Sharing lessons learned crucial to jointness

Military services still face organizational challenges when working together

The aerospace and defense industries seemed to be on the right track as they sought to instill jointness into their organizations during the past decade or so. Driven by the need to reduce costs and streamline operations, aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing more closely aligned with suppliers around the world to develop fully integrated systems.

They brought suppliers closer by giving them a window into their enterprise resource planning systems so, for example, they could plan more effectively, address problems faster and deliver products on time. In short, the need to operate jointly helped to sharpen competition, strengthen network links and transform the aircraft manufacturing industry into the most global business in the world.

The military embraced joint efforts in the late 1990s with the establishment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which coincided with the tenure of Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski at the Defense Department’s Office of Force Transformation. I went to Wikipedia to see what became of that office and read that the office has been “de-established.” I noticed that JFCOM is also about to be de-established, as per Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ instructions recently. So does that mean that the military has attained its quest for jointness? After all, Cebrowski’s vision of a network-centric military has come true — so much so that today’s military is both net enabled and net dependent.

Until recently, I might have thought so. It’s been nine years since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, a joint NATO action. Certainly by now, all the issues related to interoperability should have been worked out by the U.S. military and its coalition partners. But this past summer, at the Army’s LandWarNet conference, I learned otherwise.

In one session at the conference, Col. William “Chuck” Hoppe, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical project manager, reported on his recently completed six-month tour with Regional Command South in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he served in a non-WIN-T role as a senior communications manager. His assessment of the joint situation on the ground was insightful, particularly regarding the joint, organizational challenges that the military services have not yet ironed out as the Afghanistan war approaches the beginning of its second decade. We have provided a forum for some of the colonel’s observations in this issue in a new, periodic section titled “Lessons Learned.”

Bringing jointness to the military represents a challenge of the highest proportion. It requires establishing secure communication networks throughout the chain of command, from the tactical operations center to the tactical edge. But it is an organizational challenge as much as a networking one, and the solution will come through the continuous sharing of lessons learned.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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