JOPES and Joint Force deployments: the Joint Operation Planning and Execution System provides vital information for managing force movements. The author explains how the elements of JOPES fit together
James C. Bates
A newly arrived Army logistician assigned to the US. Central Command’s J-3 staff is tasked to assist in planning for an upcoming rotation of joint forces operating in Iraq. Hundreds of units will be involved in the deployment and redeployment, and the logistician’s boss–a Marine Corps artillery officer–wants him to ensure that this rotation will have an increased fuel storage capacity of 60,000 gallons in case the local fuel pipelines continue to suffer periodic interdiction. His boss adds that he doesn’t care which service provides the personnel and equipment needed to expand fuel storage capabilities, just as long as the increased storage is available within the next 60 days. He also wants the logistician to use this planning effort as an opportunity to gain an understanding of JOPES.
Like the subject of this scenario, all logistics leaders should have a basic understanding of JOPES–the Joint Operation Planning and Execution System. In an era characterized by joint operations, a logistician who knows about JOPES and the information that it provides on the movement of forces and their equipment is better prepared to provide logistics support to customers from all of the services.
An article about JOPES tends to be dry reading since learning about it is similar to studying calculus; the nature of the subject does not make fur an entertaining presentation or an easy read. Nonetheless, I believe the result is worth the effort because the topic of JOPES (or a future equivalent) will be addressed countless times throughout a logistician’s career.
JOPES is an electronic information system that is used to monitor, plan, and execute mobilization, deployment, employment, and sustainment activities associated with joint operations. It provides users with access to joint operations planning policies, procedures, and reporting structures that are supported by communications and automated data processing systems. Force movement information captured in JOPES is used by operators and planners to maintain and manage a database called the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD). The TPFDD database is used to plan and execute the strategic movement of forces from one geographic region to another. lit must be remembered that JOPES is used for functions other than planning and managing force movements. The term “Little JOPES” is often used to refer to the data within JOPES associated with force movements (TPFDD).]
The decision to deploy forces, like those involved in the Central Command (CENTCOM) petroleum storage example, is based on high-level operation plans (OPLANs), concept plans (CONPLANs), functional plans, and operation orders. The ultimate decision to deploy forces abroad (in this case, to Iraq) is made by the President and the Secretary of Defense. They oversee the entire Joint Planning and Execution Community, which includes, among others, the regional combatant commanders, the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), and the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM).
If time allows, military plans can be developed through careful study and deliberation in what is called the “deliberate planning process.” However, in response to actual world events, plans can be developed expeditiously. This is called “crisis action planning.” The information technology and databases of the lOPES force flow support both processes.
Supported Command and Supporting Command
The service components of the supported command (usually the supported command is the U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Southern Command, or CENTCOM) are responsible for determining the types of forces they require and the arrival dates and locations of those forces. In the example, CENTCOM has decided that it requires a petroleum storage force. The supporting commands (primarily USJFCOM and USTRANSCOM) are responsible for identifying the specific forces that will deploy, the locations from which they will deploy, and the dates by which they must depart in order to arrive by the date specified by the supported command.
USJFCOM is composed of the Army Forces Command; the Air Force’s Air Combat Command; the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command; and the Marine Corps’ Marine Forces Atlantic. USJFCOM works with the services to determine which units will deploy to meet the requirements identified by the supported command. USTRANSCOM arranges for the strategic movement of forces through its three component commands: the Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, and the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
JOPES Reference Databases
There are four databases that are essential to managing the movement process within lOPES: the Global Status of Resources and Training System (GSORTS), the Geographic Location (GEOLOC) file, the Type Unit Characteristics (TUCHA) file, and the Type Unit Equipment Detail (TUDET) file.
Global Status of Resources and Training System. GSORTS contains personnel, equipment, and training data on every Department of Defense (DOD) unit (both Active and Reserve components) and depicts each unit’s readiness for deployment. This database also contains basic unit identity data, such as each unit’s name, unit type, current location, home station location, and unit identification code (UIC). The UIC is a six-character alphanumeric code that is used to identify each Active and Reserve component unit in the armed services. There are tens of thousands of different UICs; however, only a few UICs designate petroleum storage units.
Geographic Location file. The GEOLOC file depicts locations associated with the movement of forces. These are identified by narrative names and by GEOLOC codes that have been assigned to the locations. GEOLOC codes are four-character alphabetic designations that represent specific places throughout the world, including airports, seaports, and military installations. About 55,000 different GEOLOC codes are stored in the lOPES database. These codes are managed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [formerly the National Imagery and Mapping Agency] and can be obtained through the Global Command and Control System (GCCS). In addition to GEOLOC codes, the lOPES database designates geographic locations in several other ways: longitude and latitude descriptions, International Civil Aviation Organization codes, and Military Standard Transportation and Movement Procedures (MILSTAMP) codes.
Type Unit Characteristics file. The TUCHA file is maintained by the Joint Staff, J-3 Operations Directorate, with assistance from the Defense Information Systems Agency. The file contains passenger and cargo information for generic types of units. Each generic type is designated by a five-character alphanumeric unit type code (UTC). Dozens of individual units, each with its own UIC, can share the same UTC. For example, the UTC that best describes petroleum storage for the Army is J5TNN, which applies to a generic petroleum supply company.
The TUCHA information for a particular UTC includes the unit generic name, the applicable reference document for that unit, unit equipment, the number of different cargo category codes (CCCs) associated with the unit, and the number of authorized unit personnel. The CCC is a three-character alphanumeric code that identifies shipping characteristics for specific cargoes. CCCs are used by USTRANSCOM to determine the transportation assets needed to move a unit.
Type Unit Equipment Detail file. A TUDET file lists all of the applicable CCCs for each UTC and describes individual items of equipment. For each item of equipment, there is a separate line entry that includes the item’s description (both item name and identifying number); its applicable CCC; its length, width, and height (expressed in inches); and its weight, area, and volume (expressed in short tons, square feet, and measurement tons, respectively). [A short ton is the standard U.S. ton of 2,000 pounds and measures weight. A measurement ton is a unit of volume used in shipping and equals 40 cubic feet.] For each CCC, the TUDET includes the total amount of short tons, measurement tons, square feet, and MBBLs to be shipped. (“MBBL” is an abbreviation for 1,000 barrels. Since one barrel holds 42 gallons, one MBBL, or a thousand barrels, equals 42,000 gallons.)
Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data
These four databases–GSORTS and the GEOLOC, TUCHA, and TUDET files–are integral parts of the JOPES TPFDD database, which is used to plan and execute the movement of forces. TPFDD provides answers to the following questions: Which forces are committed to the operation? What troops and equipment will be moved? From where will forces and equipment depart, and to what location will they be moved? Will they move by air or by sea? When will the movements take place?
JOPES organizes the information obtained from the four databases, along with scenario-specific information, into a specific TPFDD plan known by a Plan Identification Number (PID). A PID directly corresponds to an OPLAN or CONPLAN and contains all of the unit line numbers and force modules (described below) associated with that plan’s movement of forces. Dates associated with the movement of forces are known as C-days and N-days. A C-day is an unnamed day on which a deployment operation will commence. When used in conjunction with a C-day, an N-day indicates the number of days preceding the C-Day. For example, N-1 refers to 1 day before C-day, N-2 refers to 2 days before C-day, and so on. At execution of the deployment, an actual date is assigned as C-day.
Unit Line Numbers and Force Modules
A unit line number (ULN) is an alphanumeric field (from two to seven characters in length) that describes a particular force in the TPFDD database. The information contained in the ULN is used as the basis for organizing TPFDD-related planning, reporting, and tracking data on the movement of forces and equipment from points of origin to deployed destinations. The ULN is a unique identifier for a TPFDD force requirement and is the cornerstone on which all movement data are built.
Personnel from the supported command (including components) establish force requirements. When supported commands do not have the units in theater needed to satisfy requirements, supporting commands designate units for deployment to the supported command’s area of operations. This process is known as sourcing. Force requirements and sourcing information are needed to plan and execute the strategic movement of forces.
Entering the information that guides the movement of forces is not an easy task. Users entering force movement data in the JOPES database must be careful to enter accurate information (much of which is in coded format) because incorrect data cause delays in force deployments and inefficient use of expensive strategic lift assets. Personnel who determine and enter ULN data are known colloquially as “JOPESTERS.”
Forces described by ULNs, as found within a PID for a specific force movement, are organized by using force modules. According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual (CJCSM) 3150.16B, Joint Operation Planning and Execution System Reporting Structure (JOPESREP), Volume I, a force module is–
a grouping of combat, combat support, and combat
service support forces, with their accompanying
supplies. Non-unit resupply and
personnel necessary to sustain forces for a minimum
of 30 days may be included. The elements
of Force Modules are linked together or are
uniquely identified so that they may be extracted
from or adjusted as an entity in the Joint Operation
Planning and Execution System databases to
enhance flexibility and usefulness of the operation
plan during a crisis.
