Joint Task Forces Receive Dynamic Support

December 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman and Maryann Lawlor
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U.S. soldiers with Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa train in Djibouti. Building and deploying a joint task effectively and rapidly may become easier with the establishment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC).
Organization consolidates capabilities to respond to rapid deployments.

Rapidly deploying U.S. forces now can tap expertise directly related to their hastily assigned missions from a new organization formed to address the deployment needs of joint task forces. The group can bring in experts ranging from public affairs specialists to intelligence officers.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, recently assembled several existing organizations so that key support needs of joint task forces (JTFs) can be addressed by a single entity. The result is JFCOM’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, or JECC.

The JECC is designed to provide one-stop shopping for a JTF that is stood up to confront a crisis. The organization brings several functions under one umbrella to address the dynamic challenges facing modern military operations, whether warfighting or humanitarian. It comprises capability modules that can be tailored to a JTF’s specific needs. Seven deployable modules focus expertise for operations, knowledge management and information superiority, plans and logistics.

“We realized, as a joint community, that we had to do something to help service commanders and service staff rapidly take on a joint task force mission capability,” says Brig. Gen. William D. Beydler, USMC, the commander of the JECC. He emphasizes that he serves as the single request point for all the needs of a service headquarters that is standing up and taking on a JTF responsibility.

“People tell us what they want, we show them a menu, and they can order what they want—and it is my responsibility to ensure that it is ready and deployable and can meet the deployment timelines that we have specified to be responsive,” he warrants.

To constitute the JECC, planners focused on the capabilities that a service headquarters would need to stand up a JTF rapidly. These include joint staff officers who understand the joint operation planning process; joint communications—which are different from service communications; joint public affairs, which will be an emergent requirement for all JTFs; and a joint intelligence perspective.

Much of the thrust toward the JECC grew out of the Millennium Challenge exercise series, Gen. Beydler notes. This series examined a range of activities that could improve the capabilities of a joint force headquarters and commander.

This new organization is the result of an evolution of the Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ) and its merger with three other elements. The SJFHQ had emerged from experimentation nearly a decade old, and many of its organizational aspects no longer fit the needs of modern warfighting. Gen. Beydler allows that the JFCOM commander, Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, wanted an organization that would be more closely aligned with the command’s Joint Warfighting Center. This would allow forces to take advantage of the center’s observations from its joint training efforts.

Two subordinate commanders served under the SJFHQ leadership, and planners saw the worth of giving the new organization command authorities so that it could execute its mission with those subordinate commanders more efficiently. An internal reorganization focused on making the old SJFHQ more operational and less of a static headquarters with a deployable staff.

The JECC is designed to comprise a range of enabling capabilities. These include the three additional elements that joined the SJFHQ to form the JECC: the Joint Public Affairs Support Element (JPASE), the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and the Intelligence–Quick Reaction Team (I-QRT), which is from the Joint Transformation Command–Intelligence.

Gen. Beydler emphasizes that the new JECC has not lost its standing joint force headquarters capability. Most existing geographic combatant commands have this capability; the JECC maintains that and adds a greater emphasis on all joint enabling capabilities.

“Our focus is more on the range of capabilities we can offer, all of which are enabling and joint,” he declares.

The three elements that joined the SJFHQ to form the JECC bring specific capabilities that are essential to the early operations of a JTF. The JPASE is vital to a JTF that is stood up in an emerging crisis—which defines most JTF standups, the general notes. For example, the many humanitarian missions that are undertaken by JTFs receive extensive media coverage. The JTF’s message must be linked between the goals of the geographic combatant command and the actual activities of the JTF. Planning that activity can be more important than carrying it out, the general points out, and the JPASE can help plan and execute one for a rapidly stood-up JTF.

The I-QRT comprises collection managers and targeteers, the general relates. These people can employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to locate targets precisely and then inform the appropriate people. This is a capability lacking in many service headquarters and combatant commands, he notes, and it must be readily available for those customers. The small I-QRT can be tailored to meet a JTF mission, in some cases using as few as four collection managers and four targeteers.

The JCSE encompasses a high-end joint communications capability at MacDill Air Force Base. It provides command, control, communications and computer support for JTFs and joint special operations task forces. Gen. Beydler describes it as very sophisticated communications that probably are better than what a service commander could support. It can offer nonsecure and secret Internet protocol router network (NIPRNET and SIPRNET) service along with secure videoconferencing and everything over IP communications.

The JCSE is on an alert posture so that it can deploy within hours of notification, and it provides the full capability on arrival, the general notes. A team as small as four experts from any of the services can provide the gear for a standup JTF headquarters.

It can provide any kind of communications that the commander needs with higher, adjacent and subordinate headquarters. “Any kind of communications … for his staff as it forms would be made available by the JCSE, in conjunction with the service headquarters and the geographic combatant command that stood up the JTF,” he emphasizes.

“Rarely is any of this done in isolation from the other capabilities, but [the JCSE] can tie it together, rapidly deployable, in small packages that can go forward and get there right now,” he declares.

The JCSE has been at work well before the consolidation. Over the past few years it supported the international humanitarian assistance effort following an earthquake in Pakistan; it helped rescue and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. Gulf states; and it supported citizen evacuations in Lebanon. The JCSE also supported operation Burnt Frost, in which the U.S. Navy shot down an errant U.S. satellite over the Pacific before it could pose a threat to the public on the ground. More recently, it supplied more than 30 communicators supporting the U.S. Northern Command during this year’s hurricane season. And, it provided public affairs support to the U.S. European Command in relief efforts in Tblisi, Georgia.

“If [the JCSE] are not the leaders in the C2 [command and control] world, they certainly are one of the leaders in the joint aspects of command and control,” the general states.

But the new JECC differs from the SJFHQ of the past with the inclusion of the new capabilities from the three merged organizations. And, the JECC can be proactive in finding and developing the resources necessary for future JTF operations.

The JECC takes advantage of all of the service and garrison tools that are made available to joint planners and operators, the general says. Some of that work is done at the command so that JECC personnel can deploy with the required tool suites comfortably installed on their laptops.

Gen. Beydler explains that the JECC does not develop its own technologies or tools, preferring instead to work with the standard tools that are provided to the joint service forces. The JFCOM J-9 or J-8 directorates typically performs capability development, integration and experimentation. The JECC occasionally works with the directorates as an operational organization, he notes. The JCSE is developing capabilities specific for its own activities.

A capability not part of the original consolidation elements, but equally important in standing, is the JECC’s joint deployable teams, or JDTs. They focus on four critical areas: operations, plans, information superiority, and knowledge management and logistics. These teams deploy to assist JTF commanders in establishing new headquarters for a broad range of missions.

For operations, the teams enhance situational understanding. Their primary responsibilities are in the joint operations center, distributing a commander’s guidance and intent while monitoring and directing the execution of operations and component command tactical actions.

In the area of plans, a JDT provides a mission-tailored planning team that takes advantage of joint planner expertise and an understanding of joint doctrine and best practices. This ensures the integrated employment of land, air, maritime and information capabilities, JFCOM officials say.

For information superiority and knowledge management, a JDT offers an operational advantage derived from the ability to collect, process and disseminate information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s ability to do the same.

In logistics, a deployment team integrates, coordinates and implements joint logistics operations and planning to support joint operations in personnel, sustainment, transportation and strategic mobility activities.

The potential for cyberwar looms larger as network attacks increase, and the ability for the JECC to respond to a cyberattack might lie in the near future. Gen. Beydler allows that the command is discussing whether the JECC should include cyberattack response support as an enabling capability. He notes that several service and non-Defense Department organizations already fill that role. The JECC might play a role in responding to a cyberevent as part of a larger operation in which cyberwarfare plays a role, instead of a situation that is just a stand-alone event.

Gen. Beydler offers that the new organization will benefit from being more closely aligned with the new Joint Force Trainer, the J-7. The JECC will be able to tap into observations and lessons conducted by that organization, and it will share its own operational observations. The JECC’s new command authorities also improve its responsiveness, the general claims. Its new internal organization displays its capabilities openly to JTF commanders, which allows them “to order from the menu.”

For example, a service commander who is assigned a JTF responsibility on short notice can tap the JECC for responsibilities that do not normally fall under that commander’s purview—such as land operations for a maritime commander. The JECC can help plan for operations that are not traditionally part of that commander’s activities by providing its related expertise rapidly. The maritime commander could move from a maritime-centric focus to a broader scope much more rapidly than if that commander had to seek out expertise piecemeal from the other services.

“Our guys have their bags packed, and they’re ready to go,” Gen. Beydler declares.

The JECC must be responsive because it likely will have very little lead time to deploy in support of a JTF, Gen. Beydler points out. Any delay in deployment likely will reduce or even eliminate the chance that the organization will have an effect on operations. “We have to get out the door in hours—and develop a plan and start executing it—or we might as well not show up,” he warrants.

“It’s always easier to execute a plan that was written for you rather than one that was written absent any of your input,” Gen. Beydler points out.

“We try to shift the generation of capabilities to the left on the timeline,” the general explains. “This would speed up the responsiveness of a newly formed JTF headquarters to a service headquarters. And, [we want to] increase the level at which they perform more rapidly.

“If all I do is get people there quickly and they’re no better than people from anywhere else in the joint force, then I really haven’t done my job,” he continues. “I want my people to be a two-plus-two-equals-seven-or-eight metric—I get them there rapidly, and they bring capability to rapidly increase the performance and the output of the organization.”

He adds that the JTF commanders with which his organization has been engaged in the past say that the organization’s greatest asset was its ability to deliver a team of trained operators that arrived quickly and helped the JTF get underway. The ultimate metric of success for the JECC is that a JTF commander is successful in his mission, Gen. Beydler declares.

Web Resources
Joint Enabling Capabilities Command:
U.S. Joint Forces Command:


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