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Shaping the World through Engagement: Assessing the Department of Defense's Theater Engagement Planning Process

Authored by COL Thomas Jordan, Professor Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., Dr. Thomas-Durell Young. | April 2000

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The Theater Engagement Planning process represents a major attempt at reforming a key aspect of the JSPS, with the aim of aligning better the activities of the Services and combatant CINCs to national level strategic guidance. A successful shaping strategy and TEP process have the potential of obviating possible future threats to U.S. and Western security interests, as well as facilitating the ability of the U.S. armed forces to respond to crises should shaping fail. DoD is attempting to move away from solely reactive planning for potential conflict to where it can capture what the U.S. armed services are already doing in the area of shaping and then ascertain where there are successes and deficiencies. Given the difficulty of effecting any type of reform in an organization the size of DoD, it should not be surprising that change is often accomplished incrementally.

At present, significant progress has been made in better aligning the joint planning process to support the engagement strategy of shaping. Many key reforms need to be taken, however, before shaping earns its rightful place in the planning and budgeting processes in DoD. Measures of merit must be developed, as well as a clarification of Title 10 prerogatives to force the Services to support combatant commanders with the necessary data to make measures of merit useful for decision making at the NCA level. The alignment of the TEP planning process with PPBS signifies an important advance. However, the Chairman must continue this reform to its logical conclusion by ensuring that his Chairman?s Program Recommendation (CPR) and Chairman?s Program Assessment (CPA) are principally and independently influenced by IPLs submitted by the combatant CI NCs. Moreover, the CJCS needs to implement a more systematic assessment of TEPs to ensure that they are collectively meeting the objectives of, and are in conformance with, the guidance given by the NCA. The Unified Command Plan (UCP) needs to be revised to deal more effectively with Canada and Russia. And finally, TEP and the deliberate planning systems need to be merged, the better to enable combatant CINCs to shape their areas of responsibility, as well as to be better prepared to transition to crises and war when required. Albeit perhaps dismissed by some as a minor issue in defense planning, the continued reform of the TEP process has the potential to continue the reform of DoD the better to enable the United States to secure the hard won peace that was produced following the end of the Cold War.