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Listen to the HASC Hearing [2h 38 min]



OCTOBER 2, 2003   

Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of the Committee, I am honored to testify on the Joint Lessons Learned collected from OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and to share some of the insights obtained.   

After I took over as Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in October 2002, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I conducted extensive discussions on how to significantly improve the collection and implementation of joint lessons learned. Shortly afterwards in January and February, 2003, Joint Forces Command established a Joint Lessons Learned (JLL) team of subject matter experts to observe, collect and analyze lessons learned from contingency operations at the joint operational level. We focused on military issues, not on the civilian side.  We subsequently deployed the team to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. Today, I am here to report on the insights we gained on the Major Combat Operations phase of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), which was conducted from 18 March to 1 May of 2003.

From the beginning, we understood that our mission was pathbreaking. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all have long experience in forming similar teams to capture service-specific lessons from operations and translating those lessons into new approaches and innovative capabilities for each of the services.

Now, for the first time, our defense leadership has instituted a joint lessons learned team for the express purpose of gathering joint operational insights on a comprehensive scale and in real time.

Because our Lessons Learned team focused on joint operations, we did not employ the typical systems-assessment approach appropriate for analyzing a specific platform or weapons system, but rather concentrated on the issues that mattered most to the joint warfighter, in this case the Combatant Commander conducting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Taken as a whole, we examined how well service and special operations force warfighting systems and methods actually worked together as a coherent joint team, including operations with other U.S. Federal agencies and with our coalition partners.

We had over 30 members of my staff embedded throughout CENTCOM and its component headquarters, with extensive reach back and analysis capability on call here in the United States at my headquarters and warfighting centers of excellence. We were there before operations started and followed the entire campaign in real time. We had complete access to all commanders and their staffs for all operations, at all levels. General Franks set the tone and welcomed this team with open arms. That, in my experience, is unprecedented.  The team was guided in their collection and assessment by a newly promoted brigadier general and by a man I call JFCOM's "senior" senior mentor, retired Army General Gary Luck, a former joint warfighting commander himself. General Luck's judgment as senior mentor proved indispensable to both the team and to General Franks.

The team's mission was to observe processes, collect data, interview participants, assist and enable operations where possible, and provide feedback to General Franks in real time. The team conducted hundreds of interviews, collecting gigabytes of data. We also worked closely with our Service counterparts, and leveraged their tactical level insights. At the conclusion of major combat operations, the team began to codify and assess their data into draft preliminary conclusions. We shared our methods and insights with an independent group of respected scholars and analysts led by Dr. Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University to obtain the objective review essential to producing a useful report.  

As we considered our preliminary insights, we concluded that one overarching theme summarizes the results of the joint transformation that has occurred since Desert Storm:  what we have come to characterize as the competing notions of Overwhelming Force versus Overmatching Power.

As an example, in Desert Storm, our military thinking was to field Overwhelming Force to ensure victory. Certainly, this entails fielding well-trained and well-equipped forces, which is as important today as it was back then. However, the emphasis was on numbers as befits a traditional, attrition-based campaign. What our observations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM tell us is that there is another approach to modern warfare. We like to describe this new approach as the employment of Overmatching Power.

Under this construct, the emphasis is no longer just on numbers-which remain important-but rather on harnessing all the capabilities that our Services and Special Operations Forces bring to the battlespace in a coherently joint way. Advances in technologies, coupled with innovative warfighting concepts joined together by a new joint culture, are enabling a level of coherent military operations that we have never been able to achieve before. The difference in approach characterized as Overmatching Power is based on the combined output of new ways of joint warfighting, greater integration of conventional and special operations forces, and the use of old and emerging capabilities by new concepts of operations - all integrated through new and more powerful schemes of joint training.  The emphasis now is on the effectiveness of joint capabilities employed at times and places of our choosing to achieve strategic effects. General Franks later remarked on this level of jointness, saying "Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was the most joint and combined operation in American history." 

The insights and perspectives gained from Operation IRAQI FREEDOM emphasize four attributes of the Overmatching Power theme that we think are the keys to military success in the 21st Century, and which should continue to guide our joint transformation.  The four attributes are: Knowledge, Speed, Precision, and Lethality.

In the area of Knowledge, for example, we used three times the number of Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) hours in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM as compared to Desert Storm.  The JSTARS system of OIF used increased satellite capabilities and was connected to new communications links that vastly improved our forces' knowledge of enemy dispositions before and during operations. What this means at the operational level of war is that we could acquire more information more quickly with a smaller footprint: over 3200 sorties in Desert Storm; fewer than 1700 in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Put another way, we had three times the information output with about half the sorties.

As for Speed, our forces closed into the area of operations in less than three months as opposed to seven months in Desert Storm. Similar to our advancement in methods and capabilities for "Knowledge acquisition," we also reduced our logistical footprint while increasing the overall throughput because of changes in methods and capabilities. We used less than half the number of ships to support our logistics campaign in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM as in Desert Storm. Equally important, the increase in "knowledge-centric" capabilities noted earlier allowed for increased speed of maneuver. We had over 40 times the bandwidth capability of Desert Storm, which allowed our forces to range more rapidly over the whole of Iraq in order to achieve a far more complex mission: defeat and change a regime.

On Precision, one of the top lessons learned-and acted upon- was not just the precision of weapon systems, impressive as that was, but how information capabilities allowed for "precision decision-making." Again using Desert Storm as an example, we had about 30 Special Forces teams working missions separate from the conventional force 12 years ago. In Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, we deployed over three times as many Special Forces teams, many of whom were closely wedded to our conventional forces. In several cases, these Special Forces teams played instrumental roles in merging the capabilities of both ground and air forces. We not only had precision munitions launched from air and ground but also "precision decisions" to further direct our smart weapons by the combination of Special Forces and Conventional forces working jointly, armed with new capabilities. The result is that we were able to achieve our campaign objectives using approximately one seventh of the air ordnance expended in Desert Storm - and over 2/3 of the ordnance we delivered in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was precision guided.  Such unprecedented precision allows us to craft an acceptable military response to enemies embedded among innocent civilians and reduces the infrastructure damage by an order of magnitude.

These new capabilities also greatly increased our overall Lethality. Whereas in Desert Storm only about 10% of our air-ground operations were integrated, that figure jumped to the high 90th percentile in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM-an unprecedented transformation. Advances in technology and training, meanwhile, affected our ability to decrease our air signature while significantly increasing lethality. It took an average of four aircraft to kill one target in Desert Storm, whereas in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM just one aircraft could kill about four targets.  Similar "economies of innovation" occurred on the ground, where the total artillery batteries employed dropped by a substantial margin in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

The fundamental point is that our traditional military planning and perhaps our entire approach to warfare have shifted. The main change, from our perspective, is that we are moving away from employing Service-centric forces that must be de-conflicted on the battlefield to achieve victories of attrition to a well-trained, integrated joint force that can enter the battlespace quickly and conduct decisive operations with both operational and strategic effects. Joint Force Commanders today tell me that they don't care where a capability comes from so long as it meets their warfighting needs. They also tell me that "it's not the plan, it's the planning." They understand that the ability to plan and adapt to changing circumstances and fleeting opportunities is the key to rapid victory in the modern battlespace. General Tommy Franks and his staff practiced and trained to these standards.

Essential to the power of adaptive planning and execution is our ability to conduct large scale, vertical and horizontal collaboration. Frankly, this collaboration is on a scale that dwarfs any extant commercial application. In today's collaborative environment, every level of command-throughout the entire force and including coalition partners-is electronically linked to the Combatant Commander's decision-making process. Subordinate commanders and staffs understand the context behind key changes across the battlespace and are fully aware of changes in the commander's intent to guide their actions during specific missions. In short, the entire joint force is acutely sensitive to any nuances that occur in the battlespace and are highly adaptive to changes, seizing opportunities as they arise or preventing mishaps before they occur.

Just a few weeks ago, we received an observation from a pilot in Afghanistan that seemed to crystallize the effectiveness of our collaborative environment.  After an enemy column was identified on the move, the pilot recounted how the real time, internet-style chat network in his plane enabled him to collaborate with forces on the ground, planners at CENTCOM HQ and a sister squadron. While gunships moved in stride toward the target guided by satellite communications, planners at CENTCOM HQ simultaneously confirmed the coordinates and approved the strike while ground commanders verified that "Blue" forces were clear of the area. In the space of 30 minutes from the time the enemy was detected, the column was destroyed. Upon reflection, the pilot gave this insight-and I quote: "Its amazing how fast we can clobber these guys when everyone is on the same sheet of music." Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of the Committee, with your support, our transforming joint force dominates the modern battlespace because we are acquiring the tools to operate on the "same sheet of music," around the clock, around the world.                  

To sum up: if you know more and fight together as a joint and combined team, you can act with greater precision, you can rapidly plan and adapt to fluid situations and you can move about the battlespace with far greater effect than was possible in the past. In short, the whole of the joint force operating together coherently is now greater than the sum of our separate Service capabilities.

Certainly, we all understand that every conflict is different. We are also very careful not to base our conclusions solely on the capabilities of a weakened or less than capable enemy.

Nevertheless, there is no question that a remarkable shift has occurred in the way the Joint Force operates and this shift leverages on: Knowledge-Speed-Precision-Lethality.

Before I share with you our detailed findings, I want to emphasize the standard against which we chose to measure our effectiveness. Elite forces are elite because they have high standards and they enforce them. Growing up as I did in the Navy's nuclear submarine force, this trait is almost part of my genetic makeup. Like many military systems and operations, operating a submarine, underwater in mid ocean with a nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons, requires the highest standards and unimpeachable integrity. Inspection reports for even the best-run submarines record scores of deficiencies - because we have high standards in the Navy and we enforce them. The same is true of our elite warriors in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operating Forces.

This mentality of what I call ruthless objectivity shaped our assessment of operational lessons learned from Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. As a result, we organized our report into three comparative categories of capabilities that are clear "winners" as well as those that needed improvement and those that fell short of our expectations.  We listed under each category the key areas that proved most significant. The categories are as follows: 


1. Capabilities that reached new levels of performance and need to be sustained

Joint Integration and Adaptive Planning

Joint Force Synergy

Special Operations and Special Operations-Conventional Integration

2. Capabilities that demonstrated considerable effectiveness but need enhancement

Urban Operations

Information Operations

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

3. Capabilities that fell short of expectations or requiring new initiatives to redress shortfalls.

Battle Damage Assessment

Fratricide Prevention

Deployment Planning and Execution Reserve Mobilization

Coalition Information Sharing


I will be glad to address these specific categories and the capabilities they contain in a discussion with the Committee, some of which may require a classified discussion in a closed hearing.

Beyond the previously discussed issues associated with the categories noted above, we have also determined three general insights to future concepts that require our continued examination and experimentation to define and clarify. These insights to future concepts include:

1.      The Emerging Battlespace

2.      Knowledge-Enabled Warfare

3.      Effects-Based Operations


Joint Lessons Learned Way Ahead

Although the formal Joint Lessons Learned report on Major Combat Operations is currently being drafted, Joint Forces Command is already turning its preliminary impressions into focused recommendations that are being vetted extensively with our partners in the joint, interagency and multinational communities.

In summary, Joint Forces Command, in close partnership with the Services, Defense Agencies, Combatant Commanders, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the Interagency and Multinational communities, is working to turn "lessons learned" into "lessons acted upon." As appropriate, we intend to work collectively to make comprehensive changes to our doctrinal approaches and tactics; to streamline our organizations; to establish new and innovative training methods and systems; to create new educational curriculums to develop new skills for a new era; to develop a shared understanding of the future fight; and, acquire the right capabilities at the right time for the right reasons. These actions, we believe, will help ensure an ever-transforming dominant joint force.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and for your continuing support for all the men and women of our Armed Forces. I look forward to answering your questions.

House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515