Need to fight a war in Afghanistan? How much does that cost? Need to demilitarize chemicals weapons from Syria? What is the cost and what funding authority can be used? Need to provide disaster relief to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan? Again, how much does it cost and what funding authority is available?
In the contingency operations world the crisis and requirement are continually changing, but there are two questions that are always constant: 1) How much does it cost? and 2) What authorities are available to provide funding and conduct operations? Welcome to the world of the J8 Contingency Operations Branch on the Joint Staff.
So, what exactly does the J8 Contingency Branch do and how is that relevant to supporting the Joint Warfighter in the current fight? Let me briefly share with you an overview of the J8 Contingency Operations Branch, our primary focus areas and a few experiences of my time on the Joint Staff.
The Force Structure, Resources and Assessment Directorate, J8, was established in response to increased responsibilities and authority placed on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense (DoD) Reorganization Act of 1986. Since then, J8 has provided resource and force structure analysis and advice to the Chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Contingency Operations Branch resides within the Program and Budget Analysis Division (PBAD) of the J8 Directorate. Known as the “911 Cell” within J8, the Contingency Operations Branch is charged with providing military advice, analysis and recommendations to the Chairman and the Joint Chiefs concerning key funding authorities, programs, and resources for Combatant Commander contingency operations and key joint warfighting programs. As such, the Contingency Operations Branch primarily focuses on the allocation portion of the Global Force Management (GFM) process, development of the annual DoD Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget and execution oversight of special OCO authorities and appropriations in support of emergent contingency operations.
The GFM process aligns force assignment, apportionment, and allocation methodologies in support of the DoD’s strategic guidance into a single, iterative process. The GFM process also provides comprehensive insights into the global availability of U.S. military forces and capabilities, and provides senior leadership a process to assess the impact and risk of proposed changes in force assignment and allocation.
Assignment fulfills the Service Secretary Title 10, section 162 responsibility to assign forces to combatant commands (CCMDs) and is intended to establish an enduring command relationship, providing combatant commanders (CCDRs) authority and flexibility for accomplishing all Unified Command Plan (UCP) missions. Apportionment provides force inventory, availability and readiness information to CCDRs for planning and assessment of plans. Apportioned forces include all operational forces (including all assigned, allocated and Service retained forces).
Allocation facilitates the temporary transfer of forces to meet the operational demand of CCDRs. This includes both steady-state rotational requirements (submitted through the annual allocation process) and requests for capabilities or forces in response to crises or emergent contingencies (submitted through the emergent allocation process). The Guidance for the Employment of the Force (GEF) provides an operational prioritization guide for force allocation decisions through the Force Allocation Decision Model (FADM).
The J3 Directorate of the Joint Staff, in collaboration with the J8, Services and CCMDs, develops and publishes (upon SECDEF approval) the annual allocation of forces for the next fiscal year (usually in the January/February timeframe) in the Global Force Management Allocation Plan (GFMAP). The GFMAP is then modified before and throughout the fiscal year of execution to respond to emergent requirements. An emergent Request for Forces (RFF) is a request from a CCDR for units and capabilities that were not anticipated in the annual GFMAP submission, and cannot be met by the requesting headquarters, its components, or their assigned or allocated forces. Modifications to the GFMAP, in support of emergent requirements, are vetted by the Joint Staff and globally staffed and approved through the bi-weekly Secretary of Defense Orders Book (SDOB), or as needed through “Special SDOBs” as crises and contingencies dictate.
Throughout the Allocation process, the J8 Contingency Operations Branch acts as the interface between the J3, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (OSD-C), the Services and the CCMDs for providing fiscal planning guidance, determining authorities and identifying funding sources available and necessary to conduct contingency operations in support of the annual allocation process. In addition, J8 coordinates on all deployment and execution orders and develops cost estimates and resource requirements in support of all emergent requirements approved through the SDOB process.
OCO Budget Development and Authorities Oversight
Historically, large scale contingency operations have been primarily funded through supplemental spending bills outside the federal budget. However, starting in fiscal year 2010, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were categorized as “Overseas Contingency Operations” and the supplemental spending associated with the wars was included in the Federal budget and now follows the normal DoD Base budget cycle. Although the OCO budget is still a supplemental appropriation, it is not “free money” and is subject to the joint Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and DoD “OCO Criteria” which regulates what contingency operations costs are eligible for OCO funding.
