Joint Forces Command Brings Efficiency to Deployment Cycles
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK, Va., April 14, 2006 Supporting the global war on terror, homeland defense, humanitarian crises and disaster relief missions while maintaining deterrence around the world requires something of a juggling act - especially when you're striving to reduce stress on the force, according to a U.S. Joint Forces Command official.
That's a challenge Jay Burdon, chief of JFCOM's Joint Deployment Operations Division, and his staff here deal with every day as they strive to ensure combatant commanders have the troops they need to carry out their missions.
As the military's central "manpower broker" for conventional forces, JFCOM looks across the full spectrum of requirements and weighs them against what's available. The staff evaluates a combatant commander's request, as validated by the Joint Staff, and determines units available to fulfill it, Burdon explained.
"We are the ones who identify who is going to go," he said. "We are the ones who do all the analysis, the interface with all of the services and the combatant commanders who own those forces and identify what specific units are going to go to meet those requirements."
The process is similar regardless of the mission or location -- whether they're generating the next list of units to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, putting together teams with the exact skills needed for a provincial reconstruction team or identifying the best units or individuals to fill out a joint task force.
Coming up with the proper force for a mission is a bit of a puzzle. Planners have to determine what forces are available and their capabilities and readiness posture. They consult with the services and the combatant commanders these forces are assigned to, weighing the operational risk of calling on these forces.
They also must factor in service policies, including deployment cycles. For example, the Army has a one-year "boots-on-the ground" policy, while the Marine Corps generally deploys its members for six to seven months, the Navy for six months, and the Air Force for three to six months, Burdon said.
Identifying forces wasn't always such a streamlined process. Before Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld designated JFCOM as the department's joint-force provider in June 2004, the system was far slower and less efficient, Burdon said.
Combatant commanders without troops assigned to them, including U.S. Central Command, came up with requirements. The Joint Staff validated those requirements, then went to the three major unified commands with troops assigned to them to see who could support them. First they went to JFCOM, to see if U.S.-based conventional forces were available. If that proved unsuccessful, they went to U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command.
"It was a very sequential, very redundant process," Burdon said. "And we found through Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom that the forces weren't getting to the theater fast enough."
Another problem, as seen during the first troop rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan, was that troops weren't getting enough notice to prepare for their deployments, militarily or personally.
That's all changed during the past two years, as JFCOM merged 54 different data systems to come up with a centralized global force-management system for conventional forces, Burdon said. The result is a more efficient and effective system that looks into the future as far as possible.
JFCOM's joint-force provider network comes up with "sourcing recommendations," recommending a particular unit or individual to fill a need. It tracks that recommendation until an alert order, then mobilization order, is generated, then until the troops move into the designated theater. Ultimately, the system will be able to track forces as they redeploy and until they are available for another deployment, Burdon said.
The new process improves the way the military meets its force requirements around the world while at the same time reducing stress on the force, Burdon said. "If you're using the force in the most effective and efficient way possible, you're not stressing on the force," he said.
Burdon said the system helps eliminate back-to-back deployments and gives troops more time to plan for upcoming missions. "We're generating rotation plans well over a year in advance. We've gone from two months to well over 14 months," he said.
"That ensures that people pretty much know when they are going and when they are coming back. It gives them predictability," Burdon said. "And if you have predictability, you're able to plan. It's a big part of reducing stress on the force."