DOD learns from Iraq war, officials say

Joint and coalition forces worked together with unprecedented speed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but numerous information technology-laden areas, such as combat identification systems, need to be improved, said the wartime commander of U.S. forces.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who retired as commander of Central Command earlier this week after leading the U.S. war effort in Iraq, said Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first time that joint and coalition forces were truly integrated.

"The most transformational thing was the business of the integration of forces rather than the business of simple deconfliction of forces," Franks testified July 9 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Previous experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan helped develop a joint culture at Central Command and throughout the coalition. "These operations helped to improve joint interoperability and improve our joint [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] networks as joint force synergy was taken to new levels of sophistication."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said approximately 70 DOD employees are assessing what lessons can come out of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those people, who Franks brought in from Joint Forces Command, were providing feedback that improved coalition performance while also taking notes on the Iraqi campaign.

But Franks said DOD has also identified numerous areas that require additional work. Those include:

*Friendly fire casualties because of the lack of standardized combat identification. Units in theater arrived with seven different combat identification systems, and commanders were forced to overcome those shortcomings on the fly.

*Cumbersome deployment planning and execution processes and systems.

*Improved coalition information sharing at all levels.

*Human intelligence and communications bandwidth shortages.

Conversely, he said there were some clear winners during the Iraqi operations, such as joint operations, precision munitions, command and control capabilities, equipment readiness, state of training of the troops and coalition support.

Lawmakers questioned the DOD officials about the most-asked question they hear from troops deployed in Iraq: when are we coming home?

"I'm concerned that we have the world's best trained soldiers acting as policemen in a shooting gallery," said Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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