Vertical and Horizontal Forces: A Framework for Understanding Airpower Command and Control
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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For four decades, the Air Force has maintained the master tenet of centralized control, decentralized execution. Changes in the contextual environment and advances in systems theory indicate that while the framework regarding the placement of control and decision making within the system remains important, a more robust cognitive approach would help commanders think through and understand how command and control C2 systems work best today. The central question of the monograph is do vertical and horizontal forces better describe the competing tensions within a command and control system To provide context as to why questions over centralization and decentralization of air power control dominate Air Force thinking, the monograph beings with a historical overview of the tenet. The proposed cognitive framework moves beyond centralization-decentralization issues and examines C2 systems from a vertical and horizontal perspective. Forces within the vertical dimension represent integrative aspects of the system and include facets such as security, collectivity, order, uniformity, and stability. The horizontal dimension includes the forces of freedom, individuality, uniqueness, change, and complexity. These ten forces work in a qualitative manner within tension pairs. Using a case study methodology, the monograph evaluates airpower C2 operations during the Korean War using the vertical-horizontal framework. Three major findings emerged after applying the framework. First, C2 systems require a balanced presence of both vertical and horizontal aspects to achieve effectiveness. Second, the quality of the interaction among C2 nodes is more critical to success than overall interoperability. Third, C2 systems naturally tend towards differentiation, and commanders will find it more challenging and difficult to create effective C2 integration without inadvertently sacrificing key aspects of differentiation.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Command, Control and Communications Systems