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Lt. Gen. Flynn's Media Briefing on the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC)

By As Delivered by Lieutenant General George Flynn, Director, Joint Force Development, Washington D.C.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL GEORGE FLYNN: You’re enthusiastic about Friday. I’m even more enthusiastic about Friday.

COMMANDER SCOTT MCILNAY: OK. Well, first of all, good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m Commander Scott McIlnay, the – a public affairs officer in the chairman’s public affairs office. Thank you for coming this morning. We have the pleasure this morning of speaking with Lieutenant General George Flynn, who’s director of Joint Force Development. He’s here to talk to you on the chairman’s recent release of the Joint Operational Access Concept.

This is an on-the-record round table discussion. I would ask that to start, at least, we limit ourselves to one question, one follow-up until everyone’s had a chance to ask something, and then we’ll open it up some more. I ask that you use your name and affiliation, at least the first time, so the general know who he’s speaking with. And to keep things flowing, I’ll moderate as required.

Sir, the floor is yours.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL GEORGE FLYNN: OK. Briefly, it’s – I’m happy to be here, honest. (Laughter.) The Joint Operational Access Concept really is an important first step, joint first step, in the developing of the capabilities needed to gain and maintain access in any domains, capabilities that are needed for us to implement the strategic direction that was described in the recently released strategic guidance, as a concept – and that’s what we do in J7 in force development, we work on concepts.

The Joint Operational Access Concepts provides the framework to guide force development. In this case, we are focused on the development of Joint Force 2020, which, as you know, is one of the chairman’s top four priorities. More specifically, this concept describes in broad and general terms how the joint force will operate in response to what we see as a growing challenge to our ability to achieve and maintain operational access and freedom of maneuver in the – in the various domains. These challenges are in all domains and range from geographic impediments to access to threats posed by state and – by – potential threats posed by both state and nonstate actors across the globe. And that was – I was promised that I’d keep that one brief. So now, if you have questions, I’m ready.

Yes, ma’am.

Ann Roosevelt: Sir, Ann Roosevelt with Defense Daily. Sir, I had a question for you. Why is it all of a sudden important – why has anti-access, access denial suddenly risen up to become such a big deal when you’ve dealt with it since time began and militaries were organized?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, I think to answer that in two ways, first of all, the recently released strategy calls out the need to develop joint operational access capabilities. And the other thing is, to prepare the – to prepare Joint Force 2020. We see a very complex and uncertain environment, and we believe that one of the key challenges we’re going to have to deal with is how to gain and maintain access across domains. So that’s why it’s important now. It’s all in developing the force that we think that we’ll need in the future to execute the strategy.


Bill Gertz: Bill Gertz, Washington Times. Is this kind of the Army’s answer to the AirSea Battle Concept? And will the Army eventually play in the AirSea Battle Concept office? Or how do you see this jibing with that new –

LT. GEN. FLYNN: OK. The first part of the question is this is – this is the Joint Operational Access Concept. Under the Joint Operational Concept are supporting concepts from various services. AirSea Battle is a supporting concept the joint operational – to the Joint Operational Access Concept. Other concepts that need to be developed – entry operations is a – is a concept that we’d need to support. Littoral operations and sustained land operations are all supporting concepts underneath the joint force. So this is very much focused on what capabilities the joint force needs. And when you read the concept, you will – you will see described, in general terms, 30 operational capabilities that are needed to gain and achieve access. As far as the AirSea Battle offices, the Army does have a representative in the office now, but that’s – again, that’s – as we look at the taxonomy of documents, the Joint Operational Concept and then there are various supporting service concepts.

Yes, ma’am.

Jordana Mishory: Jordana Mishory – with Inside the Pentagon. I was wondering what sort of challenges the joint staff is facing in achieving this, especially in light of the current fiscal environment?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, I think one of the reasons why this was put out after the strategy is this is designed to be a framework that – that guides the development of capabilities. So this could be a tool for you to use – or will be a tool to use to make sure that we’re – have the right priority and the development of capabilities that we think we need in the Joint Force 2020. Again, it’s a guide. And it’s a way to look at the – whether we’re correctly developing joint capabilities, not just service capabilities, to be able to get to where we need.

Jordana Mishory: And a quick follow-up?


Jordana Mishory: Could you provide any specifics of areas that might benefit from this in the upcoming budget, as a result of this new strategy?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I think that’s too early to talk about right now.

Marcus Weisgerber: I’m Marcus Weisgerber with Defense News. My question is kind of building on that, in terms of weapons purchases. Will this be used – the document be used in the requirements process at all or in the acquisition process?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Yeah. Well – yes, it has to be, because we’re calling out – when you take a look in the document, you’ll see 30 capabilities that are needed. Now, how you achieve those capabilities, that could be provided by one service or it could be the collective capability of the joint force. So when you look at the various programs, whether they be material solutions – if you look at nonmaterial solutions being developed, you know, how are we getting to those capabilities? So again, this is a concept that says these are the capabilities we need, and then you’re into the existing force development process is to bring those – to bring those capabilities to reality.

Yes, sir.

Yoichi Kato: Yoichi Kato – with Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Uh-huh.

Yoichi Kato: Yeah, hi. Looking at all those rollouts of the new defense strategic concept and also the air-sea battle, it looks like the concept of air-sea battle is fading. And do you intend to minimize the scope of the air-sea battle in this new document? Because, you know, in this briefing of the standup last – standup of the AirSea Battle Office last November, it was talked about the Army getting on board. But in this concept, it is specifically explained that it is a limited operational concept for Army, Air Force, and Navy. And in the strategic guidance the president put out, air force – air-sea battle is not mentioned at all. So is there an intention to minimize the scope of air-sea battle?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: No, I don’t think there’s an intention to minimize the scope of air-sea battle. What we’re trying to do and articulate in the Joint Concept is to deal with all domains, not just the air and sea domain, but all domains. That’s why I mentioned that we’re talking about the need for other concepts beyond air-sea battle, whether it be entry operations, whether it be littoral operations, whether it be sustained land operations. And there’ll be other concepts. So air-sea battle is not being minimized, but it’s being integrated into what the chairman’s priorities are. And this is the chairman’s concept; his responsibility is joint force capability, not service capabilities. So we take the capabilities that’ll be developed through air-sea battle, and then we need to integrate them into the joint force to get a joint capability to do the cross – domain access challenge that we think we’re going to face.

Yes, ma’am.

Karen Parrish: Karen Parrish from American Forces Press Service, sir. It seems to me that this concept represents an entirely different paradigm for joint operations. Is that a fair assessment? And what are the challenges to the services, in achieving a certain synergy and coordination that the concept specifically requires?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, you really – your question really requires a lot of detail. And go – it can go in many directions. First of all, without question, the environment that we’re going to operate in over the next – up to 2020 is unprecedented. It’s going to be very complex and uncertain. And I know you’ve heard that described that way before.

The other part is we recognize that the true capability to be able to do this is really going to take joint operations to a different level. You know, we’re – you know, one of the things that, when the chairman released the document, we started talking about cross-domain synergy, and everybody said: That’s nothing new. It’s another new buzzword. But it is something that we have to explore in greater detail.

When you talk traditionally – and I’ll take a follow-up because I’m going to go all over the page a little bit on you here for a minute – traditionally, when you used to talk about combined arms, you were normally limiting yourself to the same domain in that you were doing – you were employing different means in that domain. What we’re saying in Joint Operational Access Concept is we’re going to have a multiple domain operations going on that have to be sequenced, all right, in a way that they’ve never been sequenced before. You have your traditional domains that we understand very well, you know, land, sea, air, and space. And you have this new domain, cyber – man-made – that changes all the time, that now has to be thrown into the mix. So that’s another challenge.

The other – the other challenge that you have is we think that this is going to have to be operated at levels lower or coordinated at lowers – lower levels than we ever had to do this before. So that’s a key part of this. And it’s all ideas that have to be explored further when you develop the concept.

So probably longer answer than you wanted. But that’s the big ideas that are behind this right now. And it’s also in tune with the guidance I received from General Dempsey, as the director of joint force development, to take jointness and push it deeper, sooner in our force development process. So again, Joint Operational Access, truly designed to be a joint approach to the wide-ranging access challenges we expect to see.

Karen Parrish: OK. So a quick follow-up. You do see this as a fundamental change for the services, as it is implemented?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I don’t see a fundamental – I don’t – I don’t necessarily see a fundamental change. I’m just saying that we’re going to have to take into account the joint aspects of this sooner so that you can, first of all, achieve the capabilities you need, you know, more effectively, more efficiently, and probably at the best cost that you can and – or – and more affordable.

Yes, sir.

Richard Sisk: Sir, Richard Sisk, War Report online. Can you to speak, sir, to the – to the capabilities, specific capabilities that you’re looking for in terms of hardware – new ships, new planes? And also, how is this different from what we’re doing already? And I got to ask, isn’t all this aimed at China?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: On the first question, on the capabilities, the document describes general capabilities and does not go into platforms or tactics, techniques, procedures. It doesn’t do that. It’s designed to guide those resourcing processes. So if you’re going to bring a capability that goes through the normal joint force development or resourcing processes, you – we should take a look at whether it’s supporting the development, those 30 capabilities outlined in the – in the document.

