Briefing the options …
That is the badge worn by members of the Joint Staff. This staff is the central military planning organ of the US government. It should be understood that neither the Joint Chiefs themselves nor their staff decide anything other than when to go to lunch. Their function is to give advice to the civilian government, to do the detailed planning necessary for operations and to oversee the execution of the government’s decisions by the Combatant Commands; CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM, etc. For any planning action a number of senior staff officers are designated as “The Planner.” This person heads a team that works on the plan. I was the designated Planner for eight years for intelligence aspects of all JCS plans involving the ME and South Asia. I was in DIA but DIA was then the intelligence agency in direct support of the JCS. I worked on a lot of national level plans and operations. DIA was the J-2 (intelligence) section of the Joint Staff as well as having many other responsibilities.
The essence of the process is the formulation of alternative Courses of Action, (CoA) i.e., options. After thorough examination these are reduced to just a few to avoid confusion and a difficulty for the decision maker in arriving at a choice of option.
In the case of the options meeting concerning Syria at the White House on Friday, it seems clear that what was briefed was a set of options generated by the Joint Staff. In this meeting the president/CinC met with the chiefs to discuss the options and their secondary effects. Others may have been invited; the DNI, the Director of CIA, the Secretary of State, the CENTCOM commander, but they would essentially be “strap hangers”, i.e., observers at what was essentially a JCS “show.” An accomplished briefer would have presented the Courses of Action. This would be followed by discussion led by General Dunford, CJCS.
The president could then have; approved a CoA, disapproved the lot, sent the planners back to modify one of the options, or, suggested an option of his own. Once a decision is made in this process a final form of THE PLAN is published internally and the affected combatant commands write implementing plans and all then await an Execute Plan XXX order from the president.
This is called the “Deliberate Planning Process.” Once the fighting starts the process becomes greatly abbreviated on a daily basis.
This is what President Clinton will have at her disposal. pl