Honing One Vision Of Joint

August 2001
By Maryann Lawlor
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Military explores integrated command and control model.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command is examining the concept of permanent joint force headquarters units that would integrate the military disciplines involved in planning and executing operations. The headquarters could also be the focal point for drawing together the assets of various government agencies. Military leaders believe this could be a new step in the evolution of military affairs.

Although the service branches have combined their might in all recent missions, joint task forces continue to be ad hoc organizations. By establishing standing joint warfighting staffs, military experts believe a greater understanding of the battlespace could be achieved that would support rapid decisive operations. The concept’s success heavily depends on advances in information technology in the coming years.

As currently envisioned, a joint force headquarters (JFHQ) would consist of approximately 50 people. One headquarters would be assigned to each unified command within the commander in chief’s (CINC’s) staff, so that its members would become familiar with the specific issues and conditions of the area of responsibility.

The JFHQ would be constantly vigilant of activity in a region, work that is currently being done by the CINC’s staff. It would focus this information for the CINC by conducting an operational net assessment (ONA), which is a dynamic analysis of the enemy’s total war-making capability. ONAs look at an adversary as a system of systems. They analyze not only warfighting capabilities but also the political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, information and other systems that give the enemy’s warfighting system its strength. Armed with this information, the JFHQ’s first priority would be to recommend measures that could prevent a crisis.

If these efforts fail and a crisis occurs, the JFHQ would augment the activity of the command by supporting the CINC. As it exists today, the concept does not include the JFHQ commanding or controlling the operation.

Although the majority of this staff would be military, representatives from other government agencies, such as the U.S. State Department and intelligence organizations, could be assigned to the headquarters as permanent members or could be on call for specific missions.

The core staff is likely to remain the same. However, because humanitarian operations may require different types of expertise than military operations, off-site specialists would be considered part of the headquarters staff. A pre-established communications infrastructure would allow these experts to contribute their input without necessarily traveling to the operation’s location.

The notion of a JFHQ was one focus of Unified Vision 2001 (UV 01), an experiment conducted by the Joint Experiment Directorate (J-9), U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia.

According to Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC (Ret.), senior mentor at JFCOM’s Joint Warfighting Center and former commander in chief of U.S. Southern Command, one goal of a permanent JFHQ would be to address a number of shortcomings of the spontaneous organizations. Gen. Wilhelm acted as the joint forces commander for UV 01.

“The most frequently voiced criticism of joint force task operations is their ad hoc nature. Headquarters are drawn together on the dawn of a crisis. These people have not worked closely before. They bring a well-developed skill set, but not as a team because they haven’t worked together enough. In an attempt to address this criticism and support rapid decisive operations and effects-based operations, the Joint Forces Command has put together the concept of a joint force headquarters. It is just a concept at this time,” Gen. Wilhelm explains.

As designed for UV 01, the JFHQ differed from former joint task force headquarters in several ways. Personnel had been working together for several months prior to meeting in Suffolk, Virginia, for the experiment. They represented a broad range of functions and expertise, including logistics and intelligence as well as information, aerospace, maritime and land operations.

The single biggest difference was its organization. Today’s formation of fighting forces dates back to the late 18th century, the Napoleonic staff model. It was structured through functional lines as vertical pipes, the general explains. “The JFHQ was not organized this way. It was a fully integrated staff.” While the operations group focused on the situation at hand, the plans group concentrated on future operations, continuing to use a combination of the various functional specialties.

This approach resulted in a number of benefits, Gen. Wilhelm maintains. Planning processes transpired much quicker. Using the old model, each sector would examine the operations it had to conduct then meet to determine how best to integrate their role. Because the new model features an integrated staff, this activity could be done simultaneously. “So in significant ways, this staff operated differently,” the general recounts.

Col. Stephen E. Runals, USA (Ret.), chief of plans for the JFHQ experimental, J-9, JFCOM, points out that a revision of how the military operates is necessary. “We’re transforming because the world has changed around us. The threat is more sophisticated. The enemy is beginning to use the technology and integrating unconventional weapons in a more unconventional way than in the past. We also know that information technology is so prevalent that we have to use it.

