The Air Force is finalizing its study on multi-domain command and control, a top priority for the service’s chief of staff. This concept seeks to orchestrate effects across space, cyber and air seamlessly, and potentially simultaneously, as a way to overwhelm adversaries.
However, cyber effects and forces are controlled and governed differently than other traditional capabilities. This can lead to questions about how cyber fits into the Air Force’s overall plans.
Under Cyber Command’s Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber construct, service cyber components are assigned specific geographic and functional combatant commands where they provide advice for cyber employment in campaign plans. They also provide the cyber forces to execute those plans.
24th Air Force/Air Force Cyber provides advice and cyber forces to U.S. European Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Transportation Command, which means Air Force cyber power is not necessarily implemented across the other regions or commands.
Despite this fact, the study envisions eventual C2 systems as not precluding capabilities of other services and forces but naturally fitting them in, the leader of the study, Brig. Gen. Chance Saltzman, told Fifth Domain following a speech Nov. 17 hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
The Air Force’s effort to study multi-domain command and control is focused on how the Air Force would use Air Force assets, Saltzman said, but to the extent they’re given responsibility to control joint forces, those capabilities should be able to integrate into the architecture easily.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “Build that foundation that allows rapid integration of whatever capability available then you can fit right into the C2 architecture.”
The military at large is trying to move away from stove-piped systems that don’t talk to each other.
Cyber Command also set forth joint standards for training all personnel within the cyber mission force across all the services. Saltzman said this “absolutely” helps with integrating joint effects into an eventual multi-domain command and control architecture if need be.
An example of how cyber might play a role in multi-domain operations could include a cyber capability that allows the Defense Department to identify an individual of great interest, then have an overhead asset pick up the target’s location and then use that location to eliminate that person via kinetic means.