Command and control must become command and feedback, says NATO commander

Mattis urges training, teamwork

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – In military operations, command and control (C2) has been considered the foundation of mission success. But as the military and its culture evolves in an era instantaneous information sharing and coalition forces, so too must the notion of command and control evolve, said Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

“The C2 of the future is command and feedback,” Mattis said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference today.

At the same time, as “the glue that puts together the joint force,” C2 must be malleable enough to meet modern demands while keeping intact the “human factor,” Mattis said.

“A leader-centric, network-enabled approach creates unity of effort if done right, and creates harmony in the fog and friction of war,” he said.

Mattis emphasized the need for a sea change that values reward and initiative.

And though developing technologies contribute greatly in modern operations, members of the military need to avoid becoming dependant on the real-time information sharing that defines the lives of the forces’ youngest generation, Mattis said. “We shouldn’t have to fight based on the limitations of the networks.”

Fast, on-the-spot decision-making capabilities depend not only on the quick thinking that develops through independent functionality, but also on a decentralized command that doesn’t require a lot of red tape in the way of green lights, he added.

“The military force that is most reliant on technology and network systems is also the most vulnerable – and we know what force that is,” Mattis said, referring to the Army. “We need to be able to act fast in a complex, chaotic and degraded environment."

Mattis asserted that headquarters have become so large, that they are suffocating the initiative of the best field officers. “We must not proceduralize what is best left to an artful mode.”

To achieve these goals, Mattis stressed the importance of training and education to help maximize the so-called human factor in battlefield decision-making. Within that human factor, he said, must remain the service philosophies and unique strengths inherent to each of the forces.

“There’s no value in a joint ethos that subverts force culture. Each force culture has value because the different ways of approaching problem-solving confounds the enemy,” he said.

Still, in today’s warfare, coalition efforts are no longer an option but a requirement. Going without a joint strategy is “obsolete,” Mattis said. “No nation on its own can keep its people safe. We need to learn to work together.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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