News | Oct. 30, 2023

Sharpening Our Competitive Edge: Honing Our Warfighting Capabilities Through the Joint Warfighting Concept

By Admiral Christopher W. Grady Joint Force Quarterly 111

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Admiral Christopher W. Grady, USN, is Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and Threat Systems Management Office operate swarm of 40 drones to test rotational units’ capabilities during Battle of Razish, National Training Center, May 8, 2019 (U.S. Army/James Newsome)

The Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC) challenges the joint force to rethink competition, deterrence, and conflict. This necessitates a shift in how we utilize our current capabilities and a leap toward new ones. To truly sharpen our competitive edge, we must outpace our adversaries in adaptability and innovation. While the Pentagon has made strides in recent years, there is more to be done. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) is pivotal in this transformation. It brings all the Services together to assess the capabilities required by the JWC, identifies gaps, and strategizes to bridge them. However, the JROC is just one facet. Achieving integration across domains and regions demands cohesive processes. We must harness our Department’s capacity to experiment, innovate, set priorities, allocate resources strategically, and expedite capability acquisition. Furthermore, with many key stakeholders outside the joint force, it is crucial to synchronize our strategies with experts, industry, and international allies and partners.

The role of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a unique and multifaceted one, standing at the crossroads of various critical lines of effort within the Department of Defense (DOD). It is a position that intertwines military advice to strategy and policy, budgeting, acquisition, and requirements, affording unique insights into the opportunities and challenges for our Services, combatant commands, and DOD.

As the Vice Chairman, I participate in our senior joint decisionmaking bodies, such as the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), the Deputies Management Group (DMAG), the Joint Chiefs of Staff Tank, as well as many other issue-focused oversight and coordination groups. In these forums, leaders universally and fully recognize the task before us: We must deliver agile, reliable, and combat-credible capabilities at speed and scale to the joint force so that warfighters can deter aggression and win if called to fight. We know from experience that our decisions are most effective when they are threat-informed, risk-based, and data-enabled.

As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley aptly described in Joint Force Quarterly 110, challenges to our rules-based international order—and unprecedented changes in the character of warfare—are catalysts for the joint force to adopt a unifying joint operational vision that deliberately drives future force development and design.1 This unifying vision is the Joint Warfighting Concept. It serves as our “roadmap to the future,” challenging the joint force to make a fundamental shift in the way we think about competition, deterrence, and conflict.2

The Secretary of Defense designated the JWC as a key to drive experimentation and accelerate Joint Force Development and Design (JFDD) with DOD-wide urgency and teamwork. He highlighted the importance of this work, noting that “with significant challenge comes opportunity for bold change.”3 This bold change, at speed, is essential for the United States, and its allies and partners, to design and develop forces that will prevail in future conflicts.

The JROC is one key tool to operationalize this shift. The JROC convenes all the Services around one table to consider the joint capabilities we need to execute the JWC, identify gaps, and then make recommendations about how we can fill those gaps to secure warfighter advantage. The JROC, though, is only one tool at military leaders’ disposal. To achieve integration across domains and geographies, we need these all to work together. We need integrated processes that move the full might of DOD to experiment with new ideas, set requirements based on what we learn, make strategy-informed resourcing decisions, and then move quickly to acquire the capabilities the joint force needs. This process—from experimentation with new ideas, to requirements, to resourcing, to acquisition—requires the best insights of experts, allies and partners, and industry to achieve our JFDD objectives. This article explores several of these tools essential for instilling the tenets of the JWC in our future war­fighting capabilities.4

The Joint Warfighting Concept

DOD looks to three seminal documents that define our strategic direction. The National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and National Military Strategy outline the what that the Nation expects the military instrument of power to achieve. They define our most consequential challenges and prioritize our activities to address emerging threats and maintain our national security.

It is the JWC that provides the how. The joint force must constantly update its thinking as new threats to American security emerge. The JWC represents our best thinking on how the United States and its allies can mitigate and defeat military threats from peer adversaries. It informs DOD-wide operations, activities, and investments. It encapsulates the wide range of thought on future warfighting from across DOD. It includes the necessary level of specificity to guide DOD in investment and modernization, readiness, organizational changes, and training initiatives in critical joint areas.

The JWC reflects our deep focus and study of our adversaries and operating environment, which will require the joint force to conduct simultaneous and successive operations across all domains, in multiple dimensions, and across the electromagnetic spectrum.5 The joint force’s agility, adaptability, and combat credibility will be our advantages over any adversary. To achieve this, we leverage the creativity in the DNA of our nation and our force—the joint force’s specialty is the ability to innovate, respond flexibly, and adapt to unexpected strategic and tactical changes.

The JWC also serves as an analytic engine operating within a multiyear JFDD timeline. Comprehensive reviews, expert analyses, and joint experimentation efforts provide a threat-informed framework and unifying vision to guide future force design, development, generation, and employment. It is our playbook for gaining positions of advantage against our adversaries and for securing our competitive edge.

The Secretary of Defense plays a vital role in JWC implementation, providing fundamental direction and priorities for the JWC through the National Defense Strategy and defense planning scenarios, directing implementation via global campaign plans and defense planning guidance, and directing periodic reviews of the JWC, as necessary.6 The Secretary’s endorsement and support for the JWC provide the force with a “North Star,” and the JWC tenets are woven throughout the work of our major defense planning forums.

Our imperative is clear: We will have a modernized joint force, sufficiently sized and ready, that enables sustained deterrence and combat effectiveness via credible U.S. capabilities and interoperability with allies and partners. Implementing the JWC in the joint force is the best preparatory action to deter adversarial actors from military aggression and preserve peace. It informs the ways in which the joint force must approach organizing, training, and equipping for future competition and conflict.7

Operationalizing the JWC: Tools at Our Disposal

One of the senior joint decisionmaking bodies responsible by law for driving this shift in warfighter modernization is the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which identifies requirements for the joint force using the JWC as a guide. As the Vice Chairman, I convene the JROC with the Service vice chiefs and civilian advisers to identify, prioritize, and address critical gaps in our joint operational employment concepts.8 The JROC assesses military capabilities and makes recommendations to address our most pressing capability gaps through changes in doctrine, organizations, training, materiel solutions, leadership, policy, facilities, and personnel (DOTMLPF-P) as well as rapid acquisition processes.9

Since its establishment in 1986, the JROC has many improvements in its approach to warfighter requirements. Previous Vice Chairmen General Paul Selva and General John Hyten realized significant reforms, recommitting the council to the mission tasked to it by Congress in U.S. Code Title 10 Section 181. They created a management process designed to emphasize the joint force’s “top-down” high-priority modernization needs while also attending to “bottom-up” combatant command operational requirements—fusing into a comprehensive recommendation from warfighters to policymakers on the most important capabilities to design and develop for current needs and future conflicts. They also knew that JROC success would be determined not by single-system stovepipes or by over-defining technical specifications that ought to be left to engineers, but by performing the joint force leadership task of investigating and prioritizing portfolios of capabilities.

Today, the JROC process reviews capability portfolios that advance the Concept Required Capabilities (CRCs) needed to execute the JWC. CRCs are a new hallmark of the JWC and are why the JWC is so critical to the work of JFDD and the JROC. By emphasizing concept-driven and threat-informed capability development through Capability Portfolio Management Reviews (CPMRs), the JROC encourages concerted action toward military modernization across stovepipes, domains, and geographies. JROC findings explicitly incorporate the views of the Services and Joint Staff as statutory members as well as those of the policymakers and combatant commands who advise every JROC meeting. While there is much work left to do to refine the JROC’s process to ensure it is as effective as possible, JROC CPMRs based on the strategic environment, threat, technological maturity, risk, and capacity constitute a significant step forward.

Critics often view the JROC and the deliberate acquisitions system as overly bureaucratic and too slow—and some criticisms are valid. Still, it is important to acknowledge that this process was designed to allow for deliberate and robust assessments of capabilities to ensure codified decisions across the joint force. These thoughtful activities support a more informed assumption of risk by the joint force.

