The Joint Civilian Orientation Course (JCOC) is the oldest public liaison program in the Department of Defense, and is the only outreach program sponsored by the Secretary of Defense.
The initial concept, established by Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal in 1948, was a quarterly, 10-day course for about 60 participants. The course would complement separate Service civic leader programs in order to “present an integrated picture of the military establishment ...” It would “deal with national policy, the problems confronting the United States in pursuing its policies, and the economic, political, and military means to carry out that policy.”
As planning progressed, Secretary Forrestal changed “Course” to “Conference,” and the 10-day JCOC condensed to 6 days (the original Washington phase was three days). It was decided in January 1952 there would be no repeat participants. Four JCOCs per year became two per year in 1953, and one per year in 1962. Conferences have had participant numbers from 23 to 90.
In 2003, the conference, for the first time, travelled to U.S. military installations outside of the United States. Each visit during that period was hosted by a major combatant command and was designed to highlight the capabilities of our forward-deployed service members. A redesign of the program was completed in 2010 and resulted in an overall increase in the participants’ actual time with the troops by concentrating visits to military installations within the United States. The program was temporarily halted in 2013 and 2014 due to sequestration.
The Secretary of Defense, recognizing the need to maintain military-to-civilian connections, authorized the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) to rebrand the program in 2015 as the Secretary of Defense Senior Leadership Engagement Program (SLEP). The SLEP participants gained first-hand knowledge of national security issues and military culture by visiting East Coast military installations.
In 2016, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) determined the name Joint Civilian Orientation Conference best suited the intent of the program.
The mission of JCOC is to increase public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military.
Participants are guests of the Secretary of Defense and attend briefings by senior military and civilian officials at the Pentagon. They also gain firsthand experiences through operations and interactions with troops and military leaders stationed throughout the United States. The program currently runs once a year and is managed by the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs).