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American Forces Press Service

New Technologies, Approaches Enhance CENTCOM Effectiveness

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, March 29, 2005 U.S. Central Command is posturing itself for a long war on terror, introducing efficiencies and new areas of focus to help ensure long-term success, the command’s chief of staff told the American Forces Press Service.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Castellaw, speaking from CENTCOM’s forward headquarters here, said advanced technology and new organizational approaches are improving the command’s efficiency and effectiveness.

For example, gone are the days when staff packages stacked up in in-boxes, awaiting action. Now, CENTCOM operates with “paperless staffing,” processing staff documents via email, Castellaw said.

The command also is considering a cross-functional organization for its headquarters, to replace what Castellaw called the “Napoleonic” J-1, J-2, J-3 organizational structure. This system, he explained, would pool similar capabilities. All planners, for example, would be organized into one entity, either physically or virtually, rather than being spread throughout the headquarters.

Castellaw said there’s concrete proof the structure works; Multinational Force Iraq, established last June and consisting of more than 180,000 troops from 30 coalition nations, is demonstrating its effectiveness on a daily basis, he noted.

While looking at ways to improve internal effectiveness, CENTCOM also is beefing up its outreach efforts. There’s a strong emphasis on increasing strategic communications to ensure people within the region understand U.S. and coalition intentions — something Castellaw called critical to long-term success.

“Part of being successful is to make sure people understand why we’re here,” he said. “We need to be more effective in making sure they understand what we’re doing and what underpins our objectives. And that’s supporting free and democratic countries in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Facing the challenges and milestones ahead — the continued buildup of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s security forces and economic progress and reconstruction, among them — Castellaw said it’s critical that CENTCOM prepares for “a long task” in the global war on terror.

It’s a task he said demands “dedication and tenacity” to maintain focus over the long haul. “Americans have a very limited patience,” he said. “But it’s clear that (the war on terror) is going to be a long war — years.”

The challenge, Castellaw said, is to “position ourselves and make sure we pace ourselves” and “to make sure the organization is optimized for the enduring missions here.”

CENTCOM’s forward headquarters here, established just before the conflict in Iraq began, provides vital support for a command with an area of responsibility that stretches from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, he said.

“This is a situational awareness generator” for Army Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM’s commander, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander, who alternate duty between MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and here, Castellaw said.

With a staff here that fluctuates between 200 and 600 people, Camp As Sayliyah serves as a “lilypad” for their frequent trips throughout the region to assess operations and progress firsthand.

And the signs of success are clear, he said, from national elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq to headway the two countries are making in establishing democratic governments.

At the same time, Castellaw said, there’s equally encouraging news at Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, which supports counterterrorism operations to prevent al Qaeda and other associated terrorist groups from establishing footholds in the region.

“Just the fact that you don’t hear much about them is a tremendous testament to their success,” Castellaw said.

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