III. Historical Lessons From Air Mobility Operations

[Table of Contents] [Chapter IV]

The following paragraphs highlight illustrations of previous efforts and difficulties in achieving an effectively integrated air mobility system. As the material suggests, the struggle between USAF commands over the operation and control of airlift has not really focused on creating an effectively interfaced system. Instead, it has centered on whether or not to structure airlift under a central command and control, which affects the integration between theater and strategic airlift cycles.

Prior to World War II

The air transport program began in January, 1932. The program consisted of transport aircraft owned and operated by individual air depot districts. Accordingly, air transport was a decentralized program that lacked any of the benefits of centralized control and execution. However, Lt Col Albert Sneed, an air depot commander, presented a first effort at harnessing the effects of air transport:

He urged that Air Corps officers had too limited a view of air power--they thought only in terms of destruction. There was a broader level of action he believed, the "field of transportation"....Air transportation should move to its logical destiny by expansion "to a position of equality with rail and motor transport." (Miller, 1988:13)

During that era, doctrine was evolving how to best integrate airlift into air warfare. "Air transport in major warfare should be used when practical for the supply of combat units, for evacuation, and for emergency troop movements...and that control of all airplanes in a theater of operations be centralized to the commander of that theater " (Miller, 1988:13).

Thus, even in its origins, airlift control had the genesis of the air logistics versus a combat support weapon argument. The practical doctrine of the pre-World War II era was that air transport was developed primarily as an Army Air Corps tool for its own resupply logistics. Just prior to World War II involvement, air transport infrastructure grew quickly, going from a transport wing for the Air Corps to later developing into the Air Corps Ferrying Command (Miller, 1988:21).

World War II

A former chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Agency essentially stated that division of command and control for air transport assets was duplication of effort, thus he argued for centralized control of military air transportation:

L.W. Pogue, chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Agency, ventured in June 1942 that within the air transport arena, the speed and mobility of transport airplanes had reduced "the entire world to one theater of operation." He proposed: "The sound solution is to place all war air transport operations, except for limited operations... such, for example, as those in the immediate vicinity of combat, in the hands of one command." (Williamson & Others, 1993:4-5)

US Army Air Forces during World War II had airlift divided in air logistics (air transport) that had a strategic lift focus, and tactical airlift (troop carrier) that had the combat support focus of the warfighting theater. Both types of airlift forces had independent chains of command, and little integration of effort. Command and control was a constant problem and duplication of effort resulted (Kennedy, 1994:1).

"By August of 1942, General [Harold L.] George (Commander of AAF Air Transport Command (ATC)) felt compelled to report that there had been serious interruptions in scheduled operations based on the erroneous assumption by other commands that transport operations that traverse their areas are under their complete control" (Miller, 1988:37). AMC today can trace its lineage back to ATC.

This remark was essentially a World War II version of "who had OPCONţ of airlift forces transiting a theater--the theater commander or the ATC commander? The argument of control of forces that operate within a theater has always tilted in the favor of the theater commander. It historically makes sense that the single point of contact who is waging the fight on the behalf of the NCA should have control of forces needed to perform the fight. To not have a single point of contact for control of forces hamstrings the theater commander's ability to prosecute the conflict. Strategic forces, however, have evolved into functional alignment and control. As discussed, there were two varieties of airlift during World War II: air logistics and combat support. Even then, air logistics efforts had a global reach, and combat support airlift directly contributed to theater power projection.

The air logistics versus combat airlift support roles of airlift is a "tough to solve" issue that perennially clouded airlift efforts such as the following discussion of the "Hump" airlift.

During World War II the "father of airlift," Lieutenant General William Tunner, while commanding the Burma airlift, was challenged by General Claire Chennault, the commander of air fighting forces in China, concerning control of "theater airlift distribution within China." General Tunner, as a transporter who moved material into China, argued that he should maintain an essentially single control of airlift both into and within China, to facilitate effective utilization of assets. General Chennault argued that asBurma airlift assets periodically performed air distribution within China, that he should control and direct those aircraft (once those assets arrived in his "theater"). External developments finally took precedence, forcing General Chennault to "allow" General Tunner to retain a "single source control" of the airlift (Tunner, 1964:116-124). These external developments were from an increased offensive from the Japanese, that required General Chennault to concentrate full time on combat operations. But the experience galvanized General Tunner's advocacy for a centralized single source airlift control of airlift forces, run by airlift experts (Tunner, 1964:124). The struggle between General Chennault and General Tunner in the hump airlift is an equivalent argument of "one boss for the theater," versus functional control of air assets.

The years between World War II and Korea saw the consolidation of separate service airlift assets under the USAF (with no real addressing of how and who should operate and control the strategic versus the theater airlift systems) (Kennedy, 1994:2).

The largest organizational issue involving air transportation during the period between World War II and Korea addressed the poor organization of air transportation between services, resulting in "overlap and duplication of effort in manpower and assets. Testimony highlighted the benefits of centralizing military transportation resources and defense traffic management. Service opposition, however, killed the initiative" (Matthews & Holt, 1995:235).

The Berlin Airlift between 1948 and 1949 was "another chapter" of General TunnerÝs remarkable ability to orchestrate an airlift operation. A key issue of his command was wresting of control of the airlift in order to remove the hamstrings of theoperation. In the case of the Berlin Airlift, General Tunner had to cobble together his own combined airlift team in order to conduct the mission. As the Task Force Commander, he was a combined JFC/JFACC/DIRMOBFOR in one role (doctrinally today this can still occur--however, usually only when the contingency response is a humanitarian airlift mission as was the Berlin Airlift or the Rwanda relief effort in the summer of 1994).

Due to his efforts to ýcarve outţ the command and control authority to get the mission done, General Tunner was the theater airlift commander who worked under the theater Air Force commander (CINCUSAFE) and (informally) coordinated with the strategic airlift community of Military Air Transport Service (MATS) (Tunner, 1964:186-190). This arrangement arguably became one of the initial cases of a what became the role of the COMALF--he controlled theater airlift and coordinated strategic airlift flow (although he was limited to only informal coordination with the strategic airlift force structure, because of inter-command power struggles). MATS aircraft and forces continued to operate the established global air logistics system, they were not direct participants of the actual contingency mission.


During the Korean war, as to the major theater airlift lessons, the Far East Air Forces reported that airlift missions and priorities should be established by the theater commander; airlift cannot be allocated exclusively for the use of any service except for special one-time requirements; all theater airlift should be concentrated in one command to achieve the maximum flexibility and best utilization. The report also concluded that the assignment of both the troop carrier and transport tasks to a single airlift commander was successful in that it provided maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the utilization of the theater Air Force airlift resources. (Williamson & Others, 1993:16)

Thus the Korean conflict was supported by a divided theater airlift system, that operated as part of a divided strategic and theater airlift system. Compounding this was the fact the services operated their own separate airlift systems, for their own purposes. Korea demonstrated how difficult it could be for airlift managers to coordinate any kind of efficient airlift system because of the large number of airlift efforts operating towards different goals.

Between Korea and Vietnam, agreements between the US Army and the USAF were established in order to consolidate service rivalry on airlift and airlift asset control and operation. It essentially removed the Army from the strategic and theater airlift business, with the Secretary of the Air Force being designated as the single manager of airlift service for the DoD (Kennedy, 1994:3-4).


Vietnam also proved again the need to establish a centralized command and control of airlift forces to avoid duplication of effort and needlessly exposing airlift resources to hostile action. Within Vietnam, there were initially separate organizations and control of theater airlift (Devereaux, 1994:8).

One official Air Force report on Vietnam--the Lindsay report--called attention to the fact that:

Duplication and/or overlap of responsibilities and functions occurred in aerial ports, airlift control elements/airlift command post/support squadrons, aeromed evac, mobile ALCEs, mobility teams and combat control team functions. In this case, there were two airlift forces with similar capabilities performing within and between an area command. The report recommended that all Air Force airlift assets be assigned to a single organization. (Williamson & Others, 1996:24)

Single control was argued in many forums as to who should control and schedule the assets: theater or centralized command. Divisions were forced between the variety of different air mobility airframes based on the individual aircraft's capabilities and range. The continued quest for control of airlift assists based on finely described differences in the type of airlift mission, finally resulted in the Corona Harvest Report advocating a "single airlift manager" in 1974 (Devereaux, 1994:12).

Single Airlift Control: The MAC Era Between 1974 and 1992

In a Program Decision Memorandum in July 1974, the Secretary of Defense directed the Air Force to consolidate all strategic and tactical airlift under the Commander, Military Airlift Command (MAC), who became the specified commander for airlift...the Joint Chiefs of Staff amended the Unified Command Plan effective 1 February 1977. The Commander in Chief, Military Airlift Command (CINCMAC), was named the commander of a specified command comprising all forces assigned for the accomplishment of his military airlift missions during wartime, periods of crisis, JCS exercises, and as necessary to ensure the operational support to other unified and specified commands. (Cole & others, 1993:48-49)

Theater airlift was managed by the MAC overseas air divisions, who were fully integrated within the total airlift system. "Seamless airlift" resulted from a single system that featured airlift experts, who operated at each juncture, and who understood the entire airlift system to transport men and equipment from the US based "fort" to the theater "foxhole."

A key point here is that, a multiple command mobility system can achieve the same effect as the single system by fully integrating the systems and by having airlift expertise, regardless of whose commands they operate under at the key junctures of the mobility process. However, in order for a multiple commanded mobility system to achieve this, all of the commands who operate the mobility forces need to make a uniform and coordinated commitment to provide for their "share" of the system. A key issue resulting from the consolidation of forces under MAC was the issue of command and control support of airlift forces to the theater commanders. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 further spelled out that control of assets was needed by the warfighters, to eliminate competing concerns other than the geographic CINC, within the CINC's AOR. The following contingency command and control arrangement was MAC's answer to provide theater airlift forces to the geographic CINC and TACON for transient strategic forces to the CINC's theater (DIRMOBFOR, 1996):

Figure 5

Figure 5: Pre-1992 Doctrine for Contingency Airlift Command & Control (DIRMOBFOR, 1996)

The pre-1992 structure had the MAC airlift divisions (ALDs) carrying out the planning, coordination, command and control efforts for the theater mission and transient strategic missions. The MAC airlift divisions worked in synchronization with the command and control center at the respective Numbered Air Forces (NAFs). The standup of the TACC essentially combined the efforts of the previous two MAC NAF command centers, and a portion of the theater MAC ALDs that managed transient strategic movement in the overseas theaters. The overseas theaters took over theater management aspect of the MAC ALD.

Similarities between pre and post-1992 contingency command and control structure. Comparing Figure 2 (the current mobility command and control doctrine for contingency operations), with Figure 4 (the pre-1992 contingency command and control arrangement), the similar features are:

1.) There was a centralized CONUS airlift command center--pre-1992, the MAC NAF currently accomplished by the TACC.

2.) There was a theater planning staff--pre-1992 the COMALF and the MAC ALD ALCC, the current is the theater ALCC under the AOC Director.

3.) Theater airlift was subordinate to the JFACC/AFCC.

4.) Strategic air mobility not supporting theater operations remained under control of the strategic system--pre-1992 this was controlled by the MAC NAF--currently controlled by the TACC.

5.) Transient strategic air mobility forces supporting the theater contingency mission were controlled the pre-1992 era by the COMALF and MAC ALD, and currently are by the AME.

