Total mobility flow: a post-Kosovo role for the DIRMOBFOR. (Inside Logistics: Exploring the Heart of Logistics).
Lieutenant General William J. Begert, USAFE Vice Commander
The commander in chief (CING) did not have a total mobility flowmaster fusing the strategic mobility triad (airlift, sealift, and prepositioning) during Operation Allied Force. Rather, he had a director of mobility forces (DTRMOBFOR) whose focus centered on airlift coordination. A sealift and prepositioning coordinator was missing, which resulted in a stovepiped and less-than optimal mobility flow in the CING's theater of operations. Simply put, use of airlift was lopsided compared to use of sealift and prepositioned assets.
To capitalize on experience gained during Operation Allied Force, this article investigates the post-Kosovo role of the director of mobility forces in integrating the total mobility system, thus enabling the commander in chief to enhance force buildup and closure capability in the future. Two critical things were not accomplished effectively during Operation Allied Force, which degraded achieving the CING's objectives. First, establishing various task force (TF) organizations to support different missions, as well as separation of the director of mobility forces and joint forces air component commander (JFACC), disrupted unity of command. Second, there was no single flowmaster to fuse all mobility requirements.
Key players in Operation Allied Force were the director of mobility forces and operational commanders (commander in chief, joint force commander, commander joint task force, and component/functional commanders). The director of mobility forces exercised coordinating authority between the airlift control center, air mobility element, joint movement center, and air operations center to expedite the resolution of airlift problems. (2) The duties and authority of the director of mobility forces were as directed by the commander, commander of Air Force forces (COMAFFOR), or JFACC to satisfy the objectives of the joint force commander. (3) The operational commanders were responsible for accomplishing the objectives of the commander in chief, They are the operators who can make the DIRMOBFOR job easy or difficult, depending on how theater command and control (C2) is organized.
There is general agreement among operational commanders that airlift is the preferred choice for rapid delivery of combat power or humanitarian relief to trouble spots worldwide- specifically, deployment, sustainment, and simply doing good things for Americans and other nations needing help. Colonel Coy, Operation Allied Force Deputy Director of Mobility Forces, affirmed this preference when he said, "Airlift is like candy. Everybody wants some ... I want it now ... I want it all." (4) Unfortunately, there is insufficient candy to pass around to everyone. Thus, use of other lift assets, such as sealift, is important and necessary.
When the Cold War ended, the Air Force formulated its Global Reach, Global Power vision. Essentially, Global Reach represented the strategic capability of the mobility air forces to deploy, sustain, and redeploy warfighters and their equipment to any part of the globe. Global Power reflected the combat forces' contribution to the equation. Today, the Air Force vision is the ability to deploy an aerospace expeditionary force to any brewing conflict or contingency on a moment's notice.
Historically, mobility air forces have proven their mettle when confronted with conflicts or contingencies. This was done under the leadership of commanders sporting a variety of titles: commander of airlift forces during the Cold War; commander of mobility forces during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm; and director of mobility forces following Desert Shield/Desert Storm, in particular during Operation Allied Force.
