Joint efforts can help with data overload, disconnections

As military planners begin developing strategies for working with smaller budgets, the idea of working together across branches is gaining traction. As joint staffs evolve with a focus on operating with less funding, planners are also studying strategic approaches such as how to handle data overload and lost connectivity.

The Joint Staff is moving swiftly to make its operations more streamlined; one primary goal is quick response to a rapidly changing world in which unexpected events seem to be increasing.

“In August, for the first time, we eliminated a directorate,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. George Flynn, director of the Joint Staff, said Jan. 25 at AFCEA West 2012. “That’s a major paradigm shift. We’ve flattened the organizational construction so we can respond to change more quickly.”

Since those changes were made, budget cuts have become more stringent, broadening their effect. However, Flynn doesn’t think that these cuts will prevent the military from completing missions.

“In this fiscal environment, we need to make choices. The new era is not about making do with less, it’s about doing the best with what you have,” Flynn said.

Although networking is one of the cornerstones of U.S. strategies, Flynn has concerns about the volume of data and over-reliance on connectivity. He said officers need to understand how to operate when those connections are interrupted. Connectivity has been so good during the past few years that Flynn's concerned that officers will become too reliant on the data flow they receive.

“We need to develop leaders who are able to function with the massive amounts of information they’re now dealing with. The question is, what happens when they are disconnected. We’ve gone through a 10-year war where people were always connected. What happens when they’re not connected, which is going to happen,” Flynn said.

He said that as U.S. forces change their technologies and tactics, their opponents will continue to adapt to those changes. The structured approach used throughout all programs can be a vulnerability as well as a strength.

“Adaptive adversaries can take advantage of our vulnerabilities. One of those is our processes,” Flynn said.

One key for meeting all types of threats is to continue having all branches work together. The resulting cross pollination can help one branch make progress by leveraging ideas developed in another entity.

“The need for a joint approach is driven by a key point,” Flynn said. By having an overarching approach, there’s a connection between underlying programs so we get the best results.”

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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