The U.S. Joint Forces Command is placing new emphasis on helping unified combatant
commanders find better ways to organize multi-service units.
The United States has nine unified combatant commands, which are composed of
forces from more than one service. Most are responsible for U.S. military operations
in specific regions of the world. Their commanders frequently assemble combined
units, called joint task forces, whenever they need a mixture of soldiers, airmen,
sailors or Marines to perform a particular mission.
In recent months, for example, U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks
set up one such force in Afghanistan to oversee most U.S. operations there and
another one on the Horn of Africa to coordinate anti-terrorist activities in
Also, in November, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, Army Gen. James T.
Hill, consolidated the troops supervising al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at
the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into a single joint task force.
Combatant commanders typically establish joint task forces to provide an on-the-scene
command-and-control structure in sensitive operations and to give themselves
more time to devote to the rest of their sprawling regions, explained Army Col.
Arthur M. Bartell, deputy joint force trainer at USJFCOM’s Joint Warfighting
Center, in Suffolk, Va.
The problem with joint task forces, however, is that they are complicated to
set up, according to Army Maj. Gen. Dean Cash, the command’s director
of joint concept development. First, the force must be assembled, with units
selected to accomplish the mission at hand, he told a Pentagon news briefing.
Once that is done, the JTF commander then must build his or her staff.
That process can involve “a long lead time,” Cash said. It is made
more difficult, he said, by the fact that units from different services seldom
share the same training or equipment.
To streamline the effort, USJFCOM is testing a concept for a standing joint
force headquarters that the Pentagon plans to have embedded in the staff of
every combatant commander by fiscal year 2005, Bartell told National Defense.
“The standing joint force headquarters is essentially a command-and-control
element, not a separate unit,” Bartell said. “It does what joint
force headquarters have always done, but it does it better, more efficiently.”
The SJFHQ is a team of operational planners and information command-and-control
specialists, Bartell said. When the combatant commander decides to launch a
JTF, the SJFHQ’s job is to help make it happen with a minimum of confusion
When a JTF is established, the SJFHQ takes over as its headquarters staff,
enabling more proactive and coherent planning and quicker use of capabilities
than can be accomplished by the traditional ad hoc approach, Bartell said.
The SJFHQ concept was tested successfully during last summer’s Millennium
Challenge 2002, according to Army Gen. William F. Kernan, who was the USJFCOM
commander at the time.
MC02 was the largest joint experiment in U.S. military history. More than 13,500
fully equipped troops from all of the services staged air, land and sea operations
at nine locations from coast to coast.
Another 17 locations participated in simulated operations. A total of 42 different
modeling and simulation programs were combined into one of the largest computer
simulation federation ever put together.
The Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps had been scheduled to provide the experiment’s
joint force headquarters, Kernan told reporters, but at the last minute, the
XVIII’s headquarters unit was sent instead to set up the joint task force
With less than two weeks to go before the beginning of the exercise, III Corps,
at Fort Hood, Texas, was assigned to MCO2, and the SJFHQ was sent there.
One of the new tools tested was a Joint En Route Planning Mission Rehearsal
System, which was installed on a C-17 transport, Kernan said. This system enabled
Bell to employ the C-17 as a mobile headquarters, maintaining secure communications
with more than 400 planners and commanders while flying from USJFCOM headquarters
in Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif.
Command In Motion
The package included voice and video communications, Web service, e-mail and
file transfer, common operational picture, a digital dashboard and standards-based
network access for command, control and intelligence systems.
“This is a powerful tool,” said Kernan. “It really frees
[the JTF commander] from the static command post.”
Military leaders have been impressed enough with the system that Franks ordered
one for his aircraft, and Rumsfeld used one during a trip to Afghanistan, Bartell
Training high-ranking officers to plan and manage joint and combined operations
is a main part of USJFCOM’s mission. Four times a year, for example, the
command conducts classes as part of a Capstone Flag and General Officer Course,
sponsored by the National Defense University. Capstone is a six-week course
is designed for newly selected one-star officers.
Capstone students—about 40 of them, from all of the services, including
the Coast Guard, plus the State Department and the General Accounting Office—spend
three days at the JWFC.
There, they study how to organize joint task forces, deploy them and withdraw
them. During that time, they attend seminars, review case studies and participate
in informal discussions with two and three-star officers and others with joint
task force experience.
A major focus at JFCOM is training senior military officers in dealing with
“the CNN factor.” The command operates a “World News Network”—a
simulated television news system, complete with its own Web site and remote
satellite-transmission hookups, in order to teach commanders how to cope with
media coverage during a combat operation.
A team of active-duty and reserve public-affairs specialists coach the officers
through a series of simulated early morning talk shows, remote satellite interviews
in the field and even press conferences. During their interaction with public
affairs specialists acting as journalists, the officers are asked to react to
simulated news stories prepared by the command’s Joint Information Operations
Production Studio. Over the past five years, the studio has taped more than
500 such videos about simulated combat operations, aircraft crashes and ships
sinking, explained Paul Stoecker, a studio systems engineer.
