Joint operation planning process
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Published: Fri, 05 May 2017
The Joint Operation Planning Process, or JOPP, supports planning at all levels and for missions across the full range of military operations. This planning process applies to both contingency planning and CAP. The JOPP is an orderly, analytical planning process that consists of a set of logical steps to analyze a mission, develop, analyze, and compare alternative COAs, or courses of action, select the best COA, and produce a plan or order.
Step 1: Initiation. The Joint Operation Planning Process or JOPP begins when the President, SecDef, or CJCS recognizes a potential for military capability to be employed in response to a potential or actual crisis and initiates planning by deciding to develop military options. The GEF, JSCP, and related strategic guidance statements serve as the primary guidance to begin contingency planning. Military options normally are developed in combination with other nonmilitary options so that the President can respond with all the appropriate instruments of national power. Often in CAP, the JFC and staff will perform an assessment of the initiating directive to determine time available until mission execution, the current status of intelligence products and staff estimates, and other factors relevant to the specific planning situation.
Step 2: Mission Analysis. The primary purpose of mission analysis is to understand the problem and purpose of the operation and issue appropriate guidance to drive the rest of the planning process. A primary consideration for a supported commander during mission analysis is the national strategic end state -the broadly expressed political, military, economic, social, informational, and other conditions that should exist after the conclusion of a campaign or operation. The primary inputs to mission analysis are the higher headquarters planning directive, other strategic guidance, the Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment or JIPOE, and initial staff estimates. The primary products of mission analysis are a restated mission statement and the JFC’s initial intent statement, the Commander’s Critical Information Requirements or CCIRs, and planning guidance. The figure below describes the key inputs and resulting outputs of mission analysis.
Step 3: Course of Action (COA) Development. A COA consists of the following information: what type of military action will occur; why the action is required (purpose); who will take the action; when the action will begin; where the action will occur; and how the action will occur (method of employment of forces). A valid COA will have the characteristics outlined in the figure below. Once a valid COA is developed, the staff converts the approved COA into a CONOPS. COA determination will consist of four primary activities: COA development, analysis and wargaming, comparison, and approval.
Step 4: COA Analysis and Wargaming. The commander and staff analyze each tentative COA separately according to the commander’s guidance. COA analysis identifies advantages and disadvantages of each proposed friendly COA. Wargaming provides a means for the commander and participants to analyze a tentative COA, improve their understanding of the operational environment, and obtain insights that otherwise might not have occurred. Based upon time available, the commander should wargame each tentative COA against the most probable and the most dangerous adversary COAs.
Step 5: COA Comparison. An objective process whereby COAs are considered independently of each other and evaluated against a set of criteria that are established by the staff and commander. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of COAs so that a COA with the highest probability of success can be selected or developed. The commander and staff develop and evaluate a list of important criteria, or governing factors, consider each COA’s advantages and disadvantages, identify actions to overcome disadvantages, make final tests for feasibility and acceptability and weigh the relative merits of each.
Step 6: COA Approval. The staff determines the best COA to recommend to the commander. The staff briefs the commander on the COA comparison and the analysis and wargaming results, including a review of important supporting information. This briefing often takes the form of a commander’s estimate. This information could include such factors as, the current status of the joint force; the current JIPOE; and assumptions used in COA development. The commander selects a COA or forms an alternate COA based upon the staff recommendations. The nature of a potential contingency could make it difficult to determine a specific end state until the crisis actually occurs. In these cases, the JFC may choose to present two or more valid COAs for approval by higher authority. A single COA can then be approved when the crisis occurs and specific circumstances become clear.
Step 7: Plan or Order Development. The commander and staff, in collaboration with subordinate and supporting components and organizations, expand the approved COA into a detailed joint operation plan or OPORD by first developing an executable CONOPS, which clearly and concisely expresses what the JFC intends to accomplish and how it will be done using available resources. It describes how the actions of the joint force components and supporting organizations will be integrated, synchronized, and phased to accomplish the mission, including potential branches and sequels. Contingency planning will result in operation plan development, while CAP typically will lead directly to OPORD development.
