QDR Approves Joint Force Headquarters Concept
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2001 Forming a headquarters at the height of an international crisis is not the best way to do business, and the Quadrennial Defense Review suggested changing that situation.
The U.S. Joint Forces Command is working on the structure of a standing joint task force headquarters.
Overall, the QDR recommended strengthening joint operations in the U.S. military. America needs the services to be better integrated as it faces the different threats of the 21st century.
The days of setting up ad hoc headquarters once a crisis erupts must become a thing of the past. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld uses the experiences of Operation Allied Force over Kosovo as the prime example. By the time the operation ended, the headquarters had filled only 80 percent of its necessary slots.
"The after-action report from every joint operation has said that we could have been much more effective, earlier, if we had been a team when the crisis started rather than trying to form our team while the crisis is ongoing," said Army Col. Chris Shepherd, director of strategic communications in the Joint Experimentation Directorate.
A joint force headquarters would be much more effective if it is formed and existing before a crisis because it will have gone through all those steps any organization goes through when it first stands up. Shepherd said initial experiments are looking at a 55-person core group for the headquarters.
Potentially, standing headquarters would be assigned to the various regional commanders in chief and be integrated with all aspects of the command. "The truth of the matter is, it may be more than one for each of the (commanders)," he said. "The key value of having this headquarters in place is to have a joint command and control element that has a tacit understanding of the battle space where the crisis erupts."
The people in the headquarters must understand the people, the culture, the social relationships and the economic linkages. "They must understand the whole ball of wax that goes toward figuring out what's important to your adversary and how to take that away," Shepherd said.
It is equally important to know allies and friends in the region and what each country or group can bring to the table, he said. Further, the headquarters would know who to speak to in other U.S. agencies or coalition governments to get important information and mitigate actions. That "reachback" is important as the United States faces unconventional foes. "The classic case you hear about was during the whole Yugoslavian crisis," Shepherd said. "The thought was, 'You don't ask a military officer how much money (Yugoslavian President Slobodan) Milosevic has left'."
The joint task force headquarters would be flexible. In a full-blown regional conflict, the commander in chief's staff "would fall in on this core element of 55 people to form the joint headquarters and get a head start on finding a solution to the crisis.
But the 55-person cell could be employed in a number of different ways as well, Shepherd said. "If there was some kind of crisis that was less than a full unified command would fight -- something like support to East Timor -- the commander in chief could take this standing joint command and control element, place a general or flag officer in charge, then that headquarters could handle that crisis."
A medium employment of the standing joint task force headquarters also is contemplated. This would be where the 55-person core element has a three-star headquarters "roll in" on top of it to become the joint task force headquarters.
"The commander in chief would designate one of his subordinates as the JTF commander, who would then have other service components working for him," Shepherd said.
Joint Forces Command already has a prototype called the Experimental Standing Joint Command and Control Element. "We do have a 55-person cell that is acting as a joint force headquarters for the various experiments we have ongoing between now and (Experiment) Millennium Challenge."
Millennium Challenge, set for July and August 2002, is the next big test of the concept. The 55-person cell will serve as the core and the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps will be the JTF headquarters.
JFCOM will make recommendations on standing joint force headquarters following Millennium Challenge 02, according to Shepherd.