In effect, force modules provide a means of organizing ULNs (remember a ULN designates a specific force) into groups useful to commanders and staffs. Any ULN could be part of several force modules. For instance, one force module may comprise all the ULNs of a specific brigade. Another force module may contain those ULNs departing from a specific port of debarkation. Yet another force module may contain all logistics support battalions. Guidance on developing force modules can be found in CJCSM 3122.02B, Joint Operation Planning and Execution System (JOPES), Volume III, Enclosure H, and in supplemental TPFDD instructions written by the supported command.
A ULN describes one or more service members and their equipment that share a movement from the same origin to the same destination, at the same time, using the same transportation mode and source. ULNs contain five major types of movement information: the deploying units, the dates associated with the movement, the locations involved with the movement, the number of personnel and the type and quantity of cargo to be moved, and the type of transportation that will be required to move the forces.
For each ULN, a representative from the supported command (the command requesting forces) enters a UTC, which will extract the corresponding narrative description of the force required from the TUCHA file. For instance, if the supported command requires a field artillery battalion with 155-millimeter (MM) towed cannons, it will use the TUCHA file to select a UTC of “1FUTT.” This UTC has a narrative force description of “FA BN 155MM TOWED 3×6.”
A UTC can represent a force that ranges in size from an 18,000-soldier Army division to a brigade, a battalion, a company, a platoon, or an individual service member. There are thousands of different UTCs. The corresponding size of the force requested is identified in the unit level code, which is a three-character alphabetic code used to specify the organizational level of a force. After the supported command has requested the generic types of units it requires by using UTCs, the supporting command (the USJFCOM is the force provider for most continental United States-based forces) responds to these requirements by tasking specific units by UIC to deploy and adding this information to the existing ULNs through the GCCS.
In a manner similar to that used to identify units for deployment, both the supported and the supporting commands determine the dates when forces will move through those geographic locations associated with the forces’ deployment. In chronological order, the milestone dates associated with the movement of forces are–
* Ready to load date (RLD) at the unit’s point of origin.
* Available to load date (ALD) at the port of embarkation (POE).
* Earliest arrival date (EAD) and latest arrival date (LAD) at the port of debarkation (POD), which is known as the EAD-EAD window.
* Required delivery date (RDD) at the unit’s final destination.
* The regional combatant commander’s required delivery date (CRD).
The RLD is the date that a force is ready either to depart its home station using organic transportation assets or to begin loading its equipment and personnel onto USTRANSCOM-provided transportation for movement to the POE. The ALD describes the day that a force is ready to begin loading its personnel and equipment at the POE.
The supported command determines the EAD, LAD, RDD, and CRD because the locations associated with those dates are in the supported commander’s area of operations. The EAD and the LAD describe a window of time during which a force must arrive at the POD. Planners normally incorporate a range of 3 days for air arrivals, 7 days for sea arrivals (although Caribbean deployments use less than 7 days, while Southwest Asia deployments require a longer period), and 5 days for land-related arrivals.
The CRD is the date when forces need to be in place, as initially determined by the supported commander. Although the CRD and the RDD can be the same, the realities of moving forces usually will prevent the positioning of forces as quickly as the CRD stipulates. In that case, a more realistic date–the RDD–is established. In many instances, the RDD location is the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) site. It is there that personnel receive their equipment, which may have been sent separately, and begin preparing for movement to a staging base or a tactical assembly area.
Each ULN tracks at least four different movement locations: the unit’s point of origin, its POE, its POD, and its destination. If necessary, an intermediate location (ILOC) also is tracked. An ILOC is a stopping point in the deployment routing of a unit and is used for a unit layover lasting a specified time, normally longer than a day. This layover often is used to unite the personnel and cargo of split shipments. A unit may need to stop at an ILOC when moving from its point of origin to its POE, from its POE to its POD, or from its POD to its destination. Movement locations are entered into the JOPES database using GEOLOC codes.
The supporting command determines the preferred POE. The force associated with the UIC identified in the ULN will travel to the POE from its point of origin. Normally, a unit’s point of origin is its home station. However, the point of origin could be a training facility or a temporary location.
Personnel, Cargo, and Transportation
JOPES personnel and cargo information is expressed in four levels of detail. (There are two additional levels, 5 and 6, but these levels are not used in JOPES.) Personnel information can range from a simple expression of the aggregate number of passengers (level 1) all the way to a level of detail that includes the names and Social Security Numbers of each passenger (level 6). The JOPES database contains only level 1 personnel information.
Cargo detail can range from a level 1 expression of total tonnage (expressed in short tons) to a specific listing of the weight, volume, dimensions, and CCC for each specific item (level 6). Unlike airlift–where the hauling capacity is determined by the weight limitations or allowable cabin load of the aircraft–the primary limiting factors involved with sealift are the area and volume of the items to be moved. This is why cargo size, as expressed in square feet, and cargo volume, as expressed in measurement tons (MTONs), are such important considerations for movement by sea.
Level 2 detail (called “Summary Data”) segments cargo into four categories: bulk, oversized, outsized, and nonair transportable (NAT). Bulk cargo can fit on a 463L pallet. (The 463L pallet is used for moving cargo by air. It is 108 inches long and 88 inches wide and can carry cargo weighing up to 10,000 pounds that does not exceed 96 inches in height.) Oversized cargo is too big for an 463L pallet but can fit inside a C-141 cargo plane. (The C-141 is being replaced by the C-17.) Outsized cargo is too big for a C-141 but can fit inside a C-5 or C-17. Cargo that is too big for movement by aircraft and therefore must be moved by sealift is called “nonair transportable.”
When an item is measured in feet, its length multiplied by its width provides its area in square feet. The length of an item multiplied by its width multiplied by its height provides its volume in cubic feet. Since 1 MTON equals 40 cubic feet, cubic feet can be converted into MTONs by dividing by 40. For example, let’s take a utility truck that is 180 inches long, 86 inches wide, and 56 inches high. These measurements expressed in feet would be 15 feet long by 7.17 feet wide by 4.67 feet high. This truck therefore occupies an area of 107.55 square feet (15 X 7.17 = 107.55), and its volume equals 505.5 cubic feet (15 X 7.17 x 4.7 = 505.5), or 12.64 MTONs (505.5 / 40 = 12.64). An example of level-2 detail is found in the chart on page 33.
Level 3 detail segments cargo based on its CCC. (CJCSM 3150.16B, Volume I, Table A-18, provides a listing and description of all CCCs.) Each of the three alphanumeric characters in the CCC provides different information. The first character indicates the type of cargo, if the cargo is hazardous, and if it is a vehicle, ammunition, bulk petroleum, self-deploying aircraft, and so forth. There are 15 different selections for the first character of the CCC. There are a total of 14 different selections for the second CCC character, which indicates if the cargo is unit equipment, nonunit equipment, or accompanying supplies and separates the cargo into bulk, oversized, outsized, and NAT categories. The third CCC character, which has 4 possible selections, indicates if the unit’s organic vehicles can carry the cargo or if the cargo can be containerized in 20-foot or 40-foot containers.
Most cargo transported by sealift is placed within standard 20-foot or 40-foot containers. There are numerous advantages to containerizing cargo. Containers use space efficiently; for instance, they can be stacked on top of one another. Consider how much space this saves compared to parking numerous wheeled vehicles in a small parking lot or on the deck of a ship. Locked containers also protect the cargo inside from the elements and from theft, and containers can be moved easily using labor-saving materials-handling equipment.
The chart above shows an example of level 3 detail. It includes both the 3-character CCC and a narrative description of the CCC.
Level 4 detail identifies the specific movement characteristics of the items within each CCC. The length, width, and height dimensions of each item are shown in inches, along with the item’s short tons, MTONs, and square feet. The quantity of the item per ULN is also shown. An example of level 4 detail is shown in the chart at right. The second column in the chart includes the Army’s line item numbers (such as “T49255”), along with the item description. JOPES describes these types of numbers as equipment identification codes.
A unit may move its personnel by air while its cargo moves by sea. The corresponding ULN entries are known as split shipments; in effect, two ULNs are created for the unit. The first four characters of the two ULNs are identical; however, the fifth position of one of the ULNs would have a “P” to indicate passenger movement, while the fifth position of the other ULN would have a “C” to indicate cargo movement.
To make efficient use of limited strategic transportation assets, USTRANSCOM will only schedule movements of units with ULNs that have 100 passengers or more or cargo of 15 short tons (30,000 pounds) or more. Units with ULNs that do not meet these thresholds must consolidate their movement requirements with other units so that the combined ULN data meet USTRANSCOM’s threshold requirements.
Additional ULN Data
The ULN also contains additional information that planners and operators use to manage the movement of forces. This information includes the mode and source codes, the load configuration code, and the discharge constraint code.
