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The Standing Joint Task Force Afloat
CSC 1992
SUBJECT AREA - National Military Strategy
Title:  The Standing Joint Task Force Afloat
Author: Lieutenant Commander Patrick M.  McMillin,
United States Navy
Thesis:  To support the National Military Strategy the CINC
must structure his limited assets to respond to regional
contingency and peacekeeping operations.
Background:  The United States National Military Strategy has
identified future conflicts, where our forces may become
involved,  are likely to be regional,  sudden,  and widely
dispersed.  Naval expeditionary forces are the most  likely
assets utilized by the CINC to accomplish his mission within
his theater of influence.  These naval expeditionary forces
are mobile,  rapidly deployable and have the capability to
embark a standing JTF afloat staff.   Past failures in joint
operations highlighted command and control problems with the
Services all attempting to get  involved  in the action, but
with frequent  often costly, misunderstandings of who's  in
charge.  The standing JTF afloat embarked on a CV or LHD/LHA
platform,  in direct support to the JTF, would function as
the CINC's regional warfighter allowing the CINC to focus on
the strategic and operational  level of war.  Joint opera-
tions must be organized in peacetime to better fight, as we
train, in wartime.
Recommendation:  The CINC should establish a standing Joint
Task Force (JTF) afloat  to maximize his decision response
times to exploit the inherent flexibility and mobility of
the naval expeditionary force.
Thesis statement:  The CINC can establish a standing Joint
Task Force (JTF) afloat to maximize decision and response
times to exploit the inherent flexibility and mobility of a
smaller military force.
I.	National Military Strategy Environment
	A.	Overview
	B.	Forward Presence
	C.	Expeditionary Forces
II.	Combatant Commander
	A.	CINC's Mission
	B.	Exploiting Flexibility
III.	Formation of the JTF
	A.	Doctrinal Perspective
	B.	Historical Perspective
	C.	Standing JTF
	D.	Command and Control
IV.	Standing JTF Headquarters Afloat
	A.	Supporting Naval Platforms of Choice
	B.	Structure and Training
	  by  Lieutenant Commander Patrick M. McMillin,
		    United States Navy
      Many dynamic geopolitical changes have occurred around
the world in the last two years.  The United States finds
itself in a unique position as the only remaining military
superpower.  We are at a crossroad in terms of our National
Military Security Strategy, struggling to formulate a strat-
egy to protect our national interests and exert a sense of
stability throughout the world.
      Recently the Secretary of the Navy made the following
statement as part of his Department of the Navy 1992 Posture
brief before Congress:
      The end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the
      Soviet empire have offered the United States an
      historic opportunity to reshape its strategy and milit-
      ary forces.  The risk of global superpower confronta-
      tion has virtually disappeared; the type of conflicts
      in which the United States might become involved in the
      future are likely to be regional, sudden, and widely
      dispersed. (2:20)
Our National Security Strategy is shifting from an emphasis
on fixed forward defenses against a continental superpower
to one of flexible forward positioning of forces designed to
shape and influence regional events. (2:21)
      The world was a much simpler place prior to the breakup
of the Soviet Union.  Our justification for maintaining a
large standing military force was to check the expanding and
rapid technological advances of the Soviet military.  In
response to the dissolving Warsaw Pact, beginning in 1989,
we proposed downsizing our military forces.  Now, with the
demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. no longer faces a major
military threat and the political and economic realities
have made our military force reductions a reality.  The
Defense Department has turned to the unpopular task of
further draw-downs by cutting personnel, retiring weapons,
closing bases, and shelving future plans.
      Unilateral service operations are unlikely in future
military conflicts.  However, joint operations may prove
more difficult and vastly different from those of the past.
At the operational level, the combatant commander, the
Commander in Chief (CINC), will rely on reduced joint forces
to respond to contingency or peacekeeping operations.  Our
ability to project power has strategic value beyond crisis
response. "It becomes an even more critical part of our
military strategy since overseas presence will be reduced
and our regional focus has been enhanced. "(10:10)  How can
the CINC better structure his limited assets to meet region-
al theater requirements?  The CINC can establish a standing
Joint Task Force (JTF) afloat to maximize decision response
times to exploit the inherent flexibility and mobility of a
smaller military force.  This standing JTF afloat will
provide the CINC with a flexible, capable, and continual
subordinate C3 (command, control, and communications) struc-
ture within his region of influence.
      There are four key foundations to our most recent
(1992) National Military Strategy:  strategic deterrence and
defense, forward presence, crisis response, and reconstitu-
tion.(10:6)  This new strategy emphasizes flexibility and is
regionally oriented responding decisively to challenges of
this decade. (l0:1)  Our future threats are more likely to be
regional rather than global.
      Forward presence is replacing forward basing as the
cornerstone of U.S. defense policy, which will be more
regionally focused.  Forward presence helps to reduce
regional tensions, to deter potential aggressors, and to
dampen regional arms proliferation.  The National Military
Strategy states:
      Forward presence includes periodic and rotational
deployments, access and storage agreements, combined exer-
cises, security and humanitarian assistance, port visits,
and military-to-military contacts.  (10:7)
The capability to respond, on short notice, to the many and
varied regional crises is one of the keys to our military
      Although joint operations are widely considered the
force structure for future conflicts, the Navy-Marine Corps
expeditionary force capabilities will likely be the initial
choice of the CINC for developing a joint force.
      Expeditionary forces were described by the Chief of
Naval Operations in his recent report, on the Navy's 1992
      Expeditionary forces are those which are mobile, im-
mediately responsible, self sustaining and ready to meet the
requirements of the CINC for a wide variety of military and
humanitarian operations including:  disaster relief, non-
combatant evacuation operation (NEO), protection of U.S.
citizens and property overseas, anti-terrorists actions,
special operations, limited strikes, and full-scale, joint
combat operations. (2:25)
Naval  (Navy-Marine Corps) forces are non-intrusive (able to
steam in international waters, over the horizon, as opposed
to requiring land basing), and they are mobile (able to
reach nearly 75 percent of the worlds population). (11:3)   An
expeditionary force must be available on short notice to
protect U.S.  interests.  Often naval forces  `are the wedge
which opens the way for full-scale joint military of humani-
tarian operations." (2:21)  Naval forces have long been our
means of forward presence and will become more important as
forward bases are reduced in this decade.
      Some new concepts currently in development consider a
naval expeditionary force consisting of Navy and Marine
Corps elements. (12:49)  This idea encompasses the possible
mutual operations of a carrier (CV) and an amphibious land-
ing-dock/assault (LHD/LHA)  in a regional area.  These re-
gional areas would correspond to the Mediterranean, Indian
Ocean, and North Pacific.
      General Mundy (Commandant of the Marine Corps) states
in his report to Congress:
      Naval forces are self-contained sea-air-ground teams,
which can rapidly respond and project a selective combina-
tion of air and/or amphibious forces.   They have the ability
to fight independently and jointly. (11:4)
Thus highlighting fundamental operational concepts of naval
forces: operating in forward areas, flexible response,
maneuver from the sea,  joint operations capable, and sus-
tained from the sea. (11:10)
      A CINC, as combatant commander, is responsible for the
strategic environment of his theater, in both peace time and
wartime, in support of national security strategies. (8:I-1)
His doctrinal guidance provides for a combination of methods
to organize his theater forces:  Subordinate Unified Command,
Service Component Command, Joint Task Force (JTF), or Func-
tional Component Command. (7:Chap 3, Sect II)  Our National
Military Strategy states:
      As the nation is called upon to respond to crises,
regional CINCs will form appropriately tailored joint task
forces.   These joint task forces will include an increasing
number of both forward presence and crisis response forces
as the intensity of regional crises grows. (10:18)
Our deployed forces are often the most responsive in cases
of regional crises or natural disasters.
      The CINC has ultimate responsibility for his entire
theater of operations, or region of influence.  Goldwater-
Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986
established greater influence to the CINC as a warfighter
for the forces under his control.  He now has greater capab-
ilities to conduct training and organize his theater forces
to conduct joint or unilateral service operations.  Joint
operations are defined as:
      A military action on the carrying out of a strategic,
      operational, tactical, training, or administrative
      military mission by forces from two or more services;
      also the conduct combat . . . needed to gain the objectives
      of any battle or campaign. (8: xii)
With future emphasis on jointness and the inherent capab-
ilities of naval forces, the CINC can focus his effort on a
standing JTF to conduct his regional warfighting or peace-
keeping missions.  However,  jointness should not be
established for the sake of service participation; in Desert
One (attempted Iranian hostage rescue) and Urgent Fury
(Grenada), the Services wanted a "piece of the pie".  (3:12)
      A JTF is normally established by the CINC.  The joint
task force is defined as:
      A force composed of assigned elements of the Army, the
Navy or the Marine Corps, and the Air Force, or two of more
of these Services, which is constituted and so designated by
the Secretary of Defense or by the commander of a unified
command [CINC], a specified command, or an existing joint
task force.  (6:199)
The JTF is used to execute a contingency operation to poten-
tially include a wide variety of military activities.  This
force is normally established when the mission has a specif-
ic limited objective. (9: Chap II)
      However, if the CINC were to form a standing JTF afloat
he would have a joint warfighter already in existence.  Thus
allowing the CINC to stand back and function at the opera-
tional level of war where he may be most useful.  In order
to exploit flexibility in his forces, the CINC should es-
tablish a standing JTF afloat rather than putting together
an ad hoc team to build up a JTF headquarters while a crisis
is in progress.  The standing JTF afloat has the several
advantages of being in the region and working as a team in
preparing for regional contingencies or peacekeeping opera-
      Creation of a standing JTF afloat will allow the CINC
numerous advantages.   For example, after Desert Storm was
over the majority of joint military forces were redeployed
back to their home bases and CINCCENT returned to Florida.
However, as is usually the case, a carrier task force
remains on station in the region to provide stability and
rapid response to any peacekeeping operations or conflicts
in the region.   A standing JTF deployed on board the carrier
with the nucleus staff elements of all the military services
would maintain updated plans on joint contingencies and
allow flexibility to rapidly respond to any unilateral or
joint scenario.
      Command and control is, more often than not, the key to
success or failure of a joint operation.  Past experiences
with joint forces have demonstrated that failure is forth
coming when a joint command is hastily thrown together and
sister services fail to train together in joint exercises.
Focusing in on the command and control issue is important in
understanding past failures resulting in misunderstandings
of who was in charge and who works for whom during joint
operations.  A standing, deployable, JTF embarked on a naval
vessel,  provides the CINC an on-scene joint warfighter in
his region who can exploit flexibility and the need to
maximize decision and response times.
      Doctrinally,  joint task forces were established for a
limited duration to complete a contingency operation.  By
      A JTF is established when the mission has a specific
limited objective and does not require overall centralized
control of logistics . . . A JTF is dissolved when the purpose
for which it was created has been dissolved. (7: 3-27)
The JTF had the ability to respond to diverse, unexpected
and unpredictable crises.  They were created by assigning
forces from each service and assigned to execute rapid
deployment, forced entry, peace keeping operations, and
humanitarian assistance. (3:27)  In today's environment
military resources are in short supply and the CINC does not
have the luxury of previous forward basing assets.
      The majority of previous joint operations have usually
resulted in establishing the JTF ashore to optimize the vast
C3 resources of the Army or the Air Force.  With the excep-
tion of recent JTFs formed for Law Enforcement Operations
(LEO) for drug interdiction, the CINC normally forms up the
JTF when a crisis has evolved, either a building regional
conflict or an emergency peacekeeping operation.  But, this
system has required host nation support which may not exist
in future joint operations.
      Past failures in joint operations, especially the
Mayaguez operation and Desert One (1980), highlighted short
notice contingency operations which were unexpected, con-
fused, time sensitive, remote, limited available forces, no
previous existing plan, and ad hoc command and control
arrangements.  After these failures a Special Operations
Review Group (Holloway Commission) identified several key
reasons for failure:
      Ad hoc nature of the joint organizations and planning
were related to most of the major failure issues.  By not
utilizing an existing JTF organization, JCS had to start,
literally from the beginning, to establish a JTF, find a
commander, create an organization, provide a staff, develop
a plan, select units, and train the forces before attaining
even the most rudimentary mission readiness. (3:18)
The first standing JTF was the Rapid Deployment Task Force
(RDJTF), established in October 1979 with a permanent staff-
ed JTF headquarters.(3:26)  Establishing a standing JTF
afloat will provide the CINC today with greater flexibility
in his decision process.
      The increasing involvement of U.S. military forces in
interdicting international drug operations would greatly
benefit from a standing JTF afloat.  Whether a CV or LHD/LHA
were deployed in the region, the JTF would have a joint C3
structure to deal with an almost unlimited myriad of contin-
gencies without host nation support or sovereignty
violations.  Whether controlling the Air Force's Airborne
Warning and Control system (AWACS), the Army's Special
Forces, the Marine Corps' MAGTF (Marine Air Ground Task
Force), or the Navy's battle group, the standing JTF afloat
is in an optimum position to provide the CINC with decisive
      A potential scenario in which the rapid escalation of
joint forces is evident would be strongly supported by the
standing JTF afloat.  For instance suppose a CV, with a
standing JTF headquarters on board, is within several
hundred miles of a region where a low intensity conflict
(LIC)  is developing.   The potential for transition into a
mid intensity (MIC)  is great and countries in the region
disapprove U.S. forward-basing requests.  The JTF afloat now
becomes the central controlling point for the CINC's decisi-
ons and actions.  Army and Air Force involvement is limited
but still under the control of the JTF.   Navy and Marine
Corps elements will have the greatest participation.   C3 and
planning are both adequately accomplished by the JTF afloat
in the region.   The lack of basing requirements does not
prevent accomplishing the CINC's mission.
      As evident in past joint operations command and control
are critical factors to ensure the success of a regional
mission for the CINC and his forces.  The number of standing
JTFs and precise organizational structure is a detailed
subject in itself and not within the scope of this paper.
Past lessons learned from exercises have often identified
the fact we should train as we operate and fight.  Therefore
a standing JTF should be established in peace time to allow
the commander, his staff, and joint elements to train as a
joint organization.  "This can be accomplished by organizing
our contingency forces in peace time the way we will most
likely fight them in war time, as a single entity, a stand-
ing JTF." (3:25)
      Most CINCs and their staffs will find it difficult to
"concentrate on the strategic, operational, and tactical
level details inherent in a crisis with the required mili-
tary forces." (3:24)  The CINC needs a joint warfighter in
the region to focus his effort on the mission at hand and
become familiar with the details and idiosyncracies of the
area.   An existing standing JTF headquarters afloat, even
with a small staff and only limited assets assigned, would
provide an organizational frame-work of joint professional
expertise around which a larger tailored  joint force could
quickly coalesce.  "The commander and his staff should be
hand-picked based on ability as proven warfighters, ability
to forego service parochialism and view forces from a holis-
tic, functional perspective. "(3:23)  The standing JTF head-
quarters should light, rapidly deployable characteristics
and be maintained at a high state of readiness.  The
rotation the JTF afloat staffs can be worked out the CINC
      The naval platforms of choice for embarking the stand-
ing JTF commander and his staff are the CV, LHD, or LHA.
All three platforms have the command and control spaces and
basic accommodations to support a deployable JTF.  Naturally
this is not an easy task, as embarking any staff is only
accomplished with meticulous planning and management of
available spaces on board a ship.  However,  the ship which
embarks the JTF staff would not be considered to embark
other staffs.  Staffs such as a carrier group commander,
cruiser-destroyer group commander, squadron commander,
amphibious squadron, amphibious task force commander, landing
force commander, or a MAGTF commander would need to embark
on a separate vessel.
      A CV, LHD, or LHA supporting a JTF staff would then be
assigned in direct support of the JTF commander.  This idea
of direct support to the JTF may not rest well with carrier
commanding officers or group staffs, but is the best way to
operate.  In all but the most unique cases, a CV operating
in a CINC's theater of influence would be positioned where
it can best support the JTF in a crisis.  If this is the
case, then an ideal situation would have the carrier always
in direct support of the joint warfighter (standing JTF com-
mander) in the region.
      Thus in creating the standing JTF afloat, the mission
of the CV or LHD/LHA may change to primarily that of support
of the JTF.  These naval platforms offer the mobility and
the best C3 environment for the JTF to adequately support
the CINC in his region of influence.  Previous missions of
the carrier to provide sea and land strike operations would
remain valid, but now these missions would be conducted
under the control of the JTF in support of joint operations.
In particular, the proposed fifty percent reduction of
aircraft carriers will require modification of their
missions to provide the CINC with the maximum flexibility in
response to a crisis.
      Training with the standing JTF afloat is a must for
deployed naval units and other service organizations who may
eventually support the JTF, either directly or in general.
Naval forces, as a part of their deployment cycle could chop
into the standing JTF to conduct a variety of exercises or
provide direct support to the JTF for a limited period of
      The very dynamics of future warfare and the location of
regions of potential conflicts continues to be hotly
debated.  However, one predictable element is our ability to
rapidly respond to most crises in the world.  The CINC's
capability to establish a joint force and C3 structure
within his region is greatly enhanced by establishing a
standing JTF afloat.  The JTF afloat,  in fact, provides the
CINC greater flexibility to maximize his decision process
and reduce response times to a variety of contingencies.
While many may object to maintaining a standing JTF afloat,
the future of our reduced military forces will require this
capability to support the CINC's needs.  The concept of the
standing JTF afloat is much needed to meet the needs in this
decade and perhaps the beginning of the 21ST century.
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