June 19, 2012 -- CSA Remarks at the AUSA Mission Command Symposium
June 26, 2012
Well it's great to be here.
I just want to reconfirm the fact that if you don't have a badge, they will give you a hard time, because they didn't want to let me in because I didn't have a badge on. I had to fast talk my way in and they chased me halfway down the aisle. So, you've got them well-trained.
It's really good to be here, as we look to the future. One of the things I tell everybody is that I'm kind of a two-headed chief in terms of what I have to focus on. The first, as you all know, is making sure that every Soldier that we send into harm's way is trained, ready, capable, and has everything he needs -- the equipment he needs, has the training he needs, is manned properly -- that is always going to be our number one priority. And we will never walk away from that. But a close second right now is -- what is the Army going to look like in 2020 and beyond? We are in a time of strategic change, in my mind. So we have to navigate through those waters of strategic change. And part of that has to do with this very topic, Mission Command. Because in my mind, as we weave our way through the changes that we see, how our Army will adjust, how we move our Army forward to meet the incredible needs that we have for our Nation, in my mind how we conduct Mission Command is really what our business is all about. Our business, commander's business, is about commander's being able to execute whatever the mission might be. Figuring out how we do Mission Command and how we want to do it in the future, in my mind is the centerpiece of all that. So, it really is great to be here today.
I'd like to offer a few thoughts on the broader context in which some of this work will take place and, then what I think that means specifically for Mission Command.
First, we must recognize the growing complexity of the strategic environment that we are in today. Second, we have to understand that there is a convergence of technological and political forces that has elevated the importance of what might be termed the 'human aspects' of that environment, and therefore the impact it has on military operations. Appreciating what is different, along with what remains the same, will be critical to our future effectiveness. Third, it is only through a cultural shift in the way the Army educates leaders, organizes forces, and conducts operations that we can actually employ Mission Command in a way and with the results and the effectiveness we desire.
We cannot afford to tinker on the margins, retaining only the tactical lessons of the past ten years while we return to a traditional comfort zone dominated by force on force, conventional thinking. We should and will capture lessons learned from a decade at war, but our challenge is much larger than that…the art of our profession, the art of the military, continues to change, and we have to change with it. And, I want the Army to lead that change. This must be an intellectual and cultural transformation, not one based solely on platforms and precision -- although we must still pursue those.
In other words, Mission Command is absolutely the right approach to current and future military operations. However, it must be a mission command informed by an understanding of our complex environment and executed by an Army that is fully aware of the critical importance of the cultural lenses and technological capabilities through which all our actions will be interpreted.
Let me describe what I mean when I talk about changes in the strategic environment. As you are all aware, much has changed since the world was shaped by the balance of two superpowers.
In the past, relations between states were dominated by central governments with a substantial ability to enforce their borders and to speak for their populations. That framework, while still present, is much weaker now, and previously latent actors have emerged to take full advantage of this change. Some of the forces that we deal with today, like criminal groups and social movements, have always existed, but they have become vastly more influential as the norms of the international system have weakened. New actors have emerged, like the global audience that instantaneously observes and interprets our actions or communities of like-minded individuals who come together only in cyberspace.
As our experiences in both Afghanistan and Iraq have shown us, it is difficult to imagine any future situation in which a relationship exists solely between two states, whether in an alliance or in conflict. Other regional actors can and will seek to advance their own interests in every situation, and have more tools at their disposal to do so. Sometimes they will work in concert with our own objectives, but at other times we may be in opposition. Regardless of the path they choose, as an Army we need to develop an awareness of these dynamics and use it to inform our actions at all levels, from the strategic to the tactical.
The most fundamental element of the shifts I have described is the growing importance of people, whether we are talking about individuals, local or virtual communities, or entire populations. I don't mean to imply that humans did not matter in the past. However, much has changed in the way people and governments relate to one another, and a larger number of people are able to affect strategic, operational and tactical outcomes than ever before. Just a few years ago, the concept of the 'strategic corporal' whose tactical actions could have strategic effects was revolutionary.
Today, the landscape is populated by strategic soldiers, civilians, and adversaries, each with the ability to instantly broadcast an image or message to a global audience. Consider the crowds in the Arab Awakening, or the internet radicalization of terrorists for evidence of this phenomenon in action.
One consequence of these new ways to share information is the formation of entire communities in cyberspace. Sometimes these groups are composed of individuals widely separated by distance, but united in thought around a cause or a very specific idea. Other times, they appear as a virtual reflection of relationships on the land, like the digital signature of a networked military formation. Regardless of the form they take, such virtual human relationships are not bounded by geography, and represent a new space we must embrace and integrate into our operations alongside the physical terrain as we plan and conduct operations.
