Army war planners project that, by 2015, the world will be déjà
vu all over again—trouble persists in the Middle East and throughout Asia,
while terrorists threaten at home. U.S. military forces deployed around the
globe continue to battle asymmetric foes and struggle with nation-building.
There is some good news, however. By 2015, the U.S. services no longer will
have interoperability problems and will fight under leaner chains of command,
where the customary divisions of labor—air, land and sea—become
The weaponry that U.S. forces will employ in 2015, for the most part, will
be similar to what they used in the recent war in Iraq. Future enemies, meanwhile,
will have spent lots of money amassing stockpiles of “off-the-shelf”
military equipment acquired from the open market—cruise missiles, night-vision
sensors, robotic aircraft, GPS jammers and advanced radios.
The strategic setting just outlined served as the backdrop for Unified Quest
‘03, a war game that the Army and the Joint Forces Command co-sponsored
in an effort to experiment with new war-fighting concepts.
Unified Quest was the first of a series of war games designed to give Joint
Forces Command real power to bring about “jointness” in U.S. war
The military success seen in Iraq in large measure was attributed to the services’
close cooperation in developing tactics and executing missions. But the Pentagon
is still not satisfied and wants jointness to become institutionalized, keeping
the services from developing any new equipment or tactics that do not take into
account the “joint perspective.”
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, inter-service coordination was better than it’s
ever been, according to experts. But the command structure nevertheless followed
the traditional component-commander organization, with an Army general running
the land war, a Navy admiral in charge of the maritime forces and an Air Force
general overseeing air operations. The component commanders all report to the
joint commander, who in Iraq was Army Gen. Tommy Franks.
War games such as Unified Quest are testing alternative approaches. The Joint
Forces Command specifically was tasked to come up with viable options to the
current command structure.
“There is a steady pressure from Rumsfeld to eliminate the component
commanders from within the combatant command headquarters,” said an industry
source who works closely with the Army.
A tussle over the role of combatant commanders ensued last year after the 2002
Army Transformation war game, titled Vigilant Warriors, which concluded that
combatant commanders are effective and should not be eliminated.
By co-sponsoring this year’s war game with Joint Forces Command, the
Army wanted to send the message that it was serious about experimenting with
unconventional battle command structures, where Army generals may or may not
run the ground war.
“They’ll test that, because it’s something Rumsfeld won’t
drop,” said the industry source.
One of the architects of Unified Quest is Brig. Gen (P). Michael A. Vane, the
Army’s deputy chief of staff for doctrine, about to become commander of
the Army’s Air Defense Artillery Center. Viewed by insiders as one of
the brightest thinkers in the Army today, Vane believes that jointness can be
improved without undermining the cultures that make each service unique.
“Each service has its culture. And there are important parts that you
might want to retain,” Vane said. “But there are some joint cultures
that need to get established.”
In the heat of the battle, when a commander must decide how best to kill a
target, it should not matter whether the munitions come from tanks, Bradleys
or airplanes. “Now you are starting to think joint,” Vane said.
“We don’t all think that way.”
The lessons from Unified Quest will begin to shape a new definition of joint,
said Dave Ozolek, assistant director for experimentation at JFCOM. “The
problem is that each service derived its own definition of what joint operations
are,” he said. It should not surprise anyone that “we end up with
interoperability problems—both technical and conceptual.”
The war game was designed to provide “a common joint context,”
said Ozolek. That same common context then will continue to be applied in upcoming
war games, each of which will be co-sponsored by JFCOM and the services.
“Our intent is to get out of the business of solving interoperability
problems and get into the business of precluding interoperability problems,”
said Ozolek. “Capabilities will be born joint ... with the hooks—intellectual,
conceptual, operational, right from the beginning, so they can meld with standing
joint force headquarters.”
Historically, he said, “we have defined joint as the cooperation of two
or more services. We [now] would laugh at that definition.”
In the past, “we were never able to get synergy down at the operational
and tactical level. We are fixing that in this game.”
Another notable departure from service-centric tradition is the decision to
phase out so-called Title 10 war games, which typically had been conducted by
each service to showcase their individual capabilities. That is no longer acceptable
at the Pentagon. “Title 10 war games are being replaced by joint war games,”
said Army Maj. Gen. James M. Dubik, director of joint experimentation at JFCOM.
