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Working Out at the JIIM: Embracing the Commercial Sector as First Among Equals

Much of our communication about complex life experiences (including economics, wars, famine, and so on) is based on the use of metaphors. For example, military professionals tend to borrow meanings from other knowledge communities. (For a discussion on the prominence of metaphor in our day-to-day language, see my article, “Reflection on Metaphors We Are Led By,” in the November–December 2008 issue of Military Review.)

We also tend to expand meanings for old terms and invent new words when faced with complex and novel situations. This tendency to create“neologisms” is especially common in the military profession. [A neologism is a new word that is in the process of being accepted into mainstream language or a new meaning for an old word.]

In a nutshell, I find that other communities borrow words from the military community (like “strategy,” “logistics,” and “tactics”) while those of us in the military community borrow terms from others (such as “enterprise,” “center of gravity,” “operations,” “systems,” and so on). It is important that we remember that these words constitute analogous reasoning as we remain professionally aware of the inadequacy of complete meaning always present in them. Nevertheless, metaphors are necessary to enable otherwise disparate sectors to communicate meaning across the boundaries that separate them.

Keeping in mind the importance of metaphors in our professional discourse, my purpose for this short article is to focus on the military community’s fondness for a particular neologism: “JIIM” (pronounced “gym”). Now part of our lingo, JIIM refers to the integration of joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational organizations and provides context for their associated activities.

I believe that we, as professional military logisticians, should call for an expanded view of JIIM that includes the commercial sector. As a result, this neologism should become “JIIM–C” (pronounced “gym-see”), referring to our continued integration of and interdependence with industry in military logistics. The JIIM–C construct builds a conceptual linkage that recognizes how the industrial base and the forms of theater contracting are vital to achieving the desirable unity of effort. In short, the joint force’s requirement to conduct the full range of military operations (ROMO) or the Army’s corollary of full spectrum operations (FSO) demand this addition of the “–C.”

Friendly governments and nongovernmental organizations can no longer prepare, plan, or execute significant ROMO or FSO without the intimate involvement of the commercial sector. The evidence supporting this observation is clear. The Army has not deployed into conflicts without the use of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program since the early 1990s. The number of contractor personnel supporting coalition operations in Iraq now exceeds the number of uniformed military personnel. One of the largest portions of U.S. Government discretionary spending goes toward buying materiel and services to support complex operations, both overseas and domestic. The commercial sector is a vital ingredient to success and needs to be acknowledged as such.

One of the implications of JIIM–C, as with any of the interorganizational seams of the other JIIM categories, is that we need a well-developed body of professionals (from all sectors) to make the integration of support work better. The “boundary spanners” (note the metaphor!) include procurement officers, officers who train with industry, and business people who find ways to interact with military organizations and other actors in the larger JIIM–C network community. These boundary spanners are essential to developing unity of effort. They must not only represent their own professions and markets; they also must practice dialoging, collaborating, and participating in decisionmaking even before complex operations emerge.

Empowered by rapid improvements in communications technology, the military logistician’s charter
(as it always has been) is to exercise leadership in influencing others in a more holistic community to better integrate support operations. The addition of the “C” to JIIM should be interpreted as adding a sector that is primus inter pares (first among equals) in our professional language in ROMO and FSO. Let us advocate the term “JIIM–C”!

Dr. Christopher R. Paparone is an associate professor in the Army Command and General Staff College’s Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at Fort Lee, Virginia. A retired Army colonel, he has a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.

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