A Conceptual Framework for More Effectively Integrating Combat Support Capabilities and Constraints into Contingency Planning and Execution

by Robert S. Tripp, John G. Drew, Kristin F. Lynch

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Research Questions

  1. What processes and tools does the Air Force need to assess the impact of resource capabilities and constraints across the diverse set of combat support (CS) resources and to determine the integrated impact of these capabilities or constraints on operational plans?
  2. What roles can the Air Force Sustainment Center and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center play in better integrating CS capabilities and constraints into contingency planning at the global level?
  3. How can coordination and integration be improved at the component level?

Planners for contingency operations generally assume that sufficient combat support (CS) resources will be available to support operational plans. This assumption carries a degree of risk: budgetary constraints, the inability to perfectly predict demands, the variability in supply processes, the possibility of multiple unplanned contingency operations taking place simultaneously, and other factors mean that there will always be imbalances between the global CS resources available and those requested to meet operational demands. Combatant commanders (CCDRs) and their component commands often lack information about global CS resource availabilities and constraints. Part of the challenge, from an Air Force perspective, is that the operations and CS communities do not have a cohesive approach (including doctrine, processes, analytic tools, training regimen, and organizations) to systematically include CS resource capabilities and constraints within the contingency planning process. Processes and assessment capabilities that relate CS resource availabilities/capabilities and constraints to operationally relevant metrics exist within some CS functional communities (e.g., munitions), but not others (e.g., impacts of casualties on operationally relevant metrics, such as sortie generation). The Air Force has not developed the processes and tools needed to assess the impact of resource capabilities and constraints across the diverse set of CS resources and to determine the integrated impact of these capabilities or constraints on operational plans. This publication describes a conceptual framework for better integrating CS capabilities and constraints into contingency planning and execution at the global, combatant command (COCOM), component, and wing levels.

Key Findings

  • Creation of deputy COMAFFORs for combat support and operations in demand-side organizations (e.g., component major commands/numbered air forces) could improve dialogue between these functions and improve contingency resource requirements estimates.
  • New global supply-side organizations (e.g., Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and Air Force Sustainment Center) must be better informed of requirements in order to meet demand most effectively.
  • A neutral integrator (e.g., global Agile Combat Support C2 Reachback Cell) should be appointed to make scarce-resource allocation decisions as needed.


  • A conceptual framework is recommended in which demand-side processes, supply-side processes, and integrator processes are independent and separated.
  • The roles of existing and new organizations such as the AFIMSC, AFSC, and DEPCOMAFFOR/ACS organizations could be defined using this framework.
  • These organizations and roles could be established by reassigning personnel within existing staffs; therefore, the resources implications would be minimal.
  • The framework should be described in CS and operational doctrine.
  • CS contingency planning and execution processes should focus on operations and identifying separate demand, supply, and integrator processes.
  • Demand-side, supply-side, and integrator roles at the component, joint, allied, service, and DoD levels should be specified, including assigning process responsibilities to specific organizations and delineating the responsibilities for the AFIMSC, AFSC, and DEPCOMAFFOR/ACS while working to continuously improve processes.
  • CS professional development should be expanded to include teaching operational planning processes; encouraging assignments in supply, demand, and integrator organizations; and expanding operational professional development to include an overall understanding of the importance of including CS planning early in strategy development.
  • Metrics and information needed to manage and relate CS activities to operationally relevant metrics and desired capabilities should be identified.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted within the Resource Management Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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