I’d like to share my day 1 impressions of the activities that caught my attention today at the Joint Warfighting Conference 2009 in Virginia Beach.

First, there are more displays this year than last year, and the small businesses in the defense industry are well represented. I was also heartened to see that the focus of technologies has shifted, the big ideas are out and the small, useful technologies are ready for demonstration. I was particularly impressed by several humanitarian support technologies on display, including a lightweight, rapidly assembled shelter system that is capable of supporting indigenous construction materials that costs about the same as the tents usually used in disaster recovery operations.

Of all the panels and speakers today, the best I saw was MajGen Koen A. Gijsbers, Royal Netherlands Army during the late after noon cyber security panel. He produced one story after another that really set the tone of the problem. For example, did you know the NATO commander in Afghanistan has 7 computers on his desk, just so he can interface with the forces under his command? He pointed out that during the cyber attack of Estonia, 50% of the attacks came from the United States (from hijacked botnet run PCs). But his best point is one that I kept running into all day, that while the strategic direction of the United States may be to work with partners, both us and our partners are horrible at sharing information.

I think fighting piracy off Somalia is an example most people are familiar with, I sometimes worry we are so busy working on deconfliction between the various commands, procedures, and operations of the good guys that no one really has time to fight the bad guys out there.

Finally, there was an excellent question asked during the hybrid warfare panel moderated by Frank Hoffman, and I think I’ll offer the question up here for discussion. The State Dept. has sent members of their PRT team out to Fort Irwin to train with the military before deploying to Afghanistan, which is a very new thing btw. The question is whether unity of effort is enough, or does their need to be unity of command for the military and civilians in the forward theater of war?

The panel gave some very good non-answers. It was a great question.

Posted by galrahn in Maritime Security

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  • B. Walthrop

    Unity of effort (if you can get to true unity) is enough. Working in a matrix organizational construct is not totally unfamilier at certain levels in the military. It is hard work and has both advantages and disadvantages, but executed correctly can lead to powerful teaming with each functional expert brining their skill sets to bear to solve the complex problems in the AOR.


  • John

    Unity of effort is great until the DoS team refuses to brief the General on it’s efforts, mostly because they are too lazy and self important to create slides. Their fear of censure due to a lack of any worhtwhile accomplishments also diminished their enthusiasm for military supervision.

    Yes, I spent 6 months in Iraq working with PRT/ePRTs, and that is exactly what I saw.

  • I don’t think there needs to be unity of command in the theater, but there needs to be clear direction down from the civilian and military theater leadership that full cooperation is the minimum acceptable standard.
    If the DoS folks don’t want to brief the general, then that’s something he needs to work with his chain of command and the ambassador. Inviting the senior civilians to regular briefs can set that expectation early, so that the lower-level teams get in the habit of talking to both chains of command.
    I think the pre-deployment training at Ft. Irwin is a great idea, and should help create the kinds of habits needed to achieve unity of effort.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Wow. Great question (unity of effort/command). IMHO, you need both. With a tip o’ the hat to John’s comment above, of course. I was in Al Anbar for almost 8 months during some interesting times in 2004, and though it was the MNFI main effort, it certainly wasn’t State’s. We had two, sometimes three, State folks out there. Total. They worked hard, but it was like filling a bathtub with a spoon. Clearly, Foggy Bottom and other government instruments needed to quit sulking (Colin Powell) and get off their a**es.

    The unity of command theme was a big one at UQ09, an Army Future Game I just attended. If the US has an embassy, the dude/dudette in charge should be the Ambassador. If a consulate, it should be the chief of mission. Sounds good. But it’s a lot harder than we think. The “whole of government” idea is the wave of the future, but it’s like herding cats with a vacuum cleaner. And by the way, it is usually only those in uniform that get killed, and hence have a greater stake in not having stupid ideas thrown around.

  • Anathema

    Proconsuls…we need proconsuls, CIVILIAN proconsuls. State needs to organize more like DOD, match their bureaus up to the Combatant Commanders and then we need a regional ambassador who is THE HMFIC and answers to the President for that region. WashPo ran a story a few years back on this idea but referred to the military (then) CinCs as the proconsuls….http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/world/issues/cinc/ But doing so ignores the history we have of civilian control of the military.

