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Document created: 1 December 03
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2003

Jointness, and Transformation

Dr. Stephen O. Fought
Col O. Scott Key, USAF
AWC Seminar Six*

Editorial Abstract: In the second century of manned flight, airpower may well be the transforming piece of the jointness puzzle—the instrument through which ground and naval forces could be integrated. An Air War College seminar, class of 2003, studied, debated, and developed personal convictions about this argument. Grounded in the history of the evolution of airpower theory, this seminar developed a new definition for a “transformational system” to focus on the future of war fighting and force structure.

*This article reflects the discussions and writings of the AWC professors and students participating in Seminar Six’s Warfighting course. In addition to the professors above, the students were Gp Capt Michael Adenlyl, Nigerian Air Force; Lt Col Daniel Baltrusaitis; Lt Col Randy Bright; Lt Col Mark Carter; Lt Col (P) Kendal Cunningham, USA; Lt Col Mark Fitzgerald; Comdr Ed Gallrein, USN; Lt Col Theresa Giorlando; Lt Col Makis Kaidantzis, Hellenic air force; Col Mun Kwon; Lt Col Glenn Lang; Lt Col Sarbjit Singh, Republic of Singapore Air Force; Mr. John Steenbock, USAF civilian; and Col William Walters, Tennessee ANG. These contributors are now AWC graduates, class of 2003.

The airpower debate is currently at the century mark, and during those 100 years the landscape has shifted considerably. At the outset, air forces were grown from within the Army and Navy. Near the midpoint, airpower advocates argued for—at a minimum—a separate-but-equal status. In the New Millennium, airpower may well be the last piece in the jointness puzzle—the piece that transforms the disassembled parts into a work of fine art. Members of an Air War College (AWC) seminar in the class of 2003 studied, debated, and developed personal convictions about these arguments during their in-residence year of study.1 Their interesting conclusions were captured and integrated into this article, which begins with a short, but necessary, review of the historical and theoretical foundations from which their discussions in the college’s Warfighting course can be best appreciated.

An examination of airpower as an element of national strategy does well to begin with a review of the maritime, continental, and airpower theories of Alfred T. Mahan, a US Navy captain; Sir Halford J. Mackinder, a British scholar; and Giulio Douhet, an Italian general. All three argued that geography, technology, and other local circumstances come together in unique and dramatic ways to give nations comparative advantage on the international scene. However, each of their theories leads to different conclusions with respect to the importance of ground, sea, and air forces. These theories are briefly reviewed to provide the reader a strategic framework simi­lar to that of our seminar participants.2

Mahan, writing in the late 1800s, was the first of the three strategists to share his theories and stressed the importance of naval power—particularly its mobility and ability to control commerce over the high seas and through strategically located “choke points.” Through sea power, a nation at that time could guarantee its own economic and physical security and dictate the security of others. According to Mahan, a nation that wanted to be a Great Power also needed to be a great sea power. The US Navy—and President Teddy Roosevelt—embraced this thesis. Sea-power enthusiasts still use Mahan as their starting point when discussing and debating the relevance of naval forces in modern times.

As usual, theory begets theory. Not long after Mahan’s original thesis gained popularity, Mackinder first critiqued Mahan and then provided an alternative framework. He observed that Mahan’s theories had focused on England at a time when sea power was the dominant means of commerce—well before roads and railroads had matured on the Continent. According to Mackinder, Mahan’s ideas were only temporally correct. If a nation sought to become a Great Power, Mackinder argued that it also needed to be a great land power, capable of using its army to defend its interests and extend its influence.3 The armies on the Continent and around the world found his arguments attractive and still use those concepts to forge their arguments on force structure and grand strategy. 

Later, after the advent of the airplane, Douhet argued that the technology of powered flight had changed the intellectual and strategic landscape—forever altering the context on which the theories of Mahan and Mackinder had been developed. Airpower, he said, diminished the importance of geography as an element of national power. Douhet was later joined by William “Billy” Mitchell, Alexander P. de Seversky, and others, who said airpower now provided a means by which armies could battle navies—meaning the two military forces were no longer separate and distinct. They added that it would be possible for nations who were great distances apart to wage war to its ultimate end through airpower alone. 

As Mahan developed his theory, using ­eighteenth-century England, and Mackinder developed his, using a maturing commerce system built on roads and railroads, Douhet’s views on the potential of airpower were conceived while witnessing the stalemate of trench warfare during World War I. Since the concepts of each strategist were reflective of different and unique landscapes, Douhet’s theories may also be viewed as only temporally correct—being equally limited to local circumstances, as were the ideas of Mahan and Mackinder. The logical conclusion of this interpretation of Douhet makes a good case for the preeminence of airpower’s being a function of local circumstances—an ­argument equally as solid as the arguments for the maritime and continental schools. 

Interpreted more aggressively, Douhet’s theory placed airpower in a superior position to either maritime or ground power as a means of warfare for two reasons.4 First, airpower diminished the consequences of either a strong navy or a strong army as a means of defense because either could be bypassed by airpower. Second, with the advent of airpower, neither a strong navy nor a strong army could determine the outcome of a conflict without an accompanying airpower capability. However, airpower could—in Douhet’s theory—determine the outcome by itself. 

This more aggressive interpretation led to a conclusion that airpower was no longer bounded by local circumstances and, as a consequence, airpower theory should be viewed as a general theory through which the maritime and continental schools could be integrated. In any case, airpower was a theory, and a force, with which both the Army and Navy had to reckon. Whether it was an equal or a superior integrating theory remained to be seen. 

World War II tested various airpower theses, including Douhet’s. While the employment of airpower differed considerably from theater to theater, campaign to campaign, and commander to commander, and while arguments still abound on the effectiveness of specific uses of airpower, little doubt exists with respect to the overall effectiveness of airpower throughout the war. The evidence of airpower’s effectiveness lies in the fact that Army, Navy, and Marine aviation grew by leaps and bounds as the war progressed, and control over air assets was jealously guarded throughout. 

