partners is required. This will lead to better situational awareness, increased speed of command, self-synchronization, flexibility and distributed/collaborative action. While the majority of the focus in network-centric warfare has been in the technical realm, the admiral emphasized that equal attention must be paid to areas such as doctrine, organization, training and materiel, including sensors.

In his discussion about FORCEnet, Adm. McArthur stressed that it is more than just an enabler, and NETWARCOM’s responsibility includes developing the operational concepts and architecture. The goal is to help force commanders to command and control deliberate action, including kinetic or nonkinetic action or no action at all. FORCEnet’s functional concept is scheduled to be finalized this month.

Wednesday morning’s panel discussed the role of prototyping in transformation. Col. George E. Bowers, USA (Ret.), director, joint prototyping, JFCOM J-9, shared information about several of the J-9’s prototypes, including the SJFHQ, the collaborative information environment, operational net assessments and the Joint Interagency Coordination Group. He said that getting proven prototypes to the warfighter is one of the biggest challenges the command faces. Because the J-9 has not had funding to purchase equipment, the directorate must convince the services that a prototype is worth the investment.

Col. Kevin Dunleavy, USAF, chief, capabilities group, Joint Warfighting Center, JFCOM, described the Joint National Training Capability (JNTC), saying it is a “range” where joint forces can train at a level that has not been possible in the past. Using live, virtual and constructive forces, units from remote locations can train together, an effort that helps fill the gaps and seams created by each service’s individual way of conducting operations. The JNTC also allows troops to evaluate technologies to determine whether they will work in an integrated environment.

Panelist Hannah Francis, strategic operations manager, joint interoperability and integration, J-8, JFCOM, explained that JFCOM is now the limited acquisition authority lead for all of the combatant commands. In this role, the command will work with industry, the services and defense agencies to acquire capabilities. For the next two years, JFCOM can invest up to $10 million in research and development and up to $50 million in acquisition of individual capabilities. An aggressive acquisition process will move a capability from proof of concept to contract in six months.

Wednesday’s luncheon speaker, Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, USA, deputy commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about force structure changes taking place in the Army. Rapidly adapting to change while being engaged in operations is one of the biggest challenges the service faces today, Gen. Jones said.

One goal is to develop a force that can fight immediately upon arrival in the battlespace, and the Army has begun restructuring the troops to accomplish this objective. Units of action (UAs), which are teams of soldiers that include expertise in many areas, are replacing the traditional troop configuration. These modular teams will be able to be moved and reconfigured to improve strategic responsiveness, Gen. Jones said. Army headquarters will be streamlined to flatten the organizational framework, he added.

Training also is changing, he stated. Rather than teaching Army officers what to think, lessons will focus on how to think. In addition, instruction is being revamped from training specialists in specific areas to training soldiers to be generalists first then specialize in a certain field, he stated.

The final day of the event opened with Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr., USMC, sharing his views on transformation. Gen. Hanlon, commanding general, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and deputy commandant for combat development, said that transformation is a shift both in the way the military does business and conducts operations.

Network centricity is key to transformation, Gen. Hanlon pointed out. It enables troops to view a common operational picture, commanders to share their intent when issuing orders, and task forces to reach back for information and analysis. Technology has affected tactics, he added. Despite the benefits, the general warned that the military must be careful not to become too dependent on technology. “Great technology can be intoxicating. In fact, it can be addicting,” he said. It is important that warfighters still learn how to read a map, he stated.

The Marine Corps is crafting a new operational concept that involves its force structure, Gen. Hanlon related. Called “distributed operations,” it includes small operational fighting units that can bring the full force of the joint military contingent to bear when needed. These units are likely to operate far apart from each other, so the ability to communicate will be essential. This structure will bring additional flexibility to the service and allow it to react quickly. Initial operational capability for distributed operations is to be in place by 2006.

Gen. Hanlon challenged industry to solve some of the problems operations in southwest Asia revealed. For example, the Marine Corps needs on-the-move and over-the-horizon communications and interoperability. While great progress has been made in joint interoperability, the general noted that coalition interoperability is tougher to address. In addition, today a requirement exists for interoperability among government agencies and between federal agencies and the military, he said.

