San Diego Union-Tribune

May 6, 2001

New command to get armed forces to fight as one


NORFOLK, Va. -- In the 1983 assault on Grenada, Army troops could not call for help from Navy warships they could see just offshore or assign targets to the carrier-based jets overhead.

Even in the highly successful Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Navy had trouble meshing the combat power of its six aircraft carriers into the Air Force-run unified air plan. And "friendly" airstrikes on U.S. ground troops caused more casualties than the Iraqis did.

Those are just a few recent examples of the deadly disconnects among the four U.S. armed services, despite decades of efforts to fuse them into a unified fighting force.

But now a congressionally mandated new command is working to bridge the gaps.

"In the past, we really haven't fought a joint campaign," said David Ozolek, a retired Army colonel who is part of the effort to fix the problem. "Grenada is an example of where it didn't go so well."

In that operation to rescue American medical students caught in the middle of a bloody power struggle, incompatible radios and procedures hobbled the services' efforts to support each other.

It was not the first -- or last -- such breakdown.

Faced with this history of friction and a future in which smaller U.S. forces will have a greater need to combine their strengths, Congress transformed the former Atlantic Command into the Joint Forces Command and ordered it to clench the four services into a tight fist of unified power.

A key element of that effort is the Joint Experimentation Directorate, in a
Norfolk suburb. The center is directing experiments to develop and then
demonstrate in the field the concepts, tactics and equipment needed to tie the services together.

Vice Adm. Martin Meyer, the deputy commander in chief, said the Joint
Forces Command's efforts are focused mainly on the communications,
computers and intelligence systems that will "shorten our decision time" in
future conflicts and on ensuring that the services' equipment and doctrine are compatible.
Ozolek, deputy director of the Joint Futures Laboratory in Norfolk, said the command is developing a Rapid Decisive Operations unit to aid in conducting joint operations.

The key vehicle to reach the command's goals is a series of joint experiments that will be carried out over two years.

The first step, under way now, is Unified Vision 01, which primarily will use computer simulation to test Rapid Decisive Operations in a realistic
multiservice operation, Ozolek said.

That will be followed next year by Millennium Challenge 02, which will use essentially the same conditions and scenario, but will employ thousands of live forces operating on land, sea and in the air over a large part of the western United States, he said.

That cycle will then be repeated.

Although Congress forced the joint effort on the services, they have embraced it.

The services appear eager, and "in some cases even hungry," to get the Joint Forces Command's help in developing compatible approaches, "so they're not faced afterward with a joint community that says, 'You're heading in the wrong direction,' " Ozolek said.

A survey of the services' own experimentation centers verified Ozolek's

"It fits in perfectly" with the Navy's experiments, said Rear Adm. Robert
Sprigg, commander of the Naval Warfare Development Command at
Newport, R.I.

"It gives us a great venue to see that our developments fit in" with the joint
environment, he said.

Sprigg said the Navy has adjusted the schedule for its series of fleet battle
experiments to tie them in with the Millennium Challenge trials.

The Air Force, Army and Marine Corps have done the same with their
previously independent experiments.

The joint effort comes as all the services are working on "transformation" from Cold War weapons and concepts to forces ready for future challenges. 

"There is a lot of talk about transformation . . . a lot of ideas," Meyer said.
"Ideas are cheap. We're trying to translate ideas into action."