Joint Concept Development at Joint Forces
With political certainties no longer certain
and technologies of war and peace progressing faster than ever before,
rapid changes characterize today's world, and bring dangerous new
threats to the Nation's security. U.S. adversaries continually and
rapidly adapt to contest U.S. military
superiority and support developments unfavorable to American interests.
The United States does not have the luxury of extended time lines
to construct new military capabilities. U.S. military forces must
be intellectually and substantively agile enough to adapt to change
faster than their adversaries.
To attain this agility, America must experiment
with novel concepts and construct an environment of experimentation
that rapidly identifies new challenges and opportunities and examines
lessons learned from U.S. military operations worldwide. The U.S.
military must identify options to further explore through wide-ranging
"discovery" experiments in hypothetical crisis situations.
Robust follow on experimentation using detailed hypotheses will
ensure that the capabilities observed in the experiments are, indeed,
the right ones, and rapid prototyping will place capabilities in
the hands of warfighters to obtain their feedback before more major
investments in time, resources, and intellectual capital.
Each of the services, combatant commands, and
defense agencies must adjust to changing circumstances to field
the best capabilities. U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), in particular,
must bring together new ideas from throughout the U.S. military
through joint concept development and experimentation (JCDE). By
rigorous and sustained testing of new ideas, USJFCOM will ensure
that future U.S. forces will be relevant instruments of national
power to protect the Nation.
JCDE will provide a body of evidence of which
senior military leaders can base decisions to allocate scarce resources
of time, personnel, and money. USJFCOM has developed a joint concept
development (JCD) path to-
• Provide observations, insights, and
actionable recommendations from experimentation results to senior
leaders to inform them of options for future force investments from
2015 to 2020.
• Provide recommended solutions to important
questions that military leaders confront every day.
Insights and observations, in the form of program,
budget, or experiment recommendations, will help decide whether
to refine a concept, transfer it to prototype development, or stop
work on it altogether. The concept-development path at USJFCOM is
the leading edge of joint military experimentation and the first
step in a rigorous program to answer questions concerning priorities
and capabilities that require investment. Concept development provides
the intellectual backbone that allows advocates of change to say
with some authority that multiple paths have been explored and that
differing ideas have competed, contrasted, or been amalgamated to
create a body of evidence for decisions about configuring the joint
The JCD path encompasses conceptual development
activities and experiments through 2005, allows USJFCOM to integrate
its experiments with the efforts of other U.S. services and combatant
commands, and arranges Department of Defense (DOD) concept experimentation
efforts in time and space.
Through the crafting of scenarios, wargame
venues, and the competition of concepts for future military operations,
the JCD path creates an environment in which to test these new ideas
and allows USJFCOM and the services to develop concepts within a
common, joint frame of reference. This frame of reference allows
DOD to determine future joint requirements in a collective way before
acquiring actual capabilities. The shared, collaborative investigation
will result in a shared understanding of the future joint environment
and the development of the coherently joint capabilities that USJFCOM
describes as "born joint."
Developing "born joint" military
capabilities is an important shift in perspective. Instead of welding
together each service's capabilities after they have already been
developed, joint capabilities are explored from the beginning of
the force-development process. This new vision of jointness-as the
coherent integration of forces rather than deconfliction after the
fact-allows senior decisionmakers to preclude, rather than resolve,
interoperability problems by building capabilities that are joint
at the outset.
The JCD path provides this perspective by framing
military challenges in a joint context-a common set of intellectual
tools that can be used throughout DOD for all military experimentation.
The joint context includes several significant elements:
• A common set of issues that senior
military leaders and joint warfighters in need of solution identify.
• A discourse of concepts that highlights
the unique strengths and shortcomings of operational level concepts
that the joint staff, USJFCOM, and each of the services develop.
• A shared set of scenarios reflecting
challenging strategic and military problems.