“The threats have changed and the technology has changed, so if we want to be able to command and control a range of operations, we have to change our concept. The JFHQ is part of this. It is designed to operate across the full range of operations from humanitarian to something just short of a major war. The question is how do we organize a staff? How do we use the tools?” the colonel says.

The JFHQ concept is based on possessing a better understanding of an adversary. According to Col. Runals, technology and access to information from other agencies give military leaders the knowledge they need to identify what allows an enemy to make war as well as the capabilities and will to fight. With this data pulled together in a single headquarters, commanders will be able to apply the information more precisely. “We can’t eliminate the fog of war, but we can cut through it better,” the colonel proposes. In addition, because the troops will understand the commander’s intent in an operation, they will be self-synchronized. Operations would be commander-centric, he adds.

The UV 01 experiment examined a high-end, small-scale contingency that had the potential to escalate to a major theater of war. It was based on a real-world military threat for which the military has realistic databases to support an ONA. Robust modeling and simulation technologies provided the scenarios. One system offered near-real-time information and another supplied faster than real-time data. The latter demonstrated projected outcomes based on current activities and likely responses.

UV 01’s JFHQ consisted of four cells: plans, operations, information management and the command group. The information management cell, which comprised two people, moved information around the JFHQ. In reviewing this approach, evaluators determined that a JFHQ structure should merge this unit into an information security group that would include intelligence, information specialists, and command and control personnel. “The assertion is that information superiority at the organizational level has to be as powerful as the operations group,” Gen. Wilhelm reports. Information operations will be a critical factor in future missions, he adds.

 Col. Runals agrees with Gen. Wilhelm that one of the primary lessons learned through UV 01 was that collaboration is critical to reducing the time between assessing information and acting on it. Because everyone is reviewing the same information simultaneously, each sector can immediately determine its role in an action. This ability cuts the decision-making and preparation time in half, the colonel says.

Although testing the technology was not a goal of the experiment, participants did determine that the collaborative tools they were using did not meet the requirements of a JFHQ. Applications sharing was not at the level the group needed, and documents could not be updated in real time, Col. Runals relates.

Despite this shortcoming, Gen. Wilhelm still contends that technology tools are the stimulator for a JFHQ concept. “Being able to communicate with people in real time is making things possible today that were not possible five years, two years, one year or even six months ago,” he offers.

The colonel also points out that access to other government agencies’ expertise also will impact the overall capabilities of a joint task force. UV 01 featured representatives from several organizations outside the military. In some cases, personnel from the agencies were on hand; in others, military personnel played the part of agency personnel, contributing the information that would be available from the organization. Nonmilitary agencies included the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. It is clear that adversaries use all available resources, the colonel points out, so the United States should do the same.

Although the goal is to have a JFHQ up and running within the next 10 years, a deadline has not been set. In fact, further experimentation may indicate that the concept is invalid. Even if this is the outcome, the experiment still would be considered a success because the point of experimentation is to determine whether a concept would work prior to introducing it in the field, Col. Runals offers.

Gen. Wilhelm suggests that if further experimentation demonstrates that JFHQ units should be formed, establishing them will not be easy. “We will have to spend a lot of time in classrooms learning how to apply the concept to the traditional model. So, if this becomes a model for command and control, it will change the way we charge our leaders and their subordinates,” the general admits.

Although countries other than the United States do not currently have JFHQ organizations, Gen. Wilhelm relates that the United Kingdom has a permanent joint headquarters that is conceptually very close to the United States’ model. As U.S. organizations explore the JFHQ concept, experiences are being shared between the two nations, he says.

Many of the lessons learned during UV 01 will be further explored during Millennium Challenge 2002, a major joint integrating experiment. The event will take place in July and August of next year and is part of a series of joint experiments that are examining various aspects of the rapid decisive operations warfighting concept.

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