New paradigms for command and control and decision superiority were the topics discussed by experts on the final panel of the event. Shane Deichman, chief, Concept Exploration Department, Joint Futures Lab, JFCOM, framed the discussion by pointing out that if transformation is nothing more than automating old processes, the military will be selling itself short. He asserted that innovative thinking is required because war today is ruled by the rage of people, and this is very different from the concept of war that remains as a legacy of the Cold War. Military leaders must examine the “enemy after next,” who is very complex and relies on self-sufficient networking. If connections break down in one area, it adapts by using other means of communications.

Maj. Gen. John Admire, USMC (Ret.), agreed that today’s biggest challenge is fighting an unpredictable enemy. While coalition forces have been very successful from a strategic and operational standpoint in combat operations, Gen. Admire said they have been deficient in winning the peace and even less effective in information operations, which require a new paradigm.

The general lauded both industry and the military for successful technology development and use but noted that the U.S. military must be careful not to focus too much on science and technology to the detriment of the human elements of warfare. Technology, he stated, must be reliable and satisfy users’ needs, but attention also must be paid to how to employ and respond to information overload.

The third member of the panel, Vince Roske, director, modeling, simulation and analysis division, Defense Enterprise Systems, Northrop Grumman, explained that the enemy is an array of complex adaptive systems, which requires military analysts “to make a list of things you didn’t think of.”

Technology can help accomplish this task through models that depict adaptation and evolution of the “actors” and the systems they use. The old analysis model of observing, generating a response and deciding where to be and how to get there assumes that the U.S. military is in charge of change, and that is simply not the case, he said.

Roske illustrated the point with an analogy. The old analysis model is like a piece of fiberglass that can be easily traversed, he said. But the problems today are more like a canvas pool cover. The goal is to walk across the pool and not get wet, but as soon as a person steps on it, it changes shape. “There are also other people out there, and they’re trying to get your feet wet. And it’s worse than that. The enemy has his own pool cover that he can change, and it affects your pool cover. So it’s not as simple as walking across fiberglass anymore,” Roske explained.

Panelist Joe Eash, senior scientist, National Defense University, enumerated some of the strengths and weaknesses of current battlespace computer models, but added that the strategists using the models are handicapped by their own cultural baggage. While technology helps them identify possible future threats, specialists lack expertise in the cultural areas that influence the adversary’s choice of actions. In addition, they must improve their ability to evaluate second- and third-order effects to help the military win the peace, he said. Technology must be developed in areas such as natural language understanding, language translation and computational social science, he added.

Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., USN, commander, JFCOM, wrapped up the conference with his presentation at Thursday’s luncheon by saying that military leaders and industry must keep the warfighters in mind when developing technology. One goal of battles today is to create outcomes, and he pointed out that information technology must be viewed as a means to gaining information superiority rather than as an end in itself.

The admiral said situational awareness is as much about people being able to work together as about technical collaboration. Two efforts—the new NATO Network Enabled Capability and the SJFHQ—will help achieve this goal, he added.

The term command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) actually entails two distinct areas of operations, he said. While command and control involves how the commander and staff understand and direct a mission, the communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance piece is the systems aspect of how knowledge is gathered and displayed. Using C4ISR as a catch-all term is no longer appropriate, he added.

Adm. Giambastiani challenged industry to provide systems that meet standards and are nonproprietary so that interoperability can be achieved. The military needs integrated open architectures, he said, including technology that supports both U.S. and coalition collaboration. The services and commercial sector must work together closely and have an open dialogue so this can take place, he added.

One of the biggest problems in achieving interoperability is the current acquisition structure, the admiral related. Commands, agencies and offices purchase the technologies they need with an attitude that “whoever gets to the chalkboard first gets the attention.” This cannot be the paradigm if interoperability is to be achieved, he said, and added that part of JFCOM’s responsibility is to evaluate what technologies are being incorporated into military units to ensure a coordinated effort.


 Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, delivers the opening address at Transformation TechNet 2004. 
  Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, USAF, vice commander,  Air Combat Command, explains the advantages of down-echelon empowerment to a luncheon audience at Transformation TechNet.
  Vice Adm. James D. McArthur Jr., USN, commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, updates conference attendees on the progress of FORCEnet.
  Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, USA, deputy commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, gives a briefing on Army force structure changes.
 Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr., USMC, commanding general, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and deputy commandant for combat development, challenges industry to solve problems that operations in southwest Asia have revealed.