Peace Time: March 23, 2004


The Department of Defense is pushing a bunch of new proposals, some of which have been around for over fifty years, to save money and make combat forces more effective. They all make a lot of sense, but all face an uphill fight to get implemented. The most interesting ones deal with joint ("Purple") operations and are;

- Coordinate combat doctrine in peacetime, instead of waiting until there's a war and doing it in a hurry (and making mistakes that always gets American troops killed.) All three services have to deal with combat operations in the air and on the ground in wartime. And each service develops its own techniques for shooting, bombing and moving in peacetime without consulting much with each other. It would be a simple thing for each service to send it's proposed new "how to fight" manuals to the Pentagon to have a team of officers from each service go over it and point out areas where there is a potential misunderstanding with another service. The idea isn't to get the other services to change the way they operate (that's another issue), just eliminate confusion when everyone arrives in the combat zone to cooperate in fighting a war. Simple, not expensive at all, but not often done. Yet. There was a cry for this sort of thing after the 1991 Gulf War. Voices are raised again, and this time there may be action.

- Having all the services actually train together in peacetime, to get some practice at what they will do a lot of in wartime. This is a lot harder to do because it will cost each service time and money out of their budgets for training their own people. Each service would rather spend precious training resources on their own people. But waiting until there's a war, to get familiar, leads to errors and American deaths. No one wants to openly discuss this, because everyone knows that many friendly fire incidents are caused by the lack of inter-service training. It will take some serious, and sustained, arm twisting by the Secretary of Defense to get the services to play together in peacetime.

- More assigning of officers and NCOs to work similar jobs in other services. This builds understanding and connections between the services (both official and unofficial.) There has been an increasing amount of this in the last decade, but it has been so successful that there is growing demand that there be more of it. With the war on terror, there is also a call to assign appropriate military officers (intelligence, military police, etc) to law enforcement and intelligence organizations for the same reason, make the troops more aware of how the people they often work with actually operate.

- Each of the services has their own reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities. When in a war zone, these forces are often looking at the same things. But the services have long resisted tightly coordinating their intelligence and reconnaissance efforts. But in the last few years, the concept of "net-centric warfare" has implied that everyone would put their finds on the same battlefield Internet. That's the plan, but it hasnt happened yet and making it so will not be easy. Each service has designed their C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) operations to support the unique needs of that service. There will be a lot of foot dragging and excuse making in trying to get everyone on the same information network. 

- Another long sought area of interservice cooperation has been procurement. Over the last half century, there have been some successes. The army and air force exchange system, which runs thousands of operations to provide army and air force personnel with consumer goods, has been operating for over fifty years. The services have also cooperated, often with a bit of prompting by Congress or the Department of Defense, to cooperate on buying equipment or weapons that all will use. The three service use a lot of common equipment and weapons. But each maintains its own procurement bureaucracy and resists the idea of joint efforts. Oh, the senior people will often admit that joint procurement is a great idea, but these pronouncements too often turn to dust when it comes time to act. 

- The services also have a lot of people doing the same work. A truck mechanic is doing the same work whether they are wearing an army, air force, navy or marine uniform. Same for medical personnel, weather forecasters, many computer and clerical jobs and, well, the list goes on and on. Why not train these folks in common Department of Defense schools? Saves money and personnel, and lets folks from the different services get to know each other. Actually, some this has been going on for some time. The marines, always short of money, have long sent some of their troops to army schools for things like parachute training and other specialties that the navy does not have a school for and not enough marines are trained for it to make it worthwhile for the marines to establish their own school. But big money could be saved if all basic flight training were conducted at joint facilities. This sort of thing has been suggested for decades, but now the suggestions are getting very loud. 




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