Retired Army Gen. Don Holder, one of the role-playing commanders in Unified
Quest, said he was impressed by how much better the services understand joint
operations now, compared to when he left the Army five years ago.
Echelons of Command
A growing chorus of administration officials and outside experts have been
clamoring for the Army to do away with its traditional echelons of command,
particularly those above brigade, namely the division and the corps.
Whether Unified Quest yielded any definitive answers on this still is uncertain.
Vane said that the Army has been studying the possible elimination of an echelon,
“to achieve greater efficiencies in command and control.”
Specifically, the Army has been running simulations at Fort Knox that are based
on the premise that the tactical combat units—the “units of action”—would
operate like today’s brigades. The higher-level command-and-control headquarters
would not be divisions and corps, but rather a “unit of employment”
that supervises the unit of action.
The UA and UE structure underpins the development of the Army’s Future
Combat System, a family of 18 different types of vehicles, all connected by
a high-speed network.
Unified Quest marked the first time that the UA and UE were employed in a joint
war game, said Ozolek.
The Army and JFCOM are trying to tighten the connection between a UE and a
standing joint force headquarters, and figure out how the UE could “plug”
into the Air Force’s air operations center, for example, said Ozolek.
The war game investigated radical arrangements, such as deploying land forces
under Air Force command. “Currently, the JFAC [joint air commander] does
not have the capability to control ground forces,” Ozolek said. One option
probed was whether it’s possible for the Army to provide “close
ground support” to the Air Force.
Holder said that having units of action supervised by a unit of employment,
covering large areas, is feasible, but would likely stretch the headquarters
too thin. In Unified Quest, “what we are finding is that the Army understands
joint very well,” but the headquarters “has so much to do that keeping
up with everything is a bit of an issue.”
Another proposition, Ozolek said, was whether to do away entirely with air,
land and sea component commanders and replace them with “functional”
commanders, such as a “strike commander, a sustainment commander or a
The scenario devised for Unified Quest, set in 2015, has the United States
(the Blue force) engaged in a major conflict in Southwest Asia against a fictitious
country called Nair (the Red Nair force). Another contingency also erupts in
the Pacific area, where Islamic fundamentalist rebels (the Red Sumesia force)
are trying to topple the secular U.S.-friendly government of Sumesia. All the
while, terrorist threats against the United States turn into daily crises at
the Department of Homeland Security.
The Blue force fighting Nair consists of three corps-size units, two Air Force
expeditionary force packages, five aircraft carriers (four American and one
British) and three battalions of special operations forces.
The Red Nair force is much larger, with 15-17 corps-size units. They are equipped
with modern commercial communications systems and advanced weaponry purchased
from other countries in the open market.
The Blue force in Sumesia consists of two Army brigades and two Marine expeditionary
brigades. That adds to about 70,000 troops, including one brigade made up of
Australian and New Zealand troops. The Red insurgents had 50,000 troops, many
of them untrained guerrilla fighters, equipped only with small arms and portable
Nair’s Red force in many ways was a product of the Bush administration’s
“preemption” policy, which calls for the United States to intervene
militarily and try to prevent an attack, before such attack takes place. In
the war game, Nair actually was pre-preempting the United States, which was
seeking to curtail Nair’s ability to threaten and intimidate its neighbors,
explained Joe Greene, an Army analyst who specializes in creating Red forces
in war games.
“Red looked at Blue’s early positioning of ground, air and maritime
forces,” he said. “Red read those as an intent to act on the part
of the United States. And Red chose to preempt, in an air-ground fashion, supported
by theater ballistic missiles and maritime assets.”
The Red force in Sumesia was designed to challenge U.S. military competence
in jungle and urban warfare, specifically the capabilities of the Army’s
Future Combat System and other futuristic technologies, such as vertical-takeoff
transport aircraft and high-speed shallow-draft ships.
The Army chose to play the scenario in 2015 because that is realistically how
far ahead it can project what technologies and weapons will be available.
When one looks at the current Pentagon five-year budget blueprint, “out
to 10 years, we know pretty much what we are going to have,” said retired
Vice Adm. Lyle Bien, who played the role of joint commander of the Sumesia Blue
The sobering reality, he noted, is that “about 95 percent is going to
be what you have today.”
Programs that are now in research and development may be operational by 2012.
