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The Command or Control Dilemma

When Technology and Organizational Orientation Collide

Gregory A. Roman, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
1997, 39 pages
Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-8



In this well-researched and insightful study, Lt Col Gregory A. Roman examines the relationships between military organizational hierarchies and the impact of battle-space information. Drawing on a sophisticated range of studies and data and using numerous illustrations, the author contends that the outmoded effects of traditionally centralized (and technologically proliferating) command and control orientations preclude the US military (and particularly the Air Force) from effectively applying and acting upon the benefits of information-age technologies in an age of information warfare. The author sees future warfare characterized by faster decision making, faster operational tempos, and a torrent of tactical battlefield information. These new realities necessitate greater decentralization of control, more flexible information gathering, and creative, nontraditional military organizational arrangements. Of particular relevance to the Air Force is the joint force air component commander (JFACC) structure and air tasking order (ATO) process. Colonel Roman argues that these products of traditional hierarchical organizations and mindsets significantly impede flexibility in responding to ongoing battlefield developments. As currently composed, the JFACC and ATO reflect inflexible, traditional industrial- age warfare doctrine arrangements. Moreover, USAF doctrine (unlike Army, Navy, and Marine doctrine) does not permit decentralization of control. Some Air Force proponents have even advocated increasingly centralized execution, the basis of a new micromanagement. The author recommends that the Air Force move to decentralized control and execution in which shared information gathering by "networked" organizations—with decentralized and more autonomous decision making operating within flattened hierarchies—would bypass unnecessary command layers. Such arrangements would allow much more rapid responses to mobile, agile targets presented by adaptive and flexible adversaries. The author also contends that US commanders could increase their operations tempos and initiatives without sacrificing the ability to concentrate effort. Given a 5,000-page, 72-hour ATO in Operation Desert Storm, it is little wonder that Gen Merrill A. McPeak remarked, "It is a disgrace that modern air forces are still shackled to a planning and execution process that lasts three days. We have hitched our jets to a hot air balloon." Colonel Roman’s analysis and recommendations need to be read by a wide community of operators and planners.


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