There are many paths for a Supply Corps officer to achieve success. Some do multiple operational tours in the fleet keeping faith with the CNO’s tenet of operating forward; others support those assets from the shore establishment while developing a subspecialty skillset. At sea or ashore, the positions that promote preparation for future command jobs are highly valued. Carrier Supply Officers, FLC Commanding Officers, and the Chief of the Supply Corps all have something in common: a support team, also known as a staff. Staff work is rarely considered glamorous, but it is always regarded as necessary. It involves long hours and constant tasking but it creates the baseline from which command decisions are made. This exposure is critical to developing the future of our Supply Corps leaders.
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Gen. Martin Dempsey provides the four focus areas of his second term as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The primary function of assigned staff officers to a military staff is to assist the commander in the execution of his or her command responsibilities. When the commander is titled “Chairman” and his primary responsibility is to serve as principal military advisor to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense, the scope and significance of that staff’s daily work stretches to a global scale with far-reaching magnitude. A clear understanding of the Commander’s push-button issues is the critical first step in supporting his vision. Fortunately for the Joint Staff, Chairman Dempsey provides clear direction with his expectations for his staff and the Joint force.
The first, and arguably most critical, facet of the Chairman’s strategic direction is to achieve our national military objectives. Above all else, win the fight. Chairman Dempsey emphasizes the importance of personal creativity in strategic option creation, the readiness of both our deployed and stateside forces, and the necessity for interagency and international cooperation. Secondly, he stresses the need to develop the scope and guiding principles of Joint Force 2020. Fundamental aspects of this concept include a highly mobile force, interoperability across Services, and the ability to predict and assess future capabilities. Lastly, Chairman Dempsey renews the military commitment to respectful and ethical leadership that strives to nurture sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines in a culture that values their families as much as it values them.
As a proponent for the Chairman’s vision, a significant role for the Joint Staff is to monitor, facilitate, and advocate the forward-thinking strategic approach to Joint warfighting while being the rational, objective organization capable of adjudicating rivaling desires within the Defense arena. The current approach to operational planning places the Combatant Commander’s mission requirements against the services’ capability to provide resources. The Defense Department is transitioning to a smaller defense budget making it increasingly difficult to properly balance this requirements and resources. It frequently falls to the J4 to analyze imbalances between those demands and recommend solutions that satisfy both parties.
The Logistics Directorate also provides functional expertise when highlighting issues to the Chairman and to the Secretary of Defense that are bigger than any one service and/or fall across multiple Combatant Commanders. The vast breadth of experience residing on the Joint Staff makes it a valued source for information. Among the current J4 team, there are legislative fellows, former battalion commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, retired colonels/captains, and a prior TWI Harley-Davidson intern. The expectation is to be the logistics solution provider for the Chairman and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
A third area of effort for the J4 is to be the global leader of the Joint Logistics Enterprise (JLEnt) (Figure 1). Advancing concepts and a way ahead for future logistics capabilities across the spectrum of logistics providers is a mandate for the J4. Of particular interest to the Chairman is the emergence of a hollow force—one that is not manned, trained, or equipped to meet current and future threats. As Joint logisticians, we must be able to forecast and communicate conditions that lead to increased risk and any signs of reduced readiness across the spectrum of Services. The J4 will continue to lead the JLEnt to communicate logistics situational awareness, effectiveness, and visibility.
These functional areas of responsibility develop a staff officer skillset that is adept at reading strategy and understanding guidance across Services. Being the logistics subject matter expert, leading the Joint Logistics Enterprise, and arbitrating the struggle between COCOM requirements and Service resources are staples of a day in the life of a J4 staff officer. No other staff sees their efforts result in decisions made with global impact on the war fight. To prepare for a Joint Staff assignment, learn your Navy job and begin to develop critical thinking habits so valued in this job. Again, it may be not always be glamorous, but the prestige of briefing four-star leadership makes the assignment worth it.
By Cmdr. Patrick Burson, SC, USN, Chief, Global Prepositioned Capabilities, the Joint Staff, J4; and Lt. j.g. Christopher Brown, SC, USN, Intern J4 Logistics Directorate