|Army Spc. Sonya Johnson, center, sets up a Hawkeye III to provide communications during Operation Tomodachi at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 22, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo|
Joint Enablers Bring Expertise to Contingency Responses
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2012 - Despite words like "cuts," "streamlining" and "drawdown" sprinkling nearly every reference to the Defense Department, the commander of Joint Enabling Capabilities Command sees no downturn in the appetite for the specialized skills and experience his people provide.
That's because the new defense strategy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey's Capstone Concept for Joint Operations both recognize that contingency operations are likely to become more -- not less -- frequent in the decade ahead, Navy Rear Adm. Scott A. Stearney explained.
Whether for combat operations or a response to a humanitarian disaster, U.S. military forces will be called on to provide support, Stearney said. And wherever they operate, it will almost assuredly be as a joint force that deploys with little advance notice and hits the ground running.
That means they'll need a command-and-control structure able to spring into action with them at full throttle.
That's the calling card for Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, the Defense Department's 9-1-1 force for joint force headquarters operations, Stearney said.
The JECC is the department's "A team" for the capabilities needed to quickly stand up and operate a Joint Task Force, with experts in operations, plans, knowledge management, intelligence, logistics, communications and public affairs.
They deploy anywhere in the world within just a few days' notice, organized in teams tailored to the specific combatant commander's mission to augment assets already on the ground.
"The service forces always have the bulk of the response. They have the bulk of the headquarters staff and the largest number of people," Stearney said. "So when we find out what the requirement is, we send just what is needed. We send very high-performing, small, mission-tailored teams that are very experienced" in joint task force headquarters operations.
"They bring those joint skill sets that are required to make those task forces truly joint," Stearney said.
The JECC and its three support elements -- joint planning, joint communications and joint public affairs -- have supported every major military operation since 9/11. That has ranged from contingency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in Pakistan, Haiti and Japan.
Over the past year, the JECC deployed teams to support training for the next U.S. and NATO rotation to Afghanistan and during U.S. European Command's annual Unified Endeavor exercise with Israel. Most recently, 22 JECC members deployed to New Jersey and New York to provide communications and public affairs support for U.S. Northern Command's Hurricane Sandy response.
"We provide the rapid joint task force enabling capabilities for the Department of Defense as a 9-1-1 force that provides these skill sets to any type of JTF that would stand up as a result of any type of emerging crisis," Stearney said. "It doesn't matter if it's Pacific Command or Central Command or Southern Command or another command. We support them all."
To keep their skills sharp and ensure they're familiar faces on the scene when they deploy to a crisis or contingency, the JECC members work closely with every geographic combatant command. JECC teams deploy to every major "Tier 1" annual training event in support of the Joint Staff and combatant commands. They serve as observer-controllers, sharing expertise, and sometimes, as participants.
"By exercising broadly across the multiple geographic theaters, we are creating these very live networks with the people who we support," Stearney said. "We are staying plugged in to the different scenarios across the spectrum of military operations, and by doing that, we are staying current."
This broad, military-wide exposure, he said, gives JECC members a perspective that their peers at the COCOM level who don't regularly conduct joint task force operations might not see. They're able to identify mistakes and share best practices, both with the specific command, but also will the Joint Staff to enhance joint task force operations military-wide.
Regardless of the nature of location of a contingency, Stearney said successful JTF headquarters operations boil down to a core truism. "Command and control is command and control," he said. "Although the scenario may change a bit, it is all a matter of how rapidly that commander can take charge of the situation by going through the stages of the joint operational planning process, how they do joint public affairs and how they do the joint work that we specialize in."
DOD identified the need for this capability in 2000, and war-gamed the concept of a deployable JTF headquarters during the Millennium Challenge 2002 exercise.
Based on that experience, every geographic command except Central Command stood up its own standing joint task force headquarters. The since-dissolved Joint Forces Command's standing JTF headquarters focused at the time on operations within Centcom and augmented the other units, as required.
The JECC stood up as a separate command in 2008, and it assumed the missions of the COCOM-level standing joint task force headquarters when former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates eliminated the COCOM-level headquarters in 2010 as part of his department-wide efficiency review.
In another organizational change, the JECC was moved under the umbrella of U.S. Transportation Command when Joint Forces Command was dissolved in 2011.
Air Force Gen. William F. Fraser III, the Transcom commander, has become a big fan of the JECC, recognizing its contributions to Transcom's global deployment and distribution enterprise. Citing myriad JECC missions during congressional testimony earlier this year, Fraser called the joint enablers a key element in the United States' ability to project national power and influence anywhere, at any time.
"Though the missions were of varying size, scope and complexity, in each instance, the JECC provided immediate, short-duration support to increase the effectiveness of joint command and control at the operational level," he said.
Looking ahead to the future, Stearney recognizes that the JECC, like every other DOD entity, will face tight fiscal scrutiny. "But as most of the services are drawing down and making plans to potentially reduce different types of accounts, I think I am in a growth business," he said, recognizing the importance placed on command and control and the high demand for joint enabling capabilities.
That's because Dempsey's vision, outlined in the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, "is clearly that the future of warfare is rapidly forming, agile, joint globally integrated operations," Stearney said. "There will be more conflicts as opposed to fewer conflicts. And each will require some type of command and control structure."
Despite downsizing pressure across the military, Stearney said it's important not to undo progress made over the past 11 years that will ensure the success of the U.S. military and its joint forces for the next decade.
"I think one of the lessons we have learned over the last 11 years at war has been that we are really, really good when we are in joint coalition command and control centers," he said. "We are able to share information, to use information and really develop the value of information, ideas, words and networks as the weapons systems of the future.
"And that is what makes Joint Enabling Capabilities Command such a valuable asset," he added. "They have immediate credibility when they reach their destination after any kind of crisis event. They get the job done and then they redeploy, without a lot of fanfare."