A story on today’s CNN’s Security Clearance blog, by Barbara Starr, demonstrates sensationalism is more important than clarity at the cable news company that once brought us straight-forward information during the Gulf War.
The headline to Starr’s story is “Pentagon has ‘detailed plans’ on Syria option.” The story goes on to say the Pentagon’s has — “behind the scenes — drawn up “detailed plans” developed to carry out military action against Syria, if ordered to do so.
First, The U.S. military has battle plans already drawn up for every nation on the planet. Those plans also include humanitarian aid and evacuation of civilians, if required.
We’ve been doing this since 1887 when the Naval War College introduced war gaming into its curriculum. The war games led to operations plans in the early part of the 20th century. These were the Rainbow plans and other color-coded plans; War Orange Plan, for example, was a plan for war against Japan developed in 1904, War Red Plan was war against Great Britain and Canada (which pretty much upset our northern neighbor when this was finally revealed in 1974).
It is no different today. Operation plans (OPLAN) are complete and detailed plans for conducting military operations against a foreign country. OPLANs are updated regularly, and when a situation begins to escalate, the OPLAN is then filled with current force and logistics availability.
Starr should have reported that the military was “dusting off its plans …” or “updating its plans …”
Second, Starr writes the planning is behind the scenes. Where else do you expect them to be done?
In the case of the OPLAN against Syria, it is the responsibility of the U.S. Central Command to fill in the blanks of military units, logistics, communications, etc. needed to execute the plan, initially developed by the U.S. Strategic Command using the Joint Strategic Planning System. CENTCOM also will look at contingencies and other plans should other nations become involved.
These are things done regularly. Here is an example of an OPLAN curriculum for the Air Force Academy.
Here is the 2011 U.S. military Joint Operations Planning guidelines. This edition of Joint Publication (JP) 5-0, Joint Operation Planning, reflects the current doctrine for conducting joint, interagency, and multinational planning activities across the full range of military operations.
See OPLAN 1003, the plan used for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This plan was in existence years before the U.S. invaded Iraq.
See a sample of an OPLAN’s operational reference guide that was war-gamed at Fort Leavenworth in 2001.