Joint Forces Command Provides Global Force Sourcing
By Jennifer Colaizzi
Special to American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK, Va., Jan. 6, 2006 As the Defense Department continues to transform to meet the threats and challenges of the 21st century, U.S. Joint Forces Command has the pivotal role of determining which forces will do which jobs, whether it's disaster relief, homeland defense or the global war on terrorism.
As joint force provider, JFCOM's role is to identify and nominate the most ready and able forces to support the combatant commander, according to Army Brig. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the command's director for operations, plans, logistics and engineering.
The supported commander identifies the needs, and JFCOM makes the force recommendations, Ferriter said yesterday during a tour of the command's Joint Operations Center.
The command's role as the DoD's primary joint force provider was approved in March 2004, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed the official memorandum on June 25, 2005. The decision was a major milestone, Ferriter said, because before the decision "there was no process to manage forces."
For example, Ferriter said, a force stationed in Hawaii may have gone 20 years being ready to deploy but never called upon, while another force in the continental United States was rotating frequently. "The rotational forces for the services were done without looking at who was working the hardest," he said.
While the main goal is to identify the right capability, which includes active and reserve component troops, an added benefit of global force visibility, Ferriter said, is the capacity to facilitate longer chunks of time between deployments and to provide more preparation time with earlier deployment notifications.
"Now we can say, 'Next July, you're going,' instead of coming in on Monday and being notified you're going (right away)," said Ferriter.
The goal is to move from one year to two years between deployments. It provides people a chance to "recover, go to school and work on professional development" and "a year to train with a mission focus," he said. This will have a positive effect on troops and their families, the general said.
"Troops employed in a noble way have high morale," he noted, "but troops have families, and families need moms and dads."
With the added responsibility of worldwide readiness monitoring, planning, directing and tracking deployment of conventional joint forces, JFCOM's operations, plans, logistics, and engineering directorate recently added 64 people to help meet mission requirements.
The command is planning for a new combined JFCOM/Fleet Forces Command Joint Deployment Center, scheduled for construction early in fiscal 2007. The $15 million facility will modernize the operations center and help facilitate force-flow visibility and rapid response to customers, command officials said.
At present, the crisis-response cells and operational command center have connectivity to the services and other force suppliers via e-mail, phone lines and video teleconferencing. The new facility, officials said, will improve already existing capabilities.
The joint operations center is responsible for ensuring communication and coordination for deployment of forces will be as smooth as possible. Air Force Lt Col. Mark Warack, who worked in the crisis response cell during Hurricane Katrina and is responsible for writing orders to send troops in support of combatant commanders' requests, said the process is labor-intensive and the position must be staffed around the clock, seven days a week.
"Normally, you may have a month to sort something out or six months to find troops to go to Iraq, but in a compressed nature in which an emergency like Katrina happens, you may only have a day to coordinate and reach out to all the different agencies to get the answers," Warack said.
"If you need nurses and doctors," he continued, "your medical point of contact might be busy trying to track down mosquito netting for his guys in theater. It's tough to keep track of things."
Warack said that as much as he'd like to have a direct role in the action, he knows his work is vital. "Obviously, you'd like to be filling sand bags and pulling people out, but someone has to do this too, and it's important. It's nice to see it in the papers and be able to say, 'Hey, I knew those guys were going. I helped them get there.'"
(Jennifer Colaizzi works in U.S. Joint Forces Command public affairs.)