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Where You Stand Depends Upon What (Or Whether) You Fly: Bureaucratic Politics and the Gulf War Air Campaign

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By almost all accounts, the Gulf War air campaign was the most successful demonstration of air power in history. In just 43 days of combat, air operations isolated and incapacitated the Iraqi command structure, severely degraded their military production, virtually destroyed the Iraqi Air Force, and significantly reduced the overall combat effectiveness of the Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations KTO. Not surprisingly, the official post-war assessment by the House Armed Services committee the Aspin Report stated in its number one finding The decisive factor in the war with Iraq was the air campaign... In the aftermath of Desert Storm, many claimed that much of the success of the air campaign was due to the unprecedented degree of unity of command and unity of effort made possible by several legislative and doctrinal changes enacted since Vietnam. Previous air campaigns had been bedeviled by interservice squabbling and disjointed, often uncoordinated efforts Prior to the Gulf War, however, the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1980 strengthened the hand of the war fighting Commanders-in-Chief CINOs as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff CJCS, at the expense of the services Additionally, the 1986 release of Joint Chiefs of Staff Publication 26 JCS Pub 26 finally codified the position of the Joint Force Air Component Commander JFACC Together, these documents were intended to ensure air campaigns would be centrally run by a single functional commander, responsible only to the theater CINO Furthermore, centralized authority would ensure that inevitable disputes between the various participants would be settled rationally, based on theater-wide war fighting requirements rather than individual service desires.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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