Differences between pre and post-1992 contingency command and control structure. The differences between the pre-1992 era and the current doctrine arrangement are listed below:

1). The DIRMOBFOR is a coordinator, who de-conflicts and provides guidance. The COMALF was a subordinate commander to the JFACC.

2.) The MAC ALD integrated the efforts for the theater while being directly tied into the MAC strategic system. This allowed the COMALF and the MAC ALD to build air mobility support based on the most suitable asset and support package. Today, some theater missions are flown by C-130s that would be better accomplished by C-17s or C-141s, but are used because strategic forces are not as immediately available to the theater commander. The opposite holds true for missions tasked to AMC (DIRMOBFOR, 1996).

3.) Theater airlift planning and execution was accomplished in the pre-1992 era by air mobility experts within the MAC ALD, and supervised by the COMALF. Today's ALCC continues to have air mobility expertise, but separation of the ALCC and the AME fractures planning effort. The ALCC, under the command of the AOC Director, who primarily is not steeped in airlift expertise, has to turn to the informal guidance provided by the DIRMOBFOR. Thus, a separate AME from ALCC divides the planning effort for contingency airlift operations. Further, a DIRMOBFOR who advises without leading, is an under-use of a senior military officer. Military operations should be run through a clear concise command structure. What is needed is to have a single commander OPCON responsible to the JFACC and theater chain of command who will organize and lead the air mobility effort, with authority to command theater airlift and leverage to obtain needed support from strategic air mobility forces to support the contingency operation.

What's missing between pre-1992 and the current structure? Between the pre-1992 command arrangement and the current, there are essentially the same functions required to plan and execute a contingency air mobility operation. There are more defined agencies now to accomplish that effort. The reason for this is because there are two defined and separated air mobility systems, that requires each system to provide for its own forces and integrate with the other system. Many of the jobs remain the same, but there are just more partitions between the personnel.

However, as discussed, the effort for contingency air mobility suffers because of the loss of the COMALF, (or COMMOBFOR) who provided overarching command to the JFACC for the planning and execution effort. What is not displayed is the relationship between the unified command's movement centers and their subordinate commands, prior to 1992, those agencies were evolving to their present state.


USTRANSCOM and its air component, MAC, were fully engaged in the entire air movement system. Strategic airlift moved cargo into theater, which was then handed over to the theater airlift forces who transported the cargo to the final destination. The Commander of Airlift Forces, Lieutenant General Edwin Tenoso (then a Brigadier General), was a deployed MAC leader who served the theater JFACC, and ran the theater airlift in coordination with MAC for incoming strategic airlift cargo (Leiser, 1991). Single management of the airlift resulted in the control of all theater mobility forces by the deployed MAC COMALF who was OPCON under the JFACC and JFC for orchestrating theater airlift, while having a direct connection to exercise TACON for strategic airlift forces and flow into the theater. As a result, the airlift was appropriately apportioned as requested by the customer, the warfighting CINC:

Initially, airlift was a top priority[for the buildup of forces in theater]...we (MAC) always focus on pushing things forward....Now, as we were doing this, we certainly were working the priority system with USCENTCOM (the supported CINC)...to properly apportion all available military and civilian lift. (Matthews & Smith, 1992:5-6)

In essence, the MAC theater airlift system that deployed to the gulf war remained plugged into the parent MAJCOM. The COMALF was essentially a forward deployed MAC operator who was immediately available to the customer--the geographic CINC--to command, organize and accomplish theater airlift and coordinate strategic airlift into theater with the control elements of MAC. "During Operations DESERT SHIELD/STORM, theater airlift provided the theater CINC the means to effectively air transport high-priority/readiness-critical equipment, supplies, and personnel from strategic ports to the forward operating bases" (Bailey & Reed, 1992:2).

USAF Restructuring of Airlift Forces in 1992

The Air Force was reorganized under the Global Reach - Global Power strategy following the conclusion of the Cold War. The USAF Chief of Staff, General Merrill McPeak, restructured the Air Force along the belief that theater USAF component commanders need to command all theater assets as a unified whole within their theaters. Towards that belief, AMC became the lead advocate and manager for all tanker and airlift. That same year, the Secretary of Defense vested USCINCTRANS as the DoD Single Manager for Transportation for both peace and war, changing USTRANSCOM's original wartime only charter which had been established when the command was formed (Kennedy, 1994:8-9). This realignment was more in-line with the original intent of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

Under the direction of General McPeak, MAC stood down as the single "air mobility" manager for DoD and AMC stood up as the "strategic" air mobility manager (still as USTRANSCOM's air component). The geographic CINCs received COCOM of theater airlift forces residing within their theaters, and their USAF component commanders operated those theater airlift forces (McPeak, 1995:61-66, 147-148).

General McPeak's policy decision was to essentially break up the single mobility manager for the USAF, dividing along the distinction of strategic and theater missions and shifting control of the theater assets to the theater commanders. It was General McPeak's belief that theater airlift is more responsive to the theater it serves if the full control (vice operational control--the ability to tell airlift forces where/when to fly during contingency operations) of those theater assets which belonged to the theater Air Force commander (McPeak, 1995: 91-93).

An axiom that follows General McPeak's philosophy of centralized control of theater forces is aligned along this thought: "Air warfare cannot be separated into little packets; it knows no boundaries on land and sea other than those imposed by the radius of action of the aircraft; it is a unity and demands unity of command--Air Marshall Arthur Tedder" (Meilinger, 1996:55).

The idea to allocate theater air mobility assets to the USAF theater commander was originally advocated by General McPeak while he was serving as the Pacific Air Forces Commander, "in order to consolidate air assets under a single commander" (Krisinger, 1995:32). General McPeak reasoned that "the Air Force's organizational structure had moved away from simplicity in command structures and to a general reliance on a single controlling authority in theater operations" (Krisinger, 1995:32).

The 1992 reorganization of the structure of airlift was just a part of the massive reorganization that occurred as the USAF re-focused its vision following the conclusion of the Cold War. The previously functionally aligned Air Force operational major command missions were blended into the two major themes based on the Air Force's vision of Global Reach and Global Power: AMC stood up as the Global Reach administrator, (keeping alignment as MAC had under USTRANSCOM) while ACC and the other theater commands focused on Global Power operations. The result was dividing theater airlift between AMC and the theater commands (McPeak, 1995:86-97), with the subsequent complete divestiture of theater airlift from AMC in 1993 (Matthews & Leland, 1995:22).

Unfortunately, the division of the mobility systems created difficulties between strategic and theater airlift systems because of the minimal integration and coordination between those forces coupled with a poor remaining infrastructure for the management of the theater air mobility forces. Previously, theater airlift had been run by a MAC dedicated airlift division, headed by a general officer, with a robust supporting staff. This airlift division coordinated and commanded theater airlift operations that comprised an extensive theater network. The realignment of theater airlift forces occurred virtually simultaneously with the USAF force drawdowns from the overseas theaters. The result was the remaining airlift staff retained under the geographic CINC's control was a fraction of the former theater airlift staff and infrastructure (DIRMOBFOR, 1996).

The airlift system is complicated, and the division of that system realistically entails considerable coordination, and infrastructure throughout. This issue was highlighted by Lt Col Robert Owens in his Airpower Journal article on "The Airlift System, A Primer:"

The national military airlift system of the United States and its associated policy-making processes are enormously complex...most airlift policy makers understand they are dealing with a system of interconnected and interdependent parts. But the stakes and intensity of the policy process can obscure their systematic perspective and thereby allow decision makers to consider proposals that offer substantial advantages to one element of the airlift system, while simultaneously undermining its overall efficiency and effectiveness. (Owens, 1995:17)


