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New Plans and Operations Center Exemplifies EUCOM Transformation

By Hugh C. McBride
Special to American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART, Germany, Oct. 30, 2003 – With the snip of a ribbon and the smash of a bottle here Oct. 15, U.S. European Command officially opened a new door to the future of joint planning and operations.

Located next to the command's headquarters at Patch Barracks, the EUCOM Plans and Operations Center dedicated that day brings people from EUCOM's various joint directorates together in a unified organization designed to enhance the command's speed and agility in the planning and execution of contingency operations, EUCOM officials said.

"We've shifted how we think," said EUCOM Deputy Commander Air Force Gen. Charles Wald at the EPOC's grand opening ceremony. The center, Wald predicted, "will be a wonderful building and organization to work in."

In a nod to the joint nature of the command -- as well as to the naval background of the EPOC's first director, Rear Adm. Hamlin Tallent -- Wald's remarks were followed by both a traditional ribbon-cutting and a ceremonial christening, with Tallent smashing a bottle of local Baden-Wrttemberg Riesling near the EPOC's entrance.

Based upon a model organization developed by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, the EPOC is EUCOM's adaptation of a Standing Joint Force Headquarters that is capable of running a war from Stuttgart as well as deploying expertise and guidance to subordinate headquarters as needed.

"The EPOC postures EUCOM to be a 24/7 warfighting headquarters with the ability to respond rapidly," Wald said. "The goal is improved, responsive warfighting capability."

Wald said the EPOC is a different way to do business. Not only will the new center give EUCOM excellent command control capability, he said, but it will enable information gathered from many sources to be transmitted to those who need to have it more efficiently. It was designed to support a "fundamental change of Europe's strategic footprint," he said.

"It will help us become less reactive and more efficient, so we can better focus on areas of the world we haven't traditionally focused on and support changes in our force structure in Europe," Wald said.

Tallent noted that since the time of Napoleon, militaries have maintained a staff structure with separate personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics and planning functions. This traditional model has served well for generations, but contributed to "vertical stovepipes" in the sharing of information. The EPOC brings these people together into a single command and control organization focused on the full spectrum of joint planning and operations.

"What we have now is a cross-functional approach," Tallent said, citing the synthesis of expertise from a variety of disciplines as key to the EPOC's transformational significance.

The shift in structural philosophy is enhanced, he added, by both cutting-edge technology and a highly trained and empowered staff. The result, he said, is a flatter organization that is "quicker, faster and requires more faith in your people. The EPOC is an alignment tool that enables us to focus our people toward clear goals, gives us the tools to reach those goals, and requires us to trust them to execute. You have to trust your people and they have to trust you."

In his role as EPOC director, Tallent will be assisted by two deputies: Army Brig. Gen. Douglas Lute and Air Force Col. Thomas Verbeck, a brigadier general selectee. The EPOC will consist of nine divisions, each headed by a colonel: Current Operations, Information Operations, Knowledge Management/Information Superiority, Intelligence, Integrated Resources, Crisis and Contingency Plans, Campaign Plans, Joint Interagency Coordination Group and Exercises and Training.

The Standing Joint Force Headquarters concept is a result of post-9/11 transformation direction from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. According to Navy Rear Adm. Richard O'Hanlon, commander of Joint Forces Command's Standing Joint Force Headquarters, the concept is meant to provide "a standing element that focuses on a combatant commander's operational trouble spots."

The objective behind replacing "ad hoc" crisis-response teams with permanent organizations is to improve the complete spectrum of crisis to campaign planning, enhance situational awareness and develop a greater understanding of both adversarial and friendly forces, he said.

The JFCOM Web site states that the Standing Joint Force Headquarters is the highest priority of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for joint concept development and experimentation. All regional combatant commands are to stand up an operational SJFHQ by fiscal 2005.

Each standing headquarters will incorporate standardized communications architecture with collaborative software tools to enhance situational understanding of what's happening in the theater, O'Hanlon said. He added that each will be tailored to unique theater characteristics.

"The goal is to provide an inherently joint standing core of trained people who work the theater, understand commander's intent and use advanced tools to speed analysis and decision making at the operational level of command."

(Hugh C. McBride is assigned to 6th Area Support Group Public Affairs.)

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