Lineage of Mobility Air Forces
The lineage of air mobility forces goes back to the World War II Hump airlift experience in Asia. Lieutenant General William H. Tunner controlled theater airlift distribution within China, while Major General Claire Chennault commanded the air combat forces. (5) Tunner believed his controlling airlift both into and within China facilitated the most effective utilization of assets. Chennault argued that, as Burma airlift assets periodically performed air distribution within China, he should control and direct them once they arrived in his theater. However, external developments caused by increased offensive maneuvers from Japanese forces compelled Chennault to concentrate totally on combat operations, allowing Tunner to retain sole control of airlift. (6)
During the Berlin Airlift (1948-49), General Tunner served as the theater airlift commander and worked under the commander in chief, United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). Tunner coordinated informally with the Military Air Transport Service, the predecessor of Military Airlift Command (MAC) and today's Air Mobility Command (AMC). (7)
During the Korean conflict, air mobility forces were supported by a divided airlift system operating as part of a divided strategic theater airlift system. The Army and the Air Force operated their own airlift systems, which compounded this division--unity of control was almost nonexistent. This inefficient practice was discouraged when the Secretary of the Air Force was designated as the single airlift manager for the Department of Defense. (8)
The Vietnam War repeated the Korean airlift experience. For example, overlap of responsibilities and functions in the aerial ports was standard. A Corona Harvest report advocated a single airlift manager, and the practice of overlapping responsibilities was stopped in 1974. (9)
Single airlift control, as practiced by MAC between 1974 and 1992, produced seamless airlift that resulted from a system featuring airlift experts who operated at each intra- and intertheater location. They understood airlift's role in transporting people and equipment from the US-based fort to the theater foxhole. (10)
During this period, the airlift commanders resided in the European and Pacific theaters. In Europe, the commander of the [322.sup.d] Airlift Division, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, was dual-hatted as commander of airlift forces during contingencies. The commander of airlift forces worked for the JFACC or CINCUSAFE. Similarly, the commander of the 834th Airlift Division, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, performed these same functions. This commander worked for the JFACC or commander in chief, Pacific Air Forces. However, the post-Cold War drawdown and reorganization eliminated this structure.
In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization executed Operation Allied Force to stop Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. To achieve the operation's objective, a massive deployment of aircraft, troops, and cargo was required, and a high-tempo sustainment operation was established to put teeth into the commitment. Airlift and tanker assets made this effort possible (Tables 1 and 2). (11)
During Operation Allied Force, the director of the combined air operations center resided in Vicenza, Italy. The JFACC empowered the director of the combined operations center to integrate air operations via the air-tasking order. Hence, the director of mobility forces had to maintain dialog with the director of the combined operations center to achieve airlift integration in the air operations scheme.
The director of mobility forces, in concurrence with the COMAFFOR, elected to run operations within the USAFE Air Mobility Operations Control Center (AMOCC) at Ramstein. This decision was reached because the AMOCC had the strongest connectivity and reachback capability and held status as the major airlift hub within the region. (12) Reachback is defined as extensive use of forward-deployed sensor platforms while maintaining data reduction and analysis components at the home base. (13) Also, experience and lessons learned from Operation Joint Endeavor supporting humanitarian relief for Bosnia made it a mature theater command and control node. (14)
Airlift contributions to Operation Allied Force were unprecedented. General Charles T. Robertson, Jr, commander in chief, US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM)--in comparing the use of airlift during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Allied Force--noted, "In ODS 9.6 % of the cargo moved by air, whereas in Operation Allied Force, 62.4 % of the cargo moved by air." (15) Sealift was used to move the Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers construction equipment, Navy Seabee equipment, humanitarian airlift cargo, and ammunition from the continental United States to overseas and within the theater of operations. (16)
Unquestionably, Allied Force airlift broke the model of the traditional deployment and sustainment ratio of 10-percent airlift and 90-percent sealift typical since post-World War II. NATO attributed this unprecedented shift in airlift allocation to the reliance of senior leaders on an air campaign to decrease casualties. Some may claim the shift was caused by the unintended pursuit of using airlift before sealift, understandable because of an instinctive desire to go with the fastest mode when under pressure. But there was a price to pay.
Analysis: One Boss, One Team, and One Mission
Unlike the Berlin Airlift and MAC era when there was a clearly distinct, single airlift boss, the Allied Force DIRMOBFOR had to please multiple masters. Some may argue that Operation Allied Force was more complex than the Berlin Airlift because it involved an air-superiority campaign, force buildup, and humanitarian operations. On the other hand, the MAC-era structure may have resolved this dilemma smoothly because of a single boss arrangement, which normally simplifies unity of effort.
While the director of the combined operations center was busy fighting the air campaign that lasted for 78 days under one boss, the director of mobility forces was not as fortunate. To support both the air combat forces and air mobility forces, the director of mobility forces had to base the air mobility division (AMD) at two operating locations. One was AMD Forward, located in NATO's Regional Air Movement Control Center in Vicenza, which integrated airlift operations with the air tasking order. The other was AMD Rear, which was embedded in the AMOCC at Ramstein and coordinated the main air logistics support effort in the region.
