Dec 3, 2020
To counter increasingly capable near-peer competitors, the U.S. military services have been developing new concepts for multidomain operations (MDOs)—operations that involve two or more of the five domains: air, land, maritime, space, and cyber. The joint force already conducts MDOs today, but U.S. military leaders argue that MDOs have been episodic and that operations in different domains have often been deconflicted rather than truly integrated. Also, the joint force is grappling with how to integrate space and cyber, which are emerging as more important warfighting domains. The Air Force is now leading the joint initiative to assess how the current command and control (C2) construct might need to adapt to enable MDOs.
This brief summarizes research results that identified potential impediments to MDOs in the current operational C2 construct for joint operations. The study drew on joint warfighting principles to identify C2 characteristics that could prevent MDO options from being considered, could make MDOs too time-consuming to plan, or could create too much planning uncertainty. Researchers analyzed current laws, regulations, and joint doctrine and conducted more than 150 interviews to identify specific aspects of the current C2 structure that have these characteristics. The study also developed four alternative joint all-domain C2 (JADC2) constructs for further analysis and experimentation.
The Air Force vision of faster decisionmaking might not be realized if planning, executing, or assessing multidomain options requires more time or involves more complexity than single-domain alternatives. RAND researchers found that integrating multiple domains can involve additional steps and approvals when MDOs involve capabilities controlled by multiple organizations. For example, as shown in Figure 1, if the air component wanted to include offensive cyber operations in its suppression of enemy air defense plans, it would need to account for all steps in the offensive cyber operations request and approval process shown, as well as typical approvals for air operations plans.
To generate multidomain options, planners must understand the capabilities and limitations of operations in all domains. They also need information about what forces are available and information on what other activities are taking place in the operating environment. It often takes significant expertise to identify planning considerations for a particular domain and to interpret information about the operating environment to generate situational awareness. This does not mean that multidomain planners need access to the highly detailed information that domain experts need to conduct tactical planning or execute operations in their domain. Rather, it means multidomain planners at the operational level need access to enough expertise and information to know what options are available and appropriate in a given situation. Component planning staffs specialize in certain domains and do not have resident experts or easy access to information on all domains. Coordination with other components can produce multidomain options, but some options might be missed because planners with expertise on multiple domains are not working together to tackle an operational problem.
In a conflict with a near-peer competitor, communications are likely to be contested. Long-distance communications, such as from Europe to the continental United States (CONUS), are considered most vulnerable because attacks on a smaller number of high-payoff targets, such as undersea cables and infrastructure for satellite communications, could disrupt or degrade these links. In-theater communications will also be contested, although the larger number of communications links and redundant communications options make these communications harder to degrade. Air Force leaders aspire to develop a C2 construct that is more resilient to attacks on both long-distance and local communications. An impediment exists when the current C2 construct requires planning, executing, or assessing an MDO to rely more heavily on communications than on single-domain operations. MDOs that involve detailed coordination with CONUS-based space or cyber organizations, for example, could be more vulnerable to disruption than MDOs that involve in-theater forces.
Another potential threat to the Air Force vision for JADC2 is a mindset that prevents planners from considering the full range of multidomain options. No component, whether service or functional, is truly single domain in scope, and few missions are the purview of only one service. For example, land component forces use helicopters and request air support, and the joint force air component commander is concerned about interdicting adversary forces on the ground. Still, functional and service components might have cultural biases or organizational structures that lead them to focus on solutions that employ forces from their primary domain. These biases could lead planners to overlook or eschew solutions in other domains.
Specific concepts for MDOs are still emerging, so it is not yet clear which C2 changes to address the above impediments are most important or how beneficial such changes would be. At the same time, the joint force has not decided how to prioritize C2 changes to enable MDOs with those needed to meet two other C2 challenges in a conflict with a near-peer threat:
Given the nascent state of all-domain operations concepts and unresolved questions about how to balance the two other C2 challenges, the joint force should—before making major changes to structures—investigate and experiment with alternative C2 constructs and assess possible impacts on warfighting effectiveness. The RAND team developed four GCC JADC2 constructs that span the range from small changes in the current C2 construct to more significant ones that could be the basis for this future analysis. Each of the constructs has advantages and drawbacks, as shown below.
A combatant commander (CCDR) could use aspects of some of the constructs described here in a hybrid approach to JADC2. For example, CCDRs might want to conduct contingency planning "sprints" at the CCMD level that draw resources from the components for short durations but continue to use functional components during wartime.
Experts from all domains are embedded in all component planning staffs; control of capabilities remains divided among components.
A single component plans for and controls in-theater forces in three domains and coordinates for support in these domains from outside the theater.
Involves all-domain operational planning and control of forces at the combatant commander (CCDR) level; components focus on tactical planning and execution.
Organizes components around lines of effort instead of domains during wartime
The results above yield the following conclusions:
Based on these conclusions, the authors offer the following recommendations: