Pentagon seeing 2020

The uncertain future crept a little closer to the Defense Department last

week, forcing the Joint Chiefs of Staff to recast its one and only strategic

plan in a way the department believes will better prepare the military services

for the future high-tech battlefield.

When the Pentagon released its first strategic planning document in

1996, known as Joint Vision 2010, the goal was to develop a template that

would help DOD wage what has become known as network-centric warfare. The

concept put networks — with their ability to disseminate information quickly — at the center of the Pentagon's military strategy [FCW, Nov. 1, 1997].

Since then, the advancement of information technologies has radically

altered the landscape of the modern battlefield. The Pentagon has been forced

to expand its vision out to 2020 and look beyond technology for solutions

to organize, train and equip the next generation of warriors. The resulting

new document, Joint Vision 2020, attempts to define how IT will continue

to "substantially change the conduct of military operations," according

to the document.

The Joint Chiefs will use the document to define their priorities for

the future.

"The Joint Vision describes the future environment as we expect it to emerge,

not as we expect to create it, and [it provides] some general direction

for where we should be going," said a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of

Staff. "It builds on Joint Vision 2010 by refining it and extending it and

looking a little further into the future."

"Any time you have all the chiefs working together and defining where

they think we need to be going, it gives the services, the Office of the

Secretary of Defense, all the military leaders and the national leaders

a clear, concise view of where we're headed," said Anthony Valletta, former

acting assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications

and intelligence and a top executive with SRA International Inc.

Chief among the conclusions of the 36-page document is that DOD must

quickly find the right mix of new tactics, organizations, training and personnel

capable of taking advantage of the new technologies.

DOD foresees "profound" changes in the information environment occurring

by 2020. "Advances in information capabilities are proceeding so rapidly

that there is a risk of outstripping our ability to capture ideas, formulate

operational concepts and develop the capacity to assess results," according

to JV 2020.

JV 2020, however, places great emphasis on training and education as

a means to harness the remote power projection capabilities offered by IT

and DOD's multibillion-dollar investment in networks.

JV 2020 also incorporates the concept of information operations, which

traditionally has described the interrelated roles of such disciplines as

psychological operations, deception, perception management, civilian affairs

and various intelligence-related fields. But in DOD's JV 2010 plan, and

now with JV 2020, the term has come to include electronic warfare, critical

infrastructure protection and information assurance.

The inclusion of information operations in the new strategic plan represents

one of the key changes to the department's strategy as first laid out in

JV 2010, according to some Pentagon observers who say there has been significant

reluctance on the part of senior officers to learn what is required to carry

out information operations missions.

"Most military officers have never seen the Joint Doctrine for Information

Operations," said one military officer who requested anonymity. "Of those

that have, even fewer have read it."

Martin Libicki, a defense analyst with the think tank Rand Corp., said

the new vision does not provide the clear picture of the future that some

may have expected. But that isn't necessarily a plausible goal, he added.

"I am not sure we know enough to write a better vision than JV 2010,"

Libicki said. "Absent an obvious enemy and before experimenting with lots

of ways of taking advantage of new information technology, it is hard to

illustrate the future in any meaningful way."

Another analyst questions the value of JV 2020 altogether. "My concern

is what impact that has on everything downstream," said Ted Smith, president

of Top Line Co., a defense marketing firm. "If it is reflected in the 2002

budget, and in the [multi-year procurement plan], and if Congress supports

it, then it's good. Otherwise, it's just an academic exercise."

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