The employment of innovative airlift and sealift platforms in the war game is
based purely on speculation, because many of those technologies have not yet
Unified Quest planners, nonetheless, wanted to be as realistic as possible.
“It wasn’t long ago that most of the services were doing war games
out to 2025 and 2030,” said Bien. The upshot was that gamers never could
be certain that the systems they were playing with will ever exist. “To
be sure that you are fighting with forces that you actually have, most war games
now don’t go much further than a decade,” Bien said.
Red, Blue Forces at Play
Hundreds of military officers from all services, allied countries, as well
as retired officers and experts participated in Unified Quest, held in late
April at the Army War College, in Carlisle, Penn.
During a Media Day scheduled during the second half of the two-week game, National
Defense spoke with several members of the Red and Blue forces, as well as with
JFCOM officials. Following are highlights derived from briefings and interviews.
Logistics. The war game explored ways to network each service’s logistics
apparatus. Among the options probed was whether it would make sense to have
a joint logistics component commander within the joint task force. Another consideration
was the need to possibly “sea base” functions currently done on
the ground to ships off shore.
The perception is that logistics is an Army problem, but rather “it’s
a joint problem,” said Dubik. “I think that there is great potential
to impose increasing efficiency and remove duplication.”
Information Warfare. Both Red and Blue were pursuing tactics of “information
overload,” whereby they flood each other’s networks with useless
stuff. Anybody can do that, said Ozolek. “The key is who can turn information
into knowledge faster and implement it.” In the months ahead, he said,
JFCOM plans to begin analyzing the “human challenges of how to make decisions
in an information-overloaded world.”
Asymmetric Tactics. The Red Sumesia force employed classic guerilla-style warfare
that “stressed” the joint Blue force, said retired Marine Col. Darrell
Combs, who served as Red’s chief of staff. “We came up with a long
campaign plan to drag the fight, make it painful, because we know the Blue forces
are generally casualty-adverse. They have a limited amount of infantry in their
new structure. Every infantryman is precious.” Red also exploited the
vulnerabilities of Blue’s computer networks. “We shut down the military
pay system in the United States for several days.”
Another Nair Blue commander, retired Army Brig. Gen. Huba Wass de Czega, concluded
that asymmetric warfare is here to stay. “The potential dynamics of what
we saw in ‘Black Hawk Down’ are always going to be with us, wherever
you go. ... Things like suicide attacks will be with us for a long time.”
Nation Building. The Sumesia Blue force prevailed against the insurgents, despite
losing airplanes and taking casualties. It had a hard time, however, coping
with the post-war environment, “the part that America historically does
not do well, the war after the war,” Bien said. Managing the peace was
“clearly a challenge the game presented for us.”
Future Combat System. With two wars unfolding simultaneously, Blue had a shortage
of airlift. But the Sumesia force found that the 16-ton FCS vehicles could be
transported on fast ships as efficiently as on airplanes. “We can re-embark
them and move them by sea, Marine Corps-style,” Bien said. “This
is something very positive about the Objective Force.”
Finding the Enemy. In 2015, sensors will improve, but they will be in limited
supply, Bien said. That created problems for his Blue force trying to find enemy
rebels hiding in the jungle. The United States has powerful surveillance aircraft
that can easily find vehicle convoys, but not necessarily follow the movements
of guerrillas on foot. “We overcame that by putting lots of Special Forces
in the area who kept track of them,” Bien said.
Justifying Budgets. It is no secret that the services routinely have used war
games as vehicles to justify the procurement of new weapon systems. In Unified
Quest, the Army is showcasing the Future Combat System, on which it plans to
spend at least $30 billion.
Ozolek views the war game as a legitimate venue to help shore up support for
FCS. “Why not?” he asked. “This type of analysis is more valid
than Powerpoint consensus at the Pentagon.” A joint war game, particularly,
is a “far more objective way to shape a program,” Ozolek said. If
the FCS is helping win the war, “you will have the joint community justifying
the Army programs.”
Homeland Security. In 2015, relations are smooth between the Department of
Homeland Security, the Northern Command and the policy makers at the Pentagon,
said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Jeffrey Hathaway. In Unified Quest, “we have
regional DHS administrators in place that have purview over all the federal
response and capabilities. We have a more coherent federal response. We are
deciding how the Defense Department melds into that. ... We postulate that by
2015, all the organs within DHS will be operating off one sheet of music.”