Indeed, the CPMR process looks at capability development from a holistic perspective to ensure the right level of risk is understood and carefully allocated across the DOD portfolio of capabilities. We will never have zero risk. But the joint force does have a responsibility to think deeply about the risks we are taking, to constantly improve our nation’s defense, and to articulate to policymakers and the American people how we propose to manage the tension between current readiness and modernization, given finite resources.

To make threat-informed, risk-based, and data-enabled decisions on these difficult tradeoffs, the JROC relies on experts drawn from across the Services, combatant commands, and elsewhere in DOD organized into portfolio-focused Functional Capability Boards (FCBs). These teams draw from the JWC, expertise from real-world warfighting experience, experimentation results, modeling, wargaming, and more to analyze and recommend priorities for each portfolio, identifying opportunities where new capabilities can fill a warfighting gap, prioritizing which gaps most need to be filled to execute the JWC, and integrating what capabilities in each domain can be brought to bear within a portfolio.

For example, a key challenge for the joint force is how to provide logistical support in a contested environment, supporting frontline units in a high-end fight. Over the last 2 years the Logistics FCB conducted CPMRs on multicapable distribution platforms and rapid deployment and distribution. These CPMRs tackle the challenge of disaggregated and expansive logistics environments, a central capability described in the JWC. These contested-logistics CPMRs characterized existing commercial and military capabilities to balance DOD-wide sustainment costs, graded progress for critical procurement programs, and highlighted feasible air and maritime logistics technologies central to long-term JWC implementation.10 I have drawn from these findings heavily as I have made budget recommendations in the Deputy’s Management Action Group (DMAG).

Similarly, the Force Application FCB conducted recent CPMRs on capabilities of surface fire and tactical air. These reviews investigated the capabilities that would be required to execute the JWC CRCs for global fires, which envisions the synchronization of global effects across domains and geographic regions. CPMR recommendations directly led to a comprehensive munitions study that will drive research, programmatic, and investment decisions optimizing regional munitions mixes for the next decade.11 Again, this analysis informs my recommendations in the DMAG.

In collaboration with the JROC’s FCBs, the JWC development team within the Joint Staff Joint Force Development Directorate (Joint Staff J7) routinely draws from its own analysis and the latest thinking from across the defense enterprise to refresh and update CRCs against the dynamic threat environment. The team’s recommendations consider various factors, such as the different phases of the JWC’s expanded maneuver concept, National Military Strategy key operational problems, and National Defense Strategy endstates.12 The outcomes of these efforts are captured in JROC strategic directives and other JROC memoranda, documenting the council’s recommendations of the best pathways to achieve JWC implementation.

JROC recommendations also inform Integrated Acquisition Portfolio Reviews (IAPRs), a new mechanism managed by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment to draw from the data-informed work of the JROC as well as the deep expertise and analysis of DOD acquisitions professionals and to design acquisitions strategy that identify critical gaps, interdependencies, and opportunities for improvement within each portfolio. Structured, early alignment, more in parallel than sequential, is key. We have only begun to align the requirements process and acquisitions reviews, but there is great promise for greater speed and improved decisionmaking in this synergy.

The CPMRs and IAPRs form two of the three pillars that uphold the JFDD framework. The third—and equally vital—pillar is innovation. Recognizing innovation’s paramount importance, the Deputy Secretary of Defense recently established the Deputy’s Innovation Steering Group. This group is designed to harness diverse DOD innovation pathways, aiming to swiftly address key operational challenges. By complementing traditional capability development and acquisition pathways, the group leverages commercial technologies and other nontraditional scaling approaches. Together, these three pillars of JFDD feed senior governance forums, providing much of the data and analysis that DOD uses to make hard choices. These efforts are designed around National Defense Strategy priorities and are deeply rooted in the tenets of the JWC, setting the stage for our innovation progress.

Army Soldier with New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment (Air Assault), operates M240B on Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer at Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, February 9, 2020 (U.S. Air National Guard/Matt Hecht

Accelerating Progress: Innovation Initiatives

Expanding our advantage and accelerating progress in the complex landscape of modern warfare is not only a matter of strategy and tactics. It is also about collaboration, innovation, and the critical role of allies, partners, and industry in deliberate experimentation and future force design, from inception to implementation.

