Reviewing Joint Publication 3-0: Joint Operations

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In January of 2017, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff promulgated Joint Publication 3-0. This was approximately five months prior to the release of Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Planning. At a minimum, Joint Planners look to two points of doctrine, JP 30, and JP 5-0. To compliment my review of JP 5-0, here is my review of Joint Operations doctrine.

What’s Right

Few things rate as high to a staff as the commander’s intent. In previous joint doctrine, there was little direction on what a commander should include within his stated intent. The latest edition of Joint Operations mandates that commander’s intent “includes the purpose, endstate, and associated risks. While these remain a minimum of content within the commander’s intent, it is paramount for staffs and subordinate commands to have this direction to conduct planning. Further, a well-crafted intent enables a semblance of mission command, where subordinates have an ample amount of direction to operate in the chaotic conditions of combat.

Inclusion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum as a part of the “Information Environment” as well as a section on Command and Control of Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (JEMSO) are welcome additions. These changes are a direct result of the heavy conceptual lifting during the writing and publication of the Joint Concept for Electromagnetic Operations in 2015. This is a recognition that we must integrate EMS operations with Information Operations (IO) and cyberspace operations to account for future operations in what has been labeled “the fifth battlefield”.[i] The EMS is no longer a free-access medium. It is a battlespace where forcible entry and maneuver warfare are required to support operations in the other physical domains. By establishing the EMS as a within joint doctrine for operations, the joint force demands commanders and staffs plan for and execute spectrum operations.

Previous joint doctrine included broad discussions on Strategic Communications and their subsequent Communications Strategy. Ove the past six or seven years, there was broad pushback against this terminology. The new JP 3-0 changes to the term and definition to Commander’s Communication Synchronization (CCS). The new definition narrows the purpose of CCS, and focuses the wide array of communication forms (messages, plans, programs, products, and actions) for the commander, as directs joint commanders to synchronize their communications with other instruments of national power. This is a prudent update, but as I discuss later, should have gone further. 

Finally, the inclusion of global strike as a key consideration under joint fires (pg III-31) aligns with current practices of each combatant command. Indeed, most combatant command staffs employ global strike planners with dedicated planning resources. The discussion in JP 3-0 is short, but this mission does not occur within every joint command. It was prudent to include this discussion and recognize the need for this capability. 

Joint Strike sends a message. We should understand what message national leadership wishes to convey before we execute these types of missions

Joint Strike sends a message. We should understand what message national leadership wishes to convey before we execute these types of missions

What’s Wrong

Although I praise the change from Strategic Communication to Communications Strategy, how joint staffs consider messaging in the formulations of strategy, plans, and operations remains inadequate. Indeed, most joint staffs have a couple experts working on themes and messages, which eventually translate to an Annex Y of an operations order. We need to flip this paradigm, present what message strategic leaders wish to convey to ourselves, our allies, and our adversaries, and then proceed to develop options or courses of action that align with said messages. For example, a commander’s intent could include the messages he or she wishes to send to an adversary, thus enabling his or her staff to develop multiple options in line with those messages. We all laughed at the kids majoring in communications back in college, but now as a senior officer and experienced joint planner, I realize communications is life’s most important skill. The joint force can do better in this respect.

Within joint planning, the development of options for commanders and policy makers is the best place to lead off with the intended message. Each specific option within DIME, be it in the development and execution of Flexible Deterrent Options (FDOs) and Flexible Response Options (FROs) relays a message to the homeland, to allies and partners, and to our enemies and adversaries. Insteadd of developing a message to corrospond to an option, or course of action, we should look to form options and courses of action to desired messages. 

Throughout the revised Joint Publication 3-0, there is discussion on phases. The new Joint Operations doctrine describes in detail multiple types of missions, from Stability Operations and DSCA to FHA, NEO, COIN, Global Strike and Large Scale Combat Operations. There are diagrams that seem to break some of these operations into phases according to the old 6-phase model. However, the revision of JP 3-0 does not label each phase. Moreover when discussing the balance of Offense, Defense, and Stability Activities, the diagram reverts to the previous 6 phases of joint operations model. The way in which JP 3-0 lays out these activities does not line up with the re-write of JP 5-0, which left out the phasing diagrams. This could create confusion for joint planners looking to reference doctrine.  

Phasing Construct Depicted in JP 3-0 (pg V=8), this is completely removed in JP 5-0               I foresee many arguments in joint planning staffs on the "proper way" to phase an operation

Phasing Construct Depicted in JP 3-0 (pg V=8), this is completely removed in JP 5-0             I foresee many arguments in joint planning staffs on the "proper way" to phase an operation

A well thought out Operational Approach is one of the best forms of communication from one level of command to another. When the commander and staff put time and effort into an operational approach at the onset of planning, the rest of the Joint Planning Process flows downhill. Unfortunately, the revision of JP 3-0 has one paragraph dedicated to the operational approach, with little description of its elements. An effective operations approach should include the problem statement, current conditions, Lines of Effort (LOEs) or Lines of Operation (LOOs), an endstate, along with decisive points, decision points, and possibly objectives and effects. Indeed, these elements should go into the initial operational approach, which is then updated throughout each step of the Joint Planning Process.    


The revision of JP 3-0 is a welcome addition to the family of joint doctrine. The updates are timely, and reflective of current practices at Combatant Commands and other joint staffs. 

[i] J. P. London, "The New Wave of Warfare -- Battling to Dominate the Electromagnetic Spectrum," Journal of Electronic Defense 38, no. 9 (09, 2015), 68-76.