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Role Of The JFACC In Future Conflicts
CSC 1993
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:   Role of the JFACC in Future Conflicts
Author:  Major William G. Polowitzer, United States Air Force
Thesis:  Future conflicts will involve fewer men, aircraft,
equipment, and employ more advanced systems.  The reduction
in assets available will make joint cooperation between all
services a must at all levels of employment.  Along with
jointness, the future role of the Joint Force Air Component
Commander (JFACC) requires that he has the authority to
employ all available air assets to achieve the Joint Force
Commander objectives.
Background:  Operation Desert Storm demonstrated the
importance of the JFACC in executing a coordinated and well
planned air campaign.  Lessons learned from past employments
of air power in World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, and
legislative changes of the Goldwater-Nichols Act showed the
importance of unity of command.  Though the JFACC concept
proved critical to the success of Operation Desert Storm
component commanders felt the JFACC had too much authority
over air assets and lacked responsiveness to the ground
battle.  In some instances ground commanders retained control
over organic air assets by withholding them from JFACC
tasking.  The overwhelming number of aircraft in theater
allowed the JFACC to execute the air campaign even though
some aircraft were withheld. Future conflicts will involve
much fewer aircraft due to the drastic draw down in armed
forces.  Faced with the reality of less it becomes critical
that air campaigns are planned and executed jointly and
managed by one boss, the JFACC.
Recommendation:  The JFACC concept should be adopted by all
component commanders to ensure focus and unity of effort in
future air campaigns.
Thesis:  Future conflicts will involve fewer men, aircraft,
equipment, and employ more advanced systems.  The reduction
in assets available will make joint cooperation between
services a must at all levels of employment.  Along with
jointness, the future role of the JFACC requires that he has
the authority to employ all available air assets to achieve
the Joint Force Commander objectives.
      I.   Historical role of air power
           A.   World War II and the Pacific Campaign
           B.   Korean War all services operated independently
           C.   Vietnam War no unity of effort
     II.   Differences in service doctrine
           A.   Air Force - centralized control
           B.   Navy - protection of the carrier
           C.   Marines - support of the MAGTF
    III.   The  crucial role of Goldwater-Nichols
           A.   Role of CJCS and unified CINC
           B.   Need for jointness and problems that remain
           C.   Unity of commend
     IV.   Lessons learned from Desert Storm
           A.   Unity of command
           B.   Role of JFACC
           C.   Air campaign
                1.    Phases of air campaign
                2.    Response to ground commanders
                3.    Tasking of air assets
     V.    Future role of JFACC
           A.   Change in roles and missions
           B.   Smaller force structure
           C.   Effect of advanced technology
     The employment of air power during Operation Desert
Storm proved to be the most significant factor in winning the
war.  Early attainment of air supremacy, disruption of the
Iraqi Command and Control network, interdiction of lines of
communication and logistic capability, and finally the
demoralizing effect that air power had on the Iraqi army
contributed to the rapid advance and success of allied ground
forces.  The success of the air campaign demonstrated the
value of the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC)
concept when employed in combat operations.  The JFACC
responsibility for planning, coordinating, allocation, and
tasking of air assets ensured the execution of the Joint
Force Commander (JFC) theater objectives.  However, component
service commanders wish to shift decision making authority
away from the JFACC to the individual service component.
     Future conflicts will involve fewer men, aircraft,
equipment, and employ more advanced systems.  The reduction
in assets available will make joint cooperation between
services a must at all levels of employment.  Along with
jointness, the future role of the JFACC requires that he has
the authority to employ all available air assets to achieve
the JFC objectives.
     The military services are entering a new era dominated
by the dismantling of the bipolar power system of United
States and the Soviet Union to a unipolar power of the United
States.  With no real threat to justify a large armed force
deployed around the world the military is wrestling with the
problem of reducing the military but, maintain a capability
to respond to a worldwide conflict.  As the draw down in
force structure continues the overlapping capability between
services diminish and the requirement to operate in joint
operations intensifies.  The future will require all services
to readjust their doctrine to become more joint and will
demand the integration of the JFACC in the conduct of combat
History has proven the need for JFACC:
     History has shown the failure of air power when divided
up between ground force commanders and used at their
discretion.  The US military entered North Africa with its
air power split between the Army Air Force and support air
power assigned to individual Army units.  The results were
disastrous and contributed to the American defeat at the
Kasserine Pass in February 1943.  To correct the problem
American air power became centralized  under one boss,
General Spaatz.  The immediate success of American air power
underscored the value of centralizing control of theater air
power under a single commander.
