Pentagon Seeing 2020

WASHINGTON (06/05/2000) - The uncertain future crept a little closer to the U.S. Department of Defense 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.

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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