These elements of the joint context ensure
that USJFCOM evaluates joint service concepts against a common backdrop
so each is appraised on similar terms. The joint context includes
interagency and multinational perspectives and participation, reflecting
the notion that integrating joint, interagency, and multinational
elements is (and will continue to be) an essential consideration
for the warfighter.
By using experimentation to inform professional
debate concerning the military capabilities in which the Nation
should invest, the JCD path provides a valuable service in the search
for new warfighting concepts and capabilities. USJFCOM organized
its experimental efforts along a single path up to and including
the major joint warfighting experiment Millennium Challenge 2002
(MC02), but as experimental concepts and capabilities matured, a
single unified effort could no longer contain the multitude of efforts.
One of the most important outcomes of the MC02 was the decision
to split the single path into two parallel but related efforts.
The second path, the joint prototype path,
focuses on transferring ideas into actual capabilities to deliver
to combatant commanders and addresses specific short-term (1 to
2 year) operational shortcomings. Splitting the single path into
two allows USJFCOM to simultaneously explore longer-term issues
on the JCD path while working to deliver capabilities to the field
for more immediate requirements. The joint prototype path focuses
on providing specific warfighting capabilities to operational commanders
in the near-term. The JCD path focuses intellectual effort on conditions
well beyond the current procurement horizon and on transcending
current capabilities-even those being developed on the joint prototype
Going beyond the 7-year procurement horizon
in the JCD allows USJFCOM to experiment more comprehensively with
the balance of joint forces. By not constraining experimentation
to currently available or programmed forces, the command can experiment
with the correct mix of capabilities rather than focus on specific
platforms or forces.
The 2007 date for MC02 was exactly right for
that experiment, but the JCD path must now focus concept development
farther into the future to describe in a relatively and constrained
manner the capabilities the military will require so that new purchases
can be rationally allocated to address joint warfighting requirements.
The focus beyond 2007 does not mean that if the experimental process
uncovers something of immediate utility that it will be left until
2015 just because it resides on the future path. If the command
comes across a capability with immediate potential it can transfer
it to the joint prototype path and develop it sufficiently to place
the capability in the hands of warfighters as soon as possible.
Joint Vision 2020 sets forth four key capabilities
of the future joint force: dominant maneuver, precision engagement,
focused logistics, and full-dimensional protection. JFCOM's conceptual
work complements that vision and describes how the joint vision
force would operate. Experimentation focused on four characteristics
of future joint operations based on the four key Joint Vision 2020
capabilities: coherently joint, knowledge-centric, fully networked,
and effects-based. These descriptive indicators of the character
of transformed U.S. military operations are conceptual development
efforts at USJFCOM and encourage the development of even more detailed
concepts. Experimentation has refined and validated these concepts,
which were further advanced into prototypes by building the physical
hardware and networks and writing the associated tactics, techniques,
and procedures that make them work. Prototypes such as the standing
joint force headquarters and subsidiary capabilities such as the
operational net assessment are now undergoing further experimentation
in the field.
USJFCOM is also developing new organizing principles
for joint experimentation. The characteristics of future joint operations
reflected a vision of transformed military capabilities, but the
command needed newer challenges to develop even more advanced concepts.
In a joint mission area analysis, USJFCOM surveyed joint warfighters,
including the joint staff, regional combatant commanders, and the
services. USJFCOM asked joint warfighters to describe the most critical
warfighting issues they felt were in need of joint solutions. The
command received over 300 specific responses and strategic guidance
from senior DOD leaders, distilled them into three categories that
are now the organizing principles for JCD investigations. The themes
• Achieving decision superiority.
• Creating coherent effects.
• Conducting and supporting distributed
Achieving Decision Superiority
Achieving decision superiority addresses generating
and sustaining high quality, shared situational awareness within
an interagency and multinational environment to make decisions and
take actions at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels
necessary to make decisions and take action faster than any adversary.
U.S. military superiority also depends on the degree of command
centralization in a global, distributed, and fully networked environment.
