Ever since the Goldwater-Nichols Act became law in 1986, the Defense Department has placed increasing emphasis on jointness: joint training, joint procurement, joint organizations, even joint assignments — and now joint basing.
Under the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s (BRAC) Recommendation 146, 26 bases from four services were fused into 12 joint bases with a single supporting service component under a single joint base commander (JBC) providing installation support for all units on the installation. The bases selected for the effort are geographically close to each other; in many cases, sharing a fence line. The arrangement requires that manpower and resources be permanently transferred from the supported components to the supporting components, making the service relationships at joint bases different in character from previous host-tenant relationships.
The deputy secretary of defense’s 2008 Joint Base Implementation Guidance (JBIG) requires the joint base to preserve service identity and allows a service to implement programs that are service-specific, such as Army Family Covenant or Air Force Fitness. One byproduct of the joint-basing effort is embedding of military forces in the joint installation support organization; that, in addition to the existing permanent joint command and joint task force organizational constructs, creates a third model for long-term joint operations.
All 12 memoranda of agreement (MOAs) outline how the lead component, or supporting service component, provides installation support to the operational mission units, or supported service components, assigned to the base. While each MOA follows a basic template to assure maximum uniformity in execution, each pairing of installations is unique, and therefore each MOA necessarily reflects that uniqueness. To accommodate the location- and mission-unique issues at particular joint bases, the deputy secretary of defense can approve a variance or deviation to the joint standards.
Perhaps the most unusual organizational aspect of joint basing is the relationship between the joint organization and the service components. While in all other joint organizations the service components support the joint commander, the opposite is true of joint basing. The joint command (installation support organization) combines military service members, civil service and contractors into a single team to provide installation support to all service component units on the base. For organizations outside the military departments, the traditional “fee-for-service” host-tenant relationship remains the same.
One of the most important issues for joint commanders to understand is how they exercise their command authority over the joint force in their charge. The joint base commander has the same interest. Until the BRAC-directed joint basing effort, there were essentially only two types of joint organizational constructs: the permanent joint command (e.g. combatant command) and the ad hoc or temporary joint command (e.g. joint task force). Joint Publication 1, “Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States,” outlines the types of command authority and who exercises that authority in joint commands.
The joint base command is not an operational command; it is a support command. That said, the joint base functions similarly to other joint organizations, and is a blend of operational support (combat support, combat service support and logistics) and installation support. The regional combatant commander exercises command authority (COCOM), the highest level of control, and with it operational control (OPCON) and tactical control (TACON) of the forces assigned and allocated to his command. It is a permanent command. A joint task force commander exercises OPCON and TACON, but the JTF commander’s authority is delegated from the COCOM. However, the joint base organization is different from both previous types of joint command in that it is permanent, like a joint staff or COCOM, but the joint base commander exercises only TACON over military forces embedded (but not assigned) to his command. Naturally, the JBC exercises administrative control (ADCON) and TACON over the civilians and military service members from his own service component. In all cases, the service components retain ADCON over their own service members, and regional joint commanders retain OPCON of the embedded forces.
This arrangement has given rise to several new terms to describe how these military forces operate within this new type of joint organization.
Joint base supported component force structure (JBSCFS) personnel are service members under the authority and direction of the joint base commander for installation support, but remain under the operational control of the supported service component. The JBIG provides the supported service component ready access to the expeditionary force. The joint base MOA requires the supporting service component to fully support all requirements to use expeditionary forces. In turn, the supported component is expected to resource the backfill of deployed forces when there is an impact to installation support deemed unacceptable to the joint base commander’s mission. The JBSCFS personnel make up almost all of embedded supported service component service members.
At each joint base, a single joint base billet is also embedded into the joint base installation support organization, but is similar to service members assigned to a joint staff because personnel who fill such billets must comply with a 24-month continuous fill requirement — albeit without automatic joint credit. Typically, there is only one such billet at a given base, the deputy JBC.
Augmentees are military personnel assigned to units outside the joint base organization but temporarily loaned to the JBC for some purpose. For example, airmen loaned to the Army provost marshal for entry-control duties on a temporary basis would be augmentees rather than JBSCFS.
At the joint base, the JBC is charged with the lead mission of operating and defending the installation for the operational units on the base.
At first glance, the terms seem to have reversed meaning since the joint base is the lead for installation support, but that’s an illusion. At the joint base, the supporting component is sustaining the operational units at the base, so in that sense, the meaning of the joint term remains consistent. What is unusual is that the joint organization supports the service component mission units on the base rather than vice versa.
The JBIG provides the framework for the components to participate as full partners to provide installation support to the mission. An integrated Air Force and Army or Navy organizational structure provides an environment that will enhance installation support in a joint environment. The model can promote options for efficient, effective installation support and develop best-practice solutions at the joint base. This approach creates shared responsibility to deliver installation support to common, agreed standards and results in an integrated partnership rather than a “landlord-renter” relationship.
Further, retention of supported component service members within the support organization will assist the performance of service-specific interface with mission elements such as refueling, aircraft parts management, fitness, drug testing, military justice, etc.
Officers and senior noncommissioned officers embedded in leadership positions within the joint base organization would participate in the daily decision process and provide component-specific knowledge of mission requirements.
Although the joint base organization follows the culture, procedures, organization and traditions of the lead service component, the joint base is not an Army, Navy or Air Force base. It is a joint base under the custodianship of the supporting component. To govern the joint base, the joint base commander presides over the Joint Base Partnership Council.
The new model of operating bases jointly can be overlaid on other joint efforts, such as joint utilization of training areas and perhaps even joint medical centers. Giving a single service component the mission of providing installation support to all units on a base along with the resources to accomplish that mission, rather than on a reimbursable basis, is ground-breaking.
Joint basing is still in its infancy; as of this writing only five of 12 bases have reached full operational capability, with the rest due to get there by October. The new model for joint operations established in the joint basing program shows promise for use in similar situations where there is a common basing need. The standardization of performance expectations as well as the transfer of resources on a permanent basis is a model for future joint projects such as joint use training areas. Joint basing offers a third way of constructing a joint command.