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Research Questions

  1. What are potential impediments to MDOs in the current C2 construct for a conflict with a near-peer competitor?
  2. What are alternative approaches to the JADC2, and what trade-offs do they create?
  3. What key changes to doctrine, authorities, and systems would be required for each alternative JADC2 construct?

To counter increasingly capable near-peer competitors, the U.S. military services have been developing new concepts for multidomain operations (MDOs), which aim to more fully integrate operations in the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber domains, as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and information environment. Although the joint force already conducts some MDOs, current initiatives aim to expand the scope and scale of such operations and to change command-and-control (C2) constructs to better enable MDOs.

To identify potential impediments to MDOs, the authors reviewed joint warfighting principles; current laws, regulations, and doctrine; and interview responses. The authors identified aspects of the current C2 construct for joint operations that could prevent multidomain options from being considered, make MDOs too time consuming to plan, or create too much planning uncertainty. The authors propose four alternative approaches to joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) and provide criteria for assessing alternative constructs.

Key Findings

The JADC2 involves a variety of challenges

  • Concepts for MDO are still emerging, so it is unclear how much MDO improves warfighting effectiveness and what C2 changes are most important to enable such operations.
  • Identifying multidomain options can be difficult because geographic combatant command planning is component-centric.
  • Planning for a contingency and planning during a contingency can be hampered by insufficient expertise or access to information, the need for additional steps and approvals, and a single-domain or service-centric mindset.
  • MDOs often involve forces controlled by multiple organizations, making C2 more complex.
  • Some MDOs increase dependence on vulnerable communications systems.
  • Classification is a potential barrier to space and cyber integration.
  • The legal framework for space and cyber operations can lead to conflicting interpretations among combatant commands.
  • Combatant commands may perceive a lack of unity of effort.

The nature and effect of changes to C2 constructs to enable MDOs remain uncertain

  • Three emerging C2 concepts for conflict against a near-peer competitor — global integration, the JADC2, and distributed control — are being developed in parallel without a discussion of how they would be used together in wartime.
  • Alternative JADC2 constructs include an incremental change where existing GCC components would host planners from every domain; combining air, space, and cyber into one component; putting combatant commanders in charge of operational planning; and organizing components by lines of effort.
  • Assessment of alternative JADC2 constructs should consider whether they facilitate planning and execution of MDOs, give a reasonable span of control to an operational commander, minimize operational transition from peacetime to wartime, allow reallocation of forces as priorities change, leverage existing organizations and processes, and have fewer barriers to implementation.

Recommendations

  • Specify MDO concepts and thoroughly assess operational costs and benefits to inform JADC2 changes and investments.
  • Set priorities among concepts for global integration, the JADC2, and distributed control and consider the relationship between them in wartime.
  • Experiment with alternative JADC2 constructs to assess effectiveness and trade-offs before making significant C2 changes.
  • Review exercises for additional opportunities to practice approval processes for capabilities controlled outside geographical combatant commands.
  • Simplify and update authorities related to MDOs.
  • Assess trade-offs associated with giving more planners access to information about space and cyber effects.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by Major General Charles Corcoran, who was then Director of Air and Space Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa and conducted by the Strategy and Doctrine Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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