n the next few months, the Defense Department will lay the foundation for achieving the goals established in Joint Vision 2010, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili's concept for the military of the future. It is no small task. Pentagon officials are equating the chairman's goals with President John F. Kennedy's challenge to the nation to put a man on the moon.
"This is not military strategy nor doctrine to predict force structure," said Air Force Maj. Gen. David A. Sawyer, director for operational plans and interoperability in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a briefing for members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). "This is a vision, the chairman's conceptual template for the future."
It's yet to be seen whether the template becomes the guide for the armed services for the next 13 years or is consigned to the ash heap of well-intended plans that clutter offices of every federal agency. As with many such documents, Joint Vision 2010 is long on concepts but short on specific actions for implementing those concepts.
"The vision is the first step," said Army Brig. Gen. Robert Dees, the vice director under Sawyer. What is actually achieved "depends on how we put feet to the program," he told members of AIAA. The Office of the Joint Chiefs is developing a blueprint to implement the concepts, he said. The next critical step will be to lay out the process for the next 13 years. The 1998 budget won't be determined by Joint Vision 2010, but the five-year Defense program will be affected, Dees said.
In the document's own words, it is the "template for how America's Armed Forces will channel the vitality and innovation of our people and leverage technological opportunities to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint war fighting . . . Accelerating rates of change will make the future environment more unpredictable and less stable, presenting our armed forces with a wide range of plausible futures. Whatever direction global change ultimately takes, it will affect how we think about and conduct joint and multinational operations in the 21st century. How we respond to dynamic changes concerning potential adversaries, technological advances and their implications, and the emerging importance for information superiority will dramatically impact how well our armed forces can perform its duties in 2010."
"This is a paradigm shift," Dees said. "Never before have we had a joint vision."
The heart of the vision is "full spectrum dominance." The United States must be the best in all aspects of military operations, from humanitarian assistance and peace operations to full-scale war. To ensure such dominance in the face of uncertainty, the services must be able to work together in unprecedented ways, both in terms of personnel and technology.
"We play from our strengths and information technology is one of the great American strengths," said Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of command, control, communications and computers, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Specifically, Joint Vision 2010 foresees a future where technology will push battlefield decision-making to increasingly lower levels. In addition, battlefield operations will become accelerated, reducing decision-making time and increasing stress for military personnel.
Joint Vision 2010 establishes a paradigm for traditional top-down battlefield management, Cebrowski said. Technological advancements eventually will allow any information to be projected to anyone in the theater of operations and users will be able to collaborate in real time.
"We don't have that today although we have a glimmer of it in many places," Cebrowski said.
Into the Future
In addition to exploiting new technologies, the United States must be prepared to protect its forces from potential adversaries employing the same technologies.
"We need to be preeminent in force protection as well as high-intensity conflict," Sawyer says. It's a goal more easily stated than achieved, however, and will require more than a technological answer. Witness the truck bomb terrorists had no apparent trouble detonating outside the Khobar Towers housing compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in June 1996. The explosion killed 19 Americans and wounded hundreds of others. It wasn't the first time U.S. troops experienced such an attack and it's not likely to be the last.
Protecting U.S. forces against acts of terrorism, even relatively unsophisticated forms such as employed in the most recent bombing, presents a formidable challenge. As adversaries gain technological sophistication, which they are sure to do, the challenge becomes even greater.
"We have done a very good job inserting information technology into the forces, but now we're talking about more than insertion," Cebrowski said. Assimilation of technology into military operations will require new relationships between military personnel and call for a parallel evolution of military doctrine.
The challenges facing those who would implement the chairman's vision are not just technological and doctrinal. As the Pentagon comes under increasing budgetary pressure, it will be forced to make hard choices between short-term needs and long-term goals. While Pentagon officials anticipate leveraging technology to enhance military capability more economically, the possibilities are limited without increased funding.
Joint Vision 2010 anticipates this tension: "We will have to make hard choices to achieve the trade-offs that will bring the best balance, most capability, and greatest interoperability for the least cost. Ultimately, we will have to measure continuously the affordability of achieving full spectrum dominance against our overarching need to maintain the quality of our forces, their readiness, and the force structure needed to execute our operational tasks between now and the year 2010."
Achieving the chairman's goals may not be as romantic as putting a man on the moon, but it may prove more difficult.