Gen. Craig R. McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, opened the final day of Joint Warfighting Conference 2010 describing how the Army and Air National Guard has been seamlessly integrated into active duty forces. This melding between full-time and what used to be disparagingly called "weekend warriors" is the result of both dedicated leadership and willing U.S. citizens. The number of guardsmen involved in current military operations overseas is a prime example of this integration: between 55,000 and 60,000 of the troops in the Middle East today belong to the National Guard. This has allowed active duty personnel to spend more dwell time at home.
The final panel of the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference focused on two topics that have been discussed consistently for more than a decade: lack of interoperability and convoluted acquisition. Though the panelists agreed on the problems, their opinions about solutions differed slightly. Vago Muradian, panel moderater, opened the discussion stating that the need to improve interoperability has been at the heart of the last two administrations and remains a priority in the Obama administration. One topic of particular interest to members of industry in the audience concerned changing import/export rules. Muradian believes that changes to these policies would help ensure interoperability.
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.
Led by Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.), AFCEA International's former president and CEO, the final panel on Wednesday took on one of the toughest topics yet: fighting through a digital meltdown. But panelists were stand-offish about tackling this topic head on. Instead, they referred to how well prepared the U.S. military is to defend against attacks, how equally dependent adversaries are on technology as well and how warfighters on the tactical edge already are operating without dependable network connectivity. Robert Carey, DON CIO, questioned whether the entire network could be taken down. Today, the military is far better equipped than it ever has been in this arena, he stated.
Though the topic seemed out of place at a conference about warfighting and technology, Wednesday's second morning panelists discussed competing narratives. Perhaps more appropriate for a gathering of social scientists, the large number of attendees at this session demonstrated that military members and industry personnel are just as interested in the "story" behind today's conflicts as they are in the technical side of communications. While the Joint Warfighting Conference features speakers, panels and exhibits, this group of individuals emphasized that understanding and respecting other cultures is the core of today's narrative.
From what would only be referred to as "an undisclosed location," Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA, commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), joined the Joint Warfighting Conference for lunch via VTC. After only a few brief remarks, Gen. Petraeus opened the floor for questions and spoke eloquently off the cuff to questions on subjects that ranged from cyberspace to shortfalls. The general noted that the topic of the conference, "Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What Will They Need Five Years From Now?" is apropos, but at the same time, he has never met a combatant commander who hasn't insisted that he needs more of everything. That said, Gen.
Following the Gen. Patreus VTC at the Joint Warfighting Conference was a group of experts discussing small unit excellence who took a serious look at what troops on the ground face today and in the future. Few deny that the all of the services are at least looking at operating in smaller groups-a la special operations units-to fight in environments like Afghanistan. The panelists agreed that outdated processes that govern the U.S. Defense Department need to be changed. From training, to personnel and acquisition, to the term "lessons learned," the U.S. military organization is still designed to fight WWI scenarios against today's adversaries, they concurred. Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (Ret.), proposed that what the U.S.
Adm. John Harvey, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, opened Tuesday's Joint Warfighting Conference lunch presentation by proposing that while fear is not new, the public's view of reality can change in an instant. He made this point to emphasize that talking about what warfighters will need in five years is impossible to predict. What is possible, however, remains the work to ensure that the military, government and industry does not create tools and processes that are fundamentally wrong. If operational units can support commanders, that's success, he stated.
Joint Warfighting Conference attendees enjoyed the rare opportunity to listen to the former leaders of homeland security and homeland defense in a roundtable discussion moderated by David Hartman, former host of Good Morning America. Hartman asked some of the pointed questions that were on many attendees' minds going from as far back as the institution of the PATRIOT Act through to cyberthreats. The Honorable Michael Chertoff, former DHS secretary, and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Pacific Command, agreed that the increase of information sharing between agencies is by far the greatest tool the U.S. has to support homeland security and aid in homeland defense.
A multinational panel comprising warfighters who have served at least one term in the Middle East spoke about challenges with a candidness not often heard in discussions about today's conflicts. While the topics of the Joint Warfighting Conference generally focus on technology and intelligence, these troops spoke about culture, language, information sharing and the training of local troops. Moderator Lt. Gen. Sir Graeme Lamb, British Army (Ret.), pointed out that while multinational troops entered Afghanistan to bring democracy, from a local standpoint, this action could be viewed as criticism of their culture and way of life. Capt. Kirby R.
One of only two non-U.S. military leaders of NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Gen. Stephane Abrail, French Air Force, launched the second day of the Joint Warfighting Conference by calling it the most important conference of its kind. First and foremost, coalition commanders in the future will need balance to prepare for the operations of tomorrow. Although the militaries must not neglect Gen. Stanley McCrystal's needs as a leader of the fight in Afghanistan today, they also must plan for the needs of mission leaders of 2015 and 2025. "The five-year horizon is a tricky one.
Members of the Joint Warfighting Conference panel discussing how to make interagency collaborate more effectively spoke candidly, not only about the serious problems and misunderstandings in this area, but also about the demanded for significant changes. These changes must occur sooner rather than later because believing that interagency operations will disappear once operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are over is foolish. Interagency cooperation is the new normal, they all agreed. Vice Adm. Doug Crowder, USN (Ret.), introduced this view by explaining that the military must accept that operations involve many agencies and not just USAID and ambassadors.
Leading IED Specialist Calls for Faster Counter-IED Solutions and International Information Sharing Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, USA, director of the Joint improvised explosive devices (IEDs) office, kicked off the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference calling for improvements in ability to share information with coalition partners, quickening the acquisition cycle and increasing troop training. Secretary of Defense Bill Gates' vision of the future recognizes the IED threat, but the QDR has very little about IEDs in it, Gen. Oates stated. "Today, the IED is a condition of our work place. Warfighters have got to be able to operate in these conditions.
In the emerging global landscape, it seems increasingly clear to many that China's catapult to power will bring more challenges for international security to the surface. Dr. Patrick Cronin, senior adviser and senior director, Asia-Pacific Security Program Center for a New American Security, said that China has focused on an asymmetrical rise to power using cyber warfare-hacking without precedent in the world of espionage. Joe Purser, director, Joint Futures Group, U.S. Joint Forces Command, added that China has changed more in the past 40 years than any other nation in the world.