WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2011 — The need for a joint force hasn’t gone away, but the need for a specific command dedicated to “jointness” has, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command furled its colors today.
The command, established in 1995 to champion getting all branches of the military to work together more closely, cased its colors at a ceremony in Norfolk, Va.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, awarded Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the organization’s last commander, with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his service in shutting down the command. Odierno will succeed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey — who will become Joint Chiefs chairman upon Mullen’s retirement — as Army chief of staff.
Mullen acknowledged that many in the crowd may have had bittersweet feelings at today’s event. “You can take genuine pride in [Joint Forces Command’s] essential role in transforming and guiding the separate branches of our military into a truly joint force,” he said.
The U.S. military has made tremendous strides since the early 1980s, when operations in Grenada and Lebanon pointed to gaps among the services, Mullen noted.
“Through the course of two wars, we have built an incredibly joint force in ways that many of us could not have imagined,” he said. “In fact, your efforts have permeated every level of our military, and just two days ago in Baghdad, I fielded not one, but two questions from troops who are focused on earning joint qualifications and on the lessons we have learned from fighting and operating jointly.”
Operating jointly now is embedded in military thinking, and the practical experience that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines gain from joint service in the wars returns to their services with different perspectives, the chairman said.
“In Afghanistan, for example, the highways, byways and flyways are patrolled, protected and nurtured by a joint and coalition team, including explosive ordnance removal crews along the Ring Road, provincial reconstruction teams from Helmand to Kunduz to Khost, and persistent joint close air support that is available anywhere at any time throughout the country,” the admiral said. “These efforts and our evolution as a joint force remind me of Henry Ford’s words that ‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.’ If that is so, then everyone here has indeed succeeded as we post [Joint Forces Command’s] colors one last time.”
Joint Forces Command put in place procedures and techniques that help at the highest levels of strategy as well, the chairman said. This year, he noted, procedures the command put in place and tested allowed the United States and allies to save countless lives in Libya by quickly putting together the operation to stop Moammar Gadhafi’s forces from driving on Benghazi. The lessons learned also allowed the United States to turn over operations to NATO seamlessly, he added.
“While I believe our experiences in Libya and elsewhere validate our past investments, I believe they also speak to the nature of future joint operations, for they will not be joint for the sake of jointness. They will be joint and combined because the international, economic and threat environments demand we work together in order to be successful,” Mullen said.
“Indeed,” he added, “the world has become so flat, so fast and so interconnected that we can no longer draw neat lines between the sea and the shore, the horizon and the sky. When the space, cyber and information domains are considered, it becomes clear that our services truly operate in more battle space collectively than they can control exclusively.”
The push toward closer cooperation will continue, moved in part because of tightening defense budgets, Mullen said. “No one can do it alone,” he added, “and quite frankly, no one can afford to do it alone, either.”
Mullen cited Air Force and Navy cooperation on the air-sea battle concept, setting aside parochial interests to overcome emerging 21st century threats.
“This and many other joint approaches would have been almost unthinkable a mere generation ago,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)