Voice: Planning initiation begins when the President, SecDef, or CJCS recognizes a potential for military capability to be employed in response to a potential or actual crisis. The primary purpose of the next step, mission analysis, is to understand the problem and purpose of the operation and issue appropriate guidance to drive the rest of the planning process. Next, planners must develop a COA to accomplish the mission. During course of action analysis and wargaming, the commander and staff analyze each COA separately according to the commander’s guidance. COA analysis identifies advantages and disadvantages of each proposed friendly COA. Wargaming provides a means for the commander and participants to analyze the COA and improve understanding of the operational environment. During COA comparison, COAs are considered independently of each other and evaluated against a set of criteria, which are established by the staff and commander. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of COAs to select the COA with the highest probability of success. Next, the staff determines the best COA to recommend to the commander, which is normally presented in the form of a briefing for approval or further guidance. Finally, the commander and staff, in collaboration with subordinate and supporting components and organizations, expand the approved COA into a detailed joint operation plan or OPORD by first developing an executable concept of operations, or CONOPS. The CONOPS clearly and concisely expresses what the JFC intends to accomplish and how it will be done using available resources. Most often contingency planning will result in operation plan development, while CAP typically will lead directly to the development of an OPORD.
Title: Contingency Planning
A graphic is shown, which represents the four levels of planning detail: 1) Commander’s Estimate 2) Base Plan 3) CONPLAN 4) OPLAN. The following text is shown on the right of the screen in support of the narration:
- Initiated by publication of the Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF) and the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP)
- Conducted during peacetime
- Develops plans for a broad range of contingencies
- Compliments and supports other Department of Defense (DOD) planning cycles
- Facilitates the transition to crisis action planning (CAP)
Voice: Contingency planning usually begins with the publication of a new GEF and JSCP. It is a peacetime process that develops plans for a broad range of contingencies with apportioned resources. It’s performed in a continuous cycle that complements and supports other DOD planning cycles and facilitates the transition to crisis action planning, or CAP.
Contingency planning is accomplished through four planning levels based on JOPES policies and guidance.
Title: Contingency Planning Levels
Action: On the left side of the screen is a graphic representing the the four levels of planning detail: 1) Commander’s Estimate 2) Base Plan 3) CONPLAN 4) OPLAN. The following text is included as pop-up boxes to the matching components of the graphic:
Level 1 Planning Detail – Commander’s Estimate:
- Focuses on producing a developed Course of Action (COA)
- Provides the SecDef with military COAs to meet a potential contingency
- Reflects the supported commander’s analysis of the various COAs potential contingency
Level 2 Planning Detail – Base Plan:
- Describes the CONOPS, major forces, concepts of support, and anticipated timelines for completing the mission
- Normally does not include annexes or a TPFDD
Level 3 Planning Detail – CONPLAN:
- CONPLAN is an operation plan in an abbreviated format
- Requires expansion and alteration to convert into OPLAN or OPORD
- Includes a base plan with annexes, as required by the JFC and a supported commander’s estimate of the plan’s feasibility
- Produces a TPFDD, if applicable
Level 4 Planning Detail – OPLAN:
- OPLAN is a complete and detailed joint plan with a full description of the CONOPS, all annexes applicable to the plan, and a TPFDD
- Identifies the specific forces, functional support, and resources required to execute the plan
- Can be quickly developed into an OPORD
Voice: Contingency planning encompasses four levels of planning detail with an associated planning product for each level. Level 1 planning detail is the commander’s estimate, which focuses on producing a developed COA. These military COAs enable the SecDef to meet a potential contingency. The objective of Level 2 planning detail is a base plan which describes the CONOPS, major forces, concepts of support, and the necessary timelines to complete the envisioned mission. This level normally does not include a detailed transportation feasible flow of resources into the theater. In Level 3 planning detail, the concept plan or CONPLAN is formulated, which is an operations plan in an abbreviated format. It includes annexes as required by the JFC and the supported commander’s estimate of the plan’s overall feasibility. The CONPLAN may have an associated time-phased force and deployment data, or TPFDD, if applicable. Finally, the objective of Level 4 planning detail is a fully-developed operation plan, or OPLAN, containing a complete and detailed joint plan with a full description of the CONOPS, all annexes required for the plan, and a TPFDD. The OPLAN identifies the specific forces, functional support, and resources required to execute the plan. The OPLAN can be quickly developed into an OPORD.
Action: The following text is shown to the right of the planning level detail graphic:
An OPLAN is normally prepared when:
- The contingency is critical to national security and requires detailed prior planning.
- The magnitude or timing of the contingency requires detailed planning.
- Detailed planning is required to support multinational planning.
- The feasibility of the plan’s CONOPS cannot be determined without detailed planning.
- Detailed planning is necessary to determine force deployment, employment, and sustainment requirements, determine available resources to fill identified requirements, and validate shortfalls.
Voice: Furthermore, an OPLAN is normally prepared under the following circumstances: if the contingency is critical to national security and requires detailed planning; the magnitude or timing of the contingency necessitates the planning; detailed planning is required for a multinational planning effort; the feasibility of the CONOPS demands detailed planning; or if a detailed effort is necessary to determine the levels of force deployment and sustainment.
