Night ops

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 3 at Joint Warfighting 2010: Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What will they need five years from now?

"Joint Publication (JP) 1, Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United
States, serves as the capstone publication for all US joint doctrine." An excerpt from Chapter V of JP1:
Unified action describes the broad scope of activities taking place within unified commands, subordinate unified commands,or JTFs under the overall direction of the commanders of those commands for the purpose of achieving unity of effort in mission accomplishment. Unified action requires the integration of effort across the command. This includes joint, single-Service, special, and supporting operations; as well as interagency, NGOs, PVOs, and multinational participants
into a unified effort in the theater or joint operations area. Military support of unified action is facilitated by operations under a single commander, in execution of a single plan, that encompass all assigned and supporting military and nonmilitary elements. Unified action within the military instrument of national power supports the national strategic unity of effort through close coordination with the other instruments of national power.
     a. Unified action requires unified direction. The combatant command and theater strategies, including their derivative campaign and operation plans, provide that direction. The principles and considerations for unified action apply to US participation in multinational and interagency operations. Multinational operations may require unique command relationships that maintain unity of effort while not establishing a single multinational force commander.
Getting everyone to pull in the same direction, even if their motives and visions of the future may vary, is a leadership challenge. As seen at the photo nearby, the challenge is akin to that of tug of war - in the case of the photo, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen end their first year tugging against each other - a metaphor, perhaps, of their future, when the tugs of budgets and all those other matters that can take away from the main effort of getting a unified effort to head in a unified direction - which is the question that underlay the entire conference as it wound to an end:
"How can we get all the players (the "joint, single-Service, special, and supporting operations; as well as interagency, NGOs, PVOs, and multinational participants") pulling in the same direction - now and 5 years from now?"
To which has been added-
"In the times of austere budgets how can we and our allies join together to meet the defense needs of our alliances without loss of the current levels of excellence? Can we deliver nearly the same bang for less buck? When appropriate can we simplify, downgrade, and use lower cost solutions to problems we will face? Now that we have an experienced highly trained force, how can we retain the "warriors" and not allow a return of the bureaucrats who always seem to come to dominate between wars? How can we help our "strategic corporal? What decisions do we need to make today?"
For the final day, there were two key addresses, the first by General Craig McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen Mckinley noted that "value-added" aspects of the Guard and Reserve - part-time soldiers who are substantially less expensive than the active duty force but who are competent and capable of taking on either front line assignments or providing "breathing space" for AC force to recover from operations. Noting that the Guard is dual-hatted with state governors having control of the units when not called to active duty service, the Guard has a split personality - be prepared for war and for emergency operations at home. With recent call ups, National Guard units have "paid in blood and treasure to become a full spectrum force." Maintaining that edge in the future is a concern. The General noted that most Guardsmen and Reservists have prior service experience and that the country needs to retain that expertise - and not allow, as has happened in the past, the Guard and Reserve to be "put back in the can" after their wartime employments end.

Part of the issue is adequate training for the part-time force- which may be harder in times of austere budgets, but which may be helped by better use of computer training.

From my personal view, have been through a couple of recalls, the Reservists and Guard members are exactly the same people who were valued while serving in the active force and many have added to their military experience with lessons learned in civilian careers.

Most of the time getting them back up to speed involves making sure they are training on the same equipment as the active component and are given the opportunity to train alongside experienced active duty forces. General McKinley addressed these last points during his speech noting that some Guard squadrons are sharing first line equipment such as F-22 fighters as they train.

The key afternoon speech was an address by General Mattis, USMC, Commander Joint Forces Command, the details of which are mostly covered here. Going back to my "tug of war" analogy, General Mattis expressed it very well:
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told the assembled audience that an ability to create harmony among services, alliances, partnerships and civilian agencies is absolutely essential for commanders today and in the future.

“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony – even vicious harmony – on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you really need to go home, because your leadership in today’s age is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”
In short, the key is getting everyone to pull in the same direction in the term while keeping an eye on the long term. Even more, General Mattis sees the value of decentralized command - a plan that often the corporal in the field may be able to articulate extremely well and learning to trust the junior NCOs and officers in their roles as the tactical and strategic spear point:
“I don’t think we have turned off a radio in the last eight years of active operations. What kind of officers are we creating? What kind of NCOs are we creating today if in fact we have this robust command and control that you’re never out of touch with higher headquarters? We congratulate ourselves on initiative, but how much initiative are we leaving to our subordinates in a world like this?”
General Mattis also spoke of "rewarding ferocity in battle" and maintaining a "warrior ethos" - which I understood be driven in part by "doing the right thing" and not necessarily just the "legal" thing. If al Qaeda is setting up situations where in order to get at AQ personnel innocent civilians might be harmed, the corporal in the field has to see the trap and not provide AQ a propaganda talking point even when it would be lawful act otherwise. This may involve "courageous restraint" and substantial risk, but the long-term payoff may be greater than a short term victory.

He encouraged juniors to "challenge the assumptions"  citing a quote "The only thing worse than obsolete weapons is obsolete thinking." Essentially saying that warfare is not a mathematics problem, General Mattis described the importance of critical thinking in young officers, who can grasp new realities as they present themselves and adopt new strategies to deal with them. These leaders must "operate under uncertainty" while being guided by the Commander's Intent (which needs to be understood at the lowest levels). Leaders must avoid excessive worry over "lawfare" by applying ethics and legitimacy to their actions . In the right situation, "open fire legally and ethically." "Everything we do should be okay to be visible . . ."

He also encouraged openness with the press especially since the enemy is seizing the initiative more than willing to do so and is thus sometimes "winning the battle of the narrative." Don't be afraid of being judged: "We are the good guys, not the perfect guys" but our narrative ought to be better than that of the enemy. As quoted here:
The general said coalition forces are winning the war in Afghanistan on the battlefield, but losing on another front.
"The enemy is winning at times in the press. We all know that," said Mattis.
He also said the media too often uses a passive voice to describe terrorist attacks.
"How many of us have heard that? 'A bomb went off in Baghdad today,'" Mattis asked. "No, a bomb didn't just go off in Bhagdad today. Some murderous thugs who knew there were women and children in that market place intentionally blinded, burned and maimed people."
When asked how the service can keep this quality of warrior and avoid a post war "putting them in a can" as described by General McKinley, General Mattis replied:
Train them. Educate them. Reward them. Promote them. Provide warrior training by letting experienced warriors do the training.
He also suggested that we need to take a look at the oddities of an antiquated personnel system and be consistent. Pointing out that the Air Force has only officer UAV pilots while the other services may have E-4s doing the same job, he sees a need for reform.

So, after 2.5 days. What's the answer to the title question: "Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What will they need five years from now?"

1. Empowered "Strategic Corporals;"
2. A reformed personnel system that rewards warriors;
3. Reality checks on our thinking (e.g. A 2 billion dollar cruiser being used to take on some pirates in speed boat? Really?);
4. A willingness to accept the idea that "the way we've always done it" is not the only way to do it - a need to be open to the ideas and thoughts of allies and friends;
5. Unity of effort in our efforts. See Joint Publication Number 1 as cited above.

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