In challenging military environments, command structures must be
flexible enough to give commanders the degree of centralization
or decentralization that a specific contingency or engagement requires.
Creating Coherent Effects
USJFCOM's survey respondents were concerned
that warfare is an increasingly integrated effort, involving all
of the instruments of national power and harmonizing coalition efforts
during operations. Because of this, USJFCOM must turn its attention
to ensuring that the Nation configures its joint warfighting capability
to create, maintain, and support the application of effects to achieve
national objectives. Creating coherent effects requires the joint
force to organize, plan, and train the harmonization of military,
interagency, and multinational activities at the strategic, operational,
and tactical levels against any type of adversary-from conventional
enemies to those who operate on the cusp between combatant and criminal
Conducting and supporting distributed operations.
This category includes how to plan, prepare, and execute operations
simultaneously in multiple theaters and across widely distributed
points of action within each theater. The joint force must have
this capability against adversaries actively working to deny access
to the area even if the theaters lack robust infrastructure. Distributed
operations inhere an ability to deploy, fight, command, and sustain
forces while maintaining pressure on an adversary. The joint force
must deny the adversary sanctuary from which to operate while protecting
These three categories are the lens through
which USJFCOM will analyze and evaluate experimental operational
concepts in the JCD path. A larger number of specific questions
that address the most difficult problems the warfighter faces today
lend themselves to focused experiments within these three categories.
USJFCOM will explicitly focus on 9 of these 18 questions over the
next 2 years, using common scenarios and alternative operational
concepts such as the Joint Operations Concept (JOpsC).
Wargames and experimental venues along the
JCD path (such as Pinnacle Impact 2003) explored these questions
at JFCOM and in partnership with sister services during co-sponsored
experimentation events, such as the Army Transformation Wargame
(Unified Quest), and the Navy Global Wargame (Unified Course). Although
no particular event will solve all or even most of the questions,
the JCD path will allow USJFCOM and its partners to explore specific
challenges in a building-block approach. Smaller pieces will be
assembled into a growing structure of transformed warfighting capabilities.
A Discourse of Concepts
In 1915, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Dudley
W. Knox described the fundamental characteristics of an operational
concept in an article titled "The Role of Doctrine in Naval
Warfare."1 The general staff of
a first-class power writes army manuals. The staff prepares for
the task first by exhaustively studying history, the material, political,
and other conditions that confront the country, and sets forth a
concept of war as the war should be best conducted. Having evolved
its concept of war, the general staff formulates its major doctrines
of war, which flow logically from the reasoned conception.
U.S. Army Colonel David A. Fastabend stressed
this concisely when he noted that operational concepts should describe
current problems of warfare and propose solutions to them.2
Interlocutors should have a "eureka" moment when they
comprehend how linking tactical activities and capabilities in time
and space achieves strategic and political goals.
Today, the joint staff is responsible for the
vision of future joint warfare and solutions to the challenges that
future adversaries present. The JOpsC is the joint staff's new integrating
vision for operations. The JOpsC under consideration will provide
a blueprint for the operation of joint forces and provide a trial
solution for operational challenges.
The JOpsC includes several subordinate concepts
that address areas such as major combat operations, stability operations,
strategic deterrence, and homeland defense. USJFCOM's JCD path will
help joint staff develop the JOpsC. In joint experimentation, the
JOpsC is the "base case" operational construct for JCD
path events. However, it is not the only case.
Four other concepts, including the services'
and USJFCOM's operational concepts will also be evaluated in experimentation
events. The alternative concepts facilitate professional debate
and ensure that a range of future concepts and capabilities are
assessed and that the Nation pursues, develops, and invests in the
best possible ones. USJFCOM and service-developed concepts support
and inform the joint staff's vision. All concepts are included in
the discourse and are considered alternative solutions to the JOpsC,
including the Navy's operating concept, the Army's air/ ground concept,
USJFCOM's concept of cooperative pressure, and the Air Force's concept
of decisive, coercive operations.