Title: Crisis Action Planning
Action: A series of pictures representing Crisis Action Planning is presented on screen. The following text replaces the pictures when mentioned in the narration:
Planning activities that occur in non-crisis situations; relies heavily on assumptions and projections
Crisis Action Planning
Based on facts and actual planning as a crisis unfolds
Action: The series of pictures is brought back with additional images added to it and is now used as a background.
Voice: Because it’s difficult to predict where and when a crisis will occur, planners must be able to rapidly respond to problems as they arise. Unlike contingency planning, which prepares plans in anticipation of future events, crisis action planning allows planners to respond to situations based on circumstances that exist at the time of planning. Crisis action planning procedures parallel contingency planning, but are more flexible and responsive to changing events. In time-sensitive situations, the JPEC follows formally established CAP procedures to adjust and implement previously prepared contingency plans by converting them into OPORDs or to fully develop and execute OPORDs where no useful contingency plan exists.
Title: Crisis Action Planning Activities
Action: In the background is a graphic representing the activities associated with crisis action planning. When mentioned in the narration, the corresponding parts are highlighted.
The graphic shows a graphic labeled “Event,” directly under a box labeled “Situational Awareness.” Boxes continue in two rows, showing a linear sequence connected by arrows in a zigzag pattern. An arrow labeled OPREP-3 PCA points from Situational Awareness to Decision. An arrow covered by a document labeled “Warning Order” points to COA Development. An arrow labeled “Commander’s Estimate” points from COA Development to COA Selection. An arrow covered by a document labeled “Planning or Alert Order” points from COA Selection to Detailed Planning. An arrow labeled “Operations Order” points from Detailed Planning to Plan Approval. An arrow covered by a document labeled “Execute Order” points from Plan Approval to Execution.
Graphic bands at the top divide the graphic into three portions. Situational Awareness stretches across the entire screen, lasting throughout the process. Planning covers COA Development, COA Selection, Detailed Planning, Plan Approval, and Execution and the intermediary products. Two arrows across the bottom, labeled “Prepare to Deploy Order” and “Deployment Order,” extend across the same region as the Planning band. A band labeled “Execution” extends from near the end of Plan Approval through the Execution activity.
Voice: CAP activities are similar to contingency planning activities; however, CAP is based on dynamic, real-world conditions rather than assumptions. CAP procedures provide for the rapid and effective exchange of information and analysis, the timely preparation of military COAs for consideration by the President or SecDef, and the prompt transmission of their decisions to the JPEC. The exact flow of the procedures is largely determined by the time available to complete the planning and by the significance of the crisis. The following steps summarize the activities and interaction that occur during CAP.
When the President, SecDef, or CJCS decide to develop military options, the CJCS issues a planning directive to the JPEC initiating the development of COAs. Next, a WARNORD is issued that describes the situation, establishes command relationships, and identifies the mission and any planning constraints. In response to the WARNORD, the supported commander, in collaboration with subordinate and supporting commanders and the rest of the JPEC, reviews existing joint OPLANs for applicability and develops, analyzes, and compares COAs. Next, the feasibility that existing OPLANs can be modified to fit the specific situation is determined. The CJCS then reviews and evaluates the supported commander’s estimate and recommends a COA selection. On receiving the decision of the President or SecDef, the CJCS issues an Alert Order to the JPEC to announce the decision. The supported commander then develops the OPORD and supporting TPFDD using the approved COA. The supported commander then submits the completed OPORD for approval to the SecDef or President via the CJCS. Finally, in CAP, plan development continues after the President or SecDef decides to execute the OPORD or to return to the pre-crisis situation.
Title: Campaign Planning
Action: The following bullet point list and quote from Joint Publication 5-0 are shown on screen, along with a picture representing campaign planning, in support of the narration:
- May begin during contingency planning and continue through CAP
- Primary way combatant commanders achieve unity of effort and guide planning of joint operations
- Operationalize combatant commander theater and functional strategies and integrate steady-state-activities, including current operations and security cooperation activities
- Require the broadest strategic concepts of operation and sustainment for achieving multinational, national, and theater-strategic objectives
A campaign plan describes how a series of joint major operations are arranged in time, space, and purpose to achieve strategic and operational objectives. – Joint Pub 5-0
Voice: It is important to note how campaign planning relates to the two categories of joint operation planning. Joint operation planning and planning for a campaign are not separate planning types or processes. Campaign planning may begin during contingency planning and continue through CAP, thus unifying the entire process.