The mode and source codes describe how the cargo or passengers will be moved among geographic locations. There are five transportation modes: air, sea, rail, truck, and pipeline. The JOPES database uses a modified format to codify modes: “A” for air, “L” for land, “S” for sea, “P” for optional, and “X” to indicate that transportation is not required (for example, when the unit’s POD and final destination are the same). The corresponding source code describes the organization that is providing the transportation. [Mode and source codes can be found in CJCSM 3150.16B, Volume I, Table A-9.]
The purpose of the load configuration code is to describe how cargo will be loaded for delivery to the POD, an ILOC, or the unit’s destination. For example, cargo may be configured for airdrop, air assault, amphibious assault, or an administrative (nontactical) environment. [Load configuration codes can be found in CJCSM 3150.16B, Volume I, Table A-10.]
Discharge constraint codes describe the limitations or restrictions that exist at the POD, ILOC, or destination. A maximum of two of these codes per GEOLOC can be entered into the JOPES database. Examples of these codes include discharge constraint code “A” (the offload area can handle only 20-foot containers), discharge constraint code “B” (cargo can be offloaded only over the beach), and discharge constraint code “C” (the enemy is expected to oppose the landing of the cargo). [Discharge constraint codes can be found in CJCSM 3150.16B, Volume I, Table A-11.]
Transmission of Movement Data
All of the JOPES ULN data described above become an integral part of the GCCS, where data are transmitted using the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET). Throughout DOD, 450 remote sites currently are allowed to enter JOPES force flow data. These remote sites are linked via the SIPRNET to 16 servers, where the JOPES entries are consolidated into integrated databases. Eventually, these 16 servers will be reduced to 4.
The accuracy of JOPES information depends not only on the skills of the planners entering the JOPES data but also on the reliability of the GCCS computer processes and the SIPRNET. Both are highly complex, and both can experience periodic failures for a multitude of reasons. Moreover, it is quite a challenge to derive a coherent, integrated database–accessible by computer network from locations throughout the world–from the tens of thousands of ULNs that constitute the overall movement database associated with each PID.
Engineers are continually upgrading the JOPES software in an effort to increase its capabilities, improve its responsiveness, and make the sophisticated software even more user friendly. Unfortunately, many of the JOPES force flow applications are not intuitive; users must make determined efforts to master the system. An excellent, week-long JOPES force flow course is taught at Fort Eustis, Virginia, but students who complete this instruction still need additional training, practice, and guidance when they return to their units before they become qualified JOPESTERS.
JOPES is the DOD-wide management information process that is used for planning and executing force deployments. It is networked and highly complex and requires accurate data entry from multiple sources. However, leaders who understand the processes involved with JOPES are in a better position to glean useful information from its database and to enhance the efficiency of the system itself.
An example of level-2 cargo detail.
Cargo Size Short Tons MTONs
Bulk 25 8
Oversized 50 25
Outsized 75 50
NAT 25 25
Examples of cargo category codes (CCCs) (level-3 detail).
CCC Expanded CCC Description Short Tons MTONs Square Feet
M7C Ammunition/Bulk, Accompanying .1 1 1
R1D Road Vehicle, Non-Hazardous/ 22.3 77 337
Outsized, Unit/Not CT
A2B Vehicle, Non-Road Marching/ 4.9 15 91
Oversized, Unit/20-ft CT
Examples of level-4 cargo detail.
CCC Level-4 Item Length Width Height Short Tons
A2B T49255 Truck, Light 166 79 80 4.9
J2C F06972 Conveyor 251 41 27 1.6
R2B L63994 Light Set 146 69 68 .9
CCC Level-4 Item MTONs Square Feet Quantity
A2B T49255 Truck, Light 5.2 91 1
J2C F06972 Conveyor 4.1 71 2
R2B L63994 Light Set 10.0 69 4
THE AUTHOR WISHES TO THANK LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MATT CALDWELL, USN (RET.), AND LIEUTENANT COLONEL J.W. WASHINGTON, USMC (RET.), FOR THEIR INVALUABLE ASSISTANCE IN WRITING THIS ARTICLE.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL JAMES C. BATES, USA (RET.), IS A FORMER ARMY LOGISTICS OFFICER WHO WORKS FOR ALION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION. HE CURRENTLY SERVES AS A SUSTAINMENT PLANNER FOR THE U.S. JOINT FORCES COMMAND, J-9 TRANSFORMATION OFFICE, DISTRIBUTED CONTINUOUS EXPERIMENTATION ENVIRONMENT, IN SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA.
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