The purpose of the alternative cases is not
to replace JOpsC, but to act as foils to inform the development
of the JOpsC concept. When the concepts are evaluated in wargaming,
the perspective is not one of competition but of discourse. Each
service, the joint staff, and USJFCOM bring unique perspectives
and competencies to the joint fight. A conversational approach can
produce more than conflict over which particular approach is better.
It is risky to rely on a single solution when developing the concepts
that will drive future military strategy. An experimental program
possessing analytical rigor must have more than a single case to
The concept that USJFCOM will contribute in
the JCD path is titled "Cooperative Pressure: An Operational
Concept for an Uncertain Strategic Environment," and is based
on insights and findings bred from joint concept development and
experimentation efforts since MC02.3
The concept presents a uniquely joint perspective on military problems
and offers a vision of warfare that focuses on making the U.S. military
more adaptable and flexible than its adversaries regardless of location
or circumstance. In USJFCOM's concept, the U.S. military will place
sufficient pressure on adversaries at strategic, operational, and
tactical levels so they will believe they have no option but to
accede to U.S. will.
The services will also contribute operational
perspectives to the JCD path effort. The Army's operational concept
focuses on the synchronization of land and airpower. The Navy and
Marine Corps' concept relies on the insights discovered during the
Sea Power series of experiments (Sea Strike, Sea Shield, Sea Basing),
as well as specific advances in conducting expeditionary maneuver
and networkcentric warfare. The Air Force will provide its decisive,
coercive operations concept, which will give the joint force commander
options to rapidly disrupt, destroy, or deny critical adversary
capabilities. The services' and USJFCOM's concepts will be part
of the experimental dialog and result in a better product. The services
will have to fight their concepts within a common joint context,
and a stronger appreciation of service-specific capabilities will
influence joint concepts.
Because the concept development path explores
alternative joint concepts from the conceptual perspective of the
joint staff, each service, and USJFCOM, the JCD path does not rely
on a single solution on which to base its recommendations to senior
leadership. The one-point solution runs the risk of a single point
of failure. USJFCOM will submit the pressure concept to scrutiny
during each experimental venue and offer the parts that show promise
to the joint staff to augment the JOpsC. Developing multiple concepts
in this way is not duplicative. It strengthens the product that
will eventually emerge to govern future military operations.
Scenarios and Events
Operational-level military forces put each
concept through its paces. Each scenario focused on significant
questions that U.S. forces expect to face. USJFCOM will craft vignettes
from the scenarios for use in specific events to illustrate experimental
The four scenarios for the JCD path encompass
the full range of military operations. Operating concepts derived
from the JOpsC serve as the base case for each scenario. Each event
along the JCD path will match a warfighting issue with a scenario
to see how each concept fares in solving the specific problem. Experimentation
will use the scenarios to spotlight specific problems and use the
differing approaches of the alternative operational concepts to
solve them in different ways. The scenarios include-
• Operations in a faltering or failing
state that has a regional weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability.
• Operations against a nonstate actor
with significant regional combat capabilities, access to WMD, and
ties to global terrorist organizations.
• Urban operations in a large city.
• Large-scale conventional combat operations
against an enemy with global WMD reach and significant anti-access
Although each scenario is significantly different,
each poses problems for the operational commander in how to achieve
decision superiority, create coherent effects, and conduct and support
distributed operations. Precision, command and control, and access
problems concerned regional combatant commanders when USJFCOM surveyed
them. USJFCOM constructed these challenging scenarios to bring specific
issues within these categories into focus and drive military experimentation
toward prototype solutions.
The interaction of new concepts, organizational
structures and military systems to gauge innovative potential are
known as "discovery experiments." These concepts will
be the early focus of the JCD path. The discovery experiment will
allow USJFCOM to explore how actual warfighters might employ new
concepts or technologies in a challenging environment. Once the
command is satisfied with the emerging potential of an idea, it
can move to larger-scale experimental venues-the ultimate goal being
to provide actionable recommendations on new joint warfighting capabilities
to senior military leaders.