A campaign plan “describes how a series of joint major operations are arranged in time, space, and purpose to achieve strategic and operational objectives.” Campaign planning is a primary means by which combatant commanders arrange for strategic unity of effort and through which they guide the planning of joint operations within their theater. Campaign plans operationalize combatant commander theater and functional strategies and integrate steady-state-activities, including current operations as well as security cooperation activities. They require the broadest strategic concepts of operation and sustainment for achieving multinational, national, and theater-strategic objectives.
Title: Types of Campaigns
Action: Background image shows combatant command AOR map of the world. The following text is shown to support of the narration:
Global Campaign – Encompasses strategic objectives on multiple AORs. More than one supported GCC possible and competing requirements for transportation, ISR assets, and specialized units and equipment. The Global War on Terrorism is an example of a global campaign.
Theater Campaign – Focuses on activities of a supported combatant commander. Accomplishes strategic or operational objectives within a theater of war or theater of operations. Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM comprised a theater campaign in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Conflict.
Subordinate Campaign – Describes the actions of a subordinate JFC, which accomplish (or contribute to the accomplishment of) strategic or operational objectives in support of a global or theater campaign. Subordinate JFCs develop subordinate campaign plans
Voice: There are three general types of campaigns, which differ generally in scope. A global campaign is one that requires the accomplishment of strategic objectives in joint operations in multiple areas of responsibility ,or AORs. In this case, there could be more than one supported geographic combatant commander, or GCC. Planners must be aware of competing requirements for potentially scarce strategic resources, such as transportation and ISR assets, as well as specialized and unique units and equipment, such as special operations and tankers. Global campaigns will often establish the strategic and operational framework within which theater and subordinate campaigns are developed. The “Global War on Terrorism” is an example of a campaign that spans all AORs.
A theater campaign encompasses the activities of a supported combatant commander. It accomplishes strategic or operational objectives within a theater of war or theater of operations, primarily within the supported commander’s AOR. An OPLAN for a theater campaign is the operational extension of a commander’s theater strategy, and translates theater strategic concepts into unified action. Adjacent combatant commanders may conduct supporting operations, within the AOR of the supported commander or within their own AORs, under the overall direction of the supported commander. Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM comprised a theater campaign in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Conflict.
A subordinate campaign describes the actions of a subordinate JFC, which accomplish, or contribute to the accomplishment of, strategic or operational objectives in support of a global or theater campaign. Subordinate JFCs develop subordinate campaign plans, if their assigned missions require military operations of substantial size, complexity, and duration and cannot be accomplished within the framework of a single major joint operation. Subordinate campaign plans should be consistent with the strategic and operational guidance and direction developed by the supported JFC.
Title: Campaign Plan Design
Action: A collage of images representing Campaign Planning are shown on screen. The following text is shown in support of the narration:
- Mostly art, not science-no best way to develop campaign plans
- Requires thinking creatively to make best use of resources to achieve objectives
- Involves Operational Art-the employment of military forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives through the design, organization, integration, and conduct of strategies, campaigns, major operations, and battles
Voice: Campaign planning is relatively unstructured compared to contingency and crisis action planning. Campaign planning is mostly an art, not a science; there is no set recipe or best way to develop a campaign plan. It requires a thorough knowledge of enemy and friendly capabilities, forces, and tactics, as well as “out-of-the-box” thinking and creativity in order to make the best use of resources to achieve the desired objectives.
Because campaign planning is mostly art, it is inextricably linked with operational art, most notably in the design of the operational concept for the campaign. Operational art refers to the employment of military forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives through the design, organization, integration, and conduct of strategies, campaigns, major operations, and battles. This is primarily an intellectual exercise based on experience and judgment.
Action: A diagram is show to represent the three key elements of operational design in the following narration. The diagram shows: “understand the strategic guidance,” bracketing the first and second levels of the diagram, which are “national strategic objective”s with “conditions (effects)” branched underneath; next level is “identify critical factors” which brackets level three in the diagram, “centers of gravity”; finally, “develop an operational” concept is the last section bracketing “actions” under the “centers of gravity” boxes.
Voice: There are three key elements of operational design. First, planners must understand the strategic guidance from the civilian leadership. This involves determining what the desired end state is and what has to be accomplished militarily to get there. Once planners understand what military conditions must exist to achieve strategic objectives, they must determine how to effect those conditions. The key to this is identifying the adversary’s critical factors-their strengths and points of vulnerability, called Centers of Gravity (COGs). Finally, the planner must develop an operational concept, which describes the sequence of actions and the application of forces and capabilities necessary to neutralize or destroy the enemy’s COGs.
