The Global War on Terrorism: A Regional Approach to Coordination. (JFQ Forum)

By Cardinal, Charles N.; Pangonas, Timber P. et al. | Joint Force Quarterly, Autumn 2002 | Go to article overview

The Global War on Terrorism: A Regional Approach to Coordination. (JFQ Forum)


Cardinal, Charles N., Pangonas, Timber P., Marks, Edward, Joint Force Quarterly


According to Ecclesiastes, "Of the making of books there is no end." Much the same can be said of military organizations and the acronyms by which they are known. The Joint Interagency Coordination Group is an example. The term can claim dual parentage, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). Both commands have wrestled with implementing national security policy in recent years. Segregating diplomatic and military efforts was problematic during the Cold War and became more so in its aftermath.

By the end of the 20th century the Armed Forces had taken joint warfighting to new heights and refined their abilities to mount coalition operations. Civilian agencies also made serious progress in facilitating interagency coordination. Such integration has a long history and was a rationale for establishing the National Security Council (NSC). Presidential Decision Directive 56 issued by the Clinton administration attempted to institutionalize a formal procedure for interagency planning and management of contingency operations. Moreover, the war on drugs has been conducted by a mix of civilian and military instruments. Nevertheless, the stovepipe nature of the Federal bureaucracy was an obstacle to pursuing national interests in a globalized world.

The war on terrorism has galvanized the move toward organizational innovation and reform to improve interagency coordination. The enhanced integration of civilian and military agencies on the operational level was under consideration at JFCOM before September 11, 2001. Both the organizers and participants in Universal Vision '01 grappled with the issue of coordination. By the end of the exercise, the concept for an interagency staff directorate on the regional command level had emerged. It was advanced under the command joint experimentation staff and in a white paper, "A Concept for Improving U.S. Interagency Operational Planning and Coordination," which appeared in March 2002. Known as the Joint Interagency Coordination Group (JIACG), it was also tested in Millennium Challenge '02. The final report on the exercise was favorable in its view of JIACG, and JFCOM has been instructed to prepare the concept for operational use in 2004.

In the wake of 9/11, Admiral Dennis Blair, who was then Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, was concerned that military power alone would have limited effects against decentralized non-state terrorist groups. Thus he proposed organizing the Joint Interagency Task Force-Counterterrorism Asia Pacific, with a broad interagency mandate as well as coordinating authority. Other combatant commands submitted similar proposals for some sort of coordination mechanism.

The Joint Staff considered these proposals and then submitted a concept paper on JIACG to the NSC deputies committee which approved it. The commands were instructed in February 2002 to implement the concept: "JIACGs will be organized to provide interagency advice and expertise to combatant commanders and their staffs, coordinate interagency counterterrorism plans and objectives, and integrate military, interagency, and host-nation efforts."

The combatant commands had already responded by forming joint counterterrorism offices. They were officially renamed JIACGs in spring 2002 following an instruction by the Joint Chiefs, except for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which retained the title of joint interagency task force. Although each group has the same focus, their structure and activities vary with the area of responsibility. While PACOM, CENTCOM, and U.S. Special Operations Command have located the function in the directorate of operations (J-3), JFCOM has created a free-standing element on the command staff, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has created an independent directorate under civilian leadership (along the JFCOM model). JFCOM has two JIACGs--the experimental unit mentioned above and an operation element like other commands.

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