June 1, 2006  

The power & limits of jointness

It has been 20 years since Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act, committing the U.S. armed forces to a vision of “joint warfare” wherein the strands of the separate services were to be woven into a whole stronger than the sum of the parts.

Over two decades, the gospel of jointness has become an unquestioned article of faith for the Pentagon. One of the central tenets of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review was that “everything done in this department must contribute to joint war-fighting capability.”

It does sometimes seem that the practice of joint warfare is the end rather than the means. Much has changed since the law of jointness was passed in 1986, and in this special issue of AFJ, we explore the limits as well as the power of the original idea. Seth Cropsey believes the concept should be redefined to deal with a very different world; Mac Owens warns of the dangers of “strategic monism,” a single strategic doctrine that can be a single point of failure. The American military has made joint warfare its creed — the danger is that it has become dogma, impossible to reform.