This C2 arrangement could have spoiled the DIRMOBFOR's role as the contingency airlift flowmaster. Tasked to support demanding and politically sensitive multiple joint task force (JTF) logistics airlift operations, the consequences to the director of mobility forces could have been devastating. The support included humanitarian relief operations (JTF Shining Hope), Kosovo Forces support (JTF Falcon), a major military operation to stop Serbian atrocities in Kosovo (JTF Noble Anvil), and an Apache helicopter deployment to Tirana (TF Hawk). He also administered support for varied distinguished visitors (operational airlift support) and maintained selective air routes for continuous sustainment. (17)
Needless to say, this multisupport requirement was a coordination nightmare. Each of these complex operations required the director of mobility forces to master the balancing act of serving as airlift flowmaster and as diplomat to satisfy all the customers' needs.
For Operation Allied Force, the director of mobility forces was not located with the JFACC, much the same as in China in World War II, but coordination of airlift was clearly his responsibility, unlike the situation with Tunner and Chennault. From a C2 or airlift management perspective, it was very difficult for the director of mobility forces to support multiple and concurrent task force operations. He was expected to provide equal support to each of the JTF's missions because each mission bore equal importance in order of support due to political and military constraints from higher headquarters.
It would have been simpler for the director of mobility forces to prioritize air mobility assets if there had been a single joint force commander synchronizing the actions of the operational commanders. At least, if this concept of operations had been adopted, it could have streamlined and simplified the airlift request process.
A possible solution might have been for the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe to designate Allied Forces South to serve as the command element for all joint task forces and components or functional commanders. For example, when the director of mobility forces was challenged to concurrently support other joint task forces such as Falcon and Shining Hope with equal importance in mission priority, the C2 issue became more complicated and complex. Specifically, the director of mobility forces had to serve multiple users with different objectives. This type of environment violates two of the nine principles of war: simplicity and unity of command.
Integration of Air Operations Center
In fairness, under the circumstances and mission demands of Allied Force, the CINC's decision to separate the director of mobility forces from the director of the combined operations center allowed the JFACC to concentrate efforts on the battle. He did this by integrating the elements of combat power at his disposal, including theater air defense, combat air refueling, airborne surveillance, and command and control aircraft.
Equally important, the separation enabled the COMAFFOR to sustain air logistics support to a myriad of JTF customers. But what was sacrificed by allowing this separation to occur? According to Service and joint doctrines, the JFACC and COMAFFOR can be a single, dual-hatted position. However, during Operation Allied Force, the commander in chief decided to keep the JFACC separated from the COMAFFOR. The JFACC effectively focused on the fight, with minimum disruptions associated with air logistics support and service administrative control. The JFACC executed the air campaign through the director of the combined operations center responsible for ensuring the air and space planning and execution processes. In other words, he planned, directed, and executed joint air operations in support of the joint force commander's operational objectives. (18) In contrast, the JFACC and the COMAFFOR wore the same hat, which simplified unity of effort for the director of mobility forces to support air logistics operations duri ng Desert Storm.
Conversely, the director of mobility forces did not work under one roof and one boss. He became a man with many homes and masters, who made frequent visits to the area of responsibility to ensure air logistics support was uninterrupted and the coordination chain was not broken. The complexity of this C2 airlift scenario would cause Tunner to turn in his grave.
To compensate for this handicap, the director of mobility forces had to capitalize on the existing infrastructure. By using a hybrid approach, he integrated AMC's air mobility element or air mobility division staff with USAFE's AMOCC staff to combine airlift operations as much as possible. (19) He also established the AMD Forward and AMD Rear, in conjunction with NATO's Regional Air Movement Control Center and AMOCC, to support JTF Noble Anvil's air logistics sustainment for the air fight.
Reliance on Airlift Support Exceeded Its Capability
The Allied Force mobility experience was an anomaly in that it was predominately an airlift effort. The multiple and concurrent airlift operations to support deployment and redeployment, humanitarian relief operations, and air campaign sustainment could have reached a culminating point if there had been competing airlift requirements to support another theater of operations.
