Sept. 10, 2020 —
As I write this column from my table far away from my NDU Press office during the pandemic, I am wondering about the scope of it all, as I am sure many of you are. Was COVID-19 unexpected? Unprecedented? Did we all think it would not happen? One thing I am certain about—such times bring out the need for capability and teamwork in the harshest of conditions. While not a typical environment for the military, often when we see the need to team up in ways that might not be traditional to work out a “wicked problem” like this one, I wonder if this situation is exactly what jointness is for.
Some have recently suggested we have achieved all we expected to achieve with jointness. I strongly disagree. Recently, I listened to Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, USA (Ret.), speak about how this crisis is similar to Hurricane Katrina, where he played a critical role. He knew what leaders at all levels of the COVID-19 effort are all now learning: it takes lots of people with just the right training, experience, equipment, supply lines, creative thinking, and initiative to be successful. That is what we are famous for—figuring out how to succeed no matter what the condition. At the moment, it would seem the task is indeed monumental and our frontline responders are fully engaged. The rest of us are wrestling with what we should do, how to do it, and who and how we could help.
I suspect we will learn in the weeks and months to come about the stories of Servicemembers, first responders, healthcare workers, and ordinary citizens who banded together to do what they could. I hope you will share those stories, as they may be helpful in coming years. Such efforts, in part, I am sure will benefit from the joint force’s ability to work together just like the proponents of jointness have sought over the years since World War II. As I was working on this issue, I rediscovered a speech delivered by then–General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower just days before he stepped down as Chief of Staff of the Army in February 1948. He spoke to the third class of officers to attend the Armed Forces Staff College, now the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk. I hope to share the entire speech with you in our next issue, as I believe it is still relevant to today’s situation, and Eisenhower’s views on what we now call jointness are both useful as they are reinforcing.
But there was another Ike who was equally important in solidifying the concept of jointness. He was an unlikely champion of military matters, much less integration of the capabilities and talents of the Services. A relatively junior congressman from a state with military bases (but relatively few compared to others), Ike Skelton (D-MO) staked his political life in part to assuring our men and women in uniform and the civilians who serve with them are given all the physical and mental firepower that the Nation could provide. All you need to know about this aspect of his life can be found in his book Whispers of Warriors: Essays on the New Joint Era (NDU Press, 2004). There you will see what one man can do to improve the lot of the joint force. Others clearly contributed, but for my money, Representative Skelton had few peers in seeing the power of many combined into one. While we may shout “Beat Army!” or “Beat Navy!” or, never in my case, “Beat Air Force!” this should extend only to our collegiate athletic teams, as we all should want our joint force to excel at every task it receives.
As we grapple with the pandemic, in the Forum, Lauren Courchaine, Alexus Grynkewich, and Brian Courchaine suggest that now would be the perfect time to consider updating how the combatant commands work together to assure U.S. global military dominance. George Dougherty continues our long dialogue on military innovation with a focus on China’s and Israel’s efforts over time. While written well before COVID-19 was on everyone’s mind, Melia Pfannenstiel and Louis Cook have some prescient insights on how disinformation can be dealt with while executing humanitarian assistance missions, particularly those battling disease.
In JPME Today we offer three returning JFQ authors, each a seasoned veteran of the joint professional military education frontlines. First, Gregory Miller provides six criteria that national security professionals should consider when evaluating strategies. Next, Milan Vego provides us with an essential bridge to connect operations short of war and operational art. Finally, providing insights in how JPME might best improve their students’ thinking skills, Joseph Collins focuses on decisionmaking as a key element to properly prepare them as effective participants in the civil-military relationships necessary for success in senior positions of government.
This issue’s Commentary presents Thomas-Durell Young’s views on how to manage the inherent political nature of security cooperation and security, which is especially important for those officers who still believe being apolitical in their duty means that they do not have to think about the “politics” of what they are involved with in carrying out their missions. Even a decade after retiring from my military career while serving at the Joint Forces Staff College, I often think about how important jointness is and why it can be so hard to sustain. From my teammates there, Charles Davis and Kristian Smith help us wrestle with what makes jointness simultaneously so necessary and so hard to do well.
Features offers three important articles on the critical issues confronting the joint force today and into the future. In an interesting take on joint planning, M.E. Tobin, William Coulter, John Romito, and Derek Fitzpatrick suggest their model for campaign plan assessment will help commanders better see the value proposition of their efforts. While the Departments of Defense and State have followed the National Security Strategy in addressing Great Power competition with China, a topic further elevated during the pandemic, Lloyd Edwards suggests a balancing of competition and cooperation would best deal with China’s long-term objectives. In Recall, Gordon Muir helps use think about campaigning in long wars from the perspective of the Duke of Marlborough. Seems this long war thing is not so new.
As always, we bring the latest in excellent book offerings with four reviews and the joint doctrine update. I hope each of you has adapted to this most difficult time and have taken the time to write down your thoughts on how the joint force might operate going forward. If you have and think others might benefit, please reach out to us. We are ready to hear what you have to say.
Click here to read the latest issue →
NDU Press produces Joint Force Quarterly in concert with ongoing education and research at National Defense University in support of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. JFQ is the Chairman's joint military and security studies journal designed to inform and educate national security professionals on joint and integrated operations; whole of government contributions to national security policy and strategy; homeland security; and developments in training and joint military education to better equip America's military and security apparatus to meet tomorrow's challenges while protecting freedom today.