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Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX)

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Joint planning is end state oriented. Joint plans and orders are developed with the strategic and military end states in mind. The commander and planners derive their understanding of those end states from strategic guidance. Strategic guidance comes in many forms and provides the purpose and focus of joint operation planning. Joint operation planners must know where to look for the guidance to ensure that plans are consistent with national priorities and are directed toward achieving national security goals and objectives.

Joint operation planning is an adaptive process. Joint operation planning occurs in a networked, collaborative environment, which requires dialogue among senior leaders, concurrent and parallel plan development, and collaboration across multiple planning levels. Clear strategic guidance and frequent interaction between senior leaders and planners promote an early, shared understanding of the complex operational problem presented, strategic and military end states, objectives, mission, planning assumptions, considerations, risks, and other key guidance factors. This facilitates responsive plan development and modification, resulting in constantly up-to-date plans. The focus is on developing plans that contain a variety of viable, flexible options for commanders, and in the case of top priority JSCP tasked plans, for SecDef to consider.

Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX)

Joint operation planning occurs within Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX), which is the department-level system of joint policies, processes, procedures, and reporting structures. APEX formally integrates the planning activities of the JPEC and facilitates the JFC’s seamless transition from planning to execution during times of crisis. The integration of joint operation planning with interagency and multinational partners begins with national strategic direction. APEX activities span many organizational levels, but the focus is on the interaction between SecDef and CCDRs, which ultimately helps the President and SecDef decide when, where, and how to commit US military forces. The interactive and collaborative process at the national level guides the way in which planning and execution occurs throughout the Armed Forces.

Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX)

Joint operation planning occurs within Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX), which is the department-level system of joint policies, processes, procedures, and reporting structures. APEX formally integrates the planning activities of the JPEC and facilitates the JFC’s seamless transition from planning to execution during times of crisis.

Clear strategic guidance and frequent interaction among senior leaders, CCDRs, and subordinate JFCs promotes early understanding of, and agreement on, strategic and military end states, objectives, planning assumptions, risks, and other key factors. Based on guidance from this iterative dialogue, planners develop multiple viable options to achieve end states while providing commanders and national leaders flexibility in how they shape the situation and respond to contingencies. Collaborative and iterative assessment and recurring dialogue between commanders and senior national leadership facilitates responsive plan development and modification, resulting in plans that are continually updated. APEX also promotes early, robust, and frequent discourse between DOD planners and their interagency and multinational counterparts throughout the planning process.

Joint operation planning provides a common intellectual framework for the joint force, its subordinate and higher headquarters, the JPEC, and DOD leadership from which to adapt to the dynamic operational environment. APEX incorporates planning detail, frequent IPRs, continuous assessment, and collaborative technology, which provide increased opportunities for consultation and guidance during the planning process.


JFODS5: The Joint Forces Operations & Doctrine SMARTbook, 5th Ed.

This article is an extract from “JFODS5: The Joint Forces Operations & Doctrine SMARTbook, 5th Ed. (Guide to Joint, Multinational & Interorganizational Operations)” by The Lightning Press. Download a free PDF sample and learn more at: JFODS5: The Joint Forces Operations & Doctrine SMARTbook, 5th Ed. (Guide to Joint, Multinational & Interorganizational Operations). Additionally, for 400 pages of detailed discussion of joint strategic and operational planning refer to Joint/Interagency SMARTbook 1: Joint Strategic and Operational Planning (Planning for Planners).

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