Integrating Joint Operations Beyond the FSCL
Is Current Doctrine Adequate?
This detailed study examines the doctrinal issues concerning combat operations in that portion of the battle space beyond the fire support coordination line (FSCL). The author, Lt Col Dewayne P. Hall, US Army, makes a strong case that lessons learned from Operation Desert Storm (ODS) illustrate a lack of consensus on who is responsible for the integrated employment of combat power beyond the FSCL. This lack of consensus divides rather than integrates US combat operations. The study does an excellent job of defining the problem. It includes a comprehensive and useful summary of present terminology and doctrinal differences between the services. It then provides an assessment of the basic guidelines, terminology, and control measures, and offers detailed doctrinal, definitional, and organization recommendations to resolve the problems. The author makes an argument that placing the FSCL at the political border prior to the allied ground offensive of ODS was detrimental to the overall effort because it impeded deep operations. His supporting evidence is statements by ground commanders that they were prevented from preparing the battlefield. Nevertheless, in view of the outcome, one could argue that the battlefield was well prepared, and that what was missing was a dialog between the operational and tactical levels—there was no structure to give feedback to tactical commanders concerning the decisions made at the strategic and operational levels regarding apportionment, targeting, and so forth. The opposite view of this FSCL placement is illustrated by the battle of Khafji. When the Iraqis mounted a three-division offensive into Saudi Arabia, most of their maneuver took place beyond the FSCL; the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) was able to integrate and control sufficient combat power to destroy or disable the bulk of this threat prior to engagement against coalition ground forces. To add a different perspective to the author’s thesis, an airman would state that the fundamental challenge in solving these problems is recognizing the differences between the corps commander’s tactical view of the battle space, and the operational/strategic view shared by the Joint Force Commander (JFC) and functional components with theater-wide responsibilities, such as the JFACC. The FSCL is a tactical fire support coordination measure that has unintended consequences at the operational level. For example, in the ground offensive phase of ODS, the fire support coordination line was so deep that the JFACC was prevented from concentrating forces against the retreating republican guards, allowing their escape.
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