by Colonel Albert F. Turner Jr., US Army
Force XXI. What have you heard about it? Is it something at ŪToys Us? Shades of the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized)? A few articles in professional journals or Army Times? Do these articles suggest it is an end state, a journey, a process, a way to create change, the "bow wave" of the future, a digitized force, a modernized force or some general's "bumper sticker"? Some of these, none of these or all of them? Do you care? You should. To understand Force XXI, one must know what it is and how it has led to new development in our 21st-century Army.
Allegedly equipped with technology too difficult for the average soldier to use; technology that changes every 18 months; multiple moving parts that are supposedly interoperable but whose update management is extraordinarily complex, Force XXI has its fair share of detractors and critics. In response to naysayers everywhere, Force XXI is process and product. It is the way in which the Army has created the climate for change and one that the other services are now modeling. It is a method for identifying the best end state to achieve and is the actual definition and documentation of that end state. And perhaps, one of its greatest benefits is that it has a variety of unexpected outcomes-all of which will only better serve the Army and nation as it looks at and thinks about change in the future.
The Force XXI Process began in March 1994 with a visionary letter addressed to the US Army co-authored by then Army Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan and US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander General Frederick M. Franks Jr. They described an environment in which they stood several years in the future and looked back at the Army of the early 1990s. From there they reviewed the intervening changes in the environment. Their conclusion was that the Army would have to change. Change in itself is not alarming; it is normal. Units are always in some state of transition. The challenge is in the degree of change. The vision of these two senior leaders called for significant change to the Army's equipment and operating procedures. Those changes would be based on information.
Information. The vast majority of us who are serving or have served in tactical units during our careers lust for information. We long to know where the other platoons, companies or battalions are. We desperately need to know if food, fuel and ammunition are on the way. We cursed the radio silence from the scouts out front who were tracking the enemy's movement, even when deep down we knew either their radios or ours were probably not reaching far enough. We stare at our tactical operations center (TOC) maps and intuitively know that they are wrong despite the TOC staff's earnest and honest efforts. Most of all, we yearn to know where the enemy is, in what strength and doing what activity.
Our passion's net result is that we spend an inordinate amount of time "not fighting" the enemy with our formations, but developing information sufficient that it allows us to conduct that fight. And we always hedge. Although fairly certain the enemy will come from one direction, we always constitute a reserve to react to the unexpected, or position a portion of our forces just in case the enemy does adopt a less likely alternative. Each time we implement that risk mitigation tactic, we say to ourselves, "If I only had a better certainty of the enemy position, I could really optimize my formation and flat out destroy the enemy."
Franks and Sullivan, through their own professional experiences and through their understandings of future horizons, saw information as the key. Thus, they directed the tactical Army's redesign. Redesign would be based on information technology's enabling capabilities. Thus, a vision was born-a redesigned Army with vastly improved information-sharing capabilities.
Because one cannot simply decree that the Army will have new technology and will therefore be better, the rank and file Army, the American people and Congress will not accept it without the necessary proof of performance. Nor will it be accepted without the understanding and support from the Joint Staff. New ideas must address the concerns of each constituency-and innovative designs must truly be able to fight in a real environment, not just simulation.
Consequently, Joint Venture (JV) was created. JV was a partnership among Army Materiel Command, US Forces Command and TRADOC. All three commanders agreed to work together toward a common goal-a new organizational design and the process to create it. JV was not joint in the "purple" sense, although the Army never turned away from joint considerations and always encouraged sister service participation. Rather, it was a joining together of three major commands (MACOMs) that in the past had three distinct missions but, for this effort, were going to combine assets and direction to create a synergy previously unseen.
Synergy. Synergy, a powerful word, means "working together; combined action or operation."1 From this process a powerful product ensued. Mere words cannot describe the advances evident on the battlefield. However, one need only query those who have been involved, namely the soldiers who man the equipment, and you will get near-unanimous response-this is the way of the future. A sergeant first class interviewed by ABC News during a field training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, was challenged that his prototypical equipment was not working all that well and that he might desire to return to the older and better-established equipment. His emphatic response was "No, it would be like going back to tin cans and string after being introduced to cellular phones." Clearly he could see the potential brought about by the synergistic efforts of the three MACOMs, the developers, users and testers involved in the process.
