Joint Force Quarterly 103

Joint Force Quarterly 103

(4th Quarter, October 2021)

Achieving Overmatch by Solving Joint Problems

  • Educating Future Leaders on Emerging Technologies
  • 2021 Essay Competition Winners


Download Full PDF  →



U.S. Marines and United Kingdom and Turkish coalition forces assist child during evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 20, 2021 (U.S. Marine Corps/Victor Mancilla)

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason

As each day passes in the pandemic, we seem to have to embrace a world that continues to bring additional concerns that soak up any emotional bandwidth we have left. Dealing with the personal impact of COVID-19, natural disasters, domestic and international economic troubles, and the chilling moments of January 6th at the Capitol and its political fallout may seem more than we should have to bear.

Extended range multipurpose unmanned aircraft system returns from functional testing during Project Convergence 20, at Yuma
Proving Ground, Arizona, September 15, 2020 (U.S. Army/Jovian Siders)

Project Convergence: Achieving Overmatch by Solving Joint Problems

By John Michael Murray and Richard E. Hagner

As the United States confronts Great Power competition (GPC), incremental improvements to individual Service capabilities will not produce a military able to decisively win on the battlefield. The enhanced range, precision, and survivability of our weapons systems are just one part of achieving overmatch. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, robotics, and autonomy improve our weapons systems’ effectiveness by boosting the decisionmaking pace of our commanders and reducing the options for our adversaries. Success on the battlefield depends on whether we leverage these new technologies to create simultaneous dilemmas across multiple domains.

AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, takes off during strait transit aboard USS Boxer, Strait
of Hormuz, August 12, 2019 (U.S. Marine Corps/Dalton S. Swanbeck)

The Tactical Defense Becomes Dominant Again

By T.X. Hammes

It has become widely accepted that the convergence of technological advances is leading to a revolution in military affairs or perhaps even a military revolution. One of the unanswered questions concerning this shift is whether it will lead to continued dominance by the offense or a period of defensive dominance. Investing in the wrong side of the competition is a rich nation’s game that the United States may no longer be able to afford.

Field artillery cannoneer with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, emplaces M777A2 Howitzer during Artillery Relocation Training Program 21.1, at Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan, April 26, 2021 (U.S. Marine Corps/
Michael Jefferson Estillomo)

The New Era of Great Power Competition and the Biden Administration: Emerging Patterns and Principles

By Thomas F. Lynch III

This article offers a collection of observations about the evolving new era of Great Power competition that extend and expand on the insights about past and contemporary GPC found in Strategic Assessment 2020: Into a New Era of Great Power Competition (NDU Press, 2020). These extended observations include an assessment of the Biden administration’s emerging approach to geostrategic competition among the three contemporary Great Powers, and particularly with China.

Essay Competitions

Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, prepares to fly
bilateral mission with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s in vicinity of Senkaku Islands, August 15, 2017 (U.S. Air Force/Christopher Quail)

Reading the Tea Leaves: Understanding Chinese Deterrence Signaling

By Charles L. Carter

This essay seeks to illuminate Beijing’s deterrence signaling by reviewing key concepts in Western deterrence theory to provide a foundation for discussion. With this foundation laid, the essay then contrasts these concepts with historical PRC deterrence practice to identify nuances and trends. Finally, the essay illustrates China’s unique approach to deterrence signaling, using the ongoing Sino-Indian Ladakh border crisis as a case study.

Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, currently attached to 3rd Marine Division, and 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, provide combined antiair and antiarmor capabilities during amphibious defense exercise at Iejima, Japan, January 27, 2021 (U.S. Marine Corps/Alize Sotelo)

Purpose-Built Antiarmor Teams: An Imperative for the Marine Corps Ground Combat Element

By Aaron Smith

The Marine Corps has an “institutional misunderstanding of armor” that leaves its Ground Combat Element (GCE) ill-equipped to defeat the armored platforms that our peer adversaries employ. The Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) has no active antiarmor doctrine and likewise lacks a purpose-built, ground-based antiarmor capability. The Marine Corps must establish modern antiarmor doctrine and restructure the training and equipping of Combined Anti-Armor Teams (CAATs) across the GCE to remain globally competitive across the full spectrum of conflict.

USS Ronald Reagan transits South China Sea with USS Halsey and USS Shiloh, in Strait of Malacca, June 18, 2021 (U.S. Navy/Rawad Madanat)

Degrading China’s Integrated Maritime Campaign

By Douglas J. Verblaauw

The past decades have witnessed the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a Great Power and its orchestration of an integrated maritime campaign using Irregular warfare—for example, economic coercion, diplomatic intimidation, lawfare, and hacking of information technology systems—to control the South China Sea (SCS). This essay examines this maritime campaign’s IW tactics and describes how the United States can launch an effective countercampaign to reestablish order in the SCS by creating a surveillance network and strengthening regional security institutions.

Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS North Dakota transits Thames River as it pulls into homeport on Naval Submarine Base New London, in Groton, Connecticut, January 31, 2019 (U.S. Navy/Jason M. Geddes)

Realizing Energy Independence on U.S. Military Bases

By Timothy Renahan

Near-peer competitors such as Russia and China are working to exploit our aging infrastructure to gain advantage in possible future conflict and destabilize day-to-day operations. This article focuses on domestic military bases and the energy vulnerabilities associated with local grids. As energy technologies evolve, now is the time to invest future funding to reduce vulnerability of domestic military bases to attack and ensure energy independence.

JPME Today

Cadet uses Ludwieg Tube to measure pressures, temperatures, and flow field of various basic geometric and hypersonic
research vehicles at Mach 6 in U.S. Air Force Academy’s Department of Aeronautics, in Colorado, January 31, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Joshua Armstrong)

Educating Senior Service College Students on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies

By Kelly John Ward

In a constrained 10-month master’s degree program that must meet and excel at the tasks stipulated in the joint professional military education (JPME) program for the Process of Accreditation of Joint Education requirements, an outcomes-based military education has no room for extraneous material. Senior Service college (SSC) curricula are a delicately balanced mix of subjects, discussions, applied thinking and exercises, and student evaluations. The unfortunate reality is that adding important topics or material to the SSC curriculum requires removing equally important material—and often upsets the delicate balance that has built over time.


Army M109A6 Paladin howitzer with Ellenwood-based Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard, observes fired artillery rounds during African Lion 2021, at Tan Tan Training Area, Morocco, June 13, 2021 (U.S. Army National Guard/R.J. Lannom, Jr.)

Specialized Analytic and Targeting Study: A Methodology and Approach for Conducting Faster Full-Spectrum Targeting

By Curtis E. Pinnix, Jr.

JP 3-60 provides broad guidance on targeting but fails to connect its effects-based approach to the true rhythm of operations. Doctrine in fighting coalition war is sufficient, but comprehensive doctrine in preparing for war lacks focus. In time- and resource-constrained environments, flexible and even ad hoc approaches are used to examine the target environment and achieve desired objectives. The targeting model needs to evolve, and as such the integration of intelligence that feeds that model must likewise evolve. Establishing and moving to a more agile kill-chain affords the warfighter and war planner an adaptable model that solves challenges inherent in broad spectrum, cross-domain operations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with delegates to First Party Congress of People’s Liberation Army Joint Logistic Support Force in Wuhan, Hubei Province, October 18, 2019 (Xinhua/Alamy Live News/Li Gang)

Understanding the Vulnerabilities in China’s New Joint Force

By David Bickers

This article analyzes PLA reforms and identifies vulnerabilities in China’s new joint force. The first section analyzes the changes to the Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest level of the PLA, set in the context of China’s model of national decisionmaking and civil-military relations. The second section considers the restructuring of the PLA, focusing particularly on its new Strategic Support Force (SSF) and revised theater-level organization. The third section explores the measures that could disrupt and defeat this new joint force via targeting the vulnerabilities identified in sections one and two.