Over the last 2 years, I have worked with my counterparts from many of our allied and partnered militaries. They face the same challenges we do and see many of the same opportunities ahead.

The joint force benefits from and relies on allies and partners to accomplish our mission. There are three axes of integration for today’s joint force—across domains, globally across geographies, and with allies and partners. So progress toward modernization within the U.S. joint force will be hollow if it is not aligned with the modernization priorities and pathways of our allies and partners. In this interconnected landscape, sharpening our competitive edge means not just advancing our own capabilities but also ensuring that they mesh seamlessly with those of our partners.

Recognizing this, I have sought out ways to incorporate our closest partners in a process to evolve requirements together. We have recently made progress in establishing the International JROC (I-JROC) initiative, a collaborative forum among the vice chiefs of defense of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. I-JROC serves as a venue to identify and validate joint and combined warfighter proposals.13 Interoperability and interchangeability are easier to achieve when pursued from the beginning, and the agreements reached this year in the I-JROC are a testament to this collaborative spirit. They include both materiel and nonmateriel efforts, such as the reduction of barriers to information-sharing when able and the early identification of roadblocks to achieve shared goals and objectives across domains.14 Once the I-JROC truly works among the founding three parties, I would like to add more allies and partnerships to the conversation to address our future challenges and opportunities—together.

We also need to streamline our internal processes. Closer to home, we need “more bridges and express lanes” that bypass the usual bureaucratic roadblocks of the “Valley of Death” (the period during which a vendor transitions a prototype or commercially available product to a DOD contract). We know that agility and efficiency generate the best, fastest results for the warfighter.15 This vision is about ensuring that our advancements in defense technology do not get bogged down in red tape and risk aversion but instead move swiftly from research and development to production, reaching our warfighters when it matters most. It is about fostering an innovation mindset across DOD, from policymaking to prototyping, ensuring that our innovations have a clear and rapid path to implementation and that good ideas can scale quickly across the expansive defense enterprise.

To further this vision, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks recently announced a new initiative, Replicator, that aims to speed innovation. Its first effort is to field attritable systems at a scale of multiple thousands, in multiple domains, within the next 18 to 24 months.16 This initiative will be steered by the Deputy’s Innovation Steering Group to unify major DOD innovation initiatives and reflect our commitment to bridging the gap between military needs and industry capabilities. By fostering collaborative endeavors, we ensure that our warfighting strategies are not only informed by the latest technological advancements but are also adaptable and forward looking in an ever-evolving global landscape.

We also must look to maximize academic, materiel, and innovative contributions from outside DOD and across all domains. Rapid innovation from industry is a boon for defense applications, and regular partnership gives us an opportunity for early collaboration and deliberate joint applicability from the design phase. To be a good partner, we owe it to industry to establish clear asks. Communicating capability and inventory requirements, in terms that connect with industry, capitalize on public-private ventures, and embrace academia and nontraditional industry partners. Leveraging the great creativity of American business and American thinkers is our best path to find unanticipated wins but required us to overcome acquisition hurdles to bridge the bureaucratic malfunction of the Valley of Death. It is a great strength of the United States that our private industry is constantly in search of new technologies, and we will need to adapt to fully incorporate this energy to bring the technology of tomorrow into the joint force.

As the Capability Portfolio Management Reviews examine “as-is” and “to-be” capabilities, the JROC is also tightly aligned with partner entities such as Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD R&E) and its work within the experimentation space. Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) projects are executed on an annual basis with candidate experiments assessed for highest promise in closing warfighter gaps. RDER can identify the minimum viable prototyping necessary to bring a novel capability into acquisition channels and, if acceptable, quickly scale production to meet warfighter needs.