This synergy did not happen overnight. Building the understanding and vision for what the Army needed and wanted first had to go through an intellectual process-a mission analysis. The Sullivan and Franks document was very visionary and forward looking. It had to be converted into warfighting terms. To that end, TRADOC conducted a series of seminars designed to identify the future warfighting conditions the Army might encounter. These conditions were ultimately defined as the patterns of operations and were descriptors of the various phases the Army might pass through en route to victory in a future theater. A seminar led by various proponent school commandants and attended by the Army's senior leadership was conducted on each pattern. Future friendly force mixes and potential enemies-who they might be and their possible mixes of technology-were considered during these seminars. It was only after conducting this mission and quasi course of action analysis that the community turned its attention to what the new Army might and should look like.
Advanced warfighting experiments. TRADOC Commander General William W. Hartzog described this process through which the Army initially developed 11 different candidate division designs and finally winnowed it down to one.2 The 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) [4th ID(M)] reorganized its 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT) to replicate that design. That brigade fought at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California, in March 1997 in an event called the Task Force Advanced Warfighting Experiment (TFAWE).
AWEs are at the JV Process' heart. They are where the Army brings together all of the good ideas across the spectrum of doctrine, training, leader development, organizations, materiel and soldier systems (quality people), and employs them in a warfighting environment. By March 1997, the Army had conducted seven AWEs, although none enjoyed the fanfare associated with the TFAWE. The previous AWEs' purpose was to provide a series of building blocks allowing the Army to assess its direction and ensure that we remained consistent and capable in our approach.
AWEs are not classic experiments. A classic, scientific experiment describes a hypothesis and the multiple variations or conditions that might affect the outcome. Then, in a series of controlled events, one variable at a time is altered to determine the impact on the hypothesis. Warfare is not that sterile or static. Warfare is an infinite variety of ever-changing conditions that individually can have multiple effects on outcomes. The Army's leadership was comfortable with the concept that conducting AWEs without individually controlling each variable would still allow leaders to make overall assessments of the value of the new capabilities being planned for troop use.
The challenge of getting the 4th ID(M) to the NTC in March 1997 is where the JV Process truly emerged as a synergistic effort. Over 300 "good ideas" were initially proposed to be overlaid on the 1BCT. Ultimately, over the course of two years, that was narrowed to 72. The rest fell by the wayside due to a lack of funds, lack of maturity or because they just did not work. The experiment revealed a desired AWE outcome: identify good ideas for investment, identify good ideas for further experimentation and identify ideas for discarding. Fully 85 percent of the good ideas ultimately evaluated were found during the NTC rotation to have good potential for future warfighting.
The process of identifying, segregating and grading initiatives or proposals is a Force XXI strength. Materiel developers, testers and users combine their efforts to contribute to improving the force's warfighting capabilities. Developers create and propose the initiative. The user and the doctrine community assess whether it fits into the overall vision and Army direction. If it gets through that gate, then the testing community creates the data collection and analytic environment that will allow an overall assessment of the initiative's contribution. All three communities retain their independence and fundamentally have veto power. Rarely was the veto exercised. Instead, all professionally collaborated on ways to make things work if they truly believed there was future potential.
This collaborative effort successfully outfitted a BCT with virtually all new equipment and systems (but not platforms). The process was not easy because there were technology glitches by the dozens (if not hundreds) along the way. In this experimental environment, the bill payer was generally time taken away from the unit's NTC train-up calendar. It became an experiment within an experiment-how to completely reorganize a formation while sustaining its deployability and warfighting potential.
With the TFAWE's successful completion, the Army renewed in earnest the redesign process. The TFAWE had convinced all professionals who observed it that this was truly an enhanced formation. Furthermore, the enabling technologies offered tremendous potential to capitalize on those new capabilities in the future division design.
The JV Process had, in the meantime, been informed about yet even newer requirements and capabilities. The process and the redesign efforts adapted accordingly. When the vision was created in 1994, Army XXI was an end state-an Army equipped with information technology. By mid-1997, the Army After Next (AAN) series of wargames and analyses had suggested to Army leadership that the distant-future Army would be one characterized by both mental and physical agility. Demonstrated clearly in the TFAWE, the inclusion of information technologies had significantly improved capabilities which enabled mental agility. But physical agility, such as faster platforms, lighter armor, greater weapon ranges and effectiveness, improved power plants and fuel efficiency, required technology breakthroughs that clearly remained beyond our current reach. The combination of lessons learned from the TFAWE and AAN prescribed that the emerging division design would focus on information exchange coupled with legacy weapon systems. It would be a design that set the conditions for future evolution as the AAN-suggested technologies became available.
