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Chapter 2

Unified Action

[S]eparate ground, sea and air warfare is gone forever. If ever again we should be involved in war, we will fight in all elements, with all services, as one single concentrated effort. Peacetime preparatory and organizational activity must conform to this fact.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Special Message to the Congress on Reorganization
of the Defense Establishment, 3 April 1958



The Levels of War
     The Strategic Level
     The Operational Level
     The Tactical Level
Conduct of Unified Action
     Joint Operations
     The Other Armed Forces
     Employing Army Forces in Joint
     Multinational Operations
     Interagency Coordination
Considerations for Unified Action
     Military Considerations
     Political Considerations
     Cultural Considerations

2-1.     In full spectrum operations, Army forces operate as part of a joint force, often within a multinational and interagency environment. Unified action describes the wide scope of actions (including the synchronization of activities with governmental and nongovernmental agencies) taking place within unified commands, subordinate unified (subunified) commands, or joint task forces under the overall direction of the commanders of those commands. Public law charges combatant commanders with employing military forces through unified action. Under unified action, commanders integrate joint, single-service, special, and supporting operations with interagency, nongovernmental, and multinational—to include United Nations (UN)—operations (see JP 0-2).

2-2.     Unified action links subordinates to the combatant commander under combatant command (command authority) (COCOM). Multinational, interagency, and nonmilitary forces work with the combatant commander through cooperation and coordination. Regardless of the task or the nature of the threat, combatant commanders employ air, land, sea, space, and special operations forces, and coordinate with multinational and interagency partners, to achieve strategic and operational objectives. They formulate theater strategies and campaigns, organize joint forces, designate operational areas, and provide strategic guidance and operational focus to subordinates. The aim is to achieve unity of effort among many diverse agencies in a complex environment. Subordinate joint force commanders (JFCs) synchronize joint operations in time and space, direct the action of foreign military forces (multinational operations), and coordinate with governmental and nongovernmental organizations (interagency coordination) to achieve the same goal.

Unified Action in Haiti

In September 1994, the US Army's XVIII Airborne Corps participated in Operation Uphold Democracy, a UN-sanctioned operation to return Haiti's deposed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to office. The National Security Council's Haiti Interagency Working Group planned the operation with the UN, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Atlantic Command, and XVIII Airborne Corps. Together, the agencies and headquarters developed flexible force deployment options that reflected changing political conditions. Army forces with staff augmentation served as Joint Task Forces (JTFs) 180 and 190. On arrival, they stabilized the country until President Aristide's return. JTF 190 worked with the combatant commander, supporting governmental and nongovernmental agencies, joint and multinational forces, and nongovernmental organizations to secure the cities and countryside, disarm the Haitian military, replace the local police, and assist the Haitian people. Army forces then supported the UN by stabilizing the country until elections were held in March 1995.


2-3.     The levels of war are doctrinal perspectives that clarify the links between strategic objectives and tactical actions. Although there are no finite limits or boundaries between them, the three levels are strategic, operational and tactical. Understanding the interdependent relationship of all three helps commanders visualize a logical flow of operations, allocate resources, and assign tasks. Actions within the three levels are not associated with a particular command level, unit size, equipment type, or force or component type. Instead, actions are defined as strategic, operational, or tactical based on their effect or contribution to achieving strategic, operational, or tactical objectives (see Figure 2-1).

Figure 2-1. The Levels of War

Figure 2-1. The Levels of War


2-4.     The strategic level is that level at which a nation, often as one of a group of nations, determines national and multinational security objectives and guidance and develops and uses national resources to accomplish them. Strategy is the art and science of developing and employing armed forces and other instruments of national power in a synchronized fashion to secure national or multinational objectives. The National Command Authorities (NCA) translate policy into national strategic military objectives. These national strategic objectives facilitate theater strategic planning. Military strategy, derived from policy, is the basis for all operations (see JP 3-0).


2-5.     The operational level of war is the level at which campaigns and major operations are conducted and sustained to accomplish strategic objectives within theaters or areas of operations (AOs). It links the tactical employment of forces to strategic objectives. The focus at this level is on operational art-the use of military forces to achieve strategic goals through the design, organization, integration, and conduct of theater strategies, campaigns, major operations, and battles. A campaign is a related series of military operations aimed at accomplishing a strategic or operational objective within a given time and space. A major operation is a series of tactical actions (battles, engagements, strikes) conducted by various combat forces of a single or several services, coordinated in time and place, to accomplish operational, and sometimes strategic objectives in an operational area. These actions are conducted simultaneously or sequentially under a common plan and are controlled by a single commander. Operational art determines when, where, and for what purpose major forces are employed to influence the enemy disposition before combat. It governs the deployment of those forces, their commitment to or withdrawal from battle, and the arrangement of battles and major operations to achieve operational and strategic objectives. Figure 2-1 illustrates the link between the levels of war and the plans and actions of military forces.

2-6.     Operational art helps commanders use resources efficiently and effectively to achieve strategic objectives. It includes employing military forces and arranging their efforts in time, space, and purpose. Operational art helps commanders understand the conditions for victory before seeking battle. It provides a framework to assist commanders in ordering their thoughts when designing campaigns and major operations. Without operational art, war would be a set of disconnected engagements with relative attrition the only measure of success. Operational art requires commanders who can visualize, anticipate, create, and seize opportunities. It is practiced not only by JFCs, but also by their senior staff officers and subordinate commanders.

2-7.     Operations usually imply broader dimensions of time and space than tactics; the strategic orientation at the operational level requires commanders to look beyond the immediate situation. While tactical commanders fight the current battle, operational commanders look deeper in time, space, and events. They seek to shape the possibilities of upcoming events in advance to create the most favorable conditions possible for subordinate commanders, whose tactical activities execute the campaign. Likewise, operational commanders anticipate the results of battles and engagements, and prepare to exploit them to obtain the greatest strategic advantage.

2-8.     Operational commanders continually communicate with their strategic superiors to obtain direction and ensure common understanding of events. Mutual confidence and communications among commanders and staffs allow the flexibility to adapt to tactical circumstances as they develop. Tactical results influence the conduct of campaigns through a complex interaction of operational and tactical dynamics. Operational commanders create the conditions for the conduct of battles and engagements, while the results of battles and engagements shape the conduct of the campaign. In this regard, commanders exploit tactical victories to gain strategic advantage, or even to reverse the strategic effect of tactical losses.

2-9.     Operational art is translated into operation plans through operational design. A well-designed plan and successfully executed operation shape the situation for tactical actions. Executed skillfully, a good plan increases the chances of tactical success. It does this by creating advantages for friendly forces and disadvantages for the enemy. A flexible plan gives tactical commanders freedom to seize opportunities or react effectively to unforeseen enemy actions and capabilities. Flexible execution maintains the operational initiative and maximizes tactical opportunities.

2-10.     Without tactical success, a campaign cannot achieve its operational goals. An essential element of operational art, therefore, is the ability to recognize what is possible at the tactical level and design a plan that maximizes chances for the success in battles and engagements that ultimately produces the desired operational end state. Without a coherent operational design to link tactical successes, battles and engagements waste precious resources on fights that do not lead to operational goals. A thorough understanding of what is possible tactically, and the ability to create conditions that increase the chances of tactical success, are important attributes of an operational commander. Tactical commanders must understand the operational context within which battles and engagements are fought as well. This understanding allows them to seize opportunities (both foreseen and unforeseen) that contribute to achieving operational goals or defeating enemy initiatives that threaten those goals. Operational commanders require experience at both the operational and tactical levels. From this experience, they gain the instincts and intuition, as well as the knowledge, that underlie an understanding of the interrelation of tactical and operational possibilities and needs.

2-11.     Among many considerations, operational art requires commanders to answer the following questions:

  • What military (or related political and social) conditions must be produced in the operational area to achieve the strategic goal (ends)?

  • What sequence of actions is most likely to produce that condition (ways)?

  • How should resources be applied to accomplish that sequence of actions (means)?

  • What are the likely costs or risks in performing that sequence of actions (risk management)?


2-12.   Battles can affect the course of a campaign or major operation. An engagement is a small tactical conflict between opposing maneuver forces, usually conducted at brigade level and below. Engagements are usually short—minutes, hours, or a day (see FM 3-90).

2-13.     Tactics is also the realm of close combat, where friendly forces are in immediate contact and use direct and indirect fires to defeat or destroy enemy forces and to seize or retain ground. Exposure to close combat separates Army forces from most of their counterparts. Army forces fight until the purpose of the operation is accomplished. Because of this, they are organized to endure losses, provided with combat service support (CSS) to generate and sustain combat power, and trained to deal with uncertainty.

2-14.     The operational-level headquarters sets the terms of battle and provides resources for tactical operations. Tactical success is measured by the contribution of an action to the achievement of operationally significant results. Battles and engagements that do not contribute to the campaign objectives, directly or indirectly, are avoided. Figure 2-1 illustrates the linkages among the levels of war using military actions in the Gulf War of 1991. The strategic guidance issued by the president translated into orders and actions that led to the staff sergeant tank commander engaging Iraqi tanks in the middle of the night. The destruction of the Iraqi tanks in turn enabled the coalition to restore the Kuwaiti government.

Operation Assured Response-An Example of Joint Synergy

During the 1996 Operation Assured Response in Liberia, forces from the Republic of Georgia, Italy, and Germany joined with US special operations, Air Force, Navy, and Marine forces to conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation. In early April 1996, gunmen had filled the streets of Monrovia, Liberia, as the country split into armed factions intent on seizing power. The situation worsened as faction members took hostages. On 9 April, President Clinton ordered the US military to evacuate American personnel and designated third-party foreign nationals. The Army deployed Special Forces, an airborne company, signal augmentation and a medical section as part of a special operations task force from Special Operations Command-Europe. Army forces entered Monrovia's Mamba Point embassy district, where they established security for international relief agencies headquartered there. Additional Army forces reinforced the Marine guards at the American embassy and secured the central evacuee assembly collection point. Upon securing the evacuees, Navy helicopters took them to Sierra Leone. The combined capabilities of Army forces, other services, and multinational troops demonstrated joint synergy and resulted in the successful evacuation of individuals from 73 countries.


2-15.     In unified action, Army forces synchronize their actions with those of other participants to achieve unity of effort and accomplish the combatant commander's objectives. The capabilities of joint, multinational, and interagency partners can expand strengths, compensate for limitations, and provide operational and tactical depth to Army forces.


Unless limited by the establishing directive, the commander of the supported force will have the authority to exercise general direction of the supporting effort. General direction includes the designation and prioritization of targets or objectives, timing and duration of the supporting action, and other instructions necessary for coordination and efficiency.

JP 0-2

2-16.     Joint operations involve forces of two or more services under a single commander. Land operations and joint operations are mutually enabling-land operations are inherently joint operations. Joint integration allows JFCs to attack an opponent throughout the depth of their AO, seize the initiative, maintain momentum, and exploit success. Effective joint integration does not require joint commands at all echelons, but does require understanding joint synergy at all levels of command. Joint synergy extends the concept of combined arms synergy familiar to soldiers. The strengths of each service component combine to overcome the limitations or reinforce the effects of the other components. The combination of multiple and diverse joint force capabilities creates military power more potent than the sum of its parts.

2-17.     JFCs often establish supported and supporting relationships among components. They may change these relationships between phases of the campaign or major operation or between tasks within phases. Each subordinate element of the joint force can support or be supported by other elements. For example, the Navy component commander or joint force maritime component commander (JFMCC) is normally the supported commander for sea control operations; the joint force air component commander (JFACC) is normally the supported commander for counterair operations. Army forces may be the supporting force during certain phases of the campaign and become the supported force in other phases. Inside JFC-assigned AOs, the land and naval force commanders are the supported commanders and synchronize maneuver, fires, and interdiction.


