The Logistics Planner

BY CMDR. ALEXANDER S. MAITRE, SC, USN
CHIEF OF PLANS, LOGISTICS OPERATIONS CENTER
NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND
GLOBAL LOGISTICS SUPPORT

Scene setter:

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake strikes 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issues a tsunami warning for the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the U.S. An hour after the quake, waves up to 30 feet high hit the Japanese coast, overtopping tsunami walls, sweeping away people and vehicles, causing buildings to collapse, and severing roads and highways. Sixty to seventy thousand people living nearby are ordered to evacuate to shelters. As aftershocks hit the Nagano and Niigata prefectures, a nuclear emergency is declared at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 180 miles from Tokyo. As evacuation orders expand, at least 6 million homes – 10 percent of Japan’s households – are without electricity, and 1 million are without water. About 9,500 people in a single town (half the town’s population) are reported to be unaccounted for. Rolling blackouts begin in parts of Tokyo and eight prefectures. Up to 45 million people will be affected in the rolling outages, which are scheduled to last until April. 50,000 Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel, 190 aircraft and 25 ships are deployed to help with rescue efforts. The Japanese government requests U.S. assistance for a disaster that will ultimately claim the lives of over 18,000 people.

Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic (Pacific Fleet N4), members of the Pacific Fleet staff, and the Center for Navy Analysis hosted a 5-day wargame in November 2015. It was attended by Rear Adm. John Polowczyk (Office of Chief of Naval Operations N41) and members of his staff; Mr. Bill Bickert (Naval Supply Systems Command Global Logistics Support); U.S. Army Pacific; Pacific Air Forces; Marine Forces Pacific; THIRD and SEVENTH Fleet N4s; Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 N41; CTF 33; Military Sealift Command; Navy Warfare Development Command; U.S. Pacific Command; and Defense Logistics Agency Energy. Present were seven logistics planners and three planner interns, including four graduates of the MAWS and three graduates of the MOPC. Cdmr. Maitre is standing over the left shoulder of the gentlemen holding the binder. Photo taken by: MC2 (SW/AW) Tamara L. Vaughn

Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic (Pacific Fleet N4), members of the Pacific Fleet staff, and the Center for Navy Analysis hosted a 5-day wargame in November 2015. It was attended by Rear Adm. John Polowczyk (Office of Chief of Naval Operations N41) and members of his staff; Mr. Bill Bickert (Naval Supply Systems Command Global Logistics Support); U.S. Army Pacific; Pacific Air Forces; Marine Forces Pacific; THIRD and SEVENTH Fleet N4s; Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 N41; CTF 33; Military Sealift Command; Navy Warfare Development Command; U.S. Pacific Command; and Defense Logistics Agency Energy. Present were seven logistics planners and three planner interns, including four graduates of the MAWS and three graduates of the MOPC. Cdmr. Maitre is standing over the left shoulder of the gentlemen holding the binder. Photo taken by: MC2 (SW/AW) Tamara L. Vaughn

For the Supply Corps officer, becoming a planner is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a growing cadre of officers – line and staff corps – that will engage in war planning and disaster response planning. These officers are prepared to serve within operational level of war (OLW) staffs to solve “wicked problems”. Wicked problems are essentially unique, “one-shot” operations with no opportunity to learn by trial and error. Every attempt counts significantly and problems can be considered to be symptoms of another, possibly unsolvable problem.
Combat operations and complicated disasters such as the one described above place extreme stresses upon combatant commander and fleet staffs, stresses that often cause staffs to “immediately start doing the wrong things”, without first thinking about the situation. In a disaster, some specific questions might be: “Has the affected nation asked for our help? How do we know? Who is the primary federal agency or person in lead for supporting them? Who is the designated military organization in lead for planning and executing what that agency or person directs? Did that agency or person even ask us for help? What did they ask us to do? What supporting efforts are required? When we begin providing support, how will we know if what we are doing is having the desired result? Who decides that?” In combat operations, the questions to be asked are often entirely different!