    Oh…and the State Staff needs to get out of Foggy Bottom and into the CoCom headquarters…

  • Byron

    You’re kidding? Turn control of the military over to the dons of State? I have no problem with civilian control, it’s not only law of the land, but a Constitutional mandate of the Executive branch.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Having a COCOM (formerly CinC) in charge, with DoS within his/her command, would not ignore civilian control of the military at all. The civilian control would continue at the military department and SecDef level, not to mention the president.

  • B. Walthrop

    But what would it do to the credibility of the DoS folks in terms of coordinating with the “Host Nation” or NGOs.

    The risks associated with having DoS personnell serving under the command of the COCOM may not outweigh the benefits. Someone who has direct experience serving in the Cradle of Civilization or in the shadow of the Hindu Kush will have better insight on this potential problem and the risks it entails, and I for one would love for them to weigh in.


  • Fouled Anchor

    @Walthrop: I was only responding to the point about civilian control, but you bring up some interesting questions.

    Does subordination of State to the military give the host nation, NGOs, and even Americans the idea that diplomacy is now an extension of war, instead of war being an extension of diplomacy?

    Would subordination of the military to State interefere with tactical and strategic military operations, deferring instead to the ‘diplomatic’ decision?

    Does not having either subordinate to the other give the impression, if not the actual result, of two agencies with forever separate and competing agendas?

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I think you and Walthrop called it right. By law, foreign policy dictates National Security Strategy, of which National Military Strategy is a part. Putting DoS under a DoD lead (we did with the CPA in Iraq out of necessity because of the noted absence of State from any and all activities planning for Phase IV and after..) didn’t work well. As a matter of policy, State would never agree to that. For some really good reasons, I submit. The cart would definitely be before the horse with the reversal of NSS and NMS. Diplomacy as an extension of war, as Fouled so eloquently puts it.

    And the NGOs, who largely hate us and resent us anyway, (even when they need stuff) wouldn’t touch that with, as the Grinch would say, and eleven-and-a-half foot pole.

    DoD has to have the same agenda as DoS, ultimately, as it is an arm of national foreign policy. Trouble is, State has no planning apparatus nor the manpower to be central to what has been called “campaign design”.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Two compliments from URR? I think I’ll call it a day.

    URR, thanks for the additional explanation.

  • B. Walthrop

    No kidding. I’m glad to see that URR and I have finally found some common ground. URR: Your Boots on Ground experience is greatly appreciated, and as always you say things more succinctly and better than I ever could.


  • UltimaRatioReg

    I’m not nearly as grouchy as Hayball sez I am……

  • For some really good reasons, I submit. The cart would definitely be before the horse with the reversal of NSS and NMS. Diplomacy as an extension of war, as Fouled so eloquently puts it.

    From the comfort of my… uh, comfy chair, I’d argue that Iraq was an incident where the military in charge of DoS made sense, as it was a war with diplomatic overtones, vice a diplomatic situation. You can argue over the finer points of when a changeover occurs, but given the demise of the previous regime, and the fact that they didn’t have sovereignty, a DoD lead was not necessarily wrong.

  • Anathema

    Well, there’s always the CATF/CLF or supported/supporting analogies. Bottom line is the CoCom needs a civilian counterpart at the regional level. Right now one of the problems in talking is who do you talk to? The country desk? Ambassador? DATT? That alone means at least two different time zones, and typically 3 cultures – military, foreign service, political appointee. And that’s with the simplest relationship.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “given the demise of the previous regime, and the fact that they didn’t have sovereignty, a DoD lead was not necessarily wrong.”

    Brad, I might offer this: Two conditions might make that statement more viable. The first is if we hadn’t had a multi-national force there. Then, there might have been some efficacy to establishing a military governorship until such time as it could be dissolved. The second would be DoD, and the combat forces in Iraq in general, being plussed up with the requisite apparatus to re-connect central with provincial with local government, and get it working again. But every war has diplomatic overtones. Just as all diplomacy has military ones.

    Anathema! CATF/CLF?!?!?! Be still my thumping heart. At the end of this year’s UQ, a brief discussion on future technology requirements yielded the need for a “universal translator”. A very sharp Army LtCol opined that its first use would be to allow Defense and State to talk to each other. I thought she had a point.