     A similar success in unity of command occurred in the
Pacific when General George Kenney assumed duties as General
Douglas MacArthur's air commander.   Development of an air
campaign to support the theater island hopping strategy of
the Pacific became critical.  Faced with few air assets
divided between the allied forces. General Kenney developed a
combined air campaign that linked directly with army and navy
plans.  His planning and execution of logistics and the
tactical employment of air power eventually resulted in bring
the war to homeland Japan.
      In Korea and Vietnam the inefficient use of air power
resulted in a disjointed plan that lacked a focus of effort
and concentration of firepower.  In both cases, the lack of
unity of command resulted in not one airwar but several, with
no centralized planning, control, or direction.  In Vietnam
the airwar was fought autonomously by the Air Force, Navy,
Marines, Army helicopters, SAC B-52s. and South Vietnam.
North Vietnam was divided into route packages assigned to
either the Navy or Air Force, and services normally only
attacked targets in their route package.  The procedure made
mass and concentration of firepower difficult and lacked the
flexibility to respond to changes on the battlefield.
      The air war in Vietnam failed because it executed air
power without a well orchestrated plan and never achieved
concentration of effort at decisive points.  It resulted in
the conduct of five separate wars each lacking a focus of
effort to reach a common goal or objective.  The absence of a
joint air component commander combined with no air campaign
plan established by the joint force commander resulted in a
waste of effort and time.
Differences in Doctrine:
      Air Force doctrine is based on the principals of war and
the tenets of aerospace power.  The most important tenant is
that air power should be employed using centralized control
and decentralized execution.   The Air Force believes that
commanders with centralized control can exploit the speed and
flexibility of aerospace platforms to concentrate forces,
whether in attack or defense, from diverse locations on
decisive points. (2:113-115)
      Air Force doctrine places priority on achieving air
superiority and gaining control of the air early in a
campaign.  Control of the air allows friendly aircraft to
strike strategic targets; conduct interdiction, surveillance
and reconnaissance, airlift, close air support, and other air
missions.  Air domination over the battlefield allows ground
forces to conduct operations free of enemy aircraft attack.
      Employment of naval air power allows the battle group
and carrier air wing commander considerable freedom  in
executing operations.  Differences between carrier battle
groups exist due to geographic locations, weapons load of
aircraft, and composition of aircraft types.  Carrier air
wing tactics and composition are tailored to a deployment
area and the battle group very seldom operates together with
another carrier battle group.  The ability to tailor
operations for each deployment, and not be constrained by
regulations, is viewed by the Navy as flexibility. Based on
this method of operations the Navy has no written doctrine
concerning air power. (13:51-52)
      Areas of Navy doctrine that lack specifics are how to
conduct a major air campaign, how to achieve and maintain air
superiority, and the role of interdiction and close air
support (CAS) in a air campaign.
      Marines are deployed as integrated Marine Air-Ground
Task Force (MAGTF) of varying sizes and capabilities tailored
to meet the task at hand.  Fixed-wing aircraft are an
important part in employing the MAGTF as a complete combined
arms force.  Marine air and ground units function as a single
coordinated force, operating from the same doctrine and
procedures, and train together.
      Marine Corps doctrine employs air assets as a support
element available to the MAGTF commander.  The mobility of a
MAGTF ground element is due to the light capability of the
ground forces.  Because ground forces have limited heavy
armor and artillery assets they rely on the capability of the
air element to compensate.  Air power is treated as artillery
and a key part of the Marine integrated fire support.
      The MAGTF commander retains control of the air element
to support ground forces in the close battle area and to
project power into the deep region.  This control allows the
flexibility to quickly respond to changes and create
opportunities in the battle.  The Marines believe that an air
component commander would take flexibility away from the
ground commander.
      All three doctrines present a different view on the
command and control and employment of air power.
Individually the service doctrines support a specific type of
operation, but, in the area of joint operation problems
arise with integration.  The Navy and Marine doctrine uses
air power as a support element to achieve a much larger
mission and works in isolation.
      The JFACC is not restricted by one particular doctrine
and can draw on all air assets to support the commander.
