New Concept Emphasizes Joint Force’s Speed, Synergy

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2012 — With mil­i­tary bud­gets shrink­ing as threats grow in num­ber and com­plex­i­ty, the Defense Depart­ment still must ensure the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps can defend nation­al secu­ri­ty in the com­ing decades.

“The Joint Oper­a­tional Access Con­cept is an impor­tant first step,” a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cer told reporters here Jan. 20.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. George Fly­nn, the Joint Staff’s direc­tor of joint force devel­op­ment, said the con­cept — which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey released last week — pro­vides a frame­work for devel­op­ing forces for future wars.

“This con­cept describes, in broad and gen­er­al terms, how the joint force will oper­ate in response to what we see as a grow­ing chal­lenge to our abil­i­ty to achieve and main­tain oper­a­tional access … in the var­i­ous domains [of sea, land, air, space and cyber­space],” Fly­nn said.

The 64-page con­cept focus­es on defeat­ing ene­my “anti-access and area-denial” capa­bil­i­ties — get­ting U.S. forces into places and then mov­ing them around with­in those places against ene­my oppo­si­tion.

That oppo­si­tion can include “mines, mis­siles, cyber threats — but com­pli­cat­ed by the threat that a lot of those capa­bil­i­ties could be avail­able to non­tra­di­tion­al [actors], just because of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of tech­nol­o­gy,” Fly­nn said.

The gen­er­al offered as an exam­ple non­state actors — groups that aren’t aligned with nation­al gov­ern­ments — who can pose a dis­pro­por­tion­ate threat in the cyber domain.

“That’s why it’s impor­tant, as we do force devel­op­ment, that we don’t get myopic on a spe­cif­ic threat,” he added.

The concept’s authors say there are three rea­sons why gain­ing access against armed oppo­si­tion is the “essen­tial prob­lem” for future joint forces: poten­tial ene­mies are acquir­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly improved anti-access and area-denial capa­bil­i­ties; the num­ber of U.S. troops per­ma­nent­ly based over­seas is declin­ing, which will mean deploy­ing troops for com­bat from the Unit­ed States; and space and cyber­space are becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant and con­test­ed domains.

The con­cept lists 30 crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties, divid­ed among com­mand and con­trol, intel­li­gence, fires [which the document’s glos­sary defines as “the use of weapon sys­tems to cre­ate a spe­cif­ic lethal or non­lethal effect on a tar­get”], move­ment and maneu­ver, pro­tec­tion, sus­tain­ment, infor­ma­tion and engage­ment.

It’s too soon to tie those capa­bil­i­ties to plat­forms or tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures, Fly­nn said, but the 30 objec­tives will serve as a guide to the mil­i­tary ser­vices in their spend­ing plans.

“Those capa­bil­i­ties … can be pro­vid­ed by one ser­vice, or it could be the col­lec­tive capa­bil­i­ty of the joint force,” he said. “The exist­ing force devel­op­ment process­es [will] bring those capa­bil­i­ties to real­i­ty.”

The con­cept empha­sizes joint oper­a­tions, syn­er­gy and coop­er­a­tion start­ing at a much low­er lev­el than they do now, the gen­er­al not­ed. DOD’s exist­ing air-sea bat­tle strat­e­gy and upcom­ing con­cepts detail­ing entry, lit­toral (seas, lakes and rivers close to shore), and sus­tained land-based oper­a­tions will align under the joint access con­cept, Fly­nn said.

When Dempsey released the new con­cept doc­u­ment, ini­tial response with­in the Pen­ta­gon to its empha­sis on “cross-domain syn­er­gy” was that it’s noth­ing new, Fly­nn said.

“It is some­thing we have to explore in greater detail,” he added. “Tra­di­tion­al­ly, we used to talk about com­bined arms … [in] the same domain. … What we’re say­ing in the Joint Oper­a­tional Access Con­cept is we’re going to have mul­ti­ple-domain oper­a­tions going on that have to be sequenced in a way that they’ve nev­er been sequenced before.”

The mil­i­tary under­stands the tra­di­tion­al domains of land, sea, air and space very well, Fly­nn said. “You have this new domain, cyber — man-made, that changes all the time — that now has to be thrown into the mix,” he added.

That’s one chal­lenge, he said, and anoth­er chal­lenge is the lev­el at which future con­flicts will need to “go joint.”

“We think that this is going to have to be oper­at­ed … [and] coor­di­nat­ed at low­er lev­els than we’ve ever had to do this before,” he explained. Low­er-lev­el oper­a­tional syn­er­gy among ser­vices is core to the con­cept, and so is inte­grat­ing cyber into the bat­tle space, Fly­nn said. Both ideas need more explo­ration before they can be real­ized, he added.

The con­cept is in line with the guid­ance he got from Dempsey to “take joint­ness and push it deep­er, soon­er in our force devel­op­ment,” Fly­nn said.

Ear­li­er empha­sis on joint oper­a­tions will allow the nation’s mil­i­tary to achieve its objec­tives more effec­tive­ly, more effi­cient­ly and more afford­ably, he added.

War­fare will become more com­plex as threats in the cyber domain mature, Fly­nn said, and equip­ment, doc­trine, tac­tics, train­ing and orga­ni­za­tion will have to adapt to that real­i­ty.

The Cap­stone Con­cept for Joint Oper­a­tions, last updat­ed in 2009, details the main secu­ri­ty chal­lenges fac­ing the joint force: win­ning the nation’s wars, deter­ring adver­saries, devel­op­ing coop­er­a­tive secu­ri­ty, defend­ing the home­land and respond­ing to civ­il crises.

“This month, we just com­plet­ed the review of the Cap­stone Con­cept for Joint Oper­a­tions,” Fly­nn not­ed. “[We’re now] under­tak­ing a revi­sion of that doc­u­ment, and we’re on a pret­ty aggres­sive time­line.”

In the hier­ar­chy of doc­u­ments, Fly­nn said, the revised cap­stone con­cept will bridge the Joint Oper­a­tional Access Con­cept and fur­ther devel­op­ment of joint doc­trine.

The cur­rent ver­sion of the cap­stone con­cept does­n’t address the speed at which future oper­a­tions will have to hap­pen, Fly­nn said, adding that the new con­cept serves as a guide to the ser­vices and the joint force in man­ag­ing devel­op­ment changes already under way and still to come.

“It’s real­ly easy to say, ‘I have a con­cept. I have to be able to oper­ate fast. I have to be able to do this at lev­els low­er than I ever have before,’ ” Fly­nn not­ed.

“Will we be able to field that tomor­row?” he asked. “No. What we’re doing is iden­ti­fy­ing the chal­lenges, iden­ti­fy­ing in gen­er­al terms the capa­bil­i­ties, so that we can get to where … [we can] oper­ate at speed [and] inte­grate at low­er lev­els, and … do that in a joint con­text.”

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