And then, your second part was –

Richard Sisk: How is this different from what we’re already doing?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, I think what’s different is this issue of the – of the need to synchronize across domains and the speed at which we’re going to have to be able to do synchronization across all those domains. You know, the way of warfare – how we traditionally looked it right now is really going to become more complex when we’ve added this new domain, especially cyber. So this is something that we’re going to have to do, and we’re going to have explore the – both the materiel and the nonmateriel solutions to be able to let us effectively operate in that.

And if you look at the document, the Joint Operational Access was not focused on any specific threat. What it was focused on was developing those capabilities that we think we would need to have to maintain freedom of – freedom of action and freedom of maneuver across anything anticipated between now and when we finish development of Joint Force 2020. I mean, you know, we’re – you want to stay away in force development right now with a single focus or a single scope effort, because if you get – if you guess the challenge wrong, you know, you need to be able to also have a balanced force that’s adaptable to the unexpected.

So you want to have – if you take a look at those capabilities, 30 capabilities, you know, everything is in there from engaging, to build a partnership, to be able to do it, to be able to create basing when you need it, to actually, you know, designing a – specific force development capabilities and doctrinal procedures to deal with, you know, a more defined threat. So we’re trying to maintain, you know, a capability that, again, gives us the military options that we may need, you know, whether they be expected or unexpected challenges.

Yes, sir.

Bill Gertz: I wanted to, again, focus on Asia. A lot of people, in talking – senior military, in talking about the air-sea battle, have said – and the administration has talked about a pivot to Asia, as we draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan. And some have even said that we don’t foresee a large-scale ground operations in the future. Is that a factor in this new thing? I –

LT. GEN. FLYNN: And I think that goes to what I was saying about not being threat- or scenario-specific. You want a joint force that has balanced capabilities, that has the – that is able to deal with what you expect is going to happen, and, equally as important, that you can deal with what the unexpected. So we’re – we are looking – if you look at those capabilities, by not being threat-specific, but more dealing with the challenge of having to gain access across the wide range of operations. You know, what we’re trying to do is, again, guard against the unexpected.

Bill Gertz: And could I follow up? What – I’m trying to get a sense of what – how this will change U.S. military forces in 2020. Will they look different? Will there be less ground forces, more naval forces, more air forces or drones?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Speaking from where I sit, in developing of the joint force, I think that this is going to force more joint integration of capabilities. I mean, I think that, you know, earlier on maybe in the development process, we’re going to have to consider how this fits in the – in the joint picture, rather than doing it later. I think this will force us to go joint earlier than maybe would – we would have in the past.

Ann Roosevelt: Sir, I had a question about – right now, I’m not sure if it’s still operationally valid – the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, which Admiral Mullen put together.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Right.

Q: Now, do you see this JOAC as informing a new version of the CCJO, or are you looking for a broader picture? Because it seems to me, if you’re looking only at anti-access, once you gain access, the forces – joint forces – have to maybe do something. (Chuckles.) And so I wondered where you’ll see a more balanced, all-around picture.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, one – you must be in my office, because one of the things that we’re working on –

Ann Roosevelt: (Chuckles). Not yet.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: -- is the – we just completed in January, this month, we just completed the review of the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, which, as you know, was written three years ago. And what we’re doing now is we’re undertaking a revision of that document, and we’re on a pretty aggressive timeline to be able to do that. So that is designed, if you will, in this hierarchy of documents, to take this strategy and be a bridging document of – from strategy to the further development of the joint doctrine that we developed in that.

So this – the JOAC, when it was written, took into account the existing CCJO, because the JOAC just wasn’t written in the last three months. It’s been under development for quite some time. And it was informed by experimentation that all – it went back to fiscal year ‘10. So this is has been an ongoing effort informed by existing publications. But also, we waited until the strategy review was completed to make sure it was synced with that. As we now look at the CCJO, we will then, you know, make sure that once we finish that product – we may have to go back and see if we need to make any changes to the JOAC. But right now I wouldn’t see any because I think the ideas that we worked on in the JOAC are the same ideas that we may update in the CCJO.

Ann Roosevelt: Will you be updating the joint operational environment that JFCOM used to do, that maybe now falls under your purview?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, one of the things that came up in the review of the CCJO is that if you liked the joint operating environment of yesterday and today, you’re going to like the joint operational environment of tomorrow, because we’re not seeing a lot of change in the joint operational environment. But we’ll deal with some of the specifics as – if we need to make any major changes, we’ll deal with that as we’re working the CCJO review and rewrite.

