Essay, Research Paper
The Strengths and Weaknesses of Joint Warfare
Armed with numerous studies, and intensive public hearings, Congress mandated far-reaching changes in DOD organization and responsibilities in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. This landmark legislation significantly expanded the authority and responsibility of the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Included in this expanded authority and responsibility was the requirement for the chairman to develop a doctrine for the joint employment of armed forces. As operations Urgent Fury, Just Cause, and Desert Storm have vividly demonstrated, the realities of armed conflict in today’s world make the integration of individual service capabilities a matter of success or failure, life or death. Furthermore, the operation Desert One demonstrated the need for a strengthened Joint Warfare Doctrine and the consequent change in Joint Warfare Employment. It is plain to see the benefits of having the greatest navy integrated with the world’s greatest army and air force. However, even in the wake of a relatively successful joint operation in the Middle East (Desert Storm), certain weaknesses are evident in the current joint employment tactics and/or capabilities. By analyzing past operations such as Urgent Fury and Desert Storm, we are able to see sufficient evidence that the Joint Warfare Concept can be disastrous in one instance and virtually flawless in another.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Joint Warfare is how it appears on paper. It would be difficult to find someone to debate against combining the forces to achieve total dominance. A defined chain of command with equal representation from all the armed services coupled with standardized clear communication and training throughout the branches, results in an elite fighting force with endless capabilities. Efficiency is the major goal behind Joint Warfare and so long as the clear channels of communication throughout the services hold true, this goal is attainable. This efficiency, though almost impossible to fully achieve, was seen during Desert Storm. During the Desert Storm campaign, General Schwarztkopf was Commander and Chief of US Central Command (USCINCCENT). His first order of business was to name component commanders. All four services were represented and all four wore three stars (Lieutenant Generals and a Vice Admiral, respectively) so that one service didn’t have to fight through ranks to be heard and/or taken seriously. Because of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, unified and specified commanders possessed the full range of authority needed to meet their responsibilities and consequently gained collective strength utilizing “unity of command.” The fact that the clear channels of communication remained open and that one theater commander (Gen. Schwartzkopf) retained confidence from the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Schwartzkopf was allowed to conduct the operation with a smoothness not seen in recent conflicts.
Conversely, the idea of Joint Warfare has its weaknesses. Although Joint Warfare seems almost perfect on paper, it’s realistically imperfect. Take for example, the Desert One operation to free the hostages in Iran. On paper, it looked like everything should come together despite the various forces not training together and not 100% familiar with the equipment they were to use during the mission. It seemed logical to high-ranking officials in Washington D.C. that Navy pilots should be able to fly over land and that marine pilots (which ultimately replaced most of the Navy pilots) could fly the Navy version of the H-53 without any difficulty, regardless of the mission. Unfortunately for those involved, the logic hammered-out by the high-ranking officials in the Pentagon proved to be wrong. The problem of one branch of service taking direct orders from a person in another will persist through future conflicts. How can a General in the Army make a decision for Navy personnel? In turn, how can an Admiral make a decision about a mission conducted my Army rangers? Even though the component commanders in an operation are of equal rank, it’s only natural for those commanders to argue for and possibly favor their respective branch. Also, with the Navy having a small air component compared to the Air Force in large-scale operations, it seems that the Air Force component commander will command overall air operations. This can result in trouble if the component commander is the slightest bit partial.
As the Department of Defense plans for future joint operations, positive and negative results from past operations must be examined and learned from. It is inevitable that problems will arise with the employment of forces, but as long as contingency-planning is conducted by the decision-making echelons, these problems should have swift solutions.