Title: Joint Air Estimate
Action: On the right of the screen, operational airpower images are shown. The following text and footer are shown on the left of the screen in support of the narration:
- Culminates with the production of the Joint Air and Space Operations Plan (JAOP)
- May be employed to support deliberate and crisis action planning
The Joint Air and Space Operations Plan (JAOP) guides the employment of air and space capabilities and forces from joint force components to accomplish the missions assigned by the Joint Force Commander (JFC)
Voice: We’ve discussed joint operation planning in a very general sense, but how does the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) fulfill his specific responsibility to develop the air and space portion of the Joint Force Commander’s (JFC’s) campaign plan?
The Joint Air Estimate Process is a six-phase process that culminates with the production of the Joint Air and Space Operations Plan (JAOP). The JAOP is the JFACC’s plan for integrating and coordinating joint air and space operations. It guides the employment of air and space capabilities and forces from joint force components to accomplish the missions assigned by the JFC. A Joint Air Estimate Process may be employed during contingency planning to produce JAOPs that support Operation Plans (OPLANs) or Concept Plans (CONPLANs). It may also be used during crisis action planning in concert with other theater operation planning.
Title: Joint Air Estimate Process
Action: The following text is shown in support of the narration:
Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (JIPOE) is initiated; JFC’s mission and guidance analyzed
Situation and Course of Action Development
JIPOE refined; Friendly and adversary COGs are analyzed to assist in COA preparation
Course of Action Analysis
Advantages and disadvantages of each COA are identified
Course of Action Comparison
COAs are compared to predetermined criteria to identify best employment options
Course of Action Selection
Staff briefs recommended COA to JFACC
Joint Air & Space Operations Plan (JAOP) Development
Selected COA developed into JAOP
Action: A link to Joint Publication 3-30 is provided at the bottom of the page. Each of the bold text above are linked to the following pop-up text:
Mission analysis is critical to ensure thorough understanding of the task and subsequent planning. It results in the Joint Force Air Component Commander’s (JFACC’s) mission statement that includes the “who, what, when, where and why” for the joint air operation. Anticipation, prior preparation, and a trained staff are critical to a timely mission analysis. Staff estimates generated during mission analysis are continually revisited and updated during the course of planning and execution.
Situation and Course of Action (COA) Development
The first two tasks of situation and course of action (COA) development are expanding and refining the initial JIPOE completed in Phase I and COG analysis. Expanded JIPOE is essential to developing and analyzing both enemy and friendly COGs. This is especially critical for air and space planning given the perspective and scope of air and space operations. The third task is the development of friendly COAs. Air and space planners develop alternative COAs by varying the ends, ways, means, and risks. The operational objectives normally fill the what guidance for COA development; the supporting tactical objectives, effects, and tasks help define the how for planners. Once planners define the objectives and supporting effects, they further refine potential air and space COAs based on the priority, sequence, phasing, weight of effort, matched resources, and assessment criteria. The result of COA development is a minimum of two valid COAs or a single valid COA with significant branches or sequels. The final step is a risk analysis of the COA in terms of both operations and combat support
Course of Action (COA) Analysis
COA analysis involves wargaming each COA against the adversary’s most likely and most dangerous COAs. Wargaming is a recorded “what if” session of actions and reactions designed to visualize the flow of the battle and evaluate each friendly COA. Wargaming is a valuable step in the estimate process because it stimulates ideas and provides insights that might not otherwise be discovered.
Course of Action (COA) Comparison
Comparing the COAs against predetermined criteria provides an analytical method to identify the best employment options for air forces/capabilities. This begins with the JFACC staff comparing the proposed COAs and identifying the strengths, weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages of each. This is often followed by rating each COA based upon the established criteria.
Course of Action (COA) Selection
COA selection begins when the staff presents their recommended COA (usually in the form of a briefing) to the JFACC. This briefing includes a summary of the estimate process that led to the recommended COA. Based on the amount of JFACC involvement throughout the planning process and the degree of parallel planning the commander accomplishes, COA selection will vary from choosing among alternatives to direct approval of the staff-recommended COA.
Joint Air Operations Plan (JAOP) Development
The JAOP details how the joint air effort will support the JFC’s overall Operation Plan (OPLAN). The JAOP accomplishes the following: integrates the efforts of joint air and space capabilities and forces; identifies objectives and tasks; identifies measures or indicators of success; accounts for current and potential adversary COAs; synchronizes the phasing of air and space operations with the JFC’s plan; indicates what air and space capabilities and forces are required to achieve the objectives.
Voice: While the phases of the Joint Air Estimate process are presented in sequential order, work on them can be either concurrent or sequential. The phases are integrated and the products of each phase are checked and verified for coherence.
The Process begins with Mission Analysis. This first phase incorporates: a
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