Air Force and Army Servicemembers carry litter with simulated casualty at Ali al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, November 6, 2020, during training for handling remains after major accident (U.S. Air Force/Kaleb Mayfield)

Green Fields of France: Mortuary Affairs in a Peer Conflict

By Timothy Dwyer

Commanders must integrate realistic casualty expectations into their formations and institute plans that will minimize the impact of high-casualty conflicts on their ability to accomplish objectives. They can achieve this goal in three key ways. First, to lessen the blow of casualties sustained in a peer conflict, accurate casualty expectations must be part of formations’ training and organizational culture. Second, mortuary affairs cannot be a “hand wave” during training exercises; it must be exercised as a crucial function in maintaining a unit’s operational effectiveness in combat. Finally, planners must specify organic mortuary affairs capabilities within their organization that can be flexed to fulfill a need beyond what modern experience has demonstrated. Recent history has shown the implications of high-casualty events, and it is essential that American forces are prepared mentally and organizationally to win in the face of tragedy.


Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón “CZ” Colón-López speaks with Servicemembers
and Capitol Police Officer in Capitol building, Washington, DC, February 25, 2021 (DOD/Carlos M. Vazquez II)

History of the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

By Christopher D. Holmes

How the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman (SEAC) position developed mirrors how other such senior enlisted advisor positions began and reflects the evolution of jointness.

USS Tinosa (SS-283), steaming to her berth at Pearl Harbor following war patrol in Japanese home waters, flying her battleflag and several small Japanese flags representing her “kills,” ca. 1939–1945 (Naval History and Heritage Command/
National Archives and Records Administration)

Wartime Innovation and Learning

By Frank G. Hoffman

The following case study details how one leader effectively integrated new operational concepts with a novel technological device to generate a capability in a combat theater. A collection of adaptations produced a new military innovation that was developed and tested incrementally and then applied in wartime. It is a great example of the integration of the research and development community operating forward in time of war to improve a new technology. A few insights regarding leadership and JPME can be drawn from this example. There are no detailed blueprints that we can draw upon for how to best exploit new technologies in every case, but history remains our best source for generating the right questions in the future.

Book Reviews

By Nina Jankowicz

How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict

Reviewed by Sarah Gamberini

In a time with both a global pandemic and a U.S. Presidential election characterized by manipulated narratives, a fresh perspective contemplating disinformation—false information knowingly shared to cause harm—is both timely and important. A book, however, about how to lose the information war, as framed by author Nina Jankowicz, is exactly the perspective needed to highlight the high stakes and growing threat of disinformation.

By Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

Reviewed by John A. Nagl

After 20 years of grinding war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is trying hard to turn away from counterinsurgency in the Middle East to focus on deterring conventional conflict with Russia and China. Into this situation, Marine combat veteran Elliot Ackerman and retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis have dropped—with impeccable timing—a novel that imagines what could go wrong if that pivot fails to deter America’s near-peer adversaries.

By Tyrone L. Groh

Proxy War: The Least Bad Option

Reviewed by Tobias B. Switzer

If proxy wars will haunt the future, as Tyrone Groh suggests, then Proxy War will prove to be not only useful but also essential. Writing to policymakers and strategists, Groh offers many valuable considerations for clear and sober thinking about the employment of a proxy and, conversely, how to overcome a proxy threat.

Joint Doctrine

Girls wave and flash victory signs at passing helicopter during military parade in western city of Zawiya, Libya, held to mark anniversary of uprising last year that cleared way for anti-Qadhafi forces’ march on Tripoli, June 11, 2012 (United Nations/Iason Foounten)

Read the Manual: Reversing the Trends of Failure in NATO Humanitarian Interventions with Airpower

By Michael Clark, Erik Jorgensen, and Gordon M. Schriver

Alliance leaders should more heavily weigh insights from their own military doctrine when deliberating if and how to embark on another humanitarian intervention using airpower without a conventional ground force. At a minimum, such consideration should give NATO leaders a better sense of what is realistically possible with airpower. With this better sense, they should be able to make more effective decisions on, if, and how to use the military instrument to achieve humanitarian objectives if airpower is the most robust military means available to them.

Joint Doctrine Update

By The Joint Staff

Joint Publications (JPs) under revision and signed within the past six months.