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Power of Jointness Among Lessons Learned in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2003 -- One of the lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is the "power of jointness" Army Brig. Gen. Robert W. Cone, director of the Joint Center for Lessons Learned, U.S. Joint Forces Command, told reporters assembled at the Pentagon here Oct. 2.

The general and a team of JFCOM officers were embedded across the theater and observed the war as it happened. They collected information and provided feedback to the commander of U.S. Central Command.

"Too often (we) wait until the war's over and collect information, and what you miss is important to the warfighters, he said. "This gave us the opportunity to focus on what the view of the war was from Gen. (Tommy) Franks', Gen. (John) Abizaid's and the functional component command's perspective." Franks commanded CENTCOM until July 7, when Abizaid took the reins.

To do this kind of work, the general said, it's important to have unlimited access. "You have to be able to go to any meeting you want to go to," he said.

The process, he continued, took thousands of hours of observation. The team conducted almost 600 interviews with key leaders throughout the conflict.

"We were able to ask people what their problems were one day, and then go back and find out how it turned out," said Cone. "That's critical in the lessons learned business. Too often in the military, (we) solve a problem and don't tell anyone about it, and the guy who needs to know about it is probably some other combatant commander."

The general said the "big three" in lessons learned are joint integration and adaptive planning, joint force synergy, and integration of special operations on the battlefield.

Cone said the success of joint integration and adaptive planning was a due in large part to the commanders. The initiative they showed was "remarkable," he added.

It's the planning process and not so much the plan that's important, noted the director. As conditions and circumstances changed, the staff was "virtually unflappable," he said.

Special operations forces had "critical and important" responsibilities, said Cone. The good-news story, he added, is that SOF units and conventional forces worked together, and "this is the way to move ahead."

Urban operations, psychological operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were among the capabilities rated a "60-40" good-bad ratio on areas that could be improved, noted the general.

Psychological operations -- understanding the impact of leaflets, communications and the ability to try to influence the Iraqis before the conflict -- became a reality in this war, he added.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance did a lot of good things, but in some ways didn't meet expectations, said Cone. Still, he added, "the guy on the ground in this war knew a lot more than (the soldier on the ground) in 1991."

The demand for those capabilities was far greater in this war, he said. "It has tremendous potential, but there's a long way to go to tie networks together and get the right info to the right guy at the right time," he added.

Fratricide prevention, deployment planning and execution, and reserve mobilization and deployment are among the areas that fell short, he said.