2-18.     Through Title 10, US Code (USC), and DODD 5100.1, Congress has organized the national defense and defined the function of each armed service. All US armed forces-Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard— and special operations forces (SOF) are required to provide globally responsive assets to support combatant commanders' theater strategies and the national security strategy. The capabilities of the other armed forces complement those of Army forces. During joint operations, they provide support consistent with JFC-directed missions.

Air Force

2-19.     Air Force air platform support is invaluable in creating the conditions for success before and during land operations. Support of the land force commander's concept for ground operations is an essential and integral part of each phase of the operation. Air Force strategic and intratheater airlift, directed by US Transportation Command, supports the movement of Army forces, especially initial-entry forces, into an AO. Air assets move Army forces between and within theaters to support JFC objectives. Fires from Air Force systems create the conditions for decisive land operations. In addition, the Air Force provides a variety of information-related functions— to include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance— that support land operations.

2-20.     Support from Army forces made available to the JFACC for tasking-including Army aviation, air defense, military intelligence, and field artillery-is invaluable in accomplishing portions of the counterair, interdiction, theater reconnaissance, and surveillance missions. Such missions may support operations directed by the land component commander or JFC. The effectiveness of air interdiction and close air support depends, to a large degree, on integrating land maneuver with the joint force concept of operations. Land force commanders understand that defeating enemy air and space capabilities is necessary to ensure freedom of action on the ground.

Navy and Marine Corps

2-21.     The Navy and Marine Corps conduct operations in oceans and littoral (coastal) regions. The Navy's two basic functions are sea control operations and maritime power projection. Sea control connotes uninhibited use of designated sea areas and the associated airspace and underwater volume. It affords Army forces uninhibited transit to any trouble spot in the world.

2-22.     Maritime power projection covers a broad spectrum of offensive naval operations. Those most important to Army force operations include employment of carrier-based aircraft, lodgment by amphibious assault or maritime pre-positioned deployment, and naval bombardment with guns and missiles. Naval forces establish and protect the sea routes that form strategic lines of communications for land forces. The Navy provides strategic sealift vital for deploying Army forces. Army forces cannot conduct sustained land operations unless the Navy controls the sea. Additionally, naval forces augment theater aerospace assets and provide complementary amphibious entry capabilities.

2-23.     The Marine Corps, with its expeditionary character and potent forcible entry capabilities, complements the other services with its ability to react rapidly and seize bases suitable for force projection. The Marine Corps often provides powerful air and ground capabilities that complement or reinforce those of Army forces. When coordinated under a joint force land component commander (JFLCC), Army and Marine forces provide a highly flexible force capable of decisive land operations in any environment.

Coast Guard

2-24.     The Coast Guard is an armed force under the Department of Transportation. It has a statutory civil law enforcement mission and authority. Army forces support Coast Guard forces, especially during counterdrug interdiction and seizure operations. When directed by the president or upon a formal declaration of war, the Coast Guard becomes a specialized service under the Navy. The Coast Guard and Navy cooperate in naval coastal warfare missions during peace, conflict, and war. During deployment and redeployment operations, the Coast Guard supports force projection. It protects military shipping at seaports of embarkation and debarkation in the US and overseas. The Coast Guard supports JFCs with port security units and patrol craft.

Special Operations Forces

Army Special Operations Forces

  • Special Forces
  • Rangers
  • Special operations aviation
  • Civil affairs
  • Psychological operations
  • Signal units
  • CSS units

2-25.     SOF provide flexible, rapidly deployable capabilities that are useful across the range of military operations. SOF can reinforce, augment, and complement conventional forces. They can also conduct independent operations in situations that demand a small, discrete, highly trained force. SOF provide the NCA and combatant commanders with options that limit the risk of escalation that might otherwise accompany the commitment of larger conventional forces. In war, SOF normally support the theater campaign or major operations of the JFC. In military operations other than war (MOOTW), SOF support combatant commander theater engagement plans, often directly supporting a US ambassador. Combatant commanders establish or designate operational command and support relationships for SOF based on mission requirements.

2-26.     Land force commanders frequently require Army special operations forces (ARSOF) assets. ARSOF can conduct diverse missions and are a valuable combat multiplier for land operations (see FM 3-05). For example, psychological operations units can fuse the capabilities of US government departments and agencies to counter adversary propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. SOF language capabilities and regional and cultural skills are also useful in stability operations and support operations.


Assigned forces are those forces that have been placed under the combatant command (command authority) of a unified commander by the secretary of defense. Forces and resources so assigned are available for normal peacetime operations of that command.

Apportioned forces and resources are those made available for deliberate planning as of a certain date. They may include assigned, those expected through mobilization, and those programmed.

Allocated forces and resources are those provided by the NCA for execution planning or actual implementation.

Augmentation forces are forces to be transferred from a supporting commander to the combatant command (command authority) or operational control of a supported commander during the execution of an operation order approved by the NCA.

2-27.     Joint doctrine describes the employment of US forces in joint operations. Army force commanders are always either subordinate to or designated as a JFC. Understanding the command and control (C2) relationships among the components of a joint force is the key to effective joint operations.

Army Forces in Unified Commands

2-28.     Except for forces exempted by the secretary of defense, military departments assign all forces, to include nonfederalized Army National Guard and unmobilized US Army Reserve forces, under COCOM of combatant commanders (see JP 0-2). The Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) apportions major Army forces by type to combatant commanders for deliberate planning. In addition to forces assigned in peacetime, Army forces are allocated to combatant commanders in response to crises. The secretary of defense, through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, directs other combatant commanders to reinforce the supported combatant commander with augmentation forces.

Chain of Command

2-29.     The NCA exercise authority and control of the armed forces through a single chain of command with two branches (see Figure 2-2). One branch goes from the NCA to combatant commanders to the service component commands and subordinate joint commands. It is for the conduct of operations and support. The other branch goes from the NCA to the military departments to their respective major service commands. An administrative control relationship exists between the secretary of the military department and the respective service component commands. It is for carrying out the military departments' Title 10 responsibilities of recruiting, manning, equipping, training, and providing service forces to the combatant commanders. Although the service branch of the chain of command is distinct from the operating branch, both the Army service component command (ASCC) and the ARFOR operate within the combatant commander's chain of command.

Figure 2-2. The Chain of Command and Control

Figure 2-2. The Chain of Command and Control

Command Relationships

2-30.     At theater level, when Army forces operate outside the US, they are assigned under a JFC (see JP 0-2; JP 3-0; FM 3-100.7). A JFC is a combatant commander, subunified commander, or joint task force (JTF) commander authorized to exercise COCOM or operational control (OPCON) over a joint force. Combatant commanders provide strategic direction and operational focus to forces by developing strategy, planning theater campaigns, organizing the theater, and establishing command relationships. JFCs plan, conduct, and support campaigns in the theater of war, subordinate theater campaigns, major operations, and battles. The four joint command relationships are COCOM, OPCON, tactical control (TACON), and support (see Figure 2-3).

Figure 2-3. Joint Command Relationships and Inherent Responsibilities

Figure 2-3. Joint Command Relationships and Inherent Responsibilities

2-31.  . COCOM is a nontransferable command authority exercised only by combatant commanders unless the NCA direct otherwise. Combatant commanders exercise it over assigned forces. COCOM provides full authority to organize and employ commands and forces to accomplish missions. Combatant commanders exercise COCOM through subordinate commands, to include subunified commands, service component commands, functional component commands, and JTFs.

2-32.  . OPCON is inherent in COCOM. It is the authority to perform those functions of command that involve organizing and employing commands and forces, assigning tasks, designating objectives, and giving authoritative direction necessary to accomplish the mission. OPCON may be exercised at any echelon at or below the level of the combatant command. It can be delegated or transferred. Army commanders use it routinely to task organize forces. The secretary of defense must approve transferring OPCON of units between combatant commanders.

2-33.  . TACON is authority normally limited to the detailed and specified local direction of movement and maneuver of forces to accomplish a task. It allows commanders below combatant command level to apply force and direct the tactical use of CSS assets but does not provide authority to change organizational structure or direct administrative or logistic support. The commander of the parent unit continues to exercise those responsibilities unless otherwise specified in the establishing directive Combatant commanders use TACON to delegate limited authority to direct the tactical use of combat forces. TACON is often the command relationship established between forces of different nations in a multinational force. It may be appropriate when tactical-level Army units are placed under another service headquarters. Army commanders make one Army force TACON to another when they want to withhold authority to change the subordinate force organizational structure and leave responsibility for administrative support or CSS with the parent unit of the subordinate force.

Sample Army ADCON Responsibilities

  • Personnel (including postal and personnel accounting)
  • Finance (including commercial or vendor services)
  • Medical and dental
  • Legal
  • Provost marshal
  • Logistics: Classes I, II, III, IV, and IX, maintenance, distribution, contracting, and mortuary affairs
  • General engineering (including public works)
  • Chaplain and religious activities

2-34.   Unless the secretary of defense specifies otherwise, administrative control (ADCON) of Army forces remains within the Army chain of command, from lowest levels to the ASCC to the secretary of the Army. Administrative control is the direction or exercise of authority over subordinate or other organizations with respect to administration and support. It includes organization of service forces, control of resources and equipment, personnel management, unit logistics, individual and unit training, readiness, mobilization, demobilization, discipline, and other matters not included in operational missions of the subordinate or other organizations. ADCON is synonymous with Title 10 USC administration and support responsibilities. It is always subject to the command authority of the combatant commander.

2-35.  . Joint doctrine establishes support as a command authority. Commanders establish it between subordinate commanders when one organization must aid, protect, or sustain another (see JP 0-2; JP 3-0). Under joint doctrine, there are four categories of support (see Figure 2-4). General and direct support describe the supporting command's focus. Mutual and close support are forms of activity based on proximity and combat actions. Army doctrine establishes four support relationships: direct, reinforcing, general, and general support reinforcing (see Chapter 4).

Figure 2-4. Joint Support Categories

Figure 2-4. Joint Support Categories

The Army Service Component Command

2-36.     The ASCC commander is the senior Army commander in a combatant commander's area of responsibility. The ASCC commander, using ADCON authority, is responsible for the Army Title 10 functions of preparing, maintaining, training, equipping, administering, and supporting Army forces attached to joint forces subordinate to the combatant command. Peacetime training of assigned Army forces is also under the ASCC. Combatant commanders may assign ASCCs responsibility for significant lead-service combat support (such as chemical decontamination) or common user logistic (CUL) functions. The ASCC also provides theater-strategic and operational-level support to combatant command campaign and major operation planning.

2-37.     The ASCC commander normally designates an Army unit within each joint force subordinate to the combatant command as the ARFOR for that joint force. These ARFORs are responsible for accomplishing operational-level Army tasks within the joint force to which they are assigned. ASCC commanders establish C2 relationships for ARFORs and tailor the forces assigned to them to best meet combatant commander guidance. The ASCC commander may delegate authority to coordinate and execute Army operational-level Title 10 and lead-service CUL support responsibilities to a subordinate Army support unit, normally a theater support command (TSC). Other ASCC tasks described in JP 0-2 include—

  • Recommending to the JFC or subunified commander the proper employment of Army component forces.

  • Accomplishing operational missions as assigned.

  • Selecting and nominating Army units for assignment to subordinate theater forces.

  • Informing the combatant commander of Army CSS effects on operational capabilities.

  • Providing data to supporting operation plans as requested.

  • Ensuring signal interoperability.


2-38.     An ARFOR consists of the senior Army headquarters and all Army forces assigned or attached to a combatant command, subordinate joint force command, joint functional command, or multinational command. Providing Army forces within a joint operational area (JOA) is the responsibility of the ASCC of the combatant command. The term ARFOR is commonly used to describe both the headquarters of the Army forces provided to the joint force and the Army forces themselves. An ARFOR commander may not have OPCON of all of Army forces provided to the JFC; however, the ARFOR commander remains responsible for their administrative control (ADCON). See FM 3-100.7 for ARFOR organizational structures.

