Academic journal article Military Review

Understanding the Standing Joint Force Headquarters

Academic journal article Military Review

Understanding the Standing Joint Force Headquarters

Article excerpt

THE U.S. JOINT FORCES Command (JFCOM) has developed a joint concept development and experimentation strategy along two paths: a joint concept development path and a joint prototype path. The concept development path explores a broad range of ideas and concepts, while the prototype path pursues rapid fielding of capabilities that improve joint warfighting in the near term.

For several years, JFCOM has experimented with various concepts for future command and control (C2) elements. A May 2000 white paper discusses an adaptive joint C2 concept, which is "a redesigned, functionally oriented, standing core headquarters element [to] support operational requirements described in the emerging Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO) concept. (1)

In the summer of 2000, JFCOM sponsored an RDO war game to consider a standing C2 organization. Unified Vision 2001 findings reinforced the value of establishing a standing organization, and in 2002, JFCOM formed a prototype standing joint force headquarters (SJFHQ) to demonstrate this concept during Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02). (2)


MC02 involved all services, most combatant commands, other Department of Defense organizations, and several federal agencies. Future force concepts and capabilities from various services were represented, such as an airborne command post, the U.S. Air Force's Expeditionary Aerospace Force, the U.S. Army's Stryker brigade, and a joint Army-Navy high-speed vessel. The scenario was a high-end, small-scale contingency having the potential of escalating to a major theater war.

Variously described as training, an exercise, an experiment, a test, and a demonstration, MC02 actually served all these purposes. Participants were situated at locations stretching from ships off California to installations on the Atlantic coast. Over 20,000 members of all services participated in live, virtual, or constructive environments, all coordinated from JFCOM. The Army elected to integrate several events, from conducting training involving an airborne forced entry and the Stryker at Fort Irwin, California, to exercising C2 from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

JFCOM's goals and objectives included assessing concepts and capabilities and hardware and software to measure a joint task force's (JTF's) ability to implement advanced warfighting concepts when equipped with transformational capabilities. The SJFHQ was one of these capabilities. Each service participated on a unique basis.

Originally intended as a proving ground for the RDO concept, MC02 morphed into the first significant application of effects-based operations (EBO) as defined by JFCOM. Initially intended to support RDO, EBO became the houseguest who not only would not leave, but who slowly took over the household. EBO evolved into a primary prototype concept, while RDO faded.

However, real-world requirements produced a better demonstration than RDO could have. The three-star headquarters originally designated to participate in MC02 received a real-world mission that required it to be replaced by another headquarters at the last minute.

One of the direct results of MC02 was instruction from the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to implement SJFHQ. Joint doctrine has not kept up with the latest transformational initiatives such as the SJFHQ, however. Consequently, outside the joint community and the combatant commands, the implications of the initiative are not widely known or well understood.

The SJFHQ and JTF Formation

The SJFHQ organization is relatively simple. All services are represented in the SJFHQ, as most combat support and combat service support elements are. Administratively, the SJFHQ is composed of six groups: command, information superiority, plans, operations, knowledge management, and logistics. Functionally, it has four primary teams: information superiority, plans, operations, and knowledge management. Logistics members are merged into the various teams. …

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