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with broad strategic guidance provided by the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This strategic guidance includes DOD documents, such as the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan and the Guidance for the Employment of the Force, which tell combatant commanders what to plan for within their areas of responsibility. Combatant commanders can also initiate contingency planning by preparing plans not specifically assigned but considered necessary to discharge command responsibilities. Based on the strategic guidance, combatant command planners write an operation plan. During this stage, a combatant commander can also task and provide guidance to the component commands to develop supporting plans for an operation plan. As a plan is developed, DOD guidance calls for frequent dialogue between planners and senior DOD leadership to ensure that results are sufficient and feasible to meet mission objectives. DOD guidance also identifies three distinct areas for in-progress reviews with the Secretary of Defense or other senior DOD leadership during plan development: (1) the commander’s mission analysis of strategic guidance, (2) the commander’s concept of operations for the mission, and (3) the combatant command’s operation plan.12 The Joint Planning and Execution Community, which is made up of a broad range of military leadership and DOD agencies, reviews all level 3 and level 4 plans prior to the final in- progress reviews and when requested to do so by a combatant commander. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Directorate for Operational Plans and Joint Force Development, the J-7, works with the combatant command to determine when an in-progress review of a plan will take place. Based on a plan’s priority, the Secretary of Defense may delegate plan approval authority to other DOD senior leadership. Plans that do not require in-progress reviews can be approved by the combatant commanders. After a plan is approved, it is supposed to go through periodic reviews that are initiated by the Joint Staff J-7, which maintains the department’s plan review schedule. For top-priority plans, guidance calls for reviews every 9 months; other plans are to be reviewed every 12 months. When DOD decides to execute a plan, the combatant commander issues an operation order that has been sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval by the Secretary of Defense or the President. The joint operation planning activities, functions, and products are illustrated in figure 1.

12 A fourth in-progress review is held within a year of a plan’s review and approval. At this time, the plan will be refined, adapted, terminated, or executed.

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GAO-10-472 Warfighter Support

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