Furthermore, the Warfighting Lab Incentive Fund (WLIF) drives rapid, deliberate field experimentation with mature capabilities to develop and deliver innovative warfighter-tested joint concepts of operation within a year of project execution. The program enables diverse teams, including labs, industry, and Service transition experts to “fail fast” as they conduct iterative assessments of potential solutions “in the dirt” and within joint exercises. WLIF project teams, many advanced by the combatant commands and warfighters in the field, integrate emerging technologies with off-the-shelf capabilities—both commercial and government—to address near-term warfighting problems.

Military officials conduct wargaming exercise at U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1952 (left), and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa Franchetti poses for photo with senior officers and civilians at CNO Futures Wargame in Newport, August 30, 2023 (Courtesy Naval War College)

Constant Improvement: Wargaming and Experimentation

Joint experimentation, which incorporates wargaming, modeling, and simulation, is vital to the validation of concepts introduced in the JWC. It provides opportunities for practitioners and war­fighters to explore concepts and technologies, test abstract ideas and synergies, and rapidly increase the organization’s collective understanding. According to the Defense Science Board, experimentation fuels the discovery and creation of knowledge and leads to the development and improvement of products, processes, systems, and organizations.17

Every component of the joint force plays a vital role in this experimentation process, providing critical ideas and resources for refining and testing the key principles articulated in the JWC. Service-led force design, and each’s unique concept implementation, complements the broader vision of the JWC. Combatant commands, too, are essential players in this process, bringing their real-world expertise to otherwise novel or hypothetical scenarios. Stakeholders at the DOD level include the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, the Defense Innovation Unit, Service innovation entities, and command innovation groups such as the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Joint Mission Accelerator Directorate.18

For example, DOD-wide experimentation events such as the Global Information Dominance Exercise (GIDE) serve as forums for baselining existing command and control (C2) workflows, experimentation, and rapid prototyping, all critical to JWC tenets such as Information Advantage and Integrated Command, Agile Control. These experiments allow the joint force and DOD to “measure C2” by capturing the amount and speed of available data that inform senior-leader decisions, evaluating effectiveness, and highlighting areas for improvements. These experiments also provide venues to challenge current warfighting C2 paradigms, allowing the joint force to experiment with novel C2 structures that allow for more aligned operations across domains and geographies.

The Globally Integrated Wargame (GIWG) series is a staple event that showcases the Services and “Five Eyes” allies and partners as an integrated, combined joint force employing multidomain operations in accordance with the tenets of the JWC.19 (Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.) The GIWG routinely validates the necessity for mission command, where leaders at all levels are prepared to exercise judgment, assess risk, and take decisive action.20 Through this and other similarly scoped wargaming series, we can press the joint force to break out of its domain-centric comfort zones at any level of warfare and integrate to move fluidly across domains.21

Also, combatant command and Service-level exercises, such as the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Talisman Sabre and the U.S. Navy’s Large Scale Exercise, provide additional arenas to test JWC tenets. Executing multidomain operations and enhancing interoperability between U.S. and partner forces is critical for missions today and in the future. They provide an opportunity to field and challenge Service-specific visions for their incorporation into joint design and to better understand the relative strengths of our pulsed operations in contested environments and against adaptive opposition forces.

The Joint Staff Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate (Joint Staff J8) is critical to effective global wargaming. While it does not have specific oversight over the conduct of wargames across DOD, the J8 administers the Wargaming Incentive Fund and manages the Wargaming Repository to foster novel wargaming and collect observations. The Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Division of the J8 also executes the Vice Chairman’s Wargaming series, in which JROC participants and capability portfolio owners look at an upcoming JROC topic through an operational lens. When coupled with complementary experiments and independent analyses, this series and other wargaming opportunities improve the depth and credibility of analysis, enable senior leaders’ decisionmaking, and provide evidentiary basis for investment decisions.22

United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, June 11, 2016, carrying classified national security payload for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (Courtesy United Launch Alliance)

The Joint Staff J7 is responsible for hosting the annual Joint Experimentation Forum, where deliberate outputs from Joint Experimentation Program events as well as DOD-wide convenings and combatant command and Service-specific wargames are gathered for combined review. Prioritization is set for future experimentation events, and observations are gathered for collective benefit. The outputs of this forum go on to feed Operations Deputies (OPSDEPS) meetings that make recommendations for DOD operational decisions, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Tanks, and JROC and DMAG convenings, ensuring that recommendations and risk determinations made by senior decisionmakers are fully informed by the outcomes of our wargaming and experimentation cycles.