Ann Roosevelt: And just another – do you have a time frame for when you’ll be finished and maybe make available the new CCJO?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: It’s going to take us a couple of months. I don’t want to be specific because I don’t want to put the marker down – then I’m going to have to actually get it done by that time. But I have a good idea from the chairman on when I’m supposed to have it by.

Ann Roosevelt: (Laughs.) Thank you.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Yes, sir.

Yoichi Kato: Sir, what does this mean to the allies, friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific, like Japan and Australia? What kind of difference do you want those countries to make in terms of roles and mission capability to work with the United States forces?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I think by laying out what capabilities we desire in operational access, that gives us a chance to work with partners to make sure that the capabilities, you know, take into account partnership relationships and also capability development.

Bill Gertz: Do you know if you’re going to put out another one of those joint operating environment reports? Is one coming out?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Yeah, I’m not sure of that right now, just because, you know, when we looked at the operating environment, we didn’t see a lot of change in the operating environment. But that’s not a final answer yet. We still have to – have to take the results of what we’ve done up to the chairman to get his guidance.

Ann Rosevelt: Could I ask another question? I was curious about the joint functions, joint force functions you talk about in the JOAC. And you sort of lay out the capabilities you want underneath those functions.

What about some of the things that might be done sooner than Joint Force 2020? I know in command and control you said something about, you needed to go down to the lowest level. And many of the services, including the Marines are and the Army are looking at connecting, say, soldiers and Marines to a large net. And that’s likely to be done before 2020. So how does that work?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Right. Well, I don’t – I think getting to 2020 – it’s going to bring things online gradually to 2020. It’s not going to be – we’re aiming to have this – you know, we’re defining Joint Force 2020 as what realistic capabilities do we need to be developing between now and 2020 based on the environment?

So the command and control piece is a key – is a key part of that, of the capabilities, and how you do that. And as you talk about being able to do things lower, it goes to your question about networking – is networking the force to be able to do this is going to be a key part of doing that. And as you can – as you, obviously, by the questions you ask, you can see that we’re looking at, how do you network to do this lower?

The other thing that we’re looking at in this concept, as we move forward, is the concept of mission command, and how do we integrate that into joint doctrine. So those are all the big ideas that we’re trying to pull together in this.

Yes, sir?

Luis Martinez (ABC): Yeah, actually, it’s kind of – it’s kind of a follow-up to her question, because I was going to ask: in practical matters, the goal being 2020, is this going to be a phased-in rollout of this, or is this more just going to be like a hard start?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I think more phased than a hard start. I think different capabilities, whether they be a material capability or a nonmaterial solution to this – you know, as we develop them, we’ll be integrating them into joint force.

Luis Martinez (ABC): Over what timeline do you think that you’ll actually see the first portions of that?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I think you could start seeing, you know, capabilities now being integrated in new ways. We’re already doing some – you know, one of the things when you get a concept is, you start doing experiments. You start wargaming potential solutions. So depending on how those experiments and how those ongoing war games go, you know, that will be – that will determine when you actually have a capability that you can bring to bear.

Luis Martinez (ABC): And then you’re talking about tabletop sessions.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: You’re going to have tabletops. You know, we do combatant command-level exercises, so we may be trying out ideas. It’s all part of the larger force development process.

Yes, ma’am?

Jordana Mishory: Can you provide any examples of these war games or experiments that you’re doing? And also, where do you see the first capabilities using what was in this document?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I don’t – I can’t give you where one of the first capabilities, but as we take the concepts and as we – you know, we potentially get to solutions, you know, one of the things, for example, that we do in force development is we always have ongoing experimentation. You know, we have – we have projects that we work on every year. So this will all just be included in our – in our program of work for the coming year.

Richard Sisk: Sir, some of the allies are already a little bit nervous about this whole joint concept and the much talked about pivot to Asia. Last week the ambassador of Singapore, at a thing with Admiral Brainard – and she said she was worried that this whole thing might be too robust – her terms. And the question is, what – are you taking that into – are you taking the concerns of the allies into what you’re developing here, and particularly Japan, South Korea, others, about how you’re going to go about this jointness?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: I think if you look at what we’re doing in force development, this, again – joint operational access is not threat- or country-specific. I mean, if you go through the document, you will not see mention of a specific threat country. It just tries to bring capabilities to bear or develop capabilities that we think we’re going to need to operate in. And again, I’m not getting into the – to the – to any specifics on threats. This is more based on planning that we think to be prepared for what we see as potential challenges in the future.

Karen Parrish: Sir, the three things that sort of seem related to me in this concept: It emphasizes speed. It emphasizes the ability – the need to shut down an enemy’s cyber and space capability. And it identifies one of the major risks as debilitating complexity. So you’re operating in a much-expanded space, and in a compressed time frame, with more services. How do you avoid debilitating complexity?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: And you just hit on the key points there is – when we look at the environment and the challenges of the future. And going back to your question about, you know, what’s different in the CCJO, one of the topics that was not covered in the 2009 version of the CCJO was the speed at which we would have to deal with things. So part of how we move forward here is the speed at which you’re going to have to operate to deal with the challenges.

The other part is – and again, we don’t have the answer yet; this is a framework document to guide capability development – is how do you tackle those issues? It’s really easy to say, I have a concept. I have to be able to operate fast and I have to be able to do this at levels lower than we ever had before, right? So will I be able to field that tomorrow? No.

It’s – but what we’re doing is identifying the challenges, identifying, in general terms, the capabilities, so that we can get to where we think we need to be to be able to operate at speed, to be able to integrate at lower levels, and to be able to, you know, do that in a joint context. And again, it’s a guide to the services, and it’s a guide to the services as well as a guide to the joint force.

Bill Gertz: Can you go into some of the challenges – anti-ship ballistic missiles, cyber warfare, submarines?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: All of the above. You know, mines, missiles, cyber threats, but complicated by the fact that a lot of those capabilities could be available to nontraditional threats, just because of the proliferation of technology.

So that is why this document is not so much threat-specific as it is to deal with – you could have state actors – or non – excuse me, you could have nonstate actors today that may not have the, you know, a state capacity for high technology, but they may still possess, you know, high technology that would – that would need a capability to be able to deal with it. So again, that’s why it’s important that as we – as we continue the force development, that we don’t – that we don’t get myopic on specific threats.

Yes, sir?

Yoichi Kato: Sir, it says that this is an overriding concept under which there are other concepts, such as AirSea Battle.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Right.

Yoichi Kato: Do you plan to build, create other concepts, other than the AirSea Battle?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Right. Entry operations would be one, littoral operations would be another, and sustained land operations would be another example. And I think they’re laid out in the concept somewhere, as those are – those may not be the only examples. There may be others. But, you know, but again, the concepts nested underneath it to support the overall goal of the capability development.

Yoichi Kato: How do they correlate with each other under those – under this umbrella concept?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: How do we –

Yoichi Kato: How do you establish the relationship? How do they correlate with each other? Don’t they –

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Well, one of the ways – the way we integrate them is by using the established joint force development processes. You know, so we’re still going to have to use the joint capabilities, the JCIDS process. We’re still going to have to use the JROC process, all of those things, to be able to do it.

CMDR. MCILNAY: OK, thanks, ladies and gentlemen.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: Any other – oh, all right –

CMDR. MCILNAY: All right, go ahead.

Ann Roosevelt: I mean, there’s always one more question.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: OK, one more.

Ann Roosevelt: I was curious, sir: We’ve talked about, sort of, material things. But when you talk about the speed of integrating at lower levels, you’re also talking about training, training the soldiers or Marines or sailors at the lowest level, and also the leaders. And so how will this inform how they’re trained?

LT. GEN. FLYNN: OK. One of the – again, one the taskings I got from General Dempsey is the development of our future leaders as part of the training and education. That goes back to the mission command piece. The mission command piece is really the ability to function on intent. So how do you develop leaders to do that? How do you – how do you continue to challenge a force that for the last 10 years has been challenged, but how do you bring them into new challenges?

So leader development is going to be a key part of the capability development process – the ability to make those quick decisions. You know, one of the challenges we have to deal with in the speed of operations is the volume of information that you have to deal with. And then how do you – how do you make sure that you are able to see the decision that you have to make at the speed that you have to make it, and don’t get paralysis by how much information that, you know, could be thrown at you?

So those are – you know, when you look at the new environment and the challenges that we have in force development, I’m not trying to overstate this. It is going to be complex. There is going to be unprecedented volumes of information that we have to deal with, and the pace that we have to do this is going to be important.

And you’re going to get material solutions to help you deal with that, but equally as important is the human factor in this. Are we going to develop the leaders? You know, how do you develop the leaders to be able to effectively operate in this role? And what are the new ways to be able to do that? So that’s another challenge for joint force development. And I – and it’s one that also is a priority for the chairman.

Q: Thank you.

CDR MCILNAY: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

LT. GEN. FLYNN: OK, thank you very much.

CDR MCILNAY: If you have follow-up questions, I have some business cards over here in the corner. Feel free to contact me.