Cover: Command and Control of Joint Air Operations in the Pacific

Command and Control of Joint Air Operations in the Pacific

Methods for Comparing and Contrasting Alternative Concepts

Published Jan 18, 2018

by Brien Alkire, Sherrill Lingel, Caroline Baxter, Christopher M. Carson, Christine Chen, David Gordon, Lawrence M. Hanser, Lance Menthe, Daniel M. Romano


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Research Questions

  1. What methods should be used to compare and contrast alternative concepts for C2 of joint air operations in the Pacific?
  2. How do recently proposed C2 concepts compare and contrast in relevant Pacific scenarios?

The geography of the Pacific region can present challenges for command and control (C2) of air operations; distances can be long and operational areas vast. Furthermore, regional competitors may seek to degrade, deny, or disrupt the content and flow of information needed for C2. Multiple organizational concepts can be used to manage C2 in such environments. This report recommends methods for comparing and contrasting alternative concepts for C2 of joint air operations in the Pacific. A concept that is suitable for one type of operation, such as humanitarian and disaster relief, may be less suitable for another type of operation, such as a major war with a near-peer competitor. For this reason, the report also applies these methods to a selection of concepts and scenarios.

Key Findings

Five Categories of Metrics Are Useful for Comparing and Contrasting Alternative C2 Concepts and Should Be Evaluated in the Context of the Goals for C2 of Joint Air Operations

  • Different C2 concepts will have different resource requirements, especially for manpower. For instance, establishing a joint task force might require additional manpower.
  • Performance of C2 for enabling forces to achieve operational outcomes can be affected by a commander's span of control — the number of direct reports — as well as the heights of the organizational structure and the connectivity among elements of the structure.
  • Risk — in this case, the likelihood of and impact of adverse conditions on C2 performance or operational outcomes — should also be evaluated for alternative concepts.
  • A concept also needs to be resilient, that is, be inherently resistant and be flexible, adaptable, and recoverable.
  • A versatile concept would be applicable to a range of scenarios.

A Concept Suitable for One Type of Operation May Not Be Suitable for Another

  • The report evaluates a selection of JTF- and GCC-led concepts in a pair of scenarios.
  • The evaluation showed that manpower requirements associated with standing up a JTF can be very significant. However, a JTF can expand the options available for addressing theater concerns. There are risks associated with both of the alternative concepts, with some in common and some unique to the concept. The risks are unique to the scenario.


  • Evaluate manpower resource needs and span of control–related performance metrics for C2 concepts recently proposed for the Pacific area of responsibility and expand analysis to include additional scenarios of interest.
  • Implement the C2 risk-and-resiliency tabletop exercise methodology in upcoming exercises and wargames with Air Force participation.
  • Prioritize and continue to build out unit type code requirements for deployable communications packages. Availability of deployable communications was identified as a common C2-related risk for the HA/DR scenario.
  • Continue to develop the user-defined operating picture concept because it may be a resiliency measure to address the risk of maintaining battlespace awareness in a major war scenario with the GCC-led concept.
  • Among other things, air and space operations centers should train and exercise production of air tasking orders for multiple joint forces air component commanders.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by Brig Gen Dirk Smith, Director of Air and Cyberspace Operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Force. It was cosponsored by Mark (Tap) Tapper, Defense Intelligence Senior Deader, Headquarters, Air Force, Directorate of Intelligence. The research was conducted within the Force Modernization and Employment Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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