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An enabling capability is there to do just that — to give the rapid standup.  We are here to start the rapid planning and execution process that an emergent JTF needs to get going.  We address requirements such as joint planners quickly, public affairs quickly, communications quickly, and some intel pieces. 

Brigadier General William D. Beydler, USMC, first commander of the JECC, 2008.


From the Civil and Spanish-American Wars through World War I, during the ascendency of the United States into a world power, the separate branches of the U.S. armed forces have had to work together.  However, there was no organized way of doing so, nor was there an established doctrine governing it.  That changed during World War II with the advent of new mechanisms for joint planning and establishing geographic unity of command.  The concept was subsequently refined into the Joint Task Force (JTF), designed to organize, command and control units from two or more branches of the armed forces to accomplish a single, specific, well-defined military operation, the first of which was established for Operation Crossroads in 1946.  The National Security Act of 1947 marked the debut of combatant commands (originally called unified commands), which control all U.S. forces in a defined geographic area, and to this day play a central role in establishing JTFs.

Although the concept of JTFs was sound, the haphazard nature of their formation produced confusion, delays, and inefficiencies. Frequently, the services contributed too few personnel to staff JTF headquarters and the assigned personnel lacked training in joint military operations.  In addition, JTFs took days or weeks to become operational, repeatedly delaying the U.S. response to emerging crises. The deactivation of joint organizations amplified the problem.  Their ephemeral nature resulted in the loss of historical records and the dispersion of specialized staff knowledge after each mission.

The first systemic remedy for these problems, Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ), debuted under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who believed he could create a faster, more agile defense organization by incorporating best practices from corporate America.   In 2003, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pushed SJFHQs as “the cornerstone of joint force transformation” that would accelerate the formation of JTFs and disseminate new approaches to warfighting.  Even if the SJFHQs could not handle a full-blown regional conflict, went the reasoning, the deployable joint headquarters would give commanders a head start on finding solutions to emergent crises.

A consensus quickly emerged that SJFHQs should reside at geographic combatant commands (GCCs).  Despite being embraced at every GCC except USCENTCOM and participating in every major US military operation from 2004 to 2011, the SJFHQ initiative ultimately failed because defense officials did not properly resource the project.  Bureaucratic resistance from inside combatant command headquarters also undermined SJFHQ effectiveness.  Under the direction of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the essential functions of SJFHQ were consolidated into the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC), which was established under USTRANSCOM on 1 July 2011.  Since then, JECC has supported its two subordinate elements, the Joint Planning Support Element (established in 2012) and the Joint Communications Support Element (established in 1961 as the Communications Support Organization for U.S. Strike Command) in their global mission to provide planners, public affairs specialists, and communication capabilities to combatant commanders and a host of other interagency and international mission partners.

From JTF Katrina (2005) and JTF Lebanon (2006) to JTF Ramadi (2008) and JTF Haiti (2010), members of JECC and its predecessor organization played key roles in establishing the JTFs that carried out nearly every major U.S.-led military operation this century, including Operation Tomodachi (2011), Operation Inherent Resolve (2014-present), and Operation Freedom Sentinel (2015-21).  Officers from JPSE served as chief of staff and personnel director of JTF Crisis Response during Operation Allies Refuge (2021), the largest airlift of its kind in American history, while other JCSE and JPSE personnel planned the response to and coordinated communication during Operation Allies Welcome.   In 2022, JECC elements rapidly deployed to support U.S. European Command efforts to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Most recently, JECC supported multiple combatant commands to execute the U.S. response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.