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Global Command and Control for the Future Operating Concept
Posted Monday, December 04, 2017


AFIT alum Maj Ian Slazinik (M.S. Air Logistics, 2016) and faculty member Maj Ben Hazen co-wrote an article titled “Global Command and Control for the Future Operating Concept; Implications for Structural Design and Information Flow” published in the Air & Space Power Journal, Volume 31 Issue 4, Winter 2017. The full article can be read on pages 34-47 here.  An excerpt of the article is below.

It appears that the end of the traditional air operations center (AOC) as we know it is within sight. Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF, retired, one of the chief planners of the Operation Desert Storm air campaign, recently stated “. . . our ability to command and control (C2) air and space forces will be affected by three major interrelated trends: emerging threats, new technologies, and the velocity of information.”1 Air Force leaders actually described this future C2 environment in their “Call to the Future” and the “Air Force Future Operating Concept (AFFOC)” describing the multidomain operations center (MDOC) of 2035, complete with new divisions, impressive resiliency, robust reach-back capabilities, and a smaller in-theater footprint, which left many asking, how can the Air Force get to that future state?2 Rapid information flow and decision making will be critical, and modern organizational structures such as matrix and edge offer possible solutions. Furthermore, network centric operations offer information-age organizations structures tailored for rapid information processing and utilization.3 The C2 of air mobility aircraft, a limited worldwide resource utilized yet split between multiple combatant commanders (CCDR), presents a particularly challenging problem set in light of these technological and organizational advances since the advent of the AOC. The purpose of this article, then, is to examine how the air mobility C2 enterprise might adapt its organizational structure to increase the speed of information flow between the globally minded 618th AOC and the regionally focused air mobility divisions (AMD). This research suggests that increasing the lateral ties between the 618th AOC and regional AOCs, while not a manpower savings, would increase the agility and information flow through the air mobility C2 enterprise as a whole. A theater-specific reach-back cell within the globally focused 618th AOC might be a first step on the road to the future operating concept’s realities of 2035.

The current AOC, a concept that is only a few decades old, is based on Air Force doctrine and rooted in a history of practices that have shown continual success in the crucible of combat. This organization takes a commander’s guidance and intelligence and fuses it into a daily executable plan, more effectively utilizing airpower in support of theater objectives. However, the initial design of the AOC structure was somewhat limited by the technological capabilities of the time. For example, air tasking orders (ATO) were physically flown to aircraft operating locations instead of being sent electronically. Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) mobility aircraft are centrally controlled through their worldwide-oriented Tanker Airlift Control Center unless these aircraft are transferred to a theater commander with an AOC able to assume that role locally as a result of a request for forces from that theater commander. In that case, they’re controlled through that AOC’s air mobility division, one of five specialized divisions spelled out in Air Force doctrine and under the command of the joint or combined forces air component commander in theater. This transfer normally happens when the aircraft perform tasks primarily in that one theater for typically more than a few weeks.

Due to increasing demands on air mobility aircraft, US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) has more recently advocated retaining operational control (OPCON) of aircraft it might have transferred to a requesting combatant command in the past. This recent approach mirrors that of similar-type civilian logistics operations that are centrally managed to maximize efficiencies by flowing resources to the point of need without having to navigate through time-consuming sourcing processes. Furthermore, the acceleration of information availability has condensed decision timelines and changed how similar civilian organizations organize and perform, allowing them to react seemingly on a dime to changing market conditions anywhere.4 While retaining OPCON might help USTRANSCOM to meet the demand from multiple theaters, it also complicates command relationships and control responsibilities. This current challenge presents an opportunity to examine not necessarily changing the relationship between these entities, but the ways they pass information to assist in moving toward the predicted realities of 2035.

As early as the 1970s, organizational theorist Jay Galbraith’s research anticipated the information age and sought ways to gain organizational advantages in this new domain. He proposed that the amount of information processed between decision makers is proportional to the amount of uncertainty in a task. Uncertainty limits the ability of an organization to preplan or make decisions about activities in advance of their execution.5 His resulting organizational information process theory (OIPT) can inform the structure of not only commercial business, but also the C2 of military aircraft. How the C2 enterprise organizes around information flow and uncertainty could play a key role in the ability of rapid global mobility to meet the nation’s needs. As such, through the lens of OIPT, this research addresses the following questions related to the structure of the air mobility C2 enterprise:

  1. What specific criteria determine the functions that can or should be performed at a central hub and which functions should be present in a regional entity to increase the speed and reach of information while decreasing equivocality?
  2. How might the structure of the air mobility C2 personnel be leveraged more effectively in a future information-driven, integrated planning, and execution cycle to increase the organization’s ability to respond to uncertainty?

Read the remainder of the article here.