Still, before the Army could commit to a new design, it was necessary to experiment with it in the context of larger formation operations-division and corps. Consequently, during the summer of 1997, the Army conducted an analytic process that produced a smaller variation of the division design that had recently fought at the NTC. The 4th ID(M) reorganized (on paper) into this new design and trained to fight the world-class opposing force in a Battle Command Training Program warfighter exercise (WFX). This exercise, which included the assessment of several more new initiatives and processes, would be the division advanced warfighting experiment (DAWE).
Even as the division trained for the WFX, the analysis continued on the TFAWE results. The testing community reviewed all of the data and made recommendations on those systems that had demonstrated good potential for warfighting, and those which did not. Subjected to scrutiny and debate at the highest levels, to include multiple briefings to Congress on Capitol Hill, the successful systems were entered into the Army's current and future budgets. The first fruits of JV were being reaped.
The DAWE was conducted in November 1997. The WFX was nine days long, four days longer than a normal WFX. It employed a suite of simulation models never before assembled in one place for a single exercise. Those models were integrated into the 4th ID's suite of computers through a series of software-driven simulation support modules, which also had never before been stressed to such a degree. The scenario was challenging-4th ID(M) was an unopposed early-entry force and operated singlehandedly in sectors as large as 200km x 250km before corps was able to close in-theater. It fought four combined arms armies (CAAs), each organized differently. They were equipped with different technology mixes and capabilities representing those that our nation might face in the near future to the truly high-tech, distant-future peer competitor. The JV partners directed this challenging environment to satisfy both themselves and their constituencies that this truly would be a capable future force.
The DAWE's successful completion was the final experimental step in the JV division design process. The informal campaign plan that the JV partners had followed now called for decisions. The analytic community completed its data analysis and reported on the division design's strengths and weaknesses during the DAWE. Three years of experimentation and data collection were complete, and it was time to apply professional judgment to the informed debate. In a series of conferences, options were scrutinized, debated, stonewalled, compromised and, finally, decided. Issues on what was good for the nation, Army, individual branches and the soldier were at the discussions' heart. The product, a new heavy division design, was one that all who participated could stand by and support when it was presented to the Army chief of staff and his four-star commanders.
All decisions were finalized in March 1998 and unveiled to the nation during a press conference in June 1998. The heavy division redesign portion of the tactical Army was complete and ready for implementation. The task identified by Sullivan four years earlier had been achieved.
The JV Process does not end there. It is an ongoing process and a means to accelerate development, fielding and implementation of good ideas. It has evolved over its four-year life and continues to adapt as environmental conditions change. Remember, change is normal. There have been a number of byproducts, not the least of which are new equipment and systems, that have resulted from Joint Venture.
Spiral development. One of the first has become a JV watchword or bumper sticker. Spiral development describes a method by which lessons learned are built upon previous lessons learned, none of which have gone through a deliberate and stultifying vetting. Spiral development also describes a collaborative process by which the user, developer and tester sit shoulder-to-shoulder and collectively create a product that meets the user's needs, can be built at reasonable cost by the developer and which will pass the regulatory testing requirements. Spiral development describes a method of capturing the effects of one change and forecasting the ripple effect of that change throughout the environment, and then adjusting for all tertiary effects. Spiral development is acceleration in development, testing, resourcing and fielding. The old adage of "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" applies in spades to spiral development. Failure to adapt to the acceleration, resistance to changing older methods and hesitation to commit are anathema to spiral development and Force XXI.
Much of the hesitation is generally centered on the Department of Defense (DOD) 5000 series regulations, which prescribe the development and accepttance testing process through which all new systems must pass. It is a process designed for single systems in a stovepipe environment. It is a process that, whether by design or not, can take 12 to 20 years before fielding major pieces of equipment, and 4 to 10 for lesser ones. It is not a process that accommodates multiple systems-all of which interact and share similar states ranging from infancy to maturity. Yet, especially in the computer hardware and software world, it is commonly accepted that there is a major new development every 18 months. Imagine if each new computer system being fielded had to be tested to the fullest extent per the DOD 5000 requirements. Moreover, if each multiple interactive system had to be relatively mature to provide a valid test environment, the materiel finally reaching the soldiers some years hence would be hopelessly out of date. Spiral development has been the means by which needed changes to DOD 5000 have been identified.
Forcing functions. The AWEs and spiral development have created another byproduct-forcing functions. The AWEs themselves have been forcing functions. They have been a mark on the wall that has proved to be immovable. Great skepticism existed early on about the Army's ability to have all of the necessary pieces in place to conduct an AWE. Ultimately, it all came together through the superhuman efforts of the triumvirate identified before-the user, developer and tester. One of the Army's great strengths is that no one wants to fail, and all will do whatever they can to ensure that they personally do not fail. The forcing function of a "put up or shut up" date makes all produce. It may seem cynical and risky forcing immature or less-capable products into the hands of the user, but the proof is in the results. While not all systems or doctrine have been mature or totally capable, the assembled products' synergy has more than overcome individual weaknesses and created a more capable force. Were the Army to take counsel of its fears and adjust the forcing function as problems emerged, we would never achieve results.
JV has forced recognition that the future Army will be integrated through a "system of systems." The Army of Excellence was an Army built around the "big five:" Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Multiple-Launch Rocket System, and Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. These five individual systems brought tremendous improvements to the warfighting business. But they were individual systems that improved singular capabilities. The system of systems described in Force XXI is the integration of upgraded versions of the big five, plus many other modernization programs, all linked by information-sharing technologies. There are computers in command posts and vehicles. There are tracking systems on some of the logistics fleet, radios that transmit both voice and digital, new downlinks to national intelligence systems and software in each and every one of those and many other components. Accomplishing the hardware and software integration and interaction is challenging but achievable-it has been done! But a change in one component causes changes in many others. Mapping and programming these changes is a necessary evil. In an ideal world, the Army would have had the vision 20 years ago to create a single, all-purpose computer and communications capability. Unfortunately, 20 years ago we could not imagine such a possibility, much less a capability. Likewise, it is perhaps foolish to suggest that we should now cease working on what we have because it is so terribly unwieldy. Cumbersome it may be, but it is light years ahead of the analog environment. Four years from now-the amount of time the JV Process has been in action-will witness two, if not three, generational advances in computing capability. The answer is simple-we adapt for the good of the soldier.
Another JV tactical army redesign process outcome is in the Army's approach to the Reserve Component (RC). RC integration has always been key to the nation's victories. The relationship has ebbed and flowed over the years. The RC's significant importance to the Army's new design is highlighted by the fact that there are several hundred Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers embedded in the design. They are not fillers or delayed-arrival reinforcements. They are part and parcel of the division and should deploy with the division, if and when it is summoned to a contingency. This implies a need for change in RC access. Presidential Select Reserve Call-up (PSRC) does not allow for small-scale (several hundred) mobilization. Yet Army leadership is committed to these RC soldiers being part of the division in all of its activities. A JV outcome suggests changes to the legislation governing PSRC are in order. Likewise, changes to the way the RC trains and mobilizes are due in this new relationship. Active Component division leaders must take a much more proactive role in the preparation of their RC division members. The ultimate goal is to reinforce all of the "good news" stories that emerged from RC readiness during Operation Desert Storm and eliminate any memory of the bad news.
We have a new heavy division design. We have identified and documented the need for change in regulations, doctrine and legislation. We have also created new environments that enable future change and evolution, and these are just some of the major outcomes from JV.
The JV Process does not end here. Remember, the initial charter from Sullivan was to redesign the tactical Army. Only the heavy portion of the Army is done. The light divisions, including air assault and airborne, remain undone. Future AWEs will address these organizations' unique needs and operating environments. Consequent redesign, as appropriate, will be done over the next two years.
Likewise, the Army is looking at other types of forces. It is an oversimplification to state that heavy forces are extremely lethal but slow to arrive in a distant theater, while light forces are faster to arrive but lack lethality. Still, in the broadest sense, it is accurate and suggests a need for middle weight forces-forces that can arrive sooner than heavy, but be more lethal upon arrival than the light. Future experimentation will look at those requirements and organizational designs.
Force XXI and Joint Venture is a process, product and program-a vehicle for change. Likewise, it is a frenzied collaboration by dedicated professionals trying to get new capabilities into the warfighters' hands sooner. JV is something that the entire Army can take pride in, for it has produced what it was told to do-a new Army! MR
1. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Inc.,
Springfield, Massachusetts), 1198.
2. GEN William W. Hartzog and LTC James G. Diehl, "Building the 21st-Century Heavy Division," Military Review (March-April 1998).
Colonel Albert F. Turner Jr. is director, Joint Venture, deputy chief of staff for Combat Development, Headquarters US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He received an B.S. from the US Military Academy and an M.A. from Webster University. He is a US Naval War College (NWC) graduate and received an M.M.A.S. from the US Army Command and General Staff College. He has served in a variety of command and staff positions in the Continental United States, including commander, 3d Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Army fellow, NWC, Newport, Rhode Island.