The scenarios and venues will create an environment
in which joint concepts inform service concepts and vice versa.
USJFCOM expects to encourage a true culture of innovation in this
environment. Because the experiments are partnerships, service wargames
will explore joint experimentation questions. This approach's advantage
is that it is iterative: wargames can conduct multiple, subsequent
events to explore the issues. Iterating experimentation and building
an ever-increasing body of knowledge significantly increases confidence
in the USJFCOM's recommendations on the structure of the force.
Ideas with Consequences
Improved military capabilities in the hands
of U.S. warfighters will be the indicator of success along the JCD
path. Creating concepts or having discussions about them, no matter
how intellectually stimulating, is not the goal. Success will be
measured by how well concepts with potential are distinguished from
intellectual dead-ends and whether concepts having promise are developed,
prototyped, and integrated into the joint force.
Good ideas with real potential must not languish.
Bad ideas, or those that do not generate real improvements in military
capabilities must not consume scarce financial and intellectual
resources. The link between thought and action makes USJFCOM's joint
concept development and experimentation efforts different from those
myriad defense think tanks that explore these issues.
USJFCOM recommends only solutions that have
been exhaustively explored and tested (directly to senior decisionmakers)
in a coherent, consistent, and institutionalized manner. Once concepts
are complete, USJFCOM gives the joint staff "transformation
change recommendation packages," which include proposals for
changing military doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership,
personnel, and facilities to improve military capabilities. The
packages will also suggest the needed changes in policy and culture
that must take place to ensure that a culture of innovation takes
These often far-reaching packages must be based
on rigorous examination and an extensive body of evidence to increase
the confidence of senior leaders in the accuracy of the recommendations.
USJFCOM's recommendations must provide guidance on programming and
budget decisions, and direction regarding whether to refine concepts
further, move them to the prototype path, or stop work on them altogether.
Maintaining the momentum for change is important.
USJFCOM must work to continually improve concepts under development
and move them to operational reality. At times, solutions will either
not work or not generate the improvement required for operational
fielding. When this sort of evidence is collected, USJFCOM also
counts it as an experimental success. Even failures will give the
U.S. military important information about the investments it must
make and allow it to save resources.
In addition to transformation recommendation
packages, with their observations, insights, and actionable recommendations
to senior leaders, USJFCOM can move concepts directly into prototype
to answer combatant commanders specific concerns. As USJFCOM discovered
when prototype solutions were demonstrated at MC02, commanders with
real-world problems want the solution yesterday. Just because the
JCD path has set its revisions for next-decade military requirements,
USJFCOM must not wait or delay solutions. A USJFCOM mandate is to
accelerate transformative military change. USJFCOM will implement
compelling solutions as they arise by moving them immediately to
the prototype path.
USJFCOM expects interaction among the concepts
and within the common joint context to be surprising. Many of these
surprises will contribute to better warfighting capabilities in
the hands of the joint force more quickly than might have otherwise
been the case. The JCD path is the way to facilitate an informed
professional debate concerning the concepts and capabilities in
which the Nation could invest, allowing the command to promote innovation
and discovery to optimize future capabilities and explore alternative
joint and service concepts. The debate will allow USJFCOM to achieve
its ultimate goal- solving warfighters' most pressing challenges
by providing the best information to senior leaders about the capabilities
and tools in which this Nation
should invest. MR
1. LCDR Dudley W. Knox, "The
Role of Doctrine in Naval Warfare," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings
(March-April 1915): 325-54.
2. COL David A. Fastabend,
"That Elusive Operational Concept," Army (June 2001).
3. "Cooperative PRESSURE:
An Operational Concept for an Uncertain Strategic Environment."
(Publishing data unavailable.)
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