- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
The authors, three souls who toiled in the lower depths of the Joint Staff’s J-7, write that, "the decision was made to retain AFRICOM as the supported command, with USEUCOM, USCENTCOM, USTRANSCOM and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) in support."
Sounds simple, but wait: AFRICOM doesn’t have any forces, so EUCOM became "de facto force provider." It is almost as if EUCOM were acting like a service. (Which would make it our sixth service, after the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and SOCOM, which already effectively has its own civilian-led secretariat, in the SO/LIC bureaucracy.)
It gets even more complicated. Many aircraft were flying from bases in EUCOM’s area of responsibility, so EUCOM "retained OPCON of these forces." What’s more, EUCOM had other fish to fry, so reported Adm. Locklear, "We were responding to OPCON pleas of the provider to make his life easier rather than the OPCON needs of the commander." It’s like a waterfall running in reverse.
Also, it turned out that AFRICOM lacked the ability to actually run an operation. (Interesting side fact: Half its staff is civilian, and it had never rehearsed to run anything.)
Final bonus fact: The U.S. military has apparently come up with the worst acronym I have heard in a long time: "VOCO." The article’s authors quote an Army brigadier as stating that in the Libyan operation, there was "Lots of VOCO between all levels of command." It stands for "verbal orders of the commander." But hold on: Aren’t all orders are verbal, unless the guy is pointing or something? What the poor general meant was "oral orders of the commander." That would be "OOCO." I’d prefer "Unwritten orders of the commander," which would be "UOCO," but that is too hard to pronounce. It could make you poco loco in the coco.
And remember at this point we haven’t even gotten into the command arrangements with the other 14 nations in the anti-Qaddafi coalition (AQC).
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |