Deputy Commander U.S. Joint Forces Command Vice Adm. Robert S. "Bob" Harward and Rear Adm. Dan W. Davenport, director of the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (J9) for USJFCOM, spoke to the media in a series of conversations about the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO), a new warfighting concept prepared under direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and developed to describe the chairman's vision for how joint forces circa 2016-2028 will operate in response to a wide variety of security challenges forecasted in the Joint Operating Environment. The process to develop the CCJO was rigorous based on indepth research of historical lessons learned, current operations and predictions outlined in the JOE.
JOE 2008 examines trends and disruptions in the geopolitical and military landscape, such as: shifting demographics; globalization; economics; scarce energy, food and water; climate change and natural disasters; pandemics; cyber threats; and the strategic importance of space.
The concepts of the CCJO and JOE were tested in a series of seminar-style, joint-force war games held in McLean, Va. The war games began May 31 and concluded June 5. Results from the war games will be used to provide input into the Quadrennial Defense Review and also to shape future joint doctrine and training.
The war games look ahead to 2020 and feature scenarios that find U.S. joint forces up against three types of threats: a globally networked terrorist threat, a peer competitor, and a failed or failing state. Hybrid warfare, which includes a mix of warfare tactics, such as cyber threats, criminal activity and conventional warfare, is part of each scenario.
Participants in the war game series included former political leaders such as Newt Gingrich; multinational coalition members, such as British Army Lieutenant-General Graeme Lamb and Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore John McGreely; retired combatant commanders such as U.S. Army General John Abizaid and U.S. Army General Gary Luck; five former ambassadors, such as Ambassador Robert Joseph; and current ones such as John E. Herbst, Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. Each of the services was represented by flag officers.
Interagency participation included the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce and Energy; Central Intelligence Agency; U.S. Coast Guard; Director of National Intelligence; National Security Agency; National Security Council; and the United States Agency for International Development.
The final conversation with the admirals took place about half way through the war game series.
Q: How do you know you have the right scenarios and are testing the right concepts?
Rear Adm. Davenport: We think the key to success in this war game is to have the right people involved and we do. First, you must have the breadth of experience and expertise and perspectives that you get from a collection of senior military officers, interagency senior leaders and multinational leaders. We have brought together a very select group to do this. Success will be based on the analytic foundation in development now to support the game.
Finally, we have a robust, dynamic, free-thinking regimen to make sure we really challenge ourselves, the ideas of the concept and solutions that the Blue Team is coming up with to make sure we are not too easy and really have the kind of debate we need for the concept itself.
We expect to have a final report developed by the end of July. The QDR is on a tight timeline, and we already are coordinating closely with the QDR. We are sharing information insights so that our war game is informed by the work that is already done. As soon as we get results, we will be able to feed that to the QDR folks as appropriate, so that we are able to help them along their timeline.
Q: What are you seeing midway through the game?
Vice Adm. Harward: There are four principles that we are hearing that are playing out significantly: major combat operations, security operations, engagement and reconstruction. In these scenarios, you may be limited to one reality or you may move through all four of those boxes. That is the significant difference; you are not going to be compartmentalized.
We have said that we are going to maintain our capabilities in major combat operations so this balance between that and our ability to deal with hybrid threats has to be incorporated into the force. The force needs to be prepared to deal with all those environments.
Q: I heard the word complexity frequently today concerning the national security environment and the various types of threats. How does that make your work more difficult?
Rear Adm. Davenport: The key is how that makes the joint forces task more difficult … We now have a hybrid threat. That is probably the most challenging one. It is a combination of conventional capabilities and an irregular adversary. We are dealing with a full spectrum of threats all at one time.
There is also the complexity of transitioning from conflict to stability to peacetime operations and back. All of those factors make up the complexity of the future environment.
Q: Do you think there may be a hurdle to clear in terms of trying to get all the services on board with your recommendations?
Rear Adm. Davenport: We think that the CCJO is a significant step forward in providing a foundation for joint concepts leading to joint doctrine that will allow the services to align their concepts and doctrine to the joint world. We are definitely moving in that direction.
The Army is already making progress in their capstone concept that is reflective of the CCJO. I think we will see real progress along that line.
All the services contributed and had a voice in the CCJO development. We think there is good buy-in. The service chiefs were all part of this discussion with the chairman, and it was formally vetted through that process. We have a solid foundation for all the services to align to.
Q: How is the war game going to take into account real-world complications such as multinational partners in the coalition having different rules of engagement and interagencies having different responsibilities and priorities?
Rear Adm. Davenport: I probably did not emphasize enough the participation of our interagencies and multinational partners because their perspectives and their realities are absolutely critical to the conduct of this war game. As the CCJO says, the military is just one instrument of national power; and, in many cases, it is not the preferred, depending on the challenge.
We recognize that the joint force is dependent on interagency and multinational success in order to generate the overall success we need. We realize that any solution we come up with has to include the interagency and multinational perspectives and their contribution to the solution set.
That piece of the participation group is particularly important. Our ROE (rules of engagement) differences and organizational differences will play out in the war game as the scenarios and the vignettes are presented to this group.
…The scenarios provide an environment where the players are allowed to identify the kinds of partnerships that they would need in order to effectively deal with the challenges.
Q: Were there any requests from QDR folks about where they would like to see emphasis or any indication of what they want to see coming out of the war game?
Rear Adm. Davenport: The scenario timeframe is 2020 and that is in the middle of the window for CCJO. We have drawn from the scenario developers in the Pentagon and our own scenario developers to fill gaps not covered in the Pentagon scenario set. We have developed the Blue Force capabilities and the Red Force capabilities by drawing those from the services, the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) and the Joint Staff experts in this field.
The specifics of the scenarios are less important than the challenges they represent. The collective challenges that these scenarios bring forth allow us to evaluate the CCJO and evaluate the joint force's ability to be versatile and to adapt as necessary to meet the variety of challenges.
Q: Does the media have a role in the war game?
Vice Adm. Harward: There is a recognition of how important it is to have that overarching blanket of Information Operations, both in the receive mode, in the transmit mode, proactively and reactively, being a major consideration in all of these operations.
… The 'battle of the narrative' is emphasized in the game and how we get that right is a major topic in most of the decisions and the discussions I am hearing through the war game.
Q: Gen. Mattis (USJFCOM commander) said that the joint force can't assume that there is going to be command and control in place everywhere in the future. Are you considering that in the war game?
Rear Adm. Davenport: We will be evaluating the command and control environment and cyber challenges, space challenges, and those things that take away our standard command and control capabilities. We have to be able to operate through those effectively.
Decentralization is a central theme to the CCJO and enabling our operators to take the [commander's] intent and operate. [The war game] is about the education and skill sets that are provided for our operators so they can effectively deal with these challenges with or without that large command and control structure.
Q: Are you making assumptions about what kind of technology will be available in 2020? Does technology have a role in the war game?
Rear Adm. Davenport: When you project out to the future, you are making assumptions. You look at what is planned in the program of record and what the services intend to develop and invest in over time and that becomes your foundation for the capability set for that timeframe. That's what we have been doing. Those databases developed in the Pentagon are our capability set.
Q: Both Defense Secretary Gates and General Mattis have said that where our dominance lies is in conventional warfare and the gaps and potential vulnerabilities are in irregular warfare. Could you talk a little bit about how General Mattis has spoken about how small units work in the concept?
Vice Adm. Harward: Sure. We've looked, especially as we deal with this hybrid threat, at the versatility, the flexibility, the connectivity of small units. What they allow us to do on the battlefield is a significant game changer. We have seen that from the onset of this conflict. Now, how do we codify that? How do we inculcate that in the general purpose forces? How do we train for that? I think a significant part of this is the training and education.
From the senior leaders, how you employ and work in that realm, how do you understand the flexibility down to your NCOs to make sure they get the education and commander's intent to be able to function in that realm when they lose communications. Do they have that right commander's intent?
Do they have that right understanding and the right authority and confidence in what they do to be able to function and deal with these threat environments? So I think that's the goal. I think there is a broad acknowledgement of what that brings to the battlespace. Now how do we drive that into the organizations and forces we have for the future?
Another example, which I know you are familiar with, is simulation. We have hundreds of millions of dollars in simulations for pilots to fly everything, and rightfully so. But have we done the same thing for those small units who are on the ground? Can we get them that same sort of corporate knowledge and experience before they are really in the battlespace?
A pilot has hundreds of hours of simulation before he actually flies. Can we get ground forces those hundreds of hours of combat experience in simulation before we place them in those environments? Those are some of the things we are going to do with our small unit program initiatives.
Q: Can you give some specific examples of the size of units you are talking about?
Vice Adm. Harward: We have not been that tactical in this realm. And we are leaving that up to the JTF commanders, to some extent, based on the capacity and capability. But it can be as small as one or two individuals forming joint fires, a JTAC, a joint terminal attack controller. Those sorts of elements and capabilities … medics, linguists, all those sorts of skills, we need in the battlespace, PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams].
Do you give the PRTs the right sort of training and connectivity so they are now the supported element, not the supporting element in combat operations? So I think those are some examples. We haven't thrown those out in the vignettes just yet. We are leaving that to the JTF commanders to work through to determine what sort of skills and capabilities we need to meet the objectives of their scenario.
Q: What is happening when there is a lapse in C2?
Vice Adm. Harward: We are taking them off the net completely. We want to see what do you do then? Did you have the right education and training in place? The right commander's intent? Did you have those tools in place so they can still operate effectively and complete the mission when we lose those nets?
By the way, what are we doing when we lose the net? Do we develop that backbone of C2 so it's not just based on satellites — that you have an air leg, a ground leg, so that you have that triad of communications and command and control in place when you do lose the net. So all aspects of the scenarios take you through those three levels of effect.
Q: Which scenario is the toughest?
Vice Adm. Harward: I think they are all tough. When you are a joint task force commander and now it is all on your shoulders, you have to address all aspects of warfare. A lot of commanders have talked about deterrence. We have a great model for deterrence from the last 50 years — the Cold War. How does this deterrence work when we are dealing with non-state actors who are empowered with technology and weapons that have significant impact above the tactical and operational if not the strategic level?
Those are the challenges regardless of which scenario you face, especially as we see state actors using surrogates who have disavowed knowledge or connectivity and yet are empowered with assets that only a state actor can bring to bear.
Surrogates could be terrorist groups, but in some cases, not. For example, in cyber warfare, we know there are state actors, but there are also hackers, who are not terrorists, but surrogates in some cases.
Q: In addition to the C2 network that could go down, what other constraints are in the game?
Rear Adm. Davenport: We can't get into specifics about the scenarios, but we can tell you that the cyber challenge is robust in each of the scenarios. It is forcing each of the Blue Teams to determine what kinds of capabilities they will need and how that may affect their operations and to push toward their ability to work in a network challenged environment. Decentralized operations with small units may be the only way you are effective.