A rapidly changing world presents an array of new threats and challenges to U.S. national security, Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, deputy commander for U.S. Forces Command, based at Norfolk, Va., told attendees at the annual C4ISR Journal Integration Conference held in Arlington, Va.
C4ISR is military shorthand for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“To look at the world that we’re in right now we’re in constant conflict. … As we see the future, that leader is going to be critical,” Harward said.
Space-based and aerial sensor equipment, part of the military’s C4ISR infrastructure, provides joint commanders added sets of “eyes” used to survey the battle space, Harward said. Yet, he added, those same commanders must be able to understand, manage and act on the information they’re receiving.
Joint Forces Command is “focused, first and foremost, on the leader,” the admiral said. Consequently, he added, the computerized C4ISR system should now be considered leader-centric instead of network-centric.
The command’s current joint operating environment report, which predicts potential threats to U.S. national security in the years ahead, foresees a period of persistent conflict, Harward said. It also predicts global instability, potential adversaries using a combination of conventional and irregular tactics to fight a hybrid-style war, increasing access to weapons of mass destruction, the rise of regional state and nonstate actors, and the unpredictability of security threats.
Although the U.S. military still must be prepared to fight and win large conventional-warfare conflicts, Harward said, it also must “be able to deal with this irregular warfare,” including emerging hybrid threats.
Another future threat, Harward said, involves a potential enemy’s use of cyber warfare to take down the U.S. military’s computerized communications and sensor network. Therefore, Harward urged the development of more robust computer security systems to protect space, aerial- and ground-based communications systems and sensors.
The companion piece for the report is known as the Capstone concept for joint operations, which represents Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s vision for how the joint force will operate in the future. Capstone provides proposed solutions to envisioned security threats presented in the joint operating environment report.
Input from that report influences the Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated report prepared every four years that also seeks to predict future threats while balancing military capabilities to confront them.
According to the joint operating environment report, Harward said, U.S. military leaders must be prepared to confront foes who fight either conventionally or irregularly, or employ a combination of the two.
“And, so the C4ISR system we grow for the future needs to dominate both and all of those environments,” Harward said.
It’s also important to learn from irregular warfare battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions, Harward said, in training future leaders “to make sure we better understand the capabilities and skills they need.”
Harward, who has a special operations background, was nominated earlier this month by President Barack Obama for reappointment to vice admiral and directed to take command of the newly created Joint Task Force 435 to revamp U.S. detention policies in Afghanistan. Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber, present commander of U.S. Army South based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is nominated for promotion to lieutenant general, and he is slated to take Harward’s place at Joint Forces Command.