Feasibility of an Air Liaison Officer Career Field

Improving the Theater Air-Ground System

by Thomas Manacapilli, Steven Buhrow

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Abstract

Air liaison officers (ALOs) play an important interservice role as U.S. Air Force officers collocated with U.S. Army units, providing air-ground support and advising ground commanders on related issues. Under the current system, ALO duty is restricted to career aviators, and this approach seems to meet all the requirements of both services. However, there are compelling reasons for the Air Force to consider a dedicated ALO career field, including better proficiency and improved continuity from one ALO to the next, less time lost to training, increased ALO career longevity, and potentially improved leadership and morale among tactical air control party (TACP) forces. Prompted by recent suggestions submitted to the U.S. Air Force's Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness (IDEA) program, this investigation of the feasibility of an ALO career field explores the array of research on the subject, turning to historical initiatives and instructions going back nearly a century, published literature, and interviews with ALOs, commanders, and TACP personnel. Questions that may affect the decisionmaking process will focus on whether a nonrated or nonstrike aviator can perform the job of an ALO, the feasibility of a career force, and whether changes are needed when the system is already functioning adequately.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Literature Review

  • Chapter Three

    Are Changes Needed?

  • Chapter Four

    Can a Nonrated Officer Perform the ALO Mission?

  • Chapter Five

    Is an ALO Career Field Feasible?

  • Chapter Six

    Recommendations

  • Appendix

    History of the Air-Ground Support Mission

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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