The Cornerstone to Agile, Flexible Command and Control
This article highlights the Air Force's evolution of command and control (C2) during recent combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The complexity of counterinsurgency required the Air Force to evolve from using a centralized-control construct with forward coordination cells to empowering these forward C2 echelons with greater authorities, thus increasing joint interoperability, flexibility, and lethality against an elusive enemy. Now, as the United States rebalances towards the Pacific and the challenges of an antiaccess/area-denial operational environment, we realize that the concept of centralized control, decentralized execution may prove insufficient. Whether due to the complexity of a counterinsurgency operation or a communications-contested, degraded environment, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) advocates that the more complete tenet of airpower is centralized command, distributed control, and decentralized execution. The article examines common issues regarding the C2 enterprise as well as some unique challenges of the Asia-Pacific theater. It then addresses PACAF's approach in managing its C2 efforts through six critical capabilities: battlespace awareness, resilient architecture, defensive cyberspace operations, combat support C2, C2 execution, and war-fighter integration. Finally, the article acknowledges that these capabilities form the science of control aspect of C2 but that, ultimately, the commander's operational art remains the core purpose of C2.