I am eager to see the joint force take the opportunities of these exercise and experimentation series to really challenge our current warfighting paradigms. This is the road to rapid improvement. We can use the outcomes of these convenings to break the mold and to propel novel C2 concepts out of the notional and into the light of day. True experimentation must embrace risks and drive thinking to inform our rapid and virtuous cycle of concept and capabilities development. From our liaison officers embedded within the Joint Staff J7 and J8, to the promise of the international iteration of the JROC for Joint Force Development and Design and joint experimentation, we are realizing our National Defense Strategy imperative at pace. All this effort is strengthened by our allies, partners, and industry teammates who are an exponential advantage in the competition phase and beyond.

Experimentation is the crucible where ideas are tested and refined. It provides immediate feedback for concept improvement, rapid acquisition opportunities, and additional venues to collaborate rapidly with industry and allies and partners. This collective process allows participants to bring complementary technology and novel concepts that align with or challenge the core ideas of the JWC. Our objective is clear: to provide a combined joint force commander with the ability to work seamlessly across all domains and geographies with precision, integration, and lethality.

Aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, front left, French Marine Nationale aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, front right, guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul, guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, Royal Danish navy frigate HDMS Niels Juel, and French air defense destroyer FS Forbin transit in formation in Red Sea, April 15, 2019 (U.S. Navy/Skyler Okerman)


Organizing to secure our advantage is not just a strategic goal; it is an imperative that assures our nation’s future defense. No warfighting domain remains uncontested. The complexity of warfighting is growing with technology, so no single Service capability can win alone without truly realized joint force capabilities. We owe it to the American people and to our Servicemembers to get this right.

Ensuring we have an authoritative, integrated way to drive JFDD is a challenge. The most difficult issues we face for the future revolve around emerging joint problems. We have the National Military Strategy that describes a powerful and highly capable future joint force, and we have the JWC to guide us through these tough problems. We have myriad tools within DOD to evaluate our gaps, prioritize what must be done to deliver necessary integrated capabilities, and drive integrated innovation to achieve our objectives. Each step we take is a stride toward honing our competitive edge.

However, an overhanging question persists: Who is the authoritative senior advocate for the joint warfighter? Who will hold all our constituent parts—Joint Staff, Services, combatant commands—accountable for working together to deliver a truly modernized joint force? Who is responsible for driving integrated JFDD?

The Chairman certainly has a role to play in this, with the responsibility in Title 10 Section 153 to ensure “global integration.”23 Meanwhile, the JROC is a convening authority and can accomplish a great deal with the Services by coordinating and catalyzing. I have found that the Vice Chairman’s role at the intersection of strategy and military advice to policy, budgeting, acquisition, and requirements is one of the points of integration as we seek to improve horizontal and vertical collaboration through DOD to achieve our desired endstates. But I believe we are coming up to the edge of what we can accomplish under the current design. We are operating 1980s software to solve 21st-century challenges.

Chairman Milley’s recent article in Joint Force Quarterly acknowledges that despite the clear roadmap outlined by the JWC, the joint force must pivot faster to take on our future challenges. He proposes a future-focused organization that would prioritize joint experimentation, deeper integration with allies and partners, and designation of a sole senior advocate focused on this force development and force design function.24

Others have suggested other models. Be it empowering entities like the JROC with oversight responsibilities, designating different responsibities to existing roles within the Joint Staff, or inaugurating new entities altogether, the changing landscape of modern warfare necessitates an organization that drives adaptability grounded in the principles of the JWC. There is no easy or overnight solution. I personally favor a wider discussion on this critical question of how we align our strategy, organization, and authorities, as I believe there are many options to consider streamlining our progress toward the truly integrated joint force that we know is necessary to defeat a peer adversary.

In the meantime, progress is being made across the board. The recent publication of Joint Publication 1, Volume 1, Joint Warfighting, marks a distinctive paradigm shift. It emphasizes our proactive stance in a persistent competitive environment where military advantages are not set in stone.25 We must think expansively, beyond conventional operational domains. It is crucial to understand that this is not a one-time endeavor; our required capabilities are ever-evolving, echoing the fluidity of modern warfare, and they must be informed by the JWC’s tenets.

Our current security environment is changing rapidly, and we must too. Bolstering deterrence, amplifying our global network of allies and partners, driving down risk, and fast tracking the development of innovative capabilities and operational concepts are paramount. Ongoing strategic competition demands an integrated approach, fusing the capabilities of each Service, command, and partner into a joint and combined whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

We must harness our nation’s combined strengths, showcasing our adaptability and resolving to safeguard our nation’s future. The JWC sets an ambitious but achievable way forward for the joint force, and we are streamlining the process to implement it. In this endeavor, our commitment to sharpening our competitive edge remains unwavering. Still, there is more to do, until constant innovation and “rapid speed to the fleet” are no longer the province of special initiatives but just the way we do business. JFQ


1 Mark A. Milley, “Strategic Inflection Point: The Most Historically Significant and Fundamental Change in the Character of War Is Happening Now—While the Future Is Clouded in Mist and Uncertainty,” Joint Force Quarterly 110 (3rd Quarter 2023), 9.

2 Ibid.

3 Kathleen Hicks, “The Urgency to Innovate,”, August 28, 2023,

4 For more on the tenets of the Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC), see General Milley’s “Strategic Inflection Point” as well as Thomas A. Walsh and Alexandra L. Huber, “A Symphony of Capabilities: How the Joint Warfighting Concept Guides Service Force Design and Development,” in this issue.

5 Milley, “Strategic Inflection Point,” 12.

6 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJCSI) 3030.01A, Implementing Joint Force Development and Design (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, October 3, 2022), A-1–A-2, E-1.

7 Ibid., A-6.

8 U.S. Code Title 10 § 181, “Joint Requirements Oversight Council,” January 15, 2013,

9 CJCSI 3010.02E, Guidance for Developing and Implementing Joint Concepts (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 17, 2016), A-3.

10 Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System, Manual for the Operation of the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 31, 2018), 262.

11 Mark F. Cancian, “Rebuilding U.S. Inventories: Six Critical Systems,” Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies, January 9, 2023,

12 Milley, “Strategic Inflection Point,” 12.

13 Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 5105.79, DOD Senior Governance Framework (Washington, DC: DOD, November 8, 2021), 6.

14 CJCSI 5123.01I, Charter of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and Implementation of the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, October 30, 2021), D-2, D-4.

15 Theresa Hitchens, “JROC Flexes New Muscles on Joint Requirements for FY23 Budget Request,” Breaking Defense, March 29, 2022,

16 Brandi Vincent, “Hicks Shares New Details on DOD’s Vision for Replicator Autonomous Systems, but Questions Linger,” Defense Scoop, September 6, 2023,

17 The Defense Science Board Report on Technology and Innovation Enablers for Superiority in 2030 (Washington, DC: DOD, October 2013),

18 Jaspreet Gill, “INDOPACOM Stands Up New Directorate to Better Connect Industry, DOD Innovation Efforts,” Breaking Defense, August 28, 2023,

19 CJCSI 3030.01A, Implementing Joint Force Development and Design, A-5.

20 Air Force Doctrine Publication, Volume 1-1, Mission Command (Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Air Force, August 14, 2023), 3.

21 John A. Tirpak, “Wargame Ends Better With ‘Trans-Domain’ Moves Plugged In, Hinote Says,” Air & Space Forces, September 28, 2022,

22 CJCSI 3100.01E, Joint Strategic Planning System (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, May 21, 2021), F-3.

23 10 U.S. Code § 153, “Chairman: Functions,” Government Publishing Office,

24 Milley, “Strategic Inflection Point,” 12.

25 Joint Publication 1, Vol. 1, Joint Warfighting (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 27, 2023), IV-1.