Many times during Desert Storm Air Force, Navy, and coalition
aircraft provided direct support to ground units.  The
centralized command structure of JFACC makes it the most
efficient system for responding to air support requests.  Air
assets retained by each component commander and operating as
separate entities are unable to coordinate and task in a
joint environment.  For this reason doctrines must be
reevaluated and adjusted to respond to the current world
situation and future conflicts. (8:99-104)
Crucial role of Goldwater-Nichols:
      During the Carter and Reagan administrations three
operations forced change upon the way the military conducted
business.  The dismal results and unfortunate mistakes that
occurred during Desert One, the naval air strike in Lebanon,
and Grenada forced the politicians and civilian leadership to
make a change in the military.  Many viewed the problem as
parochial and institutional attitudes within the separate
services.  Service chiefs viewed each operation as an
opportunity to demonstrate their service capability
and mission success becoming secondary.
      Each operation had a common  problem of no clear-cut
chain of command that placed one commander in charge of the
overall operation.  In retrospect, lessons such as this
encouraged the change brought about by the Goldwater-Nichols
Act of 1986.  The act sought to implement jointness between
the services by increasing the power of the unified CINCs,
streamlining the chain of command to the President, and
strengthen the role of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
      Goldwater-Nichols gave the CINC the power to conduct a
campaign the way he saw fit without interference from service
chiefs.  The CINC had authority over logistics and support,
the ability to select subordinate commanders, and the
employment of forces.  The conduct of Operation Desert
Shield/Storm by General Schwarzkopf proved the success of the
      The creation of the JFACC resulted from the increased
authority of the CINC in conducting joint operations.  Joint
Publication 0-2, Unified Action Armed Forces," establishes
procedures for JFCs to exercise operational control through
functional component commands when such a command structure
will enhance the overall capability to accomplish the
mission." (11:3.21-3.24)  This allows the JFC to identify a
JFACC, if needed, and the JFC designates the specific command
authority of the JFACC. The primary purpose for a JFACC is to
provide unity of effort for employing air power of a joint
      In 1986 the Joint Chiefs of Staff established the
Omnibus Agreement which stated that MAGTF commander retains
operational control of his organic Marine air.  However, it
allowed the JFC the authority to assign missions, through the
JFACC, to Marine air to ensure unity effort.   The Navy and
the Marines could withhold assets to the JFACC to allow
commanders to provide direct support of MAGTF ground forces
and support of maritime operations.
      Though the end result of the Goldwater-Nichols act was
to provide the CINCs more control over employing forces and
streamline chain of command, component commanders still
fought the attempt to integrate their forces into a joint
operation.  A report on Operation Desert Storm, conducted by
Rep. Les Aspin and Rep. William Dickinson of the House Armed
Services Committee (HASC), identified that though the success
was due to joint operations, "The Marines were unwilling to
leave all their fixed-wing aircraft at the disposal of the
JFACC staff for use in the Air Tasking Order (ATO)." (1:42)
Desert Storm:
      The theater campaign consisted of a four phase operation
that integrated the air and ground campaign together.  The
JFACC envisioned the execution of the air campaign in three
phases: (1) strategic air phase; (2) air supremacy in the
Kuwait theater of operations (KTO);  and (3) battlefield
preparation phase.  The destruction of the Republican Guard
and Iraq's army became the emphasis of the third phase.  The
overwhelming number of air assets available allowed the JFACC
to strike targets in all phases almost simultaneously. (8:150)
      The air campaign provided one plan implemented by one
boss, the JFACC, and executed by individual flying units.
The success of the air plan is attributed to the unity of
effort in execution and effective coordination of the JFACC.
JFACC planners could select from a large pool of aircraft,
with several different capabilities, and match the correct
aircraft and munition against the correct target.
      Some commanders argued the JFACC plan relied solely on
Air Force doctrine and not compatible with sister service
doctrine.  Both Navy and Marine doctrine are more suited for
a smaller and limited operation involving far less aircraft
and a simpler command structure.  But when judging the air
campaign and how it was executed one should look at it from
the entire theater of operations.  The JFACC command and
control structure effectively integrated over 2000 aircraft,
widely dispersed, into one plan and achieved the JFC vision
of the offensive operation.
      Captain Steven U. Ramsdell, a naval observer sent to the
Gulf in the midst of the war, reported on naval strike
planning and campaigning execution.  His investigation
revealed that "the Navy lacked an appreciation for the
operational level of warfare, which prevented the service
from planning and waging an effective naval air campaign.
The Navy did not bring to Desert Storm any system for
planning and directing air campaigns because the Navy does
not possess such a system." (8:257-258)
      The JFACC concept worked because he and other commanders
all worked together as a team, but problems did exist.  As
the ground campaign approached disagreements between the
JFACC and the ground commanders occurred concerning targets
to be bombed.  During the battlefield preparation phase the
Marines felt that more priority should be placed on
destroying tanks and artillery.  To solve this problem Marine
air assets were held back from the JFACC until all Marine
sorties were totally eliminated from JFACC tasking. (12:63-64)
Though only a small number of aircraft when compared to the
total aircraft available it represented a fragmented
execution of the plan.