At the most basic level, these rapid advances have real ramifications for the future conduct of military operations. For much of the world, the balance between the state, the Army, and the people that Clausewitz described many years ago as the "Golden Trinity" must be looked at differently now. In some cases, defeating an army or deterring a government may still lead to decisive effects. However, in many future operations, such straightforward outcomes are less and less likely.
As an Army, we must adapt to these changes. That does not mean that we neglect the lessons of the past two hundred years. We remain ready to deploy, to fight, and to win the Nation's wars. However, knowing when, why, and how to change is key to maintaining our effectiveness. That means we overlay our core warfighting skills with a better understanding of human behavior and different cultural lenses.
As the noted British historian John Keegan wrote many years ago in his book The Face of Battle: "every battle in world history may be different from every other battle, but they must have something in common if we can group them together at all…it is not something strategic, nor tactical, nor material, nor technical. What battles have in common is human: the behavior of men struggling to reconcile their instinct for self-preservation, their sense of honor and the achievement of some aim over which other men are ready to kill them." We have to take and expand this enduring insight into all that we do as an Army, from deterring conflict to partnering with allies to decisively winning our Nation's wars. Our charge is to recognize the human aspects of the environment, both physical and virtual, and incorporate them into our thinking, our training, our planning, and our execution.
This brings me to Mission Command. It has been said that 'wartime experience often inspires a return to the fundamentals of mission command.' That remains as true today as when it was first written to address the problems the rigid Prussian Army command had in dealing with challenges presented by Napoleon's dispersed, flexible forces.
I see Mission Command as the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution, using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander's intent. Done well, it empowers agile and adaptive leaders to successfully operate under conditions of uncertainty, exploit fleeting opportunities, and most importantly achieve unity of effort. Importantly, it helps establish mutual trust and shared understanding throughout the force. Mission Command is fundamental to ensuring that our Army stays ahead of and adapts to the rapidly changing environments we expect to face in the future.
Put another way, our environment is simply too complex, and our Soldiers and leaders too talented, to attempt to operate through centralized command and control. However, we cannot allow Mission Command to refer simply to the decentralized execution of commander's intent. As we continue to refine this concept in our doctrine, Mission Command must integrate all of our Warfighting functions effectively in pursuit of desired objectives. It must serve as the bridge between physical maneuver on the ground and virtual maneuver in cyberspace. It must take the heightened importance of the social and cultural aspects of actions into account.
It must consider the plethora of information now available and how that information is managed and prioritized to ensure commanders at all levels can make timely effective decisions. This is ultimately the test of Mission Command.
Yes…our leaders must consider the second and third order effects of their actions...but they must also appreciate how others interpret, evaluate and understand them.
In my mind, this may either require a seventh Warfighting function to capture the set of tasks related to working with foreign cultures that has become so integral to our current and future fights; Or as a minimum, it demands that we fully reflect the human aspects of this environment within each of our existing six functions. We have many people now in the Army community that have been thinking about these issues. So, this week I am interested in your thoughts on how we can best achieve these goals, and on how we update and how we continue to make more effective our warfighting functions.
Ultimately, the bottom line is this: for Mission Command to work, it requires decentralized execution of commander's intent by leaders and Soldiers at all levels who understand not only what we as an Army intend to achieve, but how those actions and messages will be interpreted by others through their own cultural lenses. As a ground force, we must dominate the land domain and the cyber domain, effectively influencing the behavior of the humans that occupy both. This is only possible with a full understanding of our strategic, operational and tactical environment. Absent that understanding, initiative alone will not lead us to the Mission Command we desire.
I appreciate having the opportunity to be here today. I just want to close by talking about the chance I had to go around the Army over the last couple of weeks as we celebrated our Army's birthday. I have never been more proud, to first see how proud the American people are of their Army, and how they want to reach out to our Army throughout the Country. It is because of the actions, the bravery, the courage of all of the young men and women who serve, and what they have done to sacrifice for our Nation. As we go forward we must remember those who sacrificed before us. Those who sacrificed from the time the Army came about, from the time of the Continental Army in 1775, and all of the sacrifices that have been made up to now. The one thing that has been common in our Army, is our ability to move forward and adapt, to come up with new concepts and be prepared to execute the next fight wherever that may be. So this week, you are here to talk about that.
One of the most important things we do is Mission Command - how we command, how we move forward and how we will continue to lead from the front in new strategic, operational, and tactical concepts.
So thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you this morning.