Volume 31, Issue 2, Summer  2017

Empowered Commanders:
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.


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David Deptula, Lt Gen USAF (Ret.) 1/7/2015 1:06:45 PM

Nice job Maj Theriault in laying out the direction C2 needs to go in the future. The challenge will be in changing the institutions and architectures to make this vision a reality. A critical place to start is by expanding the role (and training) of current Wing commanders from "city managers" and force providers, to force employers and C2 experts.

Capt Campbell 2/8/2015 12:02:56 PM

Key points about who really ''needs'' the information vs who wants it is the critical question. It’s HHQ can see strikes in Afghanistan but is there an operational need? Second issue I see is determining if we ''need'' all those cyber-LOCs at all, or we should be building a C2 structure that doesn't ''require'' them. Calling for their defense then would imply an inherent requirement. It's a big question that goes to the heart of all RPA operations and acquisitions. Lastly this article along with several others again this quarter seem to come down to getting the right commanders.

Capt. Benitez 2/22/2015 11:27:42 AM

The concept of centralized command, distributed control, and decentralized execution... For this concept to work, the commander has to WANT to delegate it (regardless if he NEEDS to delegate it). During the first several months of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, the CAOC and JFLCC relied on centralized control, centralized execution. Target engagements required FMV direct to general officers for decisions, and even traditional mission commander authorities such as minimum package decisions and aircraft fallout re-sorting of targets, even when planned and briefed, were retained at the GO-level.