Mullen Stresses Lessons of Jointness

BAGHDAD, Aug. 2, 2011 — The men and women gath­ered in the apse of the Al-Faw Palace here spoke vol­umes of what the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary has become.
Sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines and Defense Depart­ment civil­ians gath­ered to hear and to ask ques­tions of America’s high­est-rank­ing mil­i­tary offi­cer. Their ser­vice togeth­er in the head­quar­ters for U.S. Forces Iraq sig­ni­fied how far the joint force has come.

One young sailor asked Navy Adm. Mike Mullen how to cap­ture the lessons learned about oper­at­ing joint­ly, and the ques­tion clear­ly ener­gized the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Through the course of two wars, we have built an incred­i­bly joint force in ways that many of us could not have imag­ined,” Mullen said. “I love each ser­vice to death – the ethos and cul­ture that each ser­vice has. It’s a crit­i­cal part of who we are as a mil­i­tary.”

But the mil­i­tary has found that if the ser­vices work togeth­er, they can accom­plish a lot more and can elim­i­nate dupli­ca­tion, he said. “We can see best prac­tices and ideas from oth­er ser­vices that some­times make us scratch our head and ask why we weren’t doing that,” he added.

Those who turned the sit­u­a­tion around in Iraq and those who are turn­ing the tables on the Tal­iban in Afghanistan have depend­ed on mem­bers of oth­er ser­vices to a degree nev­er seen in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, the chair­man not­ed, acknowl­edg­ing that get­ting to this point has not been easy.

Today, he said, every­one prais­es the Gold­wa­ter-Nichols Act of 1986 for the way it brought joint­ness to the fore­front. But it was a tough sell at all lev­els of the mil­i­tary, he recalled, and only the vast pres­tige of Ari­zona Sen. Bar­ry Gold­wa­ter put the law on the books.

“It real­ly took us about 10 to 15 years [after the law took effect] that we moved in the joint direc­tion,” Mullen said. “It was real­ly these con­flicts that made us joint.” And this needs to con­tin­ue, the chair­man added.

“We need to lever­age not only what has hap­pened here, but rec­og­nize the impor­tance and oppor­tu­ni­ty in places like cyber, like space, [and] in intel­li­gence,” he said. “As we get small­er as an insti­tu­tion, that man­dates that we work more close­ly togeth­er. In return­ing to our ser­vices, you can’t for­get what you learned.”

Mullen said that when he was chief of naval oper­a­tions, he moved sailors onto the shore and into the com­bat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did it because the sailors could con­tribute to the effort ashore, he explained, and they also would learn how to oper­ate joint­ly — and that they would return to the fleet “and plant the seed that would change the Navy.”

The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary has built capa­bil­i­ties that are extra­or­di­nary, Mullen said. “Things we didn’t know we need­ed when this began, we now have — whether it is intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ties or force pro­tec­tion or intel­li­gence and oper­a­tions sys­tems that feed each oth­er so we can be much quick­er to the fight.”

When the wars began, those in the mil­i­tary spoke about the speed of war, the chair­man said, not­ing that the U.S. mil­i­tary was lag­ging behind a nim­ble and adroit ter­ror group.

“That’s no longer the case,” he said. “Not only have we caught up with them, we’ve got­ten ahead of them. We went from a clas­sic con­ven­tion­al force to the best coun­terin­sur­gency force the world has ever seen, and we did it on the fly, we did it in stride, we did it in the fight.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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