The existence of “wicked problems” requires the education in and repetitive use of a planning process, such as the Joint Operation Planning Process (JOPP) or the Navy Planning Process (NPP), so that commanders can rapidly generate executable options. The planner skill-set is not unique to the Supply Corps, and formal education and experience is tracked solely with an additional qualification designator (AQD), regardless of designator. The Joint Planner (JP1) AQD is the “education AQD” and the Maritime Operational Planners (JPM) AQD denotes formal planner training. The JP2 AQD denotes planning experience without the benefit of a formal education or training. The JP3 is both a personnel AQD and a billet AQD; it identifies education or training coupled with a tour in a JP3-coded planner billet, and it identifies those billets requiring a person with the JP1 or JP2 AQD. Planners attend one of the following formal operational planner schools:

  • Navy Maritime Advanced Warfighting School (MAWS) at Navy War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island. MAWS is 13 months long, conveys a master’s degree and the JP1 AQD, and awards Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I concurrently;
  • Joint Advanced Warfighting School (JAWS) at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. JAWS is 10 months long, conveys a master’s degree and the JP1 AQD, and awards JPME Phase II. O5 rank and JPME Phase I are prerequisites;
  • Navy Maritime Staff Operations Planner’s Course (MOPC) at NWC. MOPC is 11 weeks long and conveys the JPM AQD.
  • The other services each have their own planner schools. They are the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies in Leavenworth, Kansas; the U.S. Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting in Quantico, Virginia; and the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Air & Space Studies in Montgomery, Alabama. Each is 10 months long and conveys a master’s degree and the JP1 AQD. JPME Phase I is a prerequisite. The Supply Corps does not currently send officers to these schools.

Following graduation, planners can expect to fill JP3- or JPM-coded operational planner billets on Combatant Commander staffs, Joint Task Force staffs, Maritime Operations Centers (MOC) staffs, or other subordinate Operational Commander staffs such as Combined Task Forces (CTFs). Logistics Planners participate in operational planning teams (OPTs), and engage in mission analysis and course of action (COA) development with wargaming and comparison. Once the commander has selected a COA and directed the OPT to build a concept of operations for the selected COA, the OPT builds executable plans in the form of mission-type orders, including: Operation Plans; Concept Plans; Operation Orders; and other types of formal orders. Planners also prepare and exercise staffs during command post exercises and field training exercises focused on OLW execution. In addition to being fully integrated in all planning activities, the logistics planner has the unique responsibility to prepare the logistics staff estimate (required during the planning process) and the logistics annex (D), the concept of logistics support, and the logistics supportability analysis (all required after the planning process has concluded and a concept of operations development has begun). Following their tour, planners who had previously earned the JP1 AQD may apply for the JP3 AQD. Officers who gain significant planning experience in a billet (JP3-coded or otherwise), as documented in their fitness reports, and do not possess the JP1 AQD may apply for and earn the JP2 AQD. Officers may contact the Supply Corps Career Counselor (supplycorpscareercounselor@navy.mil) to obtain a sample letter.
Planner Internships

The Planner Internship Program is designed to provide another pathway to becoming an operational planner as a lieutenant. Interns attend the MOPC and serve on MOC staffs while completing classroom and online training. Interns are board-selected and each intern may apply for and receive the JP2 AQD upon completion of their internship. A planning internship yields exposure to diverse planning experiences. The primary responsibility for many interns is assisting the planners in planning and writing logistics support plans. Interns also provide direct support during fleet exercises and real world fleet or joint operations.

Increasing the number of qualified Supply Corps planners helps grow the operational level experience required now and in the future within the Supply Corps community to support operational staffs, the Navy, and the Department of Defense. The benefit fleet planner internships provide is two-fold– standardization of core logistics planner training and best practices sharing across the fleets.

For more info, please visit the Supply Corps officers’ Library on Navy Knowledge Online or contact the Supply Corps Career Counselor at supplycorpscareercounselor@navy.mil.

July/August 2016