Defense Media Network

What Could Happen: USJFCOM’s New “Speculative” Vision of the Future”

United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has just released its “Joint Operating Environment” (JOE) for 2010, containing a number of changes from the preceding “JOE 2008” edition.

USJFCOM Chief of Staff, Air Force Maj. Gen. David Edgington, highlighted several aspects of the new document during a media conference marking its release.

Characterizing the document as a “speculative” look at “potential futures” that might confront joint force commanders, Edgington explained, “Encouraging strategic dialogue is really our goal. And, more importantly to us, I’ve had a couple of people bring up questions about who is our intended audience. Well, the audience is essentially anybody who can read it. Certainly we’re looking at decision makers and people who have responsibilities as far as planning. But if there was a specific focus we would have to narrow it down to, it is the strategic regional combatant commanders of the military and those who are preparing for future roles to take over those command responsibilities, so that we can help stimulate that intellectual rigor to look at what they need to do to prepare their forces and prepare their plans to handle the challenges globally that our nation has to get involved in.”

In addressing that target audience, “JOE 10” builds on a perspective of constants (nature of war, nature of change, etc.).

From there, it takes speculative looks across a range of “trends influencing the world’s security.” These include demographics, globalization, economics, energy, food, water, climate change and natural disasters, pandemics, cyber, and space.

Readers are then confronted with “the contextual world,” initially across specific regions and then across topics ranging from “weak and failing states” to “the battle of narratives.”

“The battle of the narratives,” for example, explains that “Modern wars are fought in more than simply the physical elements of the battlefield. Among the most important of these are the media in which the ‘battle of narratives’ will occur. Our enemies have already recognized that perception is as important to their successes as the actual events.”

Russia–Georgia War

A Russian BMP-2 of the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District in South Ossetia during the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. The internet and mass media has meant that countries can shape the narrative at a fast pace. Photo by Yana Amelina

“For terrorists, the Internet and mass media have become forums for achieving their political aims,” it adds. “Sophisticated terrorists emphasize the importance of integrating combat activities (terrorist attacks) into a coherent strategic communication program. Radical groups are not the only ones who understand the importance of dominating the media message. Russia synchronized military operations with a media offensive during its invasion of Georgia. Within days of the invasion, a small coterie of Russians, well known in the West, was placing editorials in major newspapers in the United States and Europe. The battle of narratives must involve a sophisticated understanding of the enemy and how he will attempt to influence the perceptions not only of his followers, but the global community. His efforts will involve deception, sophisticated attempts to spin events, and outright lies…”

With the speculative “contextual world,” established JOE 10 then moves through sections devoted to “the implications for the joint forces” and “future opportunities” before offering some concluding thoughts.

Asked about significant trend and implication differences between JOE 08 and the new JOE 10, Edgington said, “Clearly, our focus on the economic downturn globally, not withstanding the ‘close to crisis’ situation that it has put our own country in, is something alarming to us – not from trying to influence the political way ahead but certainly the implications for global security and the implications to our future commanders on what that they can potentially expect for forces; developmental and the budget available for that.”

In addition he also highlighted maturing discussions on the cyber threat and other technological developments.

Offering a final thought, Edgington related a frequent observation made by the USJFCOM Commander, Gen. James Mattis.

“He says, ‘We will not get this 100 percent right. There’s no question. We don’t think we have it 100 percent right. But what we as a nation and we as a responsible command can not afford to do is get it 100 percent wrong, because we haven’t taken the time and had the discipline to look at what could happen.’ So this informs our folks of what the possibilities are.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...