Given the perceived effectiveness of airpower in World War II, the postwar airpower debate in the United States was cast into three propositions. First, airpower was the chattel property of the Army and Navy. If so, then no organizational changes were required, and airpower doctrine could be developed within the confines of the maritime and continental schools of thought. A second proposition considered airpower as a great integrating force, with the organizational implication that the Army and Navy should merge into a joint force under a general staff. Finally, the proposition that won the day held that since airpower was sufficiently unique, it needed to be treated as an independent school of thought and given independent status through a formal organizational change. Said another way, airpower deserved a separate-but-equal status to develop its own doctrine and force structure—free from the ingrained structures of the Army and Navy.5

Although the third proposition won the day, it had frayed edges—some of which were mended and patched along the way, but none of which would completely disappear. These frayed edges shaped much of our seminar debate as contrary opinions, unsettled disputes, and counterexamples littered the landscape as our discussions ranged from Korea to Vietnam to Operation Anaconda. Several members of the seminar never let us forget the alternative points of view on close air support, the fire support control line, management of air defense or airspace in general, control of service (especially Marine) air, and how the joint force air and space component commander (JFACC) should be selected.6

However, as valuable and intense as these exchanges were, it wasn’t the frayed edges that advanced our understanding of airpower as much as it was the common threads and our appreciation of the Air Force’s own internal struggle as it sought to define itself. Depending upon the circumstances, the validity of the various supporting arguments would shift, and a different basic proposition would dominate—the chattel-property, the separate-but-equal, or the fully integrated positions. As the participants shared their thoughts, they came to the conclusion that the propositions were resolved after the high-intensity combat action ceased in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). From our perspective, the decisions of 1947 gave the Air Force the opportunity to successfully mature its doctrine, and it did so during the ensuing years—but the process wasn’t pretty.

The Air Force internal debate was polarized along two axes—the fighter-versus-bomber and the conventional-versus-nuclear debates—and was framed by the terms tactical and strategic as they were applied to war. Organizationally, this played out as a duel to the death between the Air Force heavyweights, Tactical Air Command (TAC) and Strategic Air Command (SAC). Readers should recall that, beginning with the Eisenhower administration and its nuclear-dominant New Look policies, SAC was given the immediate upper hand. Under this policy, the term strategic was equated with SAC’s long-range, bomber-delivered nuclear forces. TAC and conventional war were given the backseat to bombers and the ultimate destructive weapon. Bombers mattered; fighters were marginalized.7 Nuclear forces mattered; conventional forces didn’t, except as a trip wire. Airpower doctrine was simple: SAC thrived, TAC seethed, and the Army and Navy looked at the Air Force and its burgeoning budgets with envy.

President John F. Kennedy’s reassessment of strategic nuclear forces, the Warsaw Pact, and Vietnam changed the ball game. President Kennedy rightfully questioned the credibility of a national defense policy based on a near-automatic escalation to a central-system nuclear exchange. In President Kennedy’s opinion, there needed to be some flexibility and middle ground—a precursor to a terminal decision. At the same time and to counter communist global expansion, President Kennedy moved the nation into a small-scale war in Vietnam. The shifting winds of war forever altered the debates in the Air Force and those about airpower.

In the theoretical-war realm, the nation’s nuclear war plan (the Single Integrated Operational Plan [SIOP]) erased the simplicity of equating Air Force heavy bombers to US nuclear forces as Air Force land-based missiles and the Navy’s submarine ballistic missile forces were added. In Cold War Europe, NATO (at the insistence of the United States) set about to change its “Overall Strategic Concept for the Defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Area” from the “trip wire” strategy documented in its Military Committee Document (MC) 14-2 to “flexible response” in MC 14-3—a process specifically designed to strengthen the bridge and blur any distinction between conventional (theater/tactical) forces and US strategic nuclear forces. In the “hot war” in Southeast Asia, nuclear weapons were not seriously considered, even as the war in Vietnam worsened. SAC’s bombers and tankers were sent to Southeast Asia to drop conventional weapons or refuel fighters, while SAC’s spokesmen worked to find ways to claim the SIOP had not been degraded (much, for long, or significantly). The clear lines that framed the debate over airpower in the ’50s became blurred throughout the ’60s and ’70s.

Along the way, airpower got another test in Vietnam. There is not enough space in this article to do justice to the topic of the air war in Vietnam. USAF forces were directed by a perverse combination of air divisions, numbered air forces, major commands, and component commands—all tossed into a blender with the air forces of other services and other nations. Everybody got his own air war—his own way. This multiservice, multinational ­circus eventually became a daily competition among the participants to fly the most sorties and drop the most bombs—none of which had anything to do with battlefield effectiveness.

By the early ’70s it was very difficult—perhaps meaningless—to differentiate between strategic and tactical forces. The US/NATO objective of extended deterrence intentionally linked a US strategic nuclear response to a conventional USSR/Warsaw Pact attack—making the so-called nuclear threshold a more important concept than any definitional distinction between strategic and tactical. Vietnam sent the terms strategic and tactical through the semantic blender as tactical fighters went north to bomb strategic targets and strategic bombers hit tactical troop concentrations in the south. All the while, extensive news reporting of the war in Vietnam drove home the fact that even very low-threshold (tactical) events could have strategic consequences. Without a dividing line between the terms strategic and tactical, the concepts that had framed the internal Air Force debates became meaningless at about the same time the US military went into a flat spin at the end of Vietnam—which, to many, appeared to be beyond its ability to recover.

No doubt the end of the Vietnam War brought a catharsis for the nation and the military. In the opinion of our seminar, it also laid to waste the internal Air Force arguments about airpower. By the mid-’70s the nuclear arena was no longer the sole purview of a USAF-led SAC—a SAC that would eventually see an admiral as CINCSAC before it disappeared into the archives. There were serious arguments with respect to eliminating both the land-based missiles and bombers in favor of a sea-based nuclear deterrent. In any case, our nuclear retaliatory strategy was being severely questioned because its logic inevitably was underpinned by the illogic of a US-USSR central-system nuclear exchange, and arms control was approaching its heyday. As a consequence, NATO’s belief in extended deterrence and linkage was eroded and would eventually have to be bolstered by upgrading the intermediate (theater) nuclear forces with systems that could extend beyond Eastern Europe and strike the homeland of the USSR—making these systems “strategic” to the USSR, while the United States sought to designate them as “theater” weapons—thus forever erasing any difference between the terms tactical and strategic in the nuclear realm.

Airpower’s fundamental doctrine of strategic bombardment had run into the harsh world of political reality where national leaders determined targets, allowed sanctuaries, believed in graduated responses, and justified strategic bombing in terms of leverage at the peace talks. In retreat, its supporters argued that strategic bombardment had not been tested because the strategic targets of Korea and Vietnam were in China and Russia. By the middle ’70s, the Air Force had lost its hammerlock on nuclear deterrence, and its major tenet, strategic bombardment, had been proved infeasible, irrelevant, or (in the nuclear case) unthinkable. The nation was in malaise, the Air Force reeled, SAC shook at its foundation, and TAC continued to seethe.8

Certainly for the Air Force and probably for the nation as a whole, the post-Vietnam period of the ’70s was characterized by inactivity and stagnation—the United States found it could do nothing to respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan except boycott the Olympics. President Jimmy Carter announced the formation of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF)—which specialists quickly pointed out was neither rapid, deployable, nor a force. The nation was going nowhere, fast.

