Small Wars Journal

USJFCOM Releases Approach to Operational Design Vision

Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:59am
Command Releases Approach to Operational Design Vision

U.S. Joint Forces Command has released a new vision on the approach to operational design, which provides guidance on how USJFCOM will advocate for the migration of design-related improvements from the services' doctrine, training and professional military education to a joint setting.

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Download the Vision for a Joint Approach to Operational Design

By Army Sgt. Josh LeCappelain

USJFCOM Public Affairs

(NORFOLK, Va., - Oct. 19, 2009) -- U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) released the command's Vision for a Joint Approach to Operational Design earlier this month.

Operational design is the development and planning of a strategy for an operational plan or campaign and its execution. The vision provides guidance on how USJFCOM will advocate for the migration of design-related improvements from the services' doctrine, training and professional military education (PME) to a joint setting.

"Setting the problem in its proper context is critical to the utility of force and to solving security challenges," Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, USJFCOM commander, said in the vision's cover memo.

The vision cites a unity of effort between the services and interagency and multinational partners as essential to meeting the complex future operational challenges described in the Joint Operating Environment (JOE), a document developed by USJFCOM and its partners describing the operating environment.

"An approach that does not emphasize thinking and creativity is incomplete," Mattis said. "My assessment is that our current doctrinal approach to fostering clear, careful thinking and creativity -- particularly early in design and planning -- is insufficient and ineffective."

The vision calls for:

- Commanders to address each situation on its own terms and in its unique political and strategic context, rather than attempting to fit the situation to a preferred template.

- Joint doctrine development, training, education and experimentation processes to examine results of work from the joint force commander's perspective to determine how much potential benefits can improve planning and operations.

- Placing new ideas into four general areas, to help integrate them into joint doctrine, training and PME. These areas are understanding the problem, understanding the operational environment, designing an approach to solve the problem, and reframing the problem when circumstances change.

- Assessments focused on the operational approach, to tell commanders whether joint forces are doing the right things to set conditions and achieve objectives, whereas tactical assessment typically determines if the force is doing things right.

- Subordinate commanders to be aggressive in sharing their perspectives with their superiors early in design, challenging ill-formed assumptions and resolving differences at the earliest opportunity.

The Joint Warfighting Center (JWFC) will lead the effort to incorporate value-added ideas into joint doctrine, training and PME. Additionally, the center will continue work on a commander's handbook that will provide additional details on design and its interaction with the planning process.

The Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (J9) will assist the JWFC by building on the success of experimentation to the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO) and revising the JOE to reflect issues related to design.

The CCJO, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff document, describes how future joint forces will respond to an array of security challenges.

The Joint Approach to Operational Design memo is available for download here.