A Framework for Enhancing Airlift Planning and Execution Capabilities Within the Joint Expeditionary Movement System

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How can the Air Force improve the planning and execution activities associated with developing intratheater airlift operations witin the military joint end to end miltomodal movement system?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780833038333
  • Publisher: Rand Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.42 (d)

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A Framework for Enhancing Airlift Planning and Execution Capabilities Within the Joint Expeditionary Movement System

By Robert S. Tripp Kristin F. Lynch Charles Robert Roll, Jr., John G. Drew Patrick Mills

Rand Corporation

Copyright © 2006 RAND Corporation
All right reserved.

Chapter One


Airlift planning and execution, part of the Theater Distribution System (TDS), are vital parts of combat support execution planning and control. In today's security environment, combat forces are expected to react quickly to any national security issue with a tailored, sustainable force. An operation's success relies on the movement of personnel and equipment. Without a reliable movement system, deployment can be delayed and sustainment can be hindered. This report examines options for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of intratheater airlift operations within the military joint end-to-end multimodal movement system that serves the needs of deploying, redeploying, and sustaining forces during contingency operations.

Motivation for the Analysis

The United States has had military presence in the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) almost continuously since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1990. During this time, U.S. military forces undertook four major operations. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm brought more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel to CENTCOM (USAF, 1993, Vol. V, Part I, Table 19, p. 61). As many as 150 C-130s were in theater, and they flew more than 1,200tactical airlift missions (USAF, 1993, Vol. V, Part I, Table 21, pp. 65 and 250). An Air Force Brigadier General was designated the CENTCOM Commander of Airlift Forces (COMALF) (USAF, 1993, Vol. III, Part I, p. 147). The COMALF provided command and control of theater airlift forces through the Airlift Control Center (similar to today's Air Mobility Division [AMD] in the Air and Space Operations Center [AOC]). During Desert Storm, theater distribution problems arose, including the arrival of combat forces before adequate combat support and intratheater movement capabilities were established and poor in-transit visibility.

After Operation Desert Storm, operations and logistical requirements were relatively steady for the decade prior to Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2001, just prior to Operation Enduring Freedom, TDS in the CENTCOM AOR consisted of command and control of four C-130s in support of Operation Southern Watch. The Air Force maintained responsibility over the CENTCOM TDS. During this time, operations did not require a mature command structure for airlift or a mature communications infrastructure.

Initiated in October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began the largest U.S. military mobility operation since Operation Desert Storm. This approximately tripled the Southern Watch presence already in the AOR (Lynch et al., 2005). CENTCOM delegated responsibility for the TDS-the planning and execution of all movements of materiel and personnel within the AOR by land (trucks and rail), sea (ships and barges), and air-and for the Joint Movement Center (JMC) to the Air Force. Although typically an Army responsibility, TDS responsibility can, according to joint doctrine, be appointed to any service based on "either the dominant-user or the most-capable-service concept" (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1996, p. v). During Operation Enduring Freedom, initial responsibility was given to the Air Force with the understanding that the Army would assume responsibility once ground forces were engaged. Twenty-four tactical aircraft flew 2,700 tactical airlift sorties. As in Operation Desert Storm, TDS problems emerged. Large backlogs of cargo developed at transshipment points in the AOR during Operation Enduring Freedom and standard air routes (STARs) were not established early enough to meet TDS needs (Tripp et al., 2004).

Operation Iraqi Freedom, which started in March 2003, saw the deployment of approximately 200,000 U.S. servicemembers to the CENTCOM AOR. Demand for supplies increased more than 300 times over a period of just a few months. More than 120 C-130s began operating theater missions.

After the conclusion of major combat operations in Iraq, TDS problems continued. The commander of Air Force forces (COMAFFOR) for CENTCOM observed several symptoms of problems associated with TDS, including:

Difficulty in predicting cargo requirements

Difficulty in configuring, reconfiguring, basing, and sizing TDS airlift

Confusion on appropriate metrics to judge airlift effectiveness

Appearance of incomplete coordination of movement modes in meeting TDS needs

Incomplete visibility of cargo within the TDS

Artificial separation of strategic movements system from TDS

Restriction of strategic airlift assets for intratheater use in early phases of conflict

Inefficient use of intratheater airlift assets.

Many of these symptoms were recognized during Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and again during Iraqi Freedom. As a result of these continuing issues, in August 2003, the COMAFFOR asked RAND Project AIR FORCE to analyze options for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of intratheater airlift operations in southwest Asia.

Focus and Scope of the Analysis

Requirements for the airlift portion of the joint movement system are met through intertheater and intratheater resources. These airlift needs can be met by military or commercial capabilities depending on threat conditions, cargo characteristics, and other factors, as deemed appropriate by military planners. Experience after Operation Iraqi Freedom indicates that systemic problems exist in TDS planning and execution and that a thorough examination of existing processes, doctrine, organization, training, and systems is needed. In evaluating TDS, options considered must recognize that airlift operations are part of an integrated end-to-end multimodal distribution system. In addition, airlift operations in contingency operations must be flexible and responsive to rapidly changing needs on the battlefield.

Table 1.1 illustrates the relationships among contingency movement planning and execution capabilities (on the left-hand side of the table) and joint expeditionary combat support effects (on the right). For example, to tailor force and combat support packages needed to achieve desired operational effects, a capability is needed to estimate needed movement requirements to meet the specific bed-down and mission requirements, such as tailored Unit Type Codes (UTCs). To employ forces quickly, a capability is needed to configure the movement network quickly to deliver combat and support resources needed to conduct initial and follow-on employment operations.

The relationships between these movement planning and execution capabilities and joint combat support effects are receiving much attention and are beginning to be understood by both the operations and combat support communities. Over time, we need to extend the thinking shown in Table 1.1 to relate movement planning and execution processes to achieving joint operational effects by supporting the combatant commander's (COCOM's) campaign plan.

For the purpose of this report, strategic and theater airlift planning and execution activities, such as the repetitive planning, executing, and replanning of airlift resources to meet COCOM needs in his or her area of responsibility (AOR), are considered. These activities include:

Developing an airlift network, including identification of nodes and different types of routes-for example, demand-based and frequency-based routes.

Estimating the aircraft and crews needed as functions of basing options available.

Deployment of communications and information systems needed to manage and control airlift operations.

Deployment and sustainment of resources needed to run air terminal operations.

Combat support resources needed to house deployed airlift operations at forward and main operating bases.

Intratheater airlift operations include:

Onward movement of deploying forces from APODs within the AOR to airfields at or near their initial deployment sites.

Redeployment of units from field locations to AOR APOEs for return to CONUS or other home stations.

Movement of forces within the AOR from one area to another as dictated by battlefield necessities.

Movement of sustainment cargo and replacement personnel.

Movement of soldiers to APOEs for authorized leave within their tours of duty within the AOR.

Movement of war reserve materiel (WRM) within the AOR as necessary to establish forward operating bases and to redeploy those assets to WRM sites within the AOR for reconstitution.

Analytic Approach

An effective and efficient TDS is necessary to support a military force able to react quickly to any national security issue. The purpose of this report is to present a framework for approaching theater airlift planning and execution in the context of the global mobility system and recommend policy options to improve its performance. By understanding movement planning and execution processes, we are able to suggest improvements in assignment of responsibilities, training and education, and systems and tools. To this end, we use an expanded strategies-to-tasks (STT) framework (see Appendix B) as a "lens" for evaluating intra- and intertheater movement planning and execution processes. These processes include assessing demand requirements, establishing beddown sites for airlifters, establishing transshipment points, determining fleet sizes and types of aircraft to meet demