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Smaller-Scale Contingency (SSC)
Small-Scale Contingency (SSC)
Small-Scale Conflict (SSC)

The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) report explicitly establishes Small-scale contingencies (SSCs) as a new mission for military operational requirements and a major consideration in deciding on force structure.

"... swift intervention by military forces may be the best way to contain, resolve, or mitigate the consequences of a conflict that could otherwise become far more costly and deadly. These operations encompass the full range of joint military operations beyond peacetime engagement activities but short of major theater warfare and include: show-of-force operations, interventions, limited strikes, noncombatant evacuation operations, no-fly zone enforcement, peace enforcement, maritime sanctions enforcement, counterterrorism operations, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. "

However, SSCs are not precisely defined in the QDR, and indeed there is no consistent expansion of the SSC acronym. Evidently, Small-Scale Contingency (SSC) operations cover the full spectrum of operations beyond Stability and Support Operations [SASO] but short of Major Theater War, such as limited strikes. In many usages, the SSC construct is used to cover all operations other than Major Theater War, to include SASO. But such an expansive conception does not seem particularly helpful, given the rather different character of SASO peacetime engagement operations and combat operations on a smaller scale than Major Theater War. SSC plans are for operations against a less compelling threat than those involved in an MTW. An SSC is limited in scale and duration and involves primarily active forces for crises and conflicts like Operations URGENT FURY (Grenada) and JUST CAUSE (Panama).

The Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) provides the strategic direction required to coordinate the planning efforts of the combatant commanders in pursuit of national strategic objectives and to integrate their efforts with those of the remainder of the Joint Planning and Execution Community. The JSCP is the link between strategic planning accomplished through the Joint Strategic Planning System and joint operation planning conducted through Joint Operation Planning and Execution System. It is the primary vehicle through which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff exercises his responsibility to provide for the preparation of joint operation plans. The JSCP base document provides a list of major combat forces expected to be available during the planning period under various conditions of mobilization and apportionment of those forces to the combatant commanders for planning. Forces apportioned for planning remain under the command of their providing organization until specified otherwise. The JSCP deconflicts CINC and Service plans resulting from the potential for up to two nearly simultaneous MTWs.

The apportionment of forces for regional contingencies assumes that two concurrent MTWs could develop sequentially. CINC planning for the priority MTW is based on the receipt of forces sufficient for counterattack operations. In the event of a second, concurrent, lesser-priority MTW, the supported CINC would receive forces sufficient to defend successfully and, where appropriate, engage in limited offensive operations.

Apportioned forces are divided into four Cases. Each Case, progressively, contains more forces, and the CINC will be apportioned different level of forces (Cases) dependent upon the level of threat and the appropriate response option (FDO, Deploy Decisive Force, or Counterattack). Four Cases are used so that forces can be deconflicted if two concurrent contingencies happen sequentially. The JSCP apportions combat forces for each CINC so they can begin deliberate planning.

  • Case 1 Forces (FDO). These forces, primarily in-place and active component augmentation forces, are designed to support the array of possible flexible deterrent options available to the CINC and NCA. They are rapidly deployable and relatively small (squadron/brigade level). They are there to support the first option: "Flexible Deterrence."
  • Case 2 Forces (Early Deployers for Deploy a Decisive Force): Additive to Case 1 forces, they include the Active component and that portion of the Reserve component necessary to move and sustain a major force from CONUS. These Case 2 forces support the early stages of the second response option, "Deploy Decisive Force."
  • Case 3 Forces (Deploy Decisive Force): Additive to Cases 1 & 2, Case 3 forces are apportioned based on unambiguous warning in which the enemy may not have completed preparation for war. These forces include the Presidential Selected Reserve Call-up (PSRC) and Partial Mobilization reinforcements, and are the forces available for the CINC to focus OPlan development on. These forces further support the second response option: "Deploy Decisive Force."
  • Case 4 Forces (Counterattack/Decisive Force): Again, additive to the previous Cases, Case 4 forces comprise additional Active units and Reserve forces required and made available under Partial Mobilization. These forces are phased into the OPLAN to support the concept of "Deploy Decisive Force" needed to quickly end a conflict on terms agreeable to the US.

The forces are usually "generic." Actual force assignment, reassignment, or allocation for crisis or contingency operations would be authorized by the National Command Authority through the Chairman, Joints Chief of Staff to the respective CINCs at the time of execution. All of the forces specified for CINC planning may not be available for execution. In general, however, either these or other comparable forces will be made available prior to or concurrently with a Deploy Decisive Force (DDF) or Counterattack execution order.

Airpower employment in SSC operations is significantly different from other force employment operations. When surface forces are employed in this environment, they have a unifying doctrine that articulates force employment considerations. The doctrine is coherent, relevant, and most importantly, accepted by all of the services. Airpower has four separate service doctrines, and minimal guidance published in joint doctrine upon which to rely for employment in an SSC environment. The SSC environment is unique in that effective operations achieve strategic, operational, and tactical level objectives concurrently. Joint doctrine does not address this paradigm for airpower employment.

Based on experience in the Balkan conflict, a portion of the total US force will likely be involved in operations other than war and/or in protecting US interests threatened by SSCs. In-place and augmentation forces apportioned for MTW contingencies must also be ready to respond to SSCs. In some cases, they might not be available to reinforce a CINC in time to affect MTW deterrence or initial defensive operations. US forces must be able to withdraw from smaller-scale contingency operations, reconstitute, and then deploy to a major theater war within required timelines. Although in some cases this may pose significant operational, diplomatic, and political challenges, the ability to transition between peacetime operations and warfighting remains a fundamental requirement for virtually every US military unit.

Sustained commitment to multiple concurrent SSCs will stress US forces, by creating tempo and budgetary strains on selected units, in ways that need to be carefully managed. SSC operations also put a premium on the ability of the US military to work effectively with other US government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and a variety of coalition partners. SSC operations require that the US government, including DoD and other agencies, continuously and deliberately reassess both the challenges encountered in such operations and the capabilities required to meet these challenges.

As the demand for US participation in smaller-scale contingency operations remains high, the Department of Defense is looking for new ways to conduct these operations as efficiently as possible and manage operational tempo effectively. Increasing the role of the Reserve Components [RC] in these operations may make more effective use of the range of skills inherent in those forces, and provide an important mechanism to help manage operational tempo for the Active Component (AC). When the US military deploys today for a smaller-scale contingency, units found largely in the Reserve Components must meet several of the initial mission requirements. Because the Reserve Components are not designed to respond as rapidly overall as the Active Component, calling up these specialized units on extremely short notice is complicated and stressful for RC personnel.

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