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Command and Control of Joint Air Operations. Some Lessons Learned from Four Case Studies of an Enduring Issue

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This report examines the achievement of the principle of unity of effort from a narrow focus of the command and control of U.S. joint tactical air operations in four campaigns during the period from 1942 to 1968. Its intent is to extract from that examination some lessons for future joint air operations. Although some may question the relevance of lessons learned from operations that ended more than two decades ago, the lessons of the four major campaigns examined here offer useful insights for current and future commanders. Unity, of effort is the objective of any command and control system. It has often been defined synonymously with unity of command. This definitional issue has manifested itself in the expressions of individual service doctrines, their implementation in joint operations, and, ultimately, each of the services views of war. In our view, unity of command is one of several necessary steps to achieve unity of effort. Unity of effort is defined as an overarching principle that encompasses solidarity of purpose, effort, and command. It directs all energies, assets, and activities, physical and mental, toward desired ends. Many of the difficulties in achieving unity of effort and with the concept as a whole have risen in the debates over appropriate common strategic objectives among both political authorities and the services. This report emphasizes theater-level employment of joint air forces and thus implicitly assumes general agreement on common strategic objectives. Therefore, the question becomes how best to achieve unity of effort through unity of command, and not determining what the common objectives should be for the effort.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Command, Control and Communications Systems

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