As the OCO lead for the Joint Staff, the J8 Contingency Operations Branch works closely with both the OSD-C and the J3 to develop and refine fiscal planning guidance in order to ensure both the operators (Service Operations Directorates, CCMD J3s, etc.) and the bean-counters (Service Budget Directorates, CCMD J8s, etc.) are on the same page in terms of guidance for development of the OCO budget and what funding sources will be available to meet Joint warfighter requirements as outlined in the GFMAP. Once planning guidance is released, the J8 Contingency Operations Branch acts as the primary interface between OSD-C, J3, the J5 (Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate) and the CCMDs (primarily CENTCOM) to develop detailed force structure requirements for the Services to utilize in building their respective OCO submissions.
Throughout the OCO budget process, which runs parallel to the GFM Allocation process, the J8 continues to coordinate with the J3, OSD, the Services and CCMDs to refine the prospective OCO budget request as requirements within the operating environment continually change. As you might expect, this process is not perfect and is often impacted by a number of external factors such as continuing resolutions, sequestration and Presidential decisions regarding force levels in Afghanistan, but that is part of the never-ending challenge in the contingency operations world to match resources to ever-changing requirements at a moment’s notice.
As a subset of the overarching OCO budget, the J8 Contingency Operations Branch is also responsible for the development and oversight of special OCO authorities that provide funding for the development of security forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, policy and fiscal management of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), wartime military construction and key partnership activities such as Global Train and Equip and Coalition Support Funds. One example of this is the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). As the Joint Staff lead for this authority, the J8 Contingency Branch delivers critical analysis and support to OSD in the execution of this program as well as the development of critical documentation for Congressional engagement and oversight reporting.
… When it comes to gaining joint experience I can’t imagine another job that provides the breadth of interaction with the Joint Force that I have experienced in the J8 Contingency Operations Branch. During my time on the Joint Staff, I have had the opportunity to work with each of the Services, CCMDs, OSD, Combined Joint Task Forces, Defense Agencies, Department of State, USAID, OMB, the White House and Congress.
… Prior to the Joint Staff I completed a tour on the CNO Staff in the Programming Division (N80) of N8 building the Navy’s Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for the Base budget. Working in the J8 Contingency Operations Branch, I have been able to build upon my financial management experience in the Navy by gaining a DoD-wide perspective of how the budget cycle works and specifically how the OCO budget is developed. I think, even more importantly, I have been able to gain a thorough operational understanding of the GFM process and how the OCO budget is a critical component to funding Joint Warfighter requirements.
Exposure to Senior Decision-Makers
… Upon checking in to the Joint Staff, the first thing the Director of the Joint Staff said (then VADM Gortney) was how the Joint Staff was a flat organization and, as an Action Officer if you were the subject matter expert you should expect to be briefing directly or sit in discussions with senior leadership. Truer words have never been spoken. During my time in J8, I have had the opportunity to sit in the bi-weekly SECDEF Orders Book briefed to the SECDEF, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Staff, developed OCO briefs provided to the DEPSECDEF and Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) (USD-C), and briefed the entire Global Force Management Board (3-Star level board that provides oversight and guidance to the GFM process and is comprised of the Joint Staff, Operations Directors from the CCMDs and Services, OSD agencies, the National Guard Bureau and other Defense Agencies) on the fiscal outlook for Fiscal Year 2015. These examples coupled with almost daily interaction at the General Officer, Flag Officer, and SES level have afforded me invaluable insight to how senior leaders in the Department think strategically and approach various funding and operational issues.
… One of the best rewards of my tour on the Joint Staff is knowing that the work done in the J8 Contingency Operations Branch immediately impacts current operations. Whether developing the OCO budget to support the war in Afghanistan, identifying funding authorities and resources to support crises response in places like Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), or developing cost estimates and funding authorities for the demilitarization of chemical weapons in Syria, there is a sense of fulfillment in knowing that the work we do in the J8 Contingency Operations Branch is resourcing the current fight and enabling the Joint Warfighter to complete the mission.
… While the above experiences have provided me with a very humbling and rewarding tour on the Joint Staff, it hasn’t come without challenges. The fiscal environment has been daunting. Every fiscal year I have been in this tour has begun under the auspices of a continuing resolution that has been further complicated by sequestration over the past year and a government shutdown. At the same time, the military is in the midst of drawing down and resetting following a decade plus of combat while CCMD demand continues to outpace availability of resources and capacity due to an ever-evolving and dynamic security environment. However, as a reflection of the Supply Corps motto “Ready for Sea”, these challenges have provided just another opportunity to excel and continue supporting the Joint Force in the current fight.
In closing, the intent of this article was to share my insights on what a tour on the Joint Staff in the J8 Contingency Operations Branch is like and hopefully spur some interest for fellow junior and midgrade Supply Corps officers to pursue a tour on the Joint Staff or other joint billet. I, for one, have found my experience to be challenging, educational, and, most of all, very rewarding.
By Cmdr. Tim Brown, SC, USN; Defense Resource Manager; The Joint Staff, J8, Contingency Operations Branch