2-39.     An ARFOR is designated whenever Army forces are involved in an operation. Even if separate Army forces are conducting independent operations within a JOA, there is only one ARFOR headquarters in that JOA. ASCCs, numbered army, and corps headquarters (with augmentation) are capable of serving as ARFOR headquarters. In certain smaller-scale contingencies, a division headquarters may be designated as ARFOR headquarters; however, a division headquarters requires extensive augmentation for this mission.

2-40.     The ARFOR commander may also serve as JFLCC. A dual-hatted ARFOR commander normally gives some Army-specific tasks to a deputy commander. However, if an ARFOR commander becomes JTF commander, the next senior Army headquarters assumes ARFOR responsibilities. Combatant commanders may receive another Army headquarters for this.

2-41.     An ARFOR headquarters may have a TSC attached to perform operational-level logistic and personnel support tasks. These include Title 10 lead service CUL support responsibilities and interagency support requirements.


2-42.     Although the US sometimes acts unilaterally, it pursues its national interests through alliances and coalitions when possible. In Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, more than 800,000 military personnel from 36 nations combined their will, forces, and resources to oppose the Iraqi armed forces. Forming the coalition increased the size of the overall force, shared the cost of waging the war, and enhanced the legitimacy of the strategic aims. Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm demonstrated the advantage of successful multinational warfare over unilateral efforts.

An alliance is the result of formal agreements (i.e., treaties) between two or more nations for broad, long-term objectives which further the common interests of the members.

A coalition is an ad hoc arrangement between two or more nations for common action.

2-43.     Multinational operations are conducted within the structure of an alliance or a coalition (see JP 3-16; FM 3-16). Military alliances, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), may afford participating nations time to establish formal, standard agreements for broad, long-term objectives. Alliance members strive to field compatible military systems, establish common procedures, and develop contingency plans to meet potential threats in a fully integrated manner.

2-44.     Nations usually form coalitions for focused, short-term purposes. Often, coalition operations are conducted under the authority of a UN resolution. In successful coalitions, all parties agree to the commitment of forces, even if the resources each invests are different. While each nation has its own agenda, each brings value to the coalition, even if solely by contributing to the legitimacy of the enterprise.

The written basis for allied unity of command is found in directives issued by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The true basis lies in the earnest cooperation of the senior officers assigned to an allied theater. Since cooperation, in turn, implies such things as selflessness, devotion to a common cause, generosity in attitude, and mutual confidence, it is easy to see that actual unity in an allied command depends directly upon the individuals in the field.. This problem involves the human equation and must be met day by day. Patience, tolerance, frankness, absolute honesty in all dealings, particularly with all persons of the opposite nationality, and firmness, are absolutely essential.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
"Memorandum for an Allied Command.
For Admiral Louis Mountbatten," 1943

2-45.     An Army force commander designated as a multinational force commander faces many complex demands. These may include dealing with cultural issues, interoperability challenges, and an immature theater C2 organization. Commanders may also be required to address different national procedures, the sharing of intelligence, and theater support functions. Since coalition operations are not structured around standing agreements, a preliminary understanding of the requirements for operating with a specific foreign military may occur through peacetime military engagement. These developmental activities include, but are not limited to, ongoing personal contacts, pre-positioning of equipment, exercises, exchange programs, and humanitarian assistance. Every multinational operation is different. Commanders analyze the mission's peculiar requirements so they can exploit the advantages and compensate for the limitations of a multinational force.

2-46.     The ASCC function of providing theater-level support is demanding in a multinational environment. Integrating the support functions of several national forces, which may be spread over considerable distances and across international boundaries, is a challenging task. However, multinational partners provide additional resources to address the CSS challenges inherent in a force projection strategy. Deploying and employing combat power from a force projection base that is friendly, secure, and close to the AO-especially when that base offers a mature infrastructure-is preferable to making a forcible entry from a distant base.

2-47.     The Army TSC normally provides multinational CSS and, with proper augmentation, other specific CSS functions. Although each nation is responsible for sustaining the forces it deploys, multinational CSS may achieve significant economy of force. Multinational CSS may be provided by lead nation, role specialist nation, or acquisition and cross-service agreements. However, an international agreement is required to provide support under the lead nation and role specialist nation methods. Ideally, the TSC provides common multinational CSS, and with proper augmentation, other CSS functions, as the ASCC determines. For theater-level support operations to function properly, combatant commanders must clearly articulate their CSS priorities. The formation of multinational CSS staff sections facilitates CSS coordination, reduces competition among multinational partners for common support, and lessens the burden on each (see JP 4-08).

Command and Control of Multinational Operations

2-48.     Unity of command is unlikely in multinational operations. The level of command authority vested in a multinational force commander is established by agreement among the multinational partners. The president of the United States retains command authority over US forces. Most nations have similar restrictions. However, in certain circumstances, it may be prudent or advantageous to place Army forces under OPCON of a foreign commander.

2-49.     To compensate for limited unity of command, commanders concentrate on achieving unity of effort. Consensus building, rather than direct command authority, is often the key element of successful multinational operations. Political and military policies of multinational partners can limit options for the organization of a multinational command. Long-standing alliances, such as NATO, have integrated command structures with designated nations providing force commanders. Staffs are integrated, and senior representatives from member nations often lead subordinate allied commands. Coalition command is more challenging because it involves combining forces with no standing C2 arrangements. Command relationships and C2 structures usually evolve as the coalition develops. Multinational C2 structures are usually one of three types: parallel command, lead nation command, or a combination of the two (see JP 3-16).

2-50.     Parallel command exists when nations retain control of their deployed forces. It is the simplest to establish and may be the only arrangement that satisfies national sensitivities. However parallel command may weaken unity of effort and should be avoided if possible. Under parallel command, multinational forces are directed through existing national chains of command. Decisions are made through a coordinated effort of the political and senior military leadership of member nations and forces. The coalition leadership must develop a means for coordination among the participants to attain unity of effort. Because of the absence of a single commander, the use of a parallel command structure should be avoided if possible.

2-51.     Lead nation command exists when the nation providing most of the forces and resources provides the multinational force commander. The lead nation can retain its own C2 structure and employ other national forces as subordinate formations. Commanders may combine other nations' staffs to better coordinate complementary capabilities. More commonly, limited integration of national staffs characterizes lead nation command. Lead nation and parallel command structures can exist simultaneously within a multinational force. This occurs when two or more nations serve as controlling elements for a mix of international forces. This was the command arrangement used by the Gulf War coalition. Western national forces were aligned under US leadership while Islamic forces were aligned under Saudi leadership.

2-52.     The creation of an effective multinational staff requires experience, imagination, and cultural sensitivity. There is always a temptation to push multinational participants into secondary positions and do things according to US Army doctrine or habit. Long-term friction and potentially catastrophic misunderstandings usually cancel out the short-term gain in productivity these actions produce. Multinational commanders carefully tailor the staff to balance coalition and US officers, and take particular care to accord coalition officers the same access and influence as their countrymen.

2-53.     During multinational operations, US forces establish liaison with assigned multinational forces early. Additional specialized liaison personnel in fields such as aviation, fire support, engineer, intelligence, public affairs, and civil affairs are also exchanged based on mission requirements. This integration fosters common understanding of missions and tactics, facilitates transfer of information, and enhances mutual trust and confidence.

2-54.     An integrated command structure is probably most effective when partners are similar in culture, doctrine, training, and equipment, or if extensive cooperative experience exists. This approach requires each troop-contributing nation to receive, understand, plan, and implement missions the same way as the other troop-contributing nations. However, if the multinational force is composed of dissimilar nations, it may require a modified approach to achieve unity of effort. The JFC or multinational force commander may use his own staff for most planning functions, other national augmentees for their national expertise, and liaison officers to translate and relay instructions to their national forces. As capabilities develop, commanders may also consider using coordination centers to enhance stability and interaction within the multinational force (see JP 3-16; FM 3-16).

Conducting Multinational Operations

2-55.     Commanders have to accommodate differences in operational and tactical capabilities among multinational forces. For example, not all armies have the staff structures or means to process, reproduce, or rapidly disseminate plans and orders. Decision authority delegated to staffs and subordinate commanders also varies among armies.

2-56.     The commander's intent and concept of operations must be clearly and simply articulated to avoid confusion resulting from differences in doctrine and terminology. Integrating indirect fires, naval surface fires, close air support, interdiction, and information operations requires common maneuver and fire support coordinating measures (FSCMs). All elements of the force must fully understand and strictly adhere to them. Detailed war-gaming, planning, and rehearsals help develop a common understanding of the operation plan and control measures. Operational and tactical plans address recognition signals, FSCMs, air support, communications, and liaison.

2-57.     The collection, production, and dissemination of intelligence are major challenges in a multinational operation. There are many instances in which direct access to finished intelligence, raw data, source information, or intelligence systems is not allowed outside national channels. Multinational partners also normally operate separate intelligence systems to support their own policy and military forces. These national systems may vary widely in sophistication and focus. However, at a minimum, each nation contributes valuable human intelligence to the multinational effort. Commanders establish systems that maximize each nation's contribution and provide an effective intelligence picture to all units. Commanders arrange for the rapid dissemination of releasable intelligence and the use of available intelligence assets by all partners. A multinational intelligence staff at the headquarters facilitates integration of intelligence efforts.

2-58.     Mission assignments of multinational units should reflect the capabilities and limitations of each national contingent. Some significant factors are relative mobility and size; intelligence collection assets; and long-range fire, SOF, and organic CSS capabilities. The ability to contribute to theater air and missile defense, training for operations in special environments, and preparing for defensive operations involving weapons of mass destruction is also important. Rapport with the local population, language considerations, and special skills should be considered as well. Multinational commanders may assign host nation forces home defense or police missions, such as rear area and base security. They may also entrust air defense, coastal defense, or a special operation to a single member of the multinational force based on the special capabilities of that force. The national pride of multinational partners is an important intangible factor that is considered when assigning missions.


2-59.     The instruments of national power complement and reinforce each other. By understanding the influence of other agencies, commanders can add diplomatic, informational, and economic depth to their military efforts. US military capabilities allow other agencies to interact with foreign powers from a position of strength and security. Just as integrating different unit capabilities results in the advantages of combined arms warfare, so synchronizing military power with other instruments of national power leads to dynamic strategic capabilities.

2-60.     As campaigns and major operations develop, tasks and objectives that directly support military operations but are the responsibility of other agencies are identified. When commanders and planners identify these objectives, they submit them through the JFC to the Joint Staff for consideration and nomination to interagency working groups. Formal and task-specific interagency working groups coordinate policy and assign tasks among the various departments and agencies. Once a department or agency accepts a task, it reports through the interagency working group to the Joint Staff. The Joint Staff links the JFC to this process.

2-61.     The intricate links among the instruments of national power demand that commanders consider how all capabilities and agencies can contribute to achieving the desired end state. Interagency coordination forges a vital link between military operations and the activities of organizations such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); governmental agencies of the US, host nation, and partner nations; and regional, international, and UN organizations. Theater strategies routinely employ the capabilities of the entire US interagency network. The National Security Act of 1947 establishes an interagency process for national security-related issues. The National Security Council provides national-level oversight of this process (see JP 3-08).

2-62.     Interagency cooperation poses challenges. Among the most difficult is lack of mutual familiarity among the various agencies. In joint operations, leaders from the different services generally share a common tradition and understanding of military matters. Interagency operations bring together leaders and staffs that often have no common experiences. The institutional values and experiences of the separate agencies and departments sometimes have few common points of reference. Some may even conflict. However, education and teamwork can create an understanding and awareness of the missions, strengths, weaknesses, and outlooks of the interagency members. This understanding can mitigate the friction inherent in interagency operations.

2-63.     Along with international, host nation, and official US agencies, Army forces frequently operate with NGOs, such as the American Red Cross and World Emergency Relief. Working with NGOs often requires soldiers and leaders to be flexible and adaptive. Sometimes these organizations may not care to cooperate with military forces. However, US armed forces cooperate as much as their mission allows. Effective cooperation and coordination with NGOs reinforces the legitimacy of the armed forces involved in a unified action. Often NGOs-if they are well disposed toward the military— can provide useful information and insights concerning the local populace.

2-64.     NGO capabilities can dramatically reduce the military resources required for civil-military operations. NGOs have local contacts and experiences. They conduct such diverse activities as education, technical projects, relief activities, refugee assistance, public policy, and developmental programs. NGOs are frequently on the scene of a crisis before US forces. They routinely operate in high-risk areas and usually remain long after military forces have departed. They are a significant factor and must be integrated into planning, preparing, executing, and assessing military operations. Commanders consider the activities of NGOs as well as mutual security and resource or support requirements when conducting unified action.


2-65.     Joint doctrine addresses employment of Army forces in unified action. Each operation is different: factors vary with the situation and perspectives of the participants. Unified action has military, political, and cultural considerations (see Figure 2-5). These considerations are not all-inclusive but highlight factors important to effectively employing Army forces in unified action.

Figure 2-5. Considerations for Unified Action

Figure 2-5. Considerations for Unified Action


2-66.     Unified action requires commanders to consider the same military factors they consider when conducting joint operations (see FM 3-16; FM 3-16). However, participation of multinational and interagency partners adds additional layers of complexity. The following areas require additional attention from commanders and staffs of units conducting unified action.


2-67.     The JFC defines how the land component participates in the joint targeting process. JFCs may delegate targeting oversight functions to a subordinate commander or may establish a joint or multinational targeting board. The targeting board may serve as either an integrating center or review mechanism. It prepares targeting guidance, refines joint target lists, and reviews target information from a campaign perspective. It is not normally involved in selecting specific targets and aim points or in developing attack packages (see JP 3-60; FM 3-60).

Fire Support Coordination

Interdiction is an action to divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy the enemy's surface military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces.

2-68.     JFCs and multinational force commanders normally establish AOs for their subordinates. Within their AOs, land and naval force commanders are normally supported commanders and synchronize maneuver, fires, and interdiction. These commanders designate target priories and the effects and timing of fires. However, all missions must contribute to accomplishing joint force objectives.

2-69.     Synchronizing operations in land or naval AOs with wider joint operations is particularly important. To facilitate synchronization, JFCs establish priorities for execution of operations throughout the theater or JOA, including within the land and naval force commanders' AOs. Commanders assigned theater-wide functions by the JFC coordinate with the land and naval force commanders when their operations, to include attacking targets, occur within a land or naval AO (see JP 3-09).

2-70.     Army force commanders recognize the enormous potential of synchronizing maneuver with interdiction. They visualize the links between operations within the land AO and joint operations occurring outside it. They identify interdiction targets outside the land AO that can help create conditions for their decisive operations. They advocate combinations of maneuver and interdiction inside and outside the land AO that impose dilemmas on the enemy. Army commanders understand the theater-wide flexibility and reach of unified air operations. When required, they support joint interdiction outside land AOs with Army assets.

2-71.     Integrating joint fires requires the development and full understanding of and strict adherence to common maneuver control measures and FSCMs. To ensure timely and effective fires, JFCs develop control measures and FSCMs early and emphasize them continuously. Land and amphibious force commanders may establish a fire support coordination line (FSCL) within their AO to facilitate current and future operations, and to protect the force (see JP 3-09). The FSCL is an FSCM that is established and adjusted by land and amphibious force commanders within their boundaries in consultation with superior, subordinate, supporting, and affected commanders. FSCLs facilitate the expeditious attack of surface targets of opportunity beyond the coordinating measure. An FSCL applies to all fires of air-, land-, and sea-based weapons systems using any type of ammunition. Coordination of attacks beyond the FSCL is especially important to commanders of air, land, and special operations forces.

2-72.     Forces attacking targets beyond an FSCL must inform all affected commanders in enough time to allow necessary action to avoid fratricide, both in the air and on the ground. In exceptional circumstances, the inability to conduct this coordination does not preclude attacking targets beyond the FSCL. However, failure to coordinate increases the risk of fratricide and may waste limited resources. Short of an FSCL, the appropriate land or amphibious force commander controls all air-to-ground and surface-to-surface attack operations. For example, air strikes short of the FSCL—both close air support and air interdiction—must be under positive or procedural control (for example, by forward air controllers or tactical air control parties) to ensure proper clearance of fires. This control is exercised through the operations staff or with designated procedures.

2-73.     The FSCL is not a boundary. The establishing commander synchronizes operations on either side of the FSCL out to the limits of the land AO. The establishment of an FSCL does not create a "free-fire area" beyond the FSCL. When targets are attacked beyond an FSCL, the attacks must not produce adverse effects forward, on, or to the rear of the line. Attacks beyond the FSCL must be consistent with the establishing commander's priorities, timing, and desired effects. They are deconflicted with the supported headquarters whenever possible.

Air and Missile Defense

2-74.     The area air defense commander (AADC) establishes rules of engagement and assigns air defense missions for operational-level air and missile defense assets. Army force commanders communicate their requirements through the JFC to the JFACC and AADC when developing air and missile defense plans. When the JFC apportions ARFOR assets, including operational-level assets, to the air component for counterair missions, they are generally placed in direct support to the air component. Normally, Army corps retain control of organic air defense units. The JFC may designate the joint or multinational air component commander as the AADC.

Teamwork and Trust

2-75.     In unified action, commanders rely upon rapport, respect, knowledge of partners, team building, and patience. Commanders build teamwork and trust in a joint or multinational force in many ways. They and their staffs should establish a direct, personal relationship with their counterparts. Commanders must establish and maintain a climate of mutual respect. They should know their partners as well as they know their adversary. Team building is essential. It can be accomplished through training, exercises, and assigning missions that fit organizational capabilities. Building teamwork and trust takes time and requires the patience all participants. The result is enhanced mutual confidence and unity of effort.

Doctrine, Organization, and Training

2-76.     National and service military doctrines vary. Some doctrines emphasize the offense, others the defense. US Army doctrine stresses rapid, agile operations based on exercising disciplined initiative within the commander's intent. When determining the units best suited for particular missions, commanders must be sensitive to doctrinal differences and their consequences. In dealing with joint and multinational forces, commanders must remember that doctrine and organization are closely linked. Removing part of a service's or nation's force structure may make it unbalanced and make it fight in a way not supported by its doctrine and training. Adjusting a component's force structure, if authorized, must be done with extreme caution. Commanders also need to understand the training level of participating forces. All armies do not have the same training resources. A battalion-sized unit from one country may have different capabilities than one from a different country. Commanders must understand that not all organizations are the same.


2-77.     Different equipment and technologies may result in a mixture of systems in a joint or multinational force. The modernization levels, maintenance standards, mobility, and degree of interoperability of different partners will probably vary. Commanders of a joint or multinational force may have to compensate for significant technological differences among its components. Incompatible communications, unfamiliar CSS needs, and differences in vehicle cross-country mobility can pose difficulties. Some multinational partners may use systems similar to enemy systems, making measures to preclude fratricide vital. However, one nation's capabilities may reduce another's vulnerabilities. Commanders position units and assign command and support relationships to exploit interoperability and complementary capabilities.


2-78.     Political considerations are prominent in unified action. Gaining and maintaining unity of effort in multinational and interagency environments requires constant attention. Commanders remain aware of the goals and objectives of the various participants. They recognize that control of national forces and nonmilitary partners by their political leaders may affect mission accomplishment. Commanders constantly work to sustain political consensus among the leaders, nations, and organizations involved in the operation.

Goals and Objectives

2-79.     States act to serve their national interests. No two partners share the same reasons for conducting a military operation. National goals can be harmonized with a common strategy, but they are seldom identical. Motivations of multinational partners may differ, but multinational objectives should be attainable, clearly defined, and supported by each member state. Successful coalitions and alliances build upon a common purpose. Emphasizing commonalties can reduce friction and maintain cohesion.

National Control of Forces

2-80.     Most forces and agencies have the capability for direct and near immediate communications from the operational area to their respective political leaders. This capability can facilitate coordination of political issues. It can also allow those leaders to issue guidance directly to their deployed national forces or veto operational decisions. Likewise, Army force commanders are linked to the appropriate US agencies and political leaders.

Consensus Building

2-81.     Reaching a consensus on a goal is the most important prerequisite for successful unified action. Because consensus is frail, commanders continually nurture it. A common goal is important, so commanders expend a lot of time and effort clarifying and restating it. Commanders seek a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable end state and measures of effectiveness. Some partners may resist establishing these to the level of detail that US commanders prefer. The minimum requirement is a set of identifiable military conditions that commanders can use to direct military operations.


2-82.     Understanding and dealing with cultural considerations can make the difference between success and failure in unified action. National and organizational culture, language, communication, media relations, and law enforcement all play important roles in this environment.

Cultural and Language

2-83.     Each partner in unified action has a unique cultural identity. Military forces, civilian agencies, NGOs, and international organizations approach war and MOOTW from different perspectives. National and organizational values, standards of social interaction, religious beliefs, and organizational discipline all affect the perspectives of multinational partners. Partners with similar cultures and a common language face fewer obstacles to interoperability. Even seemingly minor differences, such as dietary restrictions or officer-enlisted relationships, can significantly affect military operations. Commanders may have to accommodate cultural sensitivities and overcome diverse or conflicting religious, social, or traditional requirements.

2-84.     Overcoming language barriers is a significant challenge. Unified action is often multilingual. Even when partners share a common language, different terminology and jargon can hinder understanding. Whether spoken or written, all participants must understand all communications. Commanders recognize translation difficulties. Translating orders adds time to planning. Translation errors can cause mistakes or misunderstandings. Few translators have both the language and cultural expertise and the depth of doctrinal understanding necessary. Dedicated liaison and linguist teams can mitigate this problem but cannot eliminate it. Clear, concise orders and briefings are easier to translate than complicated ones. Simplicity helps achieve the mutual understanding necessary for success. Backbriefs to commanders ensure that multinational subordinates understand intent and tasks.


2-85.     Differences in individual assumptions and organizational perspectives can cloud common understanding. Commanders involve representatives from each partner in defining issues in clear, unambiguous, agreed-upon terms. How something is said is particularly important in the interagency environment. To preclude misunderstandings, military planners anticipate confusion and take measures to clarify and establish common terms with clear and specific usage. To reduce duplication and increase coherence, commanders get from all participants a clear expression of their perceived role and mission as well as the resources they intend to contribute. Understanding each participant's agenda helps commanders synchronize the efforts of the each organization throughout the campaign. Common understanding also helps identify obstacles, such as conflicting multinational or interagency priorities.

Media Relations

2-86.     Within security requirements, commanders facilitate national and international press activities. In multinational environments, media from partner states have their own standards and requirements. Commanders work with leaders of partner forces and their national press elements to develop an open, mutually beneficial environment. To avoid misunderstanding, senior multinational political and military representatives establish media ground rules that are as simple as possible. To facilitate foreign and US media relations, US forces follow the DOD Principles of Information whenever possible. Military plans anticipate the effect of media actions. The media shape public attitudes and can influence operations. Commanders recognize that gaining and maintaining public support requires clearly expressing the desired end state, objectives leading to it, and measures of effectiveness through the media. Different partners do not necessarily send the same messages; but commanders determine and coordinate methods to avoid contradictions.

Law Enforcement

2-87.     Often US forces will not have the authority or capability to enforce civil laws in the operational area. Commanders seek clear law enforcement guidance from US and multinational political leadership during planning for unified action. The entire chain of command must understand status of forces agreements (SOFAs), or status of mission agreements (SOMAs), which apply to UN operations. Where civil law enforcement is present and functioning, commanders establish systems and procedures to use it. Where civil law enforcement systems and organizations are not available, commanders should deploy with appropriate US forces or use the capabilities of other partners.

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