Joint Operations Planning and Management in the Military

Joint Military operations and management

1. Introduction

Joint military operations requires appropriate planning, considering the sensitivities and needs of external parties including government agencies, NGOs, international organizations, allies, neutrals and host countries. Commanders in a joint operation should always maintain relationships with all interested parties and plan their activities jointly in response to contingencies and crises. Joint operation planning process is a decision making tool used by military staffs when faced with a contingency or crisis that requires decisions and application of military knowledge and experience. When making such decisions, commanders often take the interests of various interested parties into consideration. Joint military operations planning are a continuous process that begins with the assessment of the needs and expectations of interested parties and ends with the conclusion of operations.

In order to discuss the concept of joint military operations appropriately, this paper will use contemporary joint interagency multinational operations. These include: UN Peacekeeping operations and US Joint Military Operations. USA’s joint military operations planning have been successful in various counterinsurgency and multinational operations such as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[1] On the other hand, the UK peacekeeping team includes various agencies across the world to ensure peace and security in its member states.

2. Needs and expectations of various agencies and stakeholders

Several needs and expectations of various agencies and stakeholders such as government agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, allies and the host country necessitate joint military support and planning. One of the needs and expectations is the need for peace and better governance by the host country. For instance, the war spearheaded by NATO in Libya was a result of joint operations between US and NATO army. Furthermore, joint operations are also noted in Afghanistan when NATO military collaborated with US army. In these examples, the needs and expectations of the host countries and other agencies influenced the joint operations and planning.[2] For instance, Libya’s riots and protests against the government of Libya played a crucial role to attract joint military support between US army, NATO and Libyan rebel armies. In this case, the need for peace and better governance were the main drivers for joint support among the various military groups involved.

Another example of stakeholders’ expectation in military operations is to control and neutralize the effects of insurgencies for the sake of peace and political stability in the host country and its neighbors. Insurgents are individuals who participate in activities that are designed to undermine or overthrow established authorities. Various military agents with a common interest against the insurgencies participate in joint military operations to combat the effects of the insurgents. For instance, insurgence in Somalia by the Al-Shabaab insurgents caused political and economic instability and security threats in Somalia and its neighbors including Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The need to eliminate the Al-shabaab insurgents in Somalia for the sake of peace and stability in East African region led various military agents to participate in fights against the insurgents. To meet this expectation, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) participated in joint military operations involving Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and other African countries.

The main participants in the war against the insurgents were Kenya Defence Force whose main interest was to guard its territories against attacks by Al-shabaab that spilt to Kenyan territories. This example indicates that the peace of Somalia is beneficial to its neighbors because the insurgents had led to lack of peace in Somalia and its neighbors, especially Kenya and Ethiopia. USA also confirmed its aid for Somalia in its fight against Al-shabaab.

Economic and political interests are also some of the expectations of certain agencies and stakeholders in a military operation.[3] Certain governments may deploy its military officials to certain countries experiencing instability and wars in order to aid them in such wars. This is done for political or economic reasons. For instance, USA aided Somalia to fight the Al-shabaab insurgents by sending her army to that country in order to protect the entire Eastern African region where the USA enjoys good diplomatic and economic benefits. In 1998, American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed to terrorists believed to have been part of the Al-Qaeda terror group. This led to loss of lives and destruction of property, affecting both USA and the host countries. Of course, USA does not want the same case to happen again. Therefore, the US has found it necessary to fight all insurgents who may cause destructions in the countries that offer economic and diplomatic benefits to her.

No-governmental agencies also play a crucial role in joint operations. Their interests and expectations are immense in interagency multinational operations. Such organizations are committed to the promotion and respect for human rights and maintenance of health and peace of word populace.[4] Therefore, their interests and expectations in joint military campaigns is to ensure that the causes of injustices, disrespect for human rights, unhealthy behaviours and other actions against humanity are combated. One example of such agencies is the Red Cross which helps people who are injured in wars to get medical attention. Red Cross saves lives of people who are affected by wars and also participates in awareness and education programs to enable people learn how to coexist with each other and avoid war and fighting. It also champions protection and respect for human rights. Another example is the UN which often participates in peacekeeping missions. Their expectation is peace around the world, especially among its member states. The UN participates in joint military operations with other countries in order to promote its mission of maintaining a secure and peaceful world where people enjoy freedom, rights and privileges.

3. Planning and Managing expectations and Joint Military Operations

Military commanders are often faced by the challenge of making decisions frequently. On daily basis, commanders and their staffs seek solutions to simple, routine and complex problems inherent in their military involvements. Military staffs use a decision making tool called Joint Operation Planning Process (JOPP) to enable them think through various options when they are faced with a force employment decision while applying their knowledge, skills, experience and judgment.[5] Planning is a continuous function involving all commanders and military staffs. All officers engaged in a military operation revise their original staff requirements regularly and plan in the light of current developments. This is an ongoing process which normally begins when instructions and guidelines are given and ends at the conclusion of operations. Planning of joint military operations differ from one military group to another. The nest section outlines the joint military planning for three groups as examples to demonstrate how planning and management of joint military operations are carried out. These examples are: UN Peacekeeping Operations and US Joint Military Operations.

3.1. UN Peacekeeping Operations

UN Peacekeeping Operation is a good example of joint military operations. UN HQ Planning Process involves three principle planning products: Strategic Estimate, Operational Estimate and Concept of Operations. These products are delivered in 8 phases of launching UN mission. These phases are described below.

Phase 1: Pre-initiation

This involves monitoring by the Department of Political Affairs whereby the information needed for the peacekeeping mission is gathered and the Office of Operations (OO) develops awareness of situation (Hotspot). Office of Operations then develops knowledge of situation (Hotter). DPKO then gives a formal direction in order to enhance further understanding of the situation (Hotter still).[6] In this situation, DPKO is ready to provide military/police advice during peace process.

Phase 2: Initiation

This starts when there is high likelihood of military involvement. In this situation, necessary conditions for peace are present or will soon be present. The Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF) is formed to oversee the peacekeeping mission. The chief MPs then seek strategic guidance and the staff generates appropriate questions. In this stage, a key aspect that is common in all joint military operations planning is practiced: structured approach to gathering of information. In this case, information is gathered regarding geography, infrastructure, economic situation, demographics, humanitarian situation, conflict, political situation and armed forces. Scanning of the environment through such a process of gathering information is important in the initiation stage because it enables the joint military operation team to prepare well for military or police operations. It is in this stage that the interests, needs, objectives and expectations of the UN are also defined. Assumptions are then made and clarifications sought. DPA also leads military advice and support peace process in this stage.

Phase 3: Strategic Planning Phase

In this phase the role of the UN is well defined and exercised. In this stage, the planning team of the UN develops a strategic estimate by providing a range of possible scenarios, range of options for each scenario and recommended option to pursue.

Phase 4: Initial Operational Planning

This entails operational estimate whereby more than one scenario are prioritized through contingency planning. The most likely scenario is then determined through stages of regular report and review. Mission analysis is also carried out and mission statement is developed and approved by MILAD.[7] Operational planning team also carries out a threat analysis in this stage whereby capability and intent of the UN are assessed and analyzed. Analysis of risks is also carried out in order for the UN to use its capabilities to deal with threats and uncertainties in military operations. Courses of Action (COA) are then developed and political acceptability of such courses is confirmed. This stage also involves checking of force availability and logistics or budget constraints.

Phase 5: Concept development

Approved course of action is developed to full CONOPS through parallel logistics planning. A political-led initial survey is then conducted. The planning team then conducts a task analysis and technical survey in order to determine support requirements for military operations in the peacekeeping mission. The CONOPS are then refined and approved.

Phase 6: Plan development phase

In this phase, CONOPS are refined through the New Security Council direction. Tasks and operational requirements are then reviewed and the force structure and equipment is finalized. In this stage, there are also six parallel development streams: plans, senior appointments, mission documentation, force generation, budget and support. Negotiations are also conducted in this stage in order to develop a Memorandum of Understanding among various stakeholders. Deployment schedules are then developed. This involves 6-8 weeks of ship contracting and 6 weeks before sailing begins. Budgets are then refined and logistic support plan is finalized. Force availability is also reviewed and if necessary, original plan is adjusted to suit new force requirements.

Phase 7: Deployment

The commander of the force and senior staff are briefed before deployment begins. Current Operations Services takes lead role in deployment process.

Phase 8: Execution

This is the end phase where major review and revision of CONOPs is conducted. Mission is terminated, rotation management is carried out, strategic operational plans are completed and mission is liquidated.[8] This is the last stage that determines the success of the joint military operations in a UN peacekeeping mission.

3.2. US Joint Military Operations

3.2.1.   Strategic Guidance and Planning Overview

US military is one of the most successful multinational forces in joint military operations. Joint operation planning of the USA involves three agencies: department of the Navy, Department of the Air Force and United States Coastguard. US military serves and protects USA in complex conflicts across the world. In this regard, it refines its doctrines and updates its planning practices through experiences and hard-won knowledge. This is a similar approach to the approach of the peacekeeping mission of UN. The operational environment is not static, and adaptability and flexibility are necessary in planning and execution. Joint Operations Planning publications therefore enable the US military to arm joint force commanders with processes that encourage flexibility and adaptability.

Joint planning in US military is an end state oriented and adaptive process.[9] Joint operations plans are developed in consideration with strategic and military end states. Strategic guidance is used to provide the purpose and focus of joint operation planning. This leads to understanding for commanders and planners. Joint operation planners seek guidance from appropriate sources in order to ensure that their plans are in line with national priorities and are aimed at the achievement of national security goals and objectives. Joint operation planning in US military also occurs in networked, collaborative environment that calls for dialogue among senior leaders, collaboration across various planning levels, and concurrent plan development. US Joint Operation Planning also involves interagency and multinational partners and relevant intergovernmental organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The Joint Force Operations Planning ensures that there is a synchronization and coordination of the joint force actions with the operations of these organizations. Military actions and resources required to fulfill the functions of various IGOs and NGOs when they are not available are also enhanced through joint operations planning.

3.2.2. Interagency considerations

Effective unified action in joint military operations result in unity of effort and enables US joint military operations planning to achieve national strategic objectives. This is attained through synchronization, collaboration and coordination in the use of informational, military, diplomatic, and economic factors influencing national power. Military power does not operate alone to achieve and defend US objectives, values and interests. It needs to collaborate with other non-DOD agencies and organizations of national power. This ensures that there is a mutual understanding of capabilities and consequences of military and non-military actions.[10] The Joint operations planning also engage interagency in order to establish how best military and civilian capabilities complement each other.

3.2.3.   Strategic guidance for Multinational Operations

Multinational operations start with effective diplomatic efforts that enhance coalition or promote alliances. Military and non-military agents engage in coordination and discussion in initial stages of multinational operations in order to address basic issues at the national strategic level. Senior-level discussions in these initial stages of interagency and multinational operations may involve IGOs such as United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), MNFs, or foreign countries.[11] These discussions may lead to establishment of the nature and limits of the response and the command structure of the response force.

Information and guidance provided for unified action and joint military operations is applied in multinational operations. Through the entire process, commanders and staffs of the US military consider the differences in various aspects of religion, culture, politics, economy, weapons, organization and caveats on authorized military actions. Joint Military Operations Planning aligns US forces, actions and resources to support multinational plan. Designated U.S. commanders and staff participate directly with armed forces of other nations in order to prepare contingency plans. Commanders assess the potential risks, uncertainties, threats, constraints and other vulnerabilities that result from bilateral planning, and how these plans affect USA’s achievement of its end states.

The US Joint Military Operations therefore engages in bilateral planning in order to meet the interests of multinational operations and other agencies. Bilateral planning entails preparation of combined and mutually approved plans governing employment of the forces of two nations for a common contingency. Bilateral planning is commonly accomplished in USA through the framework of NATO and captured in a bilateral Gtrategic Guidance Statement (SGS).[12] This guidance approach is accomplished through the Joint Planning and Execution Community (JPEC). This can be illustrated in the figure below.

Joint Planning and Execution Community

Fig 1: Joint Planning and Execution Community.[13]

3.2.4. Adaptive planning and executive system

Joint Operations Planning is achieved through the APEX system used by JPEC to monitor, plan, and execute mobilizations, deployment, employment, sustainment, demobilization and redeployment activities related to joint military operations. The APEX system involves a networked, collaborative environment that promotes senior leaders’ dialogue, concurrent development of plans, and collaborations among various levels of planning.[14] Clear strategic guidance and frequent interactions between joint operations planners and leaders enhance understanding and consideration of the needs and expectations of various agencies and stakeholders, including risks and other key factors. Apex system therefore promotes involvement with other USG departments and agencies and multinational partners.

Joint operation planning is an inherently flexible activity which adjusts to changing requirements. This necessitates the APEX system of JPEC to incorporate initiatives that are aimed at enabling a more responsive planning process. There are various initiatives that provide better options during the planning process, increase consultation and guidance opportunities, and promote agility in implementation of joint operation plans. These initiatives include: frequent In-progress review (IPR), routine assessments, and use of collaboration technology. US Joint operations planning involves various elements, operational activities, planning activities and related products as indicated in figure 2 below. Each of these functions includes enough IPRs to enable the joint operations planners to complete the plan in consideration to the various needs and expectations of various agencies and stakeholders.

IPRs involve disciplined dialogue among strategic leaders in order to develop the plan as it develops.[15] Various topics are covered in these dialogues including guidance on coordination with multinational and interagency communities, required support activities, identification and elimination of planning constraints, clarification of objectives and military end states, resolution of military conflicts, and areas of risks. Most importantly for this discussion, IPRs enhance effective planning to ensure that the joint operation plans address the most current strategic assessments and needs of US military, agencies, governments, and other stakeholders. They also initiate valuable feedback for the planning staff. IPR process also regulates inter-agency dialogue and coordination whereby the Secretary of Defense receives an update on the scope and scale of planning relationship and exchanges between the US military and the civilian and multinational counterparts; and providing directions and guidance.[16]

joint military operations and activities

Fig 2: Joint Operation Planning Activities, Functions, and Products

4. Conclusion

Joint military operation is a crucial issue in military involvements. It requires military commanders and their staff to plan for military operations effectively in an international engagement. Military commanders need to consider various needs and expectations of different agencies, government and non-government communities, multinational groups and NGOs. Some of these needs and expectations include: political and economic interests of international players, need for peace and security and better governance in the host countries and their neighbors, as well as humanitarian expectations of non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations. In order to meet such needs and expectations, military commanders and their staff develop joint military operation planning. Examples of multinational and interagency military bodies practicing joint military operation planning are the UN and US military operations. The common factors of a joint military operations planning as evidenced in the two examples include: strategic planning, concept development, environmental scanning, plan development, deployment, budgeting and interagency and multinational considerations.

End Notes

[1] US Army (2004). Counterinsurgency Operations. Field Manual-interim, 3-07 (22), 1-182. Accessed August 5, 2013 from

[2] Luck, G., Findlay, M. and JWFC Joint Training Division (2008). Joint Operations: Insights and Best Practices, 2nd Ed. USA: Joint Warfighting Center, United States Joint Forces Command.

[3] Luck, G., Findlay, M. and JWFC Joint Training Division (2008). Joint Operations: Insights and Best Practices, 2nd Ed. USA: Joint Warfighting Center, United States Joint Forces Command.

[4] Cole, R. H. (1995). Operation Just Cause: The planning and execution of joint operations in Panama, February 1988-January 1990. Washington, D.C: Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[5] UN (2013). UN HQ Planning Process Peace Operations. UN DPKO Manual Planning Process for Military Operations.

[6] UN (2013). UN HQ Planning Process Peace Operations. UN DPKO Manual Planning Process for Military Operations.

[7] UN (2013). UN HQ Planning Process Peace Operations. UN DPKO Manual Planning Process for Military Operations.

[8] UN (2013). UN HQ Planning Process Peace Operations. UN DPKO Manual Planning Process for Military Operations.

[9] United States. (1995). User’s guide for JOPES (Joint Operation Planning and Execution System). Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[10] Vego, M. N., & Naval War College (U.S.). (2007). Joint operational warfare: Theory and practice. Newport, RI: Naval War College.

[11] États-Unis. (2003). Geospatial intelligence support to joint operations. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[12] Vego, M. N., & Naval War College (U.S.). (2007). Joint operational warfare: Theory and practice. Newport, RI: Naval War College.

[13] United States. (1995). User’s guide for JOPES (Joint Operation Planning and Execution System). Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[14] Mullen, M.G. (2011). Joint Operation Planning. Joint Publication 5-0.

[15] Mullen, M.G. (2011). Joint Operation Planning. Joint Publication 5-0.

[16] NWC (2008). Joint Operation Planning Process Workbook. USA: JMO Department, Naval War College.

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