It’s been almost two years since I released my ATFP Serial guidance (as the CNO’s Executive Agent for Force Protection) in which I directed a series of annual drumbeat events to assess our readiness and capability to carry out the Force protection mission. Since then, we’ve conducted several large-scale, nationwide exercises (SOLID CURTAIN – CITADEL SHIELD), held ATFP conferences to determine how to overcome some of the broader challenges and strengthen our capability and have hosted a flag officer anti-terrorism summit (with the second one this week) to bring our Navy’s leadership together to ensure we’re aligned and working towards common goals.
With the anniversaries of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the USS COLE bombing upon us, we have been acutely focused on maintaining an active and alert security posture. Recent events, such as USNORTHCOM’s order to shift to FPCON BRAVO over the Labor Day Weekend, have thoroughly tested our ability to execute our ATFP mission. I was extremely pleased with how rapidly we were able to execute and maintain (for over a week) the shift to a heightened security posture…we were over 98 percent complete in just 11 hours and 25 minutes. There is no doubt in my mind that our increased focus on ATFP is paying off; however, our enemy is highly innovative and adaptive and so we must keep leaning forward and ensure our watch standers, first responders and their backup teams are provided clear guidance, given the correct tools, and trained to high standards so that when required to thwart our enemy, they can do so – 24 hours a day, every day.
In addition to the recent operational events (no training beats live experience), our capstone ATFP exercise of the year – SOLD CURTAIN – CITADEL SHIELD (SC-CS) – is rapidly approaching. SC-CS12 is a complex, multi-level (annual) training exercise that affects every Navy installation, unit, activity and Sailor in the USNORTHCOM AOR. SOLID CURTAIN is a Command Post Exercise (CPX) conducted at the operational level exercising Navy Force Protection command and control and CITADEL SHIELD is Field Training Exercise (FTX) conducted at the tactical level that exercises ATFP tactics, techniques, and procedures. These exercises have become an important part of our ATFP program as they provide us with critical data on our ability to respond to a real-world event and carry out the ATFP mission.
I believe we’ve made steady progress aligning our resources, requirements and rhetoric over the past two years. We studied hard and learned a lot about our current capability (year 1), analyzed the results and developed the right plans to address our gaps (year 2) and now this next year will be the most important as we pull it all together and institutionalize – all the way from our Flag decks to our deck plates - the changes needed to strengthen our ATFP readiness and capability and make it a permanent part of our culture.
All the best, JCHjr