During the press conferences, “we fill a whole room full of reservists
playing the role of reporters,” he said. Just like the real thing, he
said, the commanders are subjected to tough questions, such as what went wrong
Typically, the commanders “don’t like to get in front of the camera,”
Stoecker said. “They feel very uncomfortable. We have had guys say they
won’t do the press conferences. Some have to be ordered by their superior
officers to do them.
“It’s really in their own best interest,” he said. “Our
job is to give them the skills they will need when they have to deal with the
press in real-life situations.”
The JWFC is located at USJFCOM’s Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation
Center in Suffolk. The JTASC, which opened in 1995, is a 200,000 square-foot,
state-of-the-art modeling and simulation facility that is used for computer
To help improve the quality of its modeling and simulation, the command in
1997 partnered with Old Dominion University, the commonwealth of Virginia and
the city of Suffolk to establish the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulations
Operated as a not-for-profit enterprise center of Old Dominion’s College
of Engineering and Technology, VMASC conducts research, development and graduate
studies in the fields of modeling, simulation and visualization, explained its
executive director, R. Bowen Loftin. It has laboratories specializing in constructive
modeling, human-factors engineering and virtual environments.
Since 1997, under a $5.3 million contract, VMASC has provided more than 150
student and two dozen faculty researchers to assist JFCOM in conducting its
work in joint training, experimentation and transformation. In November, the
university received a new award, worth more than $30.8 million over the next
five years, for VMASC to expand those projects significantly.
“It comes down to JFCOM identifying problems that require research effort,
Loftin said. “We put together a team of faculty and students to work with
them on a case-by-case basis.”
In recent years, USJFCOM has sharpened its focus increasingly on joint training.
It was created in 1947 as part of the first unified combatant command. Known
then as the U.S. Atlantic Command, its mission during the Cold War was to guard
the sea lanes between Europe and the U.S. East Coast. In 1993, the Atlantic
Command was given responsibility for training all of U.S. forces in joint operations.
To reflect this mission, its name in 1999 was changed to the U.S. Joint Command.
Then, in October 2002, USJFCOM’s responsibilities for defending the U.S.
mainland were transferred to the new U.S. Northern Command as part of an effort
to strengthen homeland security. USNORTHCOM is the first addition to the unified
combatant command since the U.S. Special Operations Command was established
in 1987. This change was “the most significant reform of our nation’s
military command structure since the first command plan was issued after World
War II,” according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The revision frees USJFCOM to concentrate on improving joint operations, he
said in October, at a change-of-command ceremony welcoming USJFCOM’s new
commander, Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr.
USJFCOM, Rumsfeld said, “is the laboratory to test the new warfare.”
Specifically, he explained, the command’s new mission is to lead the way
in transforming the services, develop innovative concepts, test those concepts
through rigorous experimentation, educate military leaders and train their forces
to operate jointly, and make recommendations on how the services can better
integrate their war-fighting capabilities.
USJFCOM retains its responsibility for providing trained and combat-ready forces
for deployment from the United States to anywhere in the world. To fulfill this
role, JFCOM has component commands from each service, including:
- The Army’s Forces Command, headquartered at Fort McPherson, Ga., with
more than 740,000 active-duty Army, Army reserve and National Guard soldiers.
- The Air Force’s Air Combat Command, centered at Langley Air Force Base,
Va., with more than 700 aircraft and 99,000 active-duty personnel, plus another
64,000 reservists with 775 aircraft.
- The Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, based in Norfolk, comprised of more than
125,000 sailors and civilians, 188 ships and submarines and 1,200 aircraft.
- Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, headquartered in Norfolk, composed on 41,000
active-duty and 40,000 reserve Marines, with 334 aircraft.
To increase the ability of these forces to train together, the Defense Department
plans, within two years, to establish a joint national training center. This
center will serve as “a centerpiece of our training transformation effort,”
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a Senate hearing. It will link
existing service training facilities, such as Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Polk,
La., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., with virtual components using extensive
computerized modeling and simulation systems.
In addition, USJFCOM plans to work closely with a new NATO unit called Allied
Command Transformation. NATO leaders, meeting in Prague in November, agreed
to establish ACT as a replacement for Allied Command Atlantic.
ACLANT, based in Norfolk, is the NATO command charged with defending Atlantic
routes. It consists of 574 personnel from 17 countries and a standing, multinational
naval force of six to 10 ships.
The new command, also to be headquartered in Norfolk, is intended to lead efforts
to modernize NATO forces. In particular, said the supreme allied commander Atlantic,
Adm. Ian Forbes, of the British Royal Navy, ACT “will work with U.S. Joint
Forces Command to ensure ... that NATO and U.S. forces can operate together
in a broad range of military missions.”