The Air Force made it clear in a mobility study that its airlift capability can support only one major theater war (MTW). According to TRANSCOM officials, the US military has one MTW [airlift] force to fight a two-MTW strategy. (20) For instance, during Operation Allied Force, the AMC-tasked mobility forces spent two-thirds of the total airlift assets! (21)
Should commanders in chief be alarmed by this stretched airlift capability? According to the report to Congress on Kosovo and Operation Allied Force, the proper use of all means of strategic lift, supported by earlier assessment of ground-and-sea infrastructure, might result in faster force closure in future deployments. (22) Accordingly, Brigadier General Robert D. Bishop's (director of mobility forces during Allied Force) joint transportation experience and familiarity with the theater's geography and staff allowed him to effectively recommend usage of other modes of transportation when practical and economical. (23) However, Bishop's effort was not enough to achieve a proper balance of all facets of the mobility triad. Overreliance on airlift during Operation Allied Force affirmed that some operators were unaware of other parts of the strategic mobility triad. The commanders in chief should suggest that TRANSCOM perform a feasibility study that examines expanding the DIRMOBFOR's role into one of total mobi lity flowmaster. Presently, no system exists to fuse all lift aspects into a coherent enabling force in a theater. The closest structures in the CINC's staff with an interest in this issue are the Joint Movement Center and Joint Operations Planning and Execution System (also known as Jopesters) staffs and the TRANSCOM liaison. However, these staffs normally handle issues at the operational level and may not have an operator's tactical view of the battlefield. One possible solution to alleviate this issue is to integrate a Military Sealift Command and Military Traffic Management Command liaison with the DIRMOBFOR staff to ensure sealift considerations are equally weighed in as airlift. In short, allocation of elements within the mobility triad is fragmented and stovepiped and needs a quick fix to achieve efficiency. An airlift model using the DIRMOBFOR template should be explored for sealift and prepositioning elements to perpetuate an integrated mobility system--responsive, agile, and flexible to the CINC's needs.
What if the air campaign had lasted more than 180 days versus 78 days? Would airlift capability have continued to deteriorate? When factoring in C-141 and C-5 aging because of overuse, reliability problems, and a smaller forward operating base presence, one could envision a broken air mobility system!
Even when all C-17s and C-5s are fully operational, the warfighters need to continue capitalizing on use of sealift because the C-141s are overworked and have reached their life expectancy. The Air Force has retired 77 C-141s, but approximately 120 remain in the active duty fleet, with 47 in the Reserves. (24) As of October 1999, only 24 of 163 C-141s and 22 of 126 C-5s were available for missions. (25) Fortunately, Operation Allied Force was already over, thus keeping these poor reliability rates from making a tremendous dent in the mission. The C-5 mission-capable rate has gotten so bad that it compelled TRANSCOM to make two C-5s available for each mission to ensure it had one plane that worked. (26)
Undoubtedly, this condition could pose a challenge for a commander in chief when requesting forces in response to the National Command Authority's mandate. To compensate for this shortfall in organic airlift support, the Secretary of Defense, through TRANSCOM, may have to activate the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to meet a major theater crisis. Another possible alternative is maximizing the use of another element of the strategic triad to reduce the airlift footprint.
The Air Force has 40-plus C-17s in the inventory, and Congress has approved the purchase of a total of 135. (27) This number, however, challenges the flexibility of air mobility forces to satisfy the needs of the commander in chief. In the words of General Robertson:
The USAF "trading" 217 C-141s for 135 C-17s in a one-for-two swap will cause problems. Despite the C-17's lifting capacity, one airplane cannot be in two places at the same time. What we have is a significant loss of flexibility and capability in peacetime to serve the customers. (28)
An Allied Force success story was AMC' s transfer of tactical control of 12 C-17s to the USAFE commander during the deployment of both TF Hawk and TF Falcon. (29) No doubt, this transfer allowed the director of mobility forces to improve airlift effectiveness, efficiency, and synergy. The transfer was possible because USAFE was considered a mature theater with the right reachback and C2 connectivity and Joint Endeavor experience. The practice can best be carried out on a sortie-by-sortie basis when airlift is most effective and economical. This demonstration of operational art enabled the mobility air force team, under the able leadership of the director of mobility forces, to achieve a mission success rate of 93.6 percent. (30)
Suppose the director of mobility forces had resided in the combined operations center under the leadership of the JFACC. Would he have been as successful as working for the COMAFFOR? Some say he would have been more successful because he would have better adhered to the singleness of control fundamental: aerospace power is most effective when it is focused in purpose and not needlessly dispersed. (31) Others would suggest that it does not matter for whom he works; he will get the job done if empowered to handle the entire logistics airlift under well-defined command and control. The real issue is not about who is the boss; it is about the principle of achieving unity of effort by streamlining the C2 layers.
Facing the Future
One Joint Force Commander
The commander in chief needs one joint force commander to effectively, efficiently, and synergistically employ airlift resources. Equally important, a perpetual link between the director of mobility forces and the JFACC or COMAFFOR should be pursued to strengthen the joint force commander's role as a single boss for all airlift apportionment and priority. Moreover, by linking the director of mobility forces to the JFACC, the commander in chief or commander of the joint task force would have a dedicated entry point for logistical air movements. A potential value added exists if commanders in chief and TRANSCOM adopt the proposed DIRMOBFOR's expanded role as the theater's total mobility flowmaster during a contingency. The benefit from this expanded role should provide the commander of the joint task force a dedicated entry point for all logistical movements in the joint area of operations.
Separation of the air mobility operations control center and director of mobility forces could work if reachback capabilities continue to improve. However, separation of the director of mobility forces and the JFACC should be avoided as much as possible to integrate all aspects of air operations. They should be collocated to ensure airlift needs are effectively met. This system worked well during the pre-Desert Shield/Desert Storm period.
The warfighters should exploit the strategic mobility triad to relieve the airlift operations tempo. According to its new vision, the Army intends to create a rapid-deployment force capable of putting combat forces anywhere in the world in 96 hours after lift-off. (32) In the same manner, the Air Force plans to move five aerospace expeditionary forces in 15 days. (33) Surely, this vision is ambitious and calls for full employment of the strategic mobility triad as well as wider accessibility to host-nation support and contingency contracting.
To meet this rapid deployment vision, the commanders in chief should consider growing and nurturing a director of mobility forces capable of infusing the strategic mobility triad into a coherent and responsive system. Simply put, the commanders in chief need more than an airlift flowmaster. They need a total mobility flowmaster capable of coordinating all elements of the triad to improve force closure. Similarly, the Services' foreign area officers and Embassy country teams should capitalize on the host-nation infrastructure to complement the critical factors of the triad. When appropriate and relevant, this new role should be integrated into joint training and professional military education to increase situational awareness of the mobility triad.
There is no question that decreased airlift capability and forward-operating bases pose a challenge to the operational commanders. Innovation and increased discipline in enforcing current doctrine could ease their concern. The following recommendations are worthy of exploration:
* Designate a single joint force commander, when possible, to command a major operation. The joint force commander's role as a single point of contact would allow the director of mobility forces to prioritize and apportion limited airlift assets. He does this by supporting the commanders' airlift requirements on a particular day and on a specific mission specified by the joint force commander through the JFACC.
* Make the director of mobility forces and JFACC inseparable. Collocation of JFACC and the director of mobility forces under one roof should be pursued whenever feasible to optimize and simplify working relationships. A total reliance on a reachback capability approach lacks the human touch that works well when working under the same roof, rather than communicating via electrons across the pond.
* Educate and train warfighters in the strategic mobility triad. The fusion of airlift, sealift, and prepositioning elements produces an effective lift capability for the operational commanders. Not everyone can be first in line for airlift.
* Expand the DIRMOBFOR's role to become the total mobility flowmaster. This expanded role should allow the commander in chief to enhance force buildup and closure because it would maximize use of all the strategic mobility triad elements.
After a half century of airlift, the possibility of misapplication still lurks. Operation Allied Force nearly caused the airlift system to reach its culminating point in a relatively minor conflict. A team effort from the participants averted this potential downfall. The DIRMOBFOR's utility to the operational commanders can be achieved by properly applying a unity of effort and command principles. The concept of one boss, one team, and one mission will streamline and synchronize airlift support. Linking the JFACC and director of mobility forces in the air operations center would effectively match limited assets against unlimited requirements. Educating and training airlift users on the viability of the entire strategic mobility triad may help ease airlift operations tempo.
Allied Force's experience confirmed that all elements of the strategic mobility triad were not fully engaged because there was no single mobility flowmaster dedicated to integrate them into a coherent, agile, and responsive system. In short, there was no DIRMOBFOR-like model for sealift and prepositioning similar to the airlift piece.
Clearly, a commander in chief needs a director of mobility forces who can effectively leverage not only the airlift piece but also the full spectrum of the strategic mobility triad. This expanded role should provide the commander in chief another tool to enhance force buildup and closure capability in the future.
Table 1. Airlift and Tanker Report Card Airlift Missions STons Pax TF Hawk 737 22,937 7,745 TF Falcon 253 11,886 2,525 Shining Hope 264 6,422 943 Flex Anvil 1,169 1,742 Sky Anvil 889 1,970 Tanker Missions STons Pax Tanker Data 6,959 311,700,000 lbs offloaded B-2 global power 48 15,800,000 lbs offloaded 306 tanker sorties Table 2. Intratheater Lift Successes C-17 Sorties C-130 Sorties STons TF Hawk (8 Apr 99-6 May 99) 442 269 22,937 TE Falcon 253 26 11,948 Joint Endeavor (8 Dec 95-9 Feb 96) 494 791 23,883
(1.) William J. Begert, "Kosovo and Theater Air Mobility," Aerospace Power Journal, Winter 1999, 16.
(2.) Joint Publication 4-01.1, Joint Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures for Airlift Support to Joint Operations, Washington DC, 20 Jul 96, II-10.
(4.) Colonel Coy, Deputy DIRMOBFOR Operation Allied Force, Working Brief, Air Mobility Warfare Center Course, "DIRMOBFOR," AMWC, Courseware, Fort Dix, New Jersey, Mar 00.
(5.) William H. Tunner, Over the Hump, New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1964, 116-124.
(7.) Tunner, 186-190.
(8.) Betty R. Kennedy, "Evolution of Roles and Missions Authorities Vested in AMC and USTRANSCOM, 1941-1994," background paper, Headquarters AMC Historian's Office, 30 Nov 94, 3-4.
(9.) Richard T. Devereaux, "Theater Airlift Management and Control: Should We Turn Back the Clock to Be Ready for Tomorrow," School of Advanced Airpower Studies thesis, Sep 94, 12.
(10.) Randy A. Kee, "Historical Lessons from Air Mobility Operations," Aerospace Power Journal Air Chronicles [Online] Available: maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/research/bridge/chp3.htm.4.
(12.) Author's telephone interview with Dennis D'Angelo, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, 17 Apr 00.
(13.) Report to Congress, "Kosovo/Operation Allied Force After-Action Report," 31 Jan 00, 55.
(15.) John A. Tirpak, "Kosovo Retrospective," Air Force Magazine, Apr 00, 1.
(16.) Author's telephone interview with Jay Standring, Military Sealift Command Headquarters, 5 Jun 00.
(18.) Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Washington DC, 15 Apr 98, 20.
(20.) Bryant Jordan and Sean Naylor. "Too Heavy," Army Times, 6 Sep 99, 14.
(21.) Begert, 11-21.
(22.) "Kosovo/Operation Allied Force After-Action Report, 41.
(24.) Bryant Jordan, "Guard Wants C-141 Reprieve, "Air Force Times, 8 Nov 99, 16.
(26.) William Matthews, "Weapons and Warfare," Air Force Times, 25 Oct 99, 18.
(28.) Tirpak, 1.
(29.) Begert, 11-21.
(32.) George Seffers and Robert Holzer, "Focus on Better Sealift, Airlift," Marines Times, 8 May 00, 24.
(33.) Bruce Rolfsen, "One Measure of Strength: How Fast Can Air Force Move?" Air Force Times, 8 May 00, 20.
Colonel Cabana is the commander of the 37th Logistics Group, Lackland AFB, Texas.