Operation PROVIDE PROMISE was the humanitarian relief operation that delivered aid to the residents of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina via airland missions and besieged Muslim enclaves via formation airdrop missions. The effort was the longest running airlift in history, spanning from July 1992 until December 1995. The effort was supported by the USAF commands of USAFE, AMC and ACC, both active duty and ARC units. From July 1992 until October 1994, the airlift was conducted at the 435th Airlift Wing at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. From October 1994 until completing the mission in December 1995, the mission was conducted primarily by forces assigned to 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, at either Ramstein or the deployed location at Ancona, Italy. The mission was operationally controlled by USAFE, while AMC and ACC provided support forces. At Rhein-Main Air Base, there were both USAFE theater and AMC tenant forces. The AMC tenant group's mission at Rhein-Main was to handle the strategic flow of aircraft to transship material to the theater airlift forces. In addition to its primary mission, the AMC group provided unparalleled support to the theater fleet which was conducting the bulk of the PROVIDE PROMISE mission. The AMC tenant support was critical to executing the mission. The 1992 division of command of strategic and theater airlift forces had resulted in AMC gaining the bulk of the equipment and manning to load and unload aircraft at Rhein-Main. The tenant AMC support of Rhein-Main's PROVIDE PROMISE effort enabled mission success. The effect of that support was the entire base, whether part of the wing or tenant, was in concert with performing the mission. The mission benefited from this team effort. Significant credit for this effort goes to the leadership at Rhein-Main who understood how to form a unified effort, despite not having formal tasking to control non-theater assigned AMC tenant forces.

Once the mission transferred to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein, the element of a base level USAFE and AMC team effort for the operation suffered. Despite drawing back the scale of the operation compared to the surge tempo at Rhein-Main, very little support from the AMC tenant support group was available to support the theater airlift effort. The leadership change associated with the transfer failed to preserve the command arrangement that existed previously at Rhein-Main, reducing the cooperation between the two commands.

The lesson learned from this operation was that even at the wing level, command relationships must be focused on effective coordination between commands. Effective integration existed at Rhein-Main, but did not exist at Ramstein, even though both wings had essentially the same command structure. The coordinated effort and interface of a team that operated at the same location, while still belonging to separate commands provides a lesson on the value of integrating strategic and theater air mobility efforts.


As described in Chapter I, the deployment of US and NATO forces into Bosnia for the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords revealed several challenges for integrating mobility efforts. The deployment was the first large scale operation that had C-17 participation, which helped to bring into focus that duplication of effort resulting from separate organizational structures for airlift. The Balkan airlift mission was a classic case of the "air logistics" aspect of the dual nature of theater airlift as previously defined. The airlift used both AMC C-17s and USAFE C-130 aircraft in a pure "theater" role that remained predominantly under two separate chain of commands:

The theater AFCC--in this case USAFE--did not have the control, visibility over, or responsibility for those C-17s that flew a substantially larger share of the theater load than its own European based C-130s. The C-17s along with other AMC aircraft--C-141s and C-5s--flying traditional European theater missions to the Balkans in support of the theater commander, operated through a predominantly AMC/USTRANSCOM command, control and support system. Meanwhile, C-130s operated via separate USAFE channels. These two different networks of control and support only awkwardly communicated with each other and thereby lost synergy's [sic] of mutual support, effectiveness and efficiency. (Krisinger, 1996:17)

In this operation, AMC retained OPCON of the C-17 and supporting forces, although those forces were performing a purely theater role. The AME became a part of a combined (US and NATO forces) Regional Air Movement Control Center (RAMCC) which served under the guidance of the DIRMOBFOR who was a deployed AMC general officer. The AME exercised OPCON forward from the TACC under the guidance of the DIRMOBFOR for the AMC deployed forces supporting the geographic CINC. This arrangement allowed those forces to remain available to execute the national two MRC security strategy if needed (DIRMOBFOR, 1996). The analysis of this command and control arrangement is that the relationship between commands for control of forces can and will be manipulated to allow the commands to meet the needs of their individual missions and charters.

If the Balkan implementation scenario had turned into a combat insertion vice the air logistics effort that it was, several key differences may have resulted. First, a combat insertion of ground forces would have relied heavily on the combat attributes of a theater air component controlled primarily C-130 operation that was integrated in a tactical theater air campaign plan. Second, the C-17 probably would not have been committed to a tactical insertion to the same level that C-130s at this early stage in that weapons system's operational use. In this case, the C-17 could have primarily served a non-hostile staging area, with the C-130 fleet performing primarily the tactical "last leg' into the conflict area. Thus, in this example, effective coordination and interface between the AOC, ALCC and AME staff elements would be crucial to the success of the operation.

Historical Lessons Learned

The Air Force has had difficulty in trying to establish "who" should be the controller of airlift forces and "how" should those forces should be managed. Many airlift advocates have argued that air mobility should be operated by a single command structure, on a global scale. Theater Air Force commanders have historically argued that they are the best ones to control airlift assets that operate within their area of responsibility. Aircraft weapon systems are a focal point of interest, but seamlessness occurs from proper operation of the aircraft within an integrated air mobility system:

This distinction between theater airlift and strategic airlift has little to do with the capability of the aircraft employed or differing requirements for command & control (C2) or aerial ports. C-130s can be and are employed "strategically" across theater boundaries--just as T-Tails are; C-5s, C-141s, and now C-17s are employed in the tactical role. Basic C2 and aerial port requirements are common to the strategic and tactical segments." (White Paper 1996:1)

It appears that the USAF keeps relearning some lessons of how to best organize and execute airlift. A common issue that appears throughout history is that airlift under a single system is more effective overall--seamlessness is easier to obtain because coordination between forces is reduced. Conversely, geographic CINC control of all the forces that operate within the theater is a pillar of military belief. Thus, there are two reasons the USAF is relearning the lesson. First, ownership of theater airlift forces is a tough call to make. Both sides of the argument have compelling reasons why ownership of theater airlift is best vested under a particular command arrangement. Second, technology improves the capability of mobility systems constantly, outpacing the development of doctrine for command and control of forces.

The best illustration of this example is the C-17 aircraft and support system. The C-17 can easily fill both a theater and strategic role. The aircraft's ability to perform both the strategic and theater mission allows USTRANSCOM and AMC the ability to support the theater air movement to the degree that a few deployed C-17s can overwhelm the theater assigned airlift fleet in tonnage moved (DIRMOBFOR, 1996).

Separation of forces duplicates effort. A single coordinated effort concentrates forces for maximum effect. As mentioned previously, in an era when defense budgets continue to decline, the stand up of separate theater stovepipe structures that essentially mirror the global structure of AMC, is a dispersal of force that duplicates efforts. This is especially noteworthy when Air Force doctrine is applied: "Air Force units should be organized to best harness people, equipment and operational methods" (AFM 1-1, 1992:18). Further, "singleness of control" is fundamental: "Aerospace power is most effective when it is focused in purpose and not needlessly dispersed" (AFM 1-1, 1992:8).

Thus, organization of theater airlift is a challenge. Does singleness of control mean that the geographic CINC should command all forces in the theater, including theater airlift? Or should USCINCTRANS command all the forces that comprise the airlift system, to best harness the essence of "singleness of control?"

The USAF needs to agree on a plan to organize and execute its airlift forces, and then stick with it. As the historical issues indicate, the organization and command of theater airlift forces has shifted back and forth between theater command and a functional central command. The Air Force as a whole should decide how to overcome the differences between commands and structure an airlift system that uses the assets as a unified team. Each operational command within the Air Force is responsible for some aspect of national security strategy. The relationship over command of airlift forces needs to be aware of those aspects to best posture how airlift forces will operate to serve its common-user customers.


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