      A study conducted by the House Armed Services Committee
after the war stated, "Problems of joint operation were still
experienced; for instance, in the withholding of some combat
assets from the overall plan of the air campaign." (1:xi)
Though a few problems with jointness arose, the sheer
abundance of air assets allowed the air campaign to
accommodate all service concerns on the priorities of the air
      The prioritizing of targets to be hit became an issue of
controversy between ground commanders, concerned with the
enemy in front of their position, and the JFACC adherence to
the air plan.  It became a balancing act between conducting
the phases of the air campaign, servicing the requested enemy
targets, and having enough air assets left to do an effective
job.   To stop the air campaign from falling apart and lose
focus the JFC directed his deputy commander to resolve the
      The deputy commander developed a prioritized target list
based on requests by ground commanders and submitted to the
JFC for approval.  The approved list provided the JFACC the 
focus of effort in continuing the air campaign and preparing
the battlefield.  Also the action left in tact the authority
of the single boss, the JFACC, to integrate all available air
assets into a single plan.
Air Tasking Order:
      The daily flying schedule came from the air tasking
order (ATO) and provided details and guidance on all missions
flown in theater.  Sometimes over 300 pages in length the ATO
provided; mission call signs, radio frequencies, air
refueling tracks, altitudes, target location, type of
munition, time on target, and much more . The ATO served as a
single source document for the entire air campaign.  Planning
for the ATO involved a 48 hour process, identifying targets
to be hit two days into the future.
      Criticism of the ATO process centered on the length,
lack of access, and the 48 hour targeting process.  To some
this translated into a rigid planning process that had
central command and control and lacked the flexibility to
respond to changes on the battlefield.
      To answer these problems one must ask the question; what
alternative system could have tasked over 2700 sorties a day?
The answer is none.  The  ATO system provided the most
effective way at the time to integrate aircraft from several
locations using a USAF computer network.  Problems arose when
the Navy lacked the capability to hook up the communication
gear necessary to access the network from aboard aircraft
carriers.  The work around required courier aircraft to
deliver the ATO to the carriers daily.
      From the command and control aspect the JFACC provided
the initial guidance to his planners when developing the
daily ATO.  His staff consisted of representatives from all
services to provided the expertise on tasking Navy and Marine
aircraft and ensure the correct capability matched the
correct target.  The results of these efforts were later
stated by the JFACC, Lt Gen Charles A. Horner, as;
      The joint force concept integrates all services into
      one coordinated plan.... Marine attack aircraft
      accompanied by Air Force suppression of enemy air
      defenses assets and escorted by Navy fighters made for
      effective and lethal packages.  Working together, the
      services were able to limit duplication of effort,
      minimize breakdowns in communication and fly 110,000
      sorties without...air-to-air fratricide. (9:22)
The JFACC air tasking methods gave way to the decentralized
tactical air operations that are essential to modern air/land
      The problem of the ATO 48 hour planning cycle must be
addressed and can be shortened when all services are
operating the same communication gear.  But to confuse the
planning cycle with not having the capability to respond
to changes on the battlefield is a mistake.  The JFACC and
his staff did override the printed ATO and redirected
scheduled sorties in response to the ground commander's
      The battle of Khafji and the bombing of the Iraqi army
withdrawing from Kuwait City demonstrated the capability to
respond to short notice tasking.  In both cases, the JFACC
redirected Air Force, Marine, and Navy air in response to
changes on the battlefield.  The JFACC had the authority to
retask all available assets and proved the efficiency of
centralized control.
Role of JFACC:
      The JFACC concept proved its value during Desert Storm
in the planning, coordinating, allocating, and tasking of
more than 2,700 coalition aircraft, representing 14 national
or service components.  He integrated operations into a
unified and focused 43-day air campaign using the air tasking
order that provided the necessary details.  The value of
centralizing control and decentralizing execution allowed the
flexibility to meet changes on the battlefield with mass and
concentration of firepower.
      When formulating the air campaign the JFACC is not
restricted by one particular service doctrine but is driven
by the JFC concept of operations.  He takes the JFC vision of
how the theater campaign will unfold and incorporates the air
plan in with the ground plan to achieve the objectives.  Both
plans complement one another when executed.  A critical
aspect to any ground offensive is unity of effort, directed
by a ground component commander, and the same holds for an
air offensive, directed by the JFACC.  Rear Admiral Riley D.
Mixson, commander Carrier Group Two during the Gulf War,
commented on the effectiveness of the air campaign and the
      The air campaign was orchestrated by the Air Force under
      its umbrella for coordinating air warfare - the air
      tasking order.  The six months of Desert Shield enabled
      Red Sea and Persian Gulf naval forces to learn to
      operate within this system. and I do not know of a
      better way to orchestrate 2,000 - 3,000 sorties per day
      from the four services and the numerous allied air
      forces participating. (10:38)
      The establishment of the JFACC provides efficiency and
prevents a duplication of effort when executing the air plan.
Future JFACC:
      Future air forces will be dominated by fewer aircraft
and rely on advanced weapons as a force multiplier.  With
limited assets any future conflict must be planned and
coordinated to be effective.  Air power will still be driven
by the Joint Force Commander objectives and desires and will
require a JFACC for command and execution.  The JFACC will
function as the single source for planning, coordinating, and
tasking of available air assets to execute the air campaign.
      Several factors will drive the execution of air power in
future conflicts to use a JFACC that is subordinate to the
JFC.  The biggest is the success of the JFACC during
Operation Desert Shield/Storm.  As stated by General Horner,
"the JFACC concept proved that consistency and unity in
guidance reduce coordination conflicts.  Operating under one
coordinated plan improves efficiency and lessens the
possibility of fratricide." (9:26)
      With limited assets available and to ensure that mass
and concentration of air power is achieved a well coordinated
plan is a must.  The plan must integrate air assets from all
branches of the armed services to prevent duplication of
effort and provide the most effective mix of aircraft.  The
JFACC concept provides this through a targeting process made
up of representatives from all aircraft weapon systems being
tasked.  The complexity of aircraft and the weapons they
employ requires highly knowledgeable people to ensure this
      All future operations will be joint and must be
coordinated together to function as one team.  Jointness also
will require commanders to function with knowledge of each
service doctrine in the planning and execution phases.  A
JFACC is the best way to bring all the tasked services
together under one umbrella and can keep an objective view on
achieving the JFC objectives.  In a joint operation no longer
will commanders be able to hold on to air power for their own
use.  Air power is a valuable asset that must be employed
wisely and used to benefit the overall theater battlefield.
	Advances in communication will enhance command and
control to respond to changes on the battlefield.  When
ground forces require air support the JFACC provides the
centralized coordination and tasking center to answer the
call.  Reacting to these requests the JFACC can redirect
aircraft already tasked on the ATO to support ground forces.
Aircraft diverted from preplanned missions can be replaced,
depending on target priority, by planners to ensure the tempo
of air operations is maintained.
     The problem of ATO dissemination to the tasked flying
units can be solved by the acquisition of standardized
communication and computer equipment between services.  Once
accomplished the JFACC will have direct access to all units
and tasking of units can be achieved in a timely manner.  It
will allow the JFACC to more effectively execute his assigned
air plan and respond to intelligence updates as soon as they
are received.
      In conclusion the JFACC has demonstrated its value in
the planning and execution of large air campaigns.  The
ability to integrate several thousand aircraft into a single
plan while minimizing duplication of effort and fragmented
execution.  The Desert Storm success does not dictate that
future conflicts must be identical in planning and execution
to work.  Instead it provides the mechanics to plan and
implement air power from several services and countries into
one joint plan that is focused and effective.
      The real issue is the role the JFACC should play when
planning and implementing the air campaign of the joint force
commander's theater campaign plan.  If the JFACC is looked
upon only as a coordinator then he lacks the authority to
ensure that the air plan will be executed in a unity of
effort.  The JFACC becomes secondary to the desires of
component commanders who wish to retain control of their air
assets to execute as they see fit.  The success of the air
phase is no different than that of the land phase of a
theater campaign: both rely on unity of command executed with
unity of effort.  A JFACC that is limited to the role of a
coordinator is restricted in effectively planning,
coordinating, allocation, and tasking of air assets into a
decisive combat power.
      Desert Storm has produced government and public
expectations that future conflicts will utilize high
technology equipment to reduce losses and achieve national
objectives.  Nature of warfare has changed from committing
large numbers of ground forces to using air power to achieve
strategic objectives.  Whether these expectations are false
or too high the employment of air power can not be haphazard
or disjointed.  Every service has a unique capability and the
JFACC is the command structure that will bring it together as
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