Efficiently Exploiting the Power of C4ISR by Optimally Organizing and Training the Producers of Combat Support Effects*

By "Mel" Tomme, Edward B. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Efficiently Exploiting the Power of C4ISR by Optimally Organizing and Training the Producers of Combat Support Effects*


"Mel" Tomme, Edward B., Air & Space Power Journal


In a previous Air and Space Power Journal article, I argued for the existence of two distinct portions of the find/fix/track/ target/ engage/assess (F2T2EA) kill chain.1 The targeting and engaging portions of the chain are the responsibility of combat assets specializing in the full spectrum of enemyasset negation (denying, disrupting, deceiving, degrading, or destroying them, as appropriate). Although some combat assets can independently carry out the remaining portions of the kill chain, they typically are assisted by specialized combat support assets that provide the necessary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) wherewithal to get them into position to target and engage.

In my earlier article, I concluded that major commands (MAJCOM) should be organized by effect and that one of the most effective organizational restructurings would involve the consolidation of all air and space command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) assets under one commander. The discussion in that article was primarily theoretical, addressing why such a structure would prove more effective than the current one. The present article switches gears and deals with the practical organize-and-train aspects ofthat consolidation. Although incorporation of National Reconnaissance Office satellites under the same commander would be optimal, the previous article showed that political considerations would likely make that goal difficult to meet. Thus, this discussion concentrates solely on the reorganizing and training of organic Air Force units.

What would an effects-based Air Force C4ISR Command (AFC4ISRC) look like in practice? It would likely start by consolidating all of the existing Air Force ISR Agency (AFISRA) with almost all of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), whose structure is currently in flux following the Corona meeting of October 2008.2 Formerly, AFSPC primarily consisted of two numbered air forces and an in-house acquisitions arm. Following Corona, the numbered air force in charge of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) will move under the new, nuclear-focused Global Strike Command while the units and missions originally slated to go to a separate Cyber Command (AFCYBER) will now become the Twenty-fourth Air Force under AFSPC. These two developments are definitely steps in the direction of effects-based organization. The longer version of this article (see "editor's note") proposed both of them, though for different reasons than the ones that apparently spurred the reorganization at Corona. The key to organizing the new command entails explicitly identifying its function as support. Seen in this light, AFSPCs absorption of the AFISRA or vice versa is irrelevant as long as the effects producers end up in the right relative positions in AFC4ISRC.

Combat Support Is the Mission

The questions thus become, what are the right relative positions, and what portions of the two organizations should actually join? To answer those questions, we would find it instructive to look at how one of our sister services describes its own organization. The Army classifies its units under three different functional labels: combat arms, combat support, and combat service support, defining the terms as follows:

Combat arms are units and soldiers who close with and destroy enemy forces or provide firepower and destructive capabilities on the battlefield. . . . [Examples of these kinds of units include infantry, armor, and artillery.]

Combat support encompasses critical combat functions provided by units and soldiers, in conjunction with combat arms units and soldiers, to secure victory. . . . [Examples of these kinds of units include military police and military intelligence.]

The primary role of Army tactical [combat service support] units is to sustain Army forces. . . . [Examples of these kinds of units include finance, supply, and transportation. …

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