In the calm before the coming storm, ­vulture-like critics saw the Air Force adrift, cawed that the nation had not won a war since the Air Force had been created, and tried to eliminate the service and return the chattel property to the Army and Navy where it should have remained all along. As the scavengers circled and the ship of state sat mired, the “prodigal” soldiers were rising in the ranks, looking to create a new sense of order, discipline, and purpose across all of the military services.9 Inside the Air Force, TAC’s generals were gathering strength and setting a takeover course under Gen Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech. At the same time, space operations began to show promise as a military arena, specifically as an Air Force arena.

Although space brought a rainbow of resources, it also darkened the skies over the Air Force. The seminar saw that space could be a threat to the Air Force because a number of the arguments for a separate-but-equal space force were similar to the arguments used to justify a separate-but-equal Air Force during World War II. If those arguments were successful, they could be used to eliminate missions and reduce the Air Force in favor of a separate space service. However, space was the true high ground and presented a special opportunity for the Air Force. It could, potentially, become the medium through which all military forces would be integrated—recalling the second proposition in the 1947 arguments. The opportunistic side of the equation was reinforced dramatically through the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—President Ronald Reagan’s vision to provide the West with a multilayered defense against the Soviet missile threat. SDI brought the Air Force vast resources as well as a means to replace nuclear forces as the basis for deterrence. The Air Force, wisely, sought to hang onto space. Internally, however, the debate raged between space advocates, whose battle cry was “integrate or separate,” and aviators fending off assaults behind the shield of “not now, but someday.” The space debate looked and sounded very much like the independent Air Force debate that raged decades earlier.

Under a shower of resources from Reagan-era defense budgets, Air Force leaders awkwardly grappled with the questions Were we an Aerospace service or an air and space service? and Was the arrangement a marriage on the verge of divorce or a pair of new lovers on the verge of a more serious engagement? Was space a “place,” meaning an area of responsibility (AOR) for Space Command, and would it be given a control over space resources, along the lines of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)?10 Would the Navy’s space organizations be adopted into the family or treated as a trust until the age of maturity? What would be the relationship between the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on space-related issues, and how would strategic intelligence be partitioned and controlled between and among the services, National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), National Security Agency (NSA), and eventually Air Intelligence Agency (AIA)? These are seminal questions and parallel to the questions asked in the early stages of airpower development.

By the end of the ’80s, the Air Force might have been in disarray—torn in nearly every direction—had it not been for the wealth of resources made available in the early 1980s. The Air Force did not have to decide between bombers and fighters for its future—it could have both, plus a new missile and an increase in airlift. The Air Force thus dodged a bullet, and its many internal and external protagonists begged off the fight in favor of using these newfound resources to tend to their individual service or parochial needs. In that same decade, the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 became the legislative framework for future joint integration. However, the decade ended with the defense budget on a downward trend, and the same arguments that had been submerged by the flood of resources threatened to surface with a vengeance.

That storm arrived in the form of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, which came as a surprise to most and as a blessing to the Air Force. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait caught nearly everybody off guard. Many experts predicted the United States and its coalition partners would experience heavy casualties and perhaps even fail. As the libera­tion of Kuwait unfolded, we found that the team of senior military leaders—who, as junior officers, swore to change things after Vietnam—had succeeded. To many observers, airpower decided the outcome of the war. Coalition air forces pounded Saddam Hussein’s military and crippled Iraq’s command and control apparatus. Precision-guided munitions (PGM) supplemented unguided ordnance and achieved the highest-ever rate of targets destroyed, and commanders had unprecedented visibility into the battlefield. When ground action commenced following nearly six weeks of relentless air attacks, what remained of the Iraqi army was routed in 100 hours of fighting. Despite the scope and scale of the fighting, coalition and US casualties were far fewer than predicted—a result many attributed to the effectiveness of the air campaign.

Considering this thumbnail history of the evolution of airpower theory, our seminar opened one of its sessions with the proposition that Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm had validated airpower as the decisive force Douhet and others envisioned and in turn that the Air Force was the supreme integrator of military force. The seminar members roundly trashed that proposition. “No!” was the kind-and-gentle version. Our seminar members recalled that at the time of the Iraqi rout, similar expressions of exuberance were (correctly) judged as incorrect and inappropriate.

Although seminar members noted that the operational effectiveness of airpower had been impressive, their primary interpretation was that Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm had succeeded when a number of technologies and geography merged to create a landscape of comparative advantage for the United States and its coalition partners on the battlefield—not because of an inherent superiority of airpower over land or sea power.11 Seminar members also believed that Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm highlighted the need for the United States to have partners in future military actions and that those operations had forecast the continuing probability of large-scale conflicts—but that such conflicts would never have the predictability that a NATO–Warsaw Pact scenario had during the Cold War. Instead, they believed that even large-scale conflicts would be characterized by their ad hoc nature, with the only common element being the absence of US ground forces at the start. This led them to discuss David A. “Dave” Ochmanek’s concept of a “new calculus,” whereby the United States would move into future wars with air forces—of all services—being the leading edge, followed by naval forces (including lighter ground forces), and then by heavy ground forces.12 Finally, our seminar considered Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to be the first operational examples of modern joint warfare.13

From the tactical level of Operation Desert Storm, it was obvious to the seminar that PGMs permitted a new type of targeting and that new weapon technologies could generate a level of target damage nearly equivalent to that of a nuclear weapon but without its fallout (physical and political). At the strategic level, it was equally obvious that airpower could be used to rip an enemy apart from the inside, quickly and with greater efficiency than ever before—well ahead of a ground attack. Those air attacks could be accomplished using whatever means were available and from great distances.

Much of this war was orchestrated through the combined air and space operations center (CAOC), which brought together strategy, tactics, and intelligence to produce an air tasking order (ATO) that worked in consonance with the joint force commander’s overall campaign plan through the JFACC. Finally, the Air Force had an organizational structure that lent itself to combat.14 Although the process bogged down from time to time, it was clear that the ATO was no longer destined to be a time-late mechanical process for servicing an endless target list with insufficient weapons—it was now a process that thought through and executed an air campaign as part of a larger campaign. Airpower was no longer marching to its own beat, generating an ATO based on dated requirements. It was finally centrally managed, at the heart of the first phase of a major operation, and did reasonably well.

The seminar’s consideration of airpower in the 1991 Gulf War brought us full circle, back to the theoretical debates surrounding the “transformational” arguments of Mahan, Mackinder, and Douhet. It also begged for a definition of transformation—a definition that would allow us to differentiate between systems, programs, or other proposals with respect to whether or not they were transformational; a definition that could be useful to judge the relative differences between those programs, systems, and proposals considered transformational. We quickly found the various DOD definitions either all-inclusive, meaningless, or both—so we set out to construct our own definition.15

Our search for a definition of transformation began with a historical look at those systems that were considered transformational. If we could agree on a list of transformational systems and what made them so without the aid of a specific definition, then we might ask what systems would generate the same order-of-magnitude changes in the future. From there, we might “back into” a working definition of transformation.

The list of systems we identified as transformational included tanks, mobile artillery, aircraft, aircraft carriers, radar, radios, computers, submarines, and satellites and their combinations (e.g., radios in tanks, radars on aircraft). The seminar considered other examples and made numerous excursions, but at the center of our discussions we found two common threads among the systems we had identified as transformational—they increased the ability of commanders to use forces in concert, or they gave commanders better visibility of the battlefield.

Now, working backwards, the seminar defined a “transformational system” as one that added transparency to the battlefield and/or that allowed commanders to bring forces together in an integrated and in an abruptly more effective fashion. These sorts of systems led to doctrinal shifts and generated a transformation in the use of military force. Using this definition, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm certainly demonstrated that a considerable degree of transformation had occurred. Similarly, this definition would allow us to judge proposals with respect to how they would increase transparency, force integration, and increase effectiveness, and the degree to which they would demonstrate one or more of these transformational attributes. The seminar would eventually use this definition to evaluate future force programs.

In the meantime, we now turn back to the flow of seminar conversations at the point where we take up at the end of Operation Desert Storm. As we saw it, once Desert Storm had concluded, issues remained to be settled inside the Air Force. SAC and TAC were increasingly seen as Cold War relics—one structured for a world that would never be again, and the other more philosophically suited, but not structured, for the world that was. Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm had finally erased any differentiation that may have still existed between the words strategic and tactical with respect to labeling aircraft and forces—the root words that once defined the two commands. So-called tactical fighters accomplished strategic attacks while strategic B-52s hit deployed Iraqi units hunkered down in the open desert—tactical operations in the formulation of an earlier period.16 Thus, internal debates needed to be resolved before the Air Force could move forward, and our seminar saw the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm as analogous to a stellar convergence. As one member described the outcome, “In a Saddamesque move, the chief slew both antagonists and created a new organization in his own image. Gen Merrill McPeak gave rise to Air Combat Command (ACC) out of the ashes of SAC and TAC. Military Airlift Command [MAC], the red-headed stepchild, was morphed into AMC (Air Mobility Command) and sent to [US]TRANSCOM [US Transportation Command] to be properly reared.”

Following the creation of ACC, Air Force leaders set out to improve the ability of the JFACC (a prized joint role) to command, control, and execute air and space forces by creat­ing a standardized air and space operations center (AOC).17 The AOC was designed to link the JFACC to higher command (military and civilian) as well as other component commanders through effects-based operations (EBO). Higher levels of command, in the EBO concept, determine the “effect” to be created and leave the “how” of creating that effect to lower echelons.

Effects-based tasking creates a long-sought-after conceptual shield and protects air assets from those who would otherwise select targets and direct sorties—micromanage from higher command. The EBO concept also allows the internal AOC process to exhibit creativity and take advantage of its expertise. Airpower experts in the AOC now have the latitude to apply their specialized skills and technical knowledge to create the effects specified by senior commanders, rather than simply selecting aircraft from a grab bag of air assets to service a target list at a designated level of damage. A repeatable sequence within the AOC, which runs from guidance through exe­cution to assessment, has stabilized the JFACC/AOC relationship and provided the basis for an organizational learning curve. In the period following Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and throughout subsequent engagements in the Balkans, the Air Force solidified the AOC concept and wrestled with engraining EBO into the command and control process—especially in the targeting process. Although not all efforts were successful, progress was made. 

Believing that so many things were on track for the Air Force after the post–Gulf War decision to reorganize the service, our seminar had to wrestle with the question of whether or not 11 September 2001 had “changed everything.” As we saw it, our military forces were indeed set in motion according to a “new calculus.” The air forces—of all services—were the first to the fight, which were followed shortly thereafter by navy and ground forces—all in concert. We had the right forces, and they worked extremely well together, in very short order. The Air Force, ACC in particular, responded well that day, nearly intercepting one of the flights before it impacted. The Air Force went on to establish a homeland-defense air umbrella and maintained that umbrella for a considerable period of time. Shortly thereafter, the Air Force joined with other forces in Afghanistan to wreak havoc on the Taliban—nearly from a standing start. If ever it can be said that the nation and its services were led by the right people at the right time, it was at that moment on 9/11 and in the fights that followed. So, the events of 9/11 had not “changed everything,” but they had validated jointness. Those events had also created a sense of urgency for “transforming” our forces so that they could be leveraged against enemies, and in manners, we could not have foreseen prior to 9/11.

Our seminar carefully watched as circumstances unfolded in the preparations for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Our speculations about the plan were as varied as those of the experts on television. We laid out mock commander’s assessments and proposed courses of actions. We analyzed force packages, and we shifted political and military objectives around during our AWC Warfighting exercises. In the end, we were still shocked and awed with the speed of advance and the broad range of success the real-world military operations enjoyed. At day 10 the seminar returned to Douhet’s theory and asked, “Was airpower superiority demonstrated during OIF?” That proposition was once again trashed! “No, no, no!” was the still polite, but more intense, response.

In our view, OIF validated jointness, not airpower in and of itself. But in validating jointness, OIF gave credence to the argument that airpower was the instrument through which ground and naval forces could be integrated—hence Douhet’s airpower was the superior theory, and airpower was the instrument through which military forces could be integrated and synergy achieved. This was made possible because intelligence and information technology fused the battlefield into a single piece, eliminating the importance of geography except as terrain was used to hide or harden targets. Airpower—because of its intelligence and information technology, and its comparative advantage over physical geography—integrated the battlefield and made jointness possible.

The CAOC (combined AOC) concept worked—the Air Force had provided the JFACC with a system through which airpower could be integrated with the combatant commander’s plan and through which air, ground, and naval forces could be synchronized. It was through airpower, but not by airpower alone, that the plan was executed. But airpower allowed an application of military power superior to anything that would have ever been ­possible by either a naval- or ground-force-dominant approach. OIF proved the case for transformation, and the success of the CAOC supported the argument that airpower completed the picture and brought all of the forces together into one coherent whole. In this landscape, influenced by the legislative dictates of Goldwater-Nichols, the opportunities presented by the end of the Cold War, and a variety of other factors, the AOC provided a crucible and EBO a catalyst to fuse computer and satellite technology into Douhet’s more comprehensive vision of airpower—an integrating force and, potentially, a superior architecture for conducting war.

Given the AOC’s critical function in the very successful employment of airpower and its role as an integrating architecture, our seminar emphasized the importance of institutionalizing the AOC concept. The AOC currently enjoys a high level of interest among senior Air Force and DOD leaders. That interest helped energize a historically sluggish AOC system throughout the Balkan conflicts of the ’90s and has continued to help generate rapid and appropriate integrated force responses in the Afghanistan conflict and OIF. As OIF winds down, this continuing interest is being used to channel resources to the new AOC regimen. The AOC/EBO framework has to be engrained—institutionally internalized. We cannot allow it to atrophy when the top Air Force leadership changes. A failure here could mean that we in the Air Force will fall victim to our own past, and airpower will likely be viewed as little more than airborne artillery, as it once was.

At its core, the Air Force needs a baseline AOC architecture for procedures, hardware, and software. This seems within reach. In addition to this architecture, the Air Force will need personnel plans and policies to create, maintain, and exercise AOC proficiency. This could be the most difficult challenge. Several members of our seminar expressed concerns that AOC training would eventually become “yet another additional duty” on top of a personnel system already stretched thin by an excessive operations-and-personnel tempo.18 If the AOC is to succeed, it must become an integral part of the overall professional military education track for officers—specifically, it should not be confined to aviator education. The AOC and EBO are enabling concepts to the theory and application of airpower—and to transformation, as we have defined it—but they come with a must-pay personnel bill.

Although few doubted the Air Force leadership commitment to institutionalize the AOC concept, members of the seminar expressed reservations about the efficiency and effectiveness of the operational intelligence (OI) and information warfare (IW) links to the CAOC. Rapid OI feeding into the AOC keeps the ATO cycle from bogging down and reinforces the EBO concept. IW leverages the battlefield transparency provided by OI and drives the enemy into a state of confusion. However, both OI and IW depend on organizational structures well outside the AOC’s control. Our seminar expressed reservations with respect to the spaghetti-like command links among US Space Command (USSPACECOM), US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and the NRO. Internal to the Air Force, it was not clear how the current command relationship among the AIA, Eighth Air Force, ACC, and NSA would create a cohesive, responsive OI and IW capability for the JFACC and, in turn, the combatant commander. The current arrangements were bewildering and beyond our comprehension.

Effects-based operations are key to the AOC’s successful employment of airpower. However, it is very difficult to exercise EBO if a significant number of the targets—particularly those whose destruction would cause the desired effect—is placed off limits, or if we stop thinking about airpower at the “end of major hostilities.” This does not denigrate senior civilian leadership’s prerogatives and influence on targeting—that will come and go with the combatant commander’s style and the nature of the conflict. This issue goes deeper. As OIF unfolded, it became painfully obvious that our definition of noncombatant, our framework for the laws of armed conflict, and the derived rules of engagement need to be updated to reflect a new type of enemy.

It is absurd to designate as noncombatant a segment of the population that gives direct support to a tyrant and without whose help that tyrant would fall. It is equally absurd that we should be restrained from attacking places of religious, historical, or cultural significance while at the same time the enemy uses these facilities as bunkers or launch sites. The case of child warriors, homicide bombers, and contract killers presents an especially perplexing problem for the United States. We have to find a better way to deal with it than allowing our soldiers to be blown to bits by noncombatants who have been placed on a death march by their tyrannical masters or by postconflict mercenaries paid by the sinister forces who benefit from continued chaos. Most of these situations were handled well in OIF, but their solutions appear to be ad hoc. A systematic, engrained approach is needed—an approach that runs the full gamut of military operations, including winning the peace. The legal community and advocates of airpower must commit themselves to the necessary efforts to sort out these important issues.19

Several of our seminar members also made the point that airpower’s contribution to our ground and naval power cannot stop when major hostilities wind down—our thought process has to follow through to winning the peace and cannot include a return-to-base mentality while our Army and Marine comrades are still engaged on the ground. Again, while we appear to be successfully working this problem in OIF, whatever approach we come up with must be engrained in the system, supported with personnel, and practiced.

As OIF unfolded with its dramatic successes, we approached the end of our time together as an AWC seminar.20 During those final weeks, we tested our various ideas in exercises dealing with (among other things) human-rights operations, interventions in strife-torn failed states, noncombatant evacuation opera­tions, Berlin airlift–type situations and scenarios requiring a “forced entry.” In each circumstance, we returned to the themes of the course—determining how to apply force, especially airpower, and determining whether or not we were orga­nized, trained, and equipped to fight in the manner we believed would be necessary. As one might expect, the final examination consisted of one question on war fighting and another dealing with future force structure. 

The force-structure question asked our semi­nar members to identify and defend their choice for their first and last priorities for future aviation programs in light of multiple, competing demands for aviation assets by the service, the secretary of defense’s Transformation Planning Guidance, and the emerging “capabilities based” force structure. In addition, they were asked to discuss their choices with regard to coalition warfare, technology transfer, and foreign military sales. Although it is not possible to summarize all the answers (because they varied greatly) or even the best answers (because the best answers often supported exact opposite positions with superb logic and arguments), it was, however, possible to extract useful insights. Those thoughts are summarized as they relate to three issues: the F/A-22, the high-demand/low-density (HD/LD) assets problem, and interoperability. 

Those members of the seminar who elected to defend the F/A-22 as the top force-structure priority for the Air Force provided more clearly developed arguments for that position than the Air Force has done in its real-world explanations. Air Force leaders have not yet succeeded in their efforts to present the F/A-22 in other than Cold War terms. Opponents of the F/A-22 have gained the upper hand by asking what existing “threat” the F/A-22 was needed to counter—for which there is no good answer. Another approach might work better. Members of the seminar chose to defend the F/A-22 on the basis of its systems contribution—allowing all forces access to the battlefield so that their integrated capabilities might be used in concert and for increasing the battlefield’s transparency (i.e., in support of transformation as we had defined it). The F/A-22 is not an end to itself, but a means through which other elements of our armed forces can be integrated and executed more effectively. 

The very best responses used the “new calculus” logic for going to war (developed earlier, see endnote 12), and, in that view, air forces—of all services—stand the greatest probability of being the first US forces to be engaged. Those seminar members saw the F/A-22’s ability to make a forced entry into any environment, through which other elements of US power could be applied, as the key enabler in any future US strategy. Throughout our Warfighting course discussions, most members of the seminar expressed the view that the Air Force needed to make a stronger case for the F/A-22. That much stronger case can be made using the logic expressed in those final examinations—the F/A-22 leverages other US forces and opens options for combatant commanders. 

Second, many respondents viewed fixing the HD/LD assets problem as their top priority. Recent operations have placed an extraordinary demand on the specialized equipment and personnel that are categorized as HD/LD assets—systems such as the E-3A airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and EA-6B electronic jammer. Clearly, a “high demand” represents the combatant commander’s (customer) preference, and “low density” reflects a failure of the services to meet that demand—a sort of “market analysis” approach to setting priorities. The more elegant and insightful responses tied the HD/LD market analysis to our definition of transformation—noting that most HD/LD assets give access or visibility to the battlefield and/or aid combatant commanders in orchestrating forces (battle management). These respondents described two aspects that drive a proper support response—a user pull (market analysis) and a provider push (transformation)—giving extra impetus to their recommendations.21

Third, one member of the seminar veered away from selecting a “platform” for the top priority and, instead, wrote a superb defense of education, training, and exercise as the top across-the-board priority. The respondent began by noting that coalition warfare and inter­operability are nearly synonymous. Then, if transformation involves bringing widely diverse military capabilities together in the battle space, interoperability is also a key measure of transformation. With the double importance of interoperability, we need to recognize that successful interoperability is not simply a function of hardware or software, but that training and establishing well-understood, common procedures generate it. That seminar member continued and made the case that no matter how well concepts or systems worked in theory or on the test range, they would fall apart if it was the first time they were used. Likewise, no matter how poor the procedures or equipment were designed, it could all be made to work if people were given the opportunity to work the system for a while. This opinion seemed to resonate throughout the seminar as other respondents also noted that education, training, and exercises would boost the success rate for coalition warfare—a conclusion our seminar thought important. 

When our seminar came together following the final examination and culminating exercise, the dialogue shifted to a fundamental question about transformation. They asked the following questions:

 If the purpose of transformation is to make the battlefield transparent, then to whom is it transparent—the soldier, sailor, or airman or the general and the admiral; those on the front lines, or those in high command?

 If transformation allows for the execution of forces in concert, then who makes the decision to execute—the soldier, sailor, or airman at the end of the spear, or the general and the admiral in high command?

Is the grand vision that of a biological-or-network-like system with independent units having great visibility of and control over their local environments, or are we destined for a hierarchical system where both knowledge and direction flow from the top and execution comes at the other end of the chain?

Are we going to produce a warrior culture simi­lar to the one depicted in Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, or are we building the bridge of the Enterprise for a future Capt James T. Kirk?

 One member observed that it would be ironic to have this century-long struggle—throughout which the Air Force has consistently advocated centralized control and decentralized execution—reach an end-state doctrine where air assets are centrally controlled and centrally executed. Such an outcome would be the cultural antithesis of the victor, TAC, and the essence of the vanquished “mother” SAC and “Big” MAC.

Nevertheless, leaders such as these—the well-prepared members of the Air War College class of 2003—will determine that path. All of us who had the opportunity to work with them have been impressed and hope that you, the reader, have found it useful to review their ideas, as contained in this abbreviated recounting. Your comments are invited, and your presence at the Air War College as a visitor, student, or member of the faculty is welcome. 


1. All of the members of the seminar are listed as authors because all members contributed to the discussion. This does not, however, imply that each of the members agrees with every word written, or even any word written. The professors take responsibility (but not credit) for capturing the concepts as they flowed and for organizing, amplifying, and presenting them here. We also benefited from the editorial skills and intellectual contributions in matters of airpower doctrine and theory from our colleague Dr. Mark Conversino. Although new to the AWC and Warfighting faculty, he serves as its deputy chair and was previously a member of the faculty of the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.

2. The theoretical models we use and the historical examples we provide are necessarily abbreviated. In a more expansive treatment, we would certainly have included Julian Corbett alongside Mahan as a competing interpretation on the demands for sea power, and Alexander de Seversky, William Mitchell, Hugh Trenchard, and Curtis E. Lemay with Douhet on airpower discussions. Likewise, Nicholas Spykman’s ideas would be added to those of Mackinder for a more complete understanding of continental theories. Similarly, we gloss over complex bureaucratic behavior, making only casual reference to complex organizational activities and with no reference at all to the theories of Graham Allison, Herbert Simon, or Aaron Wildavsky. Although these more elaborate considerations are parts of the courses taught by the AWC Departments of Strategy and International Security and Leaderships and Ethics, our purpose was to look at a variety of topics addressed by our seminar during the Warfighting course. We recognize and pay tribute, therefore, to materials addressed in other courses, but put forth only that amount needed to generate a (hopefully) coherent article. Although we did not have room either to expand on all the fascinating and important excursions or address the many varying interpretations of these theories, we hope you appreciate this limitation and use it as a springboard for further discussion, reading, and deeper thought.

3. Mackinder developed the idea of a “heartland,” the area between Eastern Europe and Siberia, and the control of which would determine the future of Europe. That area contained many of the raw materials necessary for industrialization—hence its strategic importance. 

4. The term “superior,” when it is attached to airpower theory, is bothersome to some. Consider an analogy from physics. There are two fundamental, and contradictory, theories of physics. Newtonian physics, sometimes called “big physics,” is based on the assumption that mass and energy cannot be exchanged, and the major force of attraction is gravity. Quantum physics, “little physics,” is based on the assumption that mass and gravity can indeed be exchanged (E=MC2), and the major force of attraction is magnetism. Although physicists search for a unifying theory, these two theories cannot be merged because of their contradictory assumptions. Still, both theories are useful. If you are going to build a bridge or go to the moon, big physics provides the superior theory and is your best tool. If you are going to build a nuclear power plant or a nuclear weapon, then the quantum theory of little physics is the superior theory. Nevertheless, physicists continue their search for what they would really like to have—an integrative theory that applies in all circumstances. Such is the situation with our use of the term “superior” as it applies to airpower theory.

The questions before our seminar were as follows: Is airpower a superior theory for the circumstances as they now exist (especially in the United States)? Is it a superior theory in the integrative sense? Is it neither? This article argues that airpower is a superior theory for the specific case of the United States at this point in time because it exploits our comparative advantage in technology and compensates for our geographically removed position from the most likely trouble spots. We also argue that airpower theory is a superior theory as a general theory because airpower facilitates force integration and transformation. These arguments do not imply that the Air Force is a superior branch of the armed forces—such conclusions would be incorrect and inappropriate, and are certainly not implied by this article.

5. The Warfighting course examines two questions. The first asks how to fight the nation’s future wars; the second asks whether we have the right forces with which to fight those wars. The first question focuses on the combatant commanders; the second on the individual services. They are both good questions. After all, you cannot fight with what you do not have, and you fight much better if you are well prepared. The discussions captured in this article are not divided along the lines of these questions because in seminar, and indeed in practice, the two questions are inseparable.

6. The Air War College experience is based on academic freedom, augmented by a policy of nonattribution. In layman’s terms, this means you can express your views freely, but your views cannot be attributed to you directly. It is permissible to reflect, in general terms, on what was discussed, but it is not proper to indicate who said it. Although it might have been useful—even welcomed by members of the seminar—to pepper this article with participants’ names, it would have been against those rules.

7. “Marginalized” does not mean irrelevant. Fighters were assigned to defend North American airspace, but air defense can be considered part of the strategic equation. The Air Force did incorporate nuclear weapons into the fighter force to some degree, and the F-84, F-100, F-101, F-104, F-105, F-106, and F-4 forces did pull nuclear alert, but by far the bulk of America’s nuclear forces were bomber-carried weapons; all were incorporated into the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). Traditional fighter missions—defensive counterair (DCA), air interdiction (AI), offensive counterair (OCA), and close air support (CAS)—were simply not the mainstay of the 1950s Air Force.

8. Members of the seminar were quick to point out that both the Army and Navy had suffered, and may still suffer, from the same sorts of internal battles. For the Army, the heavy-versus-light debate has dominated force-structure debates for years and is playing out as high drama with the current secretary of defense’s (SECDEF) concept of transformation. We recalled that in the mid ’80s the Navy staff was ruled by three-star warfare czars (surface, air, submarine). The chief of naval operations created the position of deputy chief of naval operations (resources, requirements, and assessments), whose first director was Rear Adm Bill Owens, to direct resource allocation and then downgraded the three-star billets to two stars. Admiral Owens introduced a “strategic radiator” matrix to evaluate the Navy’s investment balance across warfare missions. That matrix was nearly identical to what would eventually be called the “cosmic radiator” with the rows and columns representing the services and warfare areas in the joint war-fighting capabilities assessment (JWCA). That matrix was introduced while he was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and responsible for the reorganization and restructuring of the armed forces in the post–Cold War era. 

9. Our general reference here is to the military leaders James Kitfield describes in his book The Prodigal Soldiers (1995; reprint, Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1997). It is excellent, on the CSAF’s Reading List, and one you should read—if you haven’t already done so.

10. Our seminar quickly noted that if space were an AOR and if the commander of US Space Command (USSPACECOM) had resources, then he was essentially a service chief. We suspected the service chiefs did not miss this point when they decided not to make space an AOR. We did note, however, that SECDEF recently established a new four-star billet for space resources.

11. The lack of any real air force and the posture of the Iraqi force at the onset of the war made it relatively easy for the US Air Force and US ground forces to achieve victory during DS/S. During DS/S Iraqi tanks and troops were exposed. During OIF Saddam attempted to do better by emplacing heavy forces in and around highly populated cities, making targeting difficult for US forces.

12. Christopher J. Bowie et al., The New Calculus: Analyzing Airpower’s Changing Role in Joint Theater Campaigns (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1993). David A. Ochmanek was a major contributor to this book, and our seminar found resonance in its reasoning that the end of the Cold War brought with it a new calculus for the use of force. The Cold War model was predicated on a movement into major war along the central front, with ground forces being first to engage, and alliance air forces being tasked for DCA, AI, OCA, and CAS as NATO wrestled with trading space for time to delay reaching the nuclear threshold. Naval forces focused on delivering troops and equipment for long-term reinforcement, and airlift partially filled the gap as US Army forces fell in on their pre-positioned materiel sites. Thoughts of offense were bounded by the political realities of NATO and the imbalance of conventional forces with the Warsaw Pact. Ochmanek argued for a new calculus: a conflict that will begin at a future unknown location where US ground forces will not be present, or at least not in large numbers. Naval forces might be available, but it would be air forces—not necessarily the US Air Force, but air forces—that would be first to engage. Next, naval and marine forces would be inserted into the conflict, which would be followed by the Army. In this new calculus, airpower took on special importance. Ochmanek also established the primacy of precision-guided munitions—a conclusion that, to our seminar, was more obvious and less important than the argument on airpower.

13. Jointness and the influence of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 permeated our discussions throughout the semester. Our seminar was united in the belief that no matter how energetic and charismatic a leadership team might be, you don’t really change an institution unless you institutionalize the change. Without Goldwater-Nichols, most of us doubted that the United States could have achieved the successes of either gulf war, and many of us doubted if we would have made much progress at all to solve the problems we had already discussed with respect to Vietnam, and that also existed in Desert One, Lebanon, and Grenada. Although our discussions on Goldwater-Nichols could easily fill another article, one dialogue—the struggle for jointness in procurement—is worth mentioning here. That discussion involves the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) and Adm Bill Owens. When Admiral Owens became the vice chairman, he tackled the problem of how to increase the joint emphasis on resource allocation (procurement)—an arena that was jealously guarded by the service chiefs. In a bold step, Admiral Owens reinvigorated the JROC to gain control of the requirements process—establishing the requirement was the first step in, and the justification for, resource allocation—in that way the JROC would institutionalize a joint influence on procurement. As we peeled away the layers of this “onion,” we found no instance where the JROC had said “no” to a service-supported major weapon system. We also observed that Admiral Owens’s successor created a Joint Requirements Oversight Council Review Board (JRB) that was subordinate to the JROC, whose membership was made up of the four-star service vice chiefs. The JRB was comprised of general officers at the two-star level and had the effect of dampening the joint effort to influence procurement. We had some real doubt with respect to the effectiveness of joint influence on service procurement and even broached the idea of modifying the current program objective memorandum (POM) budgeting process to include, or be replaced by, a chairman’s and/or unified commander’s POMs (analogous to SOCOM). Our conclusion—not unanimous by any means—was that Goldwater-Nichols had influenced military operations to a considerable degree, but that its influence over the procurement process was far less obvious.

14. The CAOC idea has experienced a myriad of false starts as lessons were seemingly observed and learned but not internalized. The second experience of American forces at Kasserine Pass in 1943 demonstrated the effectiveness of campaign-level coordination of air and ground power. The net effect of this massed and concentrated firepower allowed a previously routed force to attack and destroy Rommel’s advancing armored force before it reached its prepared defensive position at the Mareth Line. Unfortunately, this lesson was not internalized, and the relationship between air and ground forces in Vietnam could best be described as dysfunctional. The origin of the CAOC concept—in Africa, Europe, the Pacific under George Kenney, or even at sea under William Halsey—is an interesting question. However, the important point is that the CAOCs of the two gulf wars, and the operations in between, have been very effective in using technology to establish organizational structure and direct combat assets to satisfy the combatant commander’s needs.

15. DOD, Transformation Planning Guidance, April 2003, on-line, Internet, 23 September 2003, available from http://www.oft. osd.mil/library/library_files/document_129_Transformation_ Planning_Guidance_April_2003_1.pdf. The SECDEF’s guidance asks “what is transformation” and then goes on to explain: “Transformation is a process that shapes the changing nature of military competition and cooperation through new combinations of concepts, capabilities, people and organizations that exploit our nation’s advantages and protect against our asymmetric vulnerabilities to sustain our strategic position, which helps underpin peace and stability in the world.” While interesting, this definition lacks specificity and cannot be used to differentiate between competing ideas and systems. In a February 2002 Pentagon briefing, Vice Adm Authur Cebrowski, head of DOD’s Office of Force Transformation, noted that

the challenges of a new century are not nearly as predictable as they were during the Cold War. . . . And let there be no doubt, in the years ahead, it is likely that we will be surprised again by new adversaries who may also strike in unexpected ways . . . and let there be no doubt . . . these attacks will grow vastly more deadly than those we suffered several months ago. . . . Our challenge in this new century is a difficult one. It’s really to prepare to defend our nation against the unknown, the uncertain and what we have to understand will be the unexpected. . . . This is precisely what transformation is about [emphasis added]. Here we are in the year 2002, fighting the first war of the 21st century, and the horse cavalry was back and . . . being used in previously unimaginable ways. It showed that a revolution in military affairs is about more than building new high tech weapons. . . . It’s also about new ways of thinking, and new ways of fighting.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz added to the definition by testifying that “transformation is about more than technology; it is about innovative concepts of operating and configuring our forces, adjustments in how we train and base our people and materiel, and how we conduct business day to day. The goal of transformation is to maintain a substantial advantage over any potential adversaries in key areas such as information warfare, power projection, space and intelligence.” Senate, Testimony of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee on Transformation, April 9, 2002, 107th Cong., 2d sess., 2002, on-line, Internet, 23 September 2003, available from http://www. senate.gov/~armed_services/statemnt/2002/April/Wolfowitz.pdf.

Although all these definitions were interesting, they did not provide a means of gradation and were not very helpful in differentiating between alternatives. We continued to seek a more useable definition. 

16. Inside the Pentagon, according to one of our seminar members, a senior civilian stood up in a meeting, holding an envelope to his forehead in an imitation of Johnny Carson’s Karnack and posed the Jeopardy-like question “B-1, B-2, B-52?” After a moment, he is said to have torn the envelope open and pronounced the answer: “Two bingo numbers and an operational bomber.” 

17. The Air Force sought standardization in terms of organizational structure, hardware, software and process, and in an identified core of experts who would populate the cells. This effort toward standardization led the Air Force chief of staff to refer to the AOC as a “weapons system,” meaning that from a personnel and procurement point of view, the Air Force should treat it in a manner similar to other weapons systems.

18. Our seminar was concerned that training and effectiveness would atrophy if commanders only manned the AOC with aviators whose current duty status did not include flying (DNIF) or with the otherwise unemployed unit members.

19. Charles J. Dunlap, “The End of Innocence: Rethinking Noncombatancy in the Post-Kosovo Era,” Strategic Review 28, no. 3 (summer 2000), addresses this directly and is the source of our thoughts and conclusions. The article is worth your time to read.

20. Seminar Six was an exceptional group of 15 students, of whom three were international officers and one was a civilian. Four were promoted to colonel during their year in residence. Six were selected for command in their assignments following Air War College. Four graduated with distinction, and the seminar earned the highest overall grade point average during the 2003 academic year.

21. These responses also applauded Air Force efforts on “smart tankers,” a system that in the near term will use a tanker airframe to relay real-time situational awareness data between fighter and joint surveillance, target attack radar system (JSTARS) aircraft and ground operations centers—enhancing battlefield information superiority. As originally envisioned, this system might eventually function as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform—leveraging HD/LD assets and transformation capabilities even further. This synergy between AF systems is cost-efficient, and our respondents thought it was also a highly desirable way to support transformation.


Dr. Stephen O. Fought (BS, Georgia Institute of Technology; MS, University of Southern California; PhD, Brown University) is an Air War College professor in the Warfighting Department and previously served as the school’s dean of academics. During his preceding tour at Naval War College, Dr. Fought held the Forrest Sherman Chair of Public Diplomacy and served as a department director, course chair, and professor. During his 20-year Air Force career, he served in operational and headquarters assignments related to his experiences as a B-52D pilot. In addition to supporting his curriculum, he has coauthored and published several articles and book chapters. Dr. Fought, a senior arbitrator and mediator, is a graduate of two courses offered by the Harvard-MIT Program on Negotiation. He is a member of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. Dr. Fought is a distinguished graduate of Squadron Officer School and graduated with highest distinction from the Naval War College.

Col O. Scott Key (BBA, Memphis State University; MA, Webster University; MA, Naval War College) is a professor in the Department of Warfighting at the Air War College. He previously served on the faculty of the Naval War College as a professor of National Security Decision Making and was one of the principal editors of Resource Allocation, vol. 1, The Formal Process, 2d ed. (Naval War College, 1998). Colonel Key commanded the 14th Operations Group at Columbus AFB, Mississippi, and the 310th Air Refueling Squadron at Plattsburgh AFB, New York. He has had senior-level staff experience in the Inspector General and Safety Directorates at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command and additional leadership responsibilities in staff and operational assignments within that command, Strategic Air Command, and Military Airlift Command. He participated in Operations Urgent Fury, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm and is a command pilot with over 4,000 hours in the C-141, KC-135, T-37, and T-1 aircraft. Colonel Key is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Naval War College.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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