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Transforming for New Military Demands

Major Michael S. Hopkins, U.S. Army
Military Review Military Review May-June 2004

A few years ago military buzzwords included “revolution in military affairs,” “precision fires,” and “massing effects.” Today the buzzword is “Transformation.” Former and current Chiefs of Staff of the Army General Eric K. Shinseki and General Peter J. Schoomaker understand the Army’s need to evolve. Schoomaker recently stated, “I do not command anything. I provide forces to those Combatant Commanders [COCOMs] who do command the warfighters.” Schoomaker understands that COCOMs and joint taskforce (JTF) commanders command troops in battle. Simultaneously, the Navy is basing its Transformation on three pillars: Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing, while the Air Force continues to tweak its Global Strike concept.(1)

The way the United States flexes it muscle through the Military National Power needs to be transformed. The Department of Defense (DOD) must transform at its most critical and arguably, hardest juncture—the joint fight. Some senior DOD officials believe that the Joint Professional Military Professional Education system is “about right,” arguing that service core competencies should be mastered at the junior officer level, while joint operations should begin at the intermediate level. Praises for DOD’s latest campaigns, including Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Global War on Terror, indicate how far the services have come in conducting the joint fight. I believe, however, that the U.S. military must transform as one unit, not as individually separate services.

Goldwaters-Nichols Act

In 1986 Congress passed the Goldwaters-Nichols Act, a mandate for the military services to collaborate on developing a joint doctrine.(2) The service chiefs fought the mandate,but without it, the U.S. military would still be laboring under a stovepiped and service-oriented system. The National Security Strategy calls for the United States to continue as a joint venture. We must educate the services to think joint at the lowest levels. Service parochialism must not to be a roadblock to Transformation. The military should eliminate the distinction between commissions received from the service academies and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and streamline the services. For example, Army administrative personnel should be able to perform their duties in the same manner as any other service, and there should be only one standardized evaluation system for officers of all services. Doing this would ensure that officers who rise to the top have been evaluated equally. DOD, as the executive agent of military power, must have three distinct organizations: land, sea, and air. Resource constraints, however, demand that the United States eliminate redundancy and inefficiency. To do this, the United States must indoctrinate military employees—uniformed and civilian—into a capability and effects-based joint force. These force providers must be joint-oriented, not service-oriented.

The two best joint fighters today are the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Marine Corps, which is not surprising, since neither is a distinct service. SOCOM is the organizational construct that the DOD should model to accomplish missions demanding flexible, responsive capability and effects-based units. DOD must flatten and streamline modular land, sea, and air units that rapidly deploy and then integrate them into a COCOM or JTF commander’s warfighting effort. These units must be organized, trained, and led as joint entities to assure maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

DOD must adapt to change or risk extinction, so it must adapt to new warfighting techniques and the changing mindset of war. The United States is fighting a determined, resourceful, and dangerously adaptive enemy. If change does not occur, “doing business as usual” could affect the balance of power for the next millennium.



1. For more information about Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing, see <www.usni.org/Proceedings/Articles02/proCNO10.htm#seastrike>, accessed 19 April 2004. For more information about Global Strike, see <www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/usaf/gstf.htm>, accessed 19 April 2004.

2. For more information about the Goldwater-Nichols Act,see <www.apc.maxwell.af.mil/text/excur/goldnich.htm>, accessed on 19 April 2004.

Major Michael S. Hopkins, U.S. Army, is a Congressional Fellow for New Jersey Congressman Jim Saxton. He received a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University and an M.M.A.S from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He has served in various command and staff positions in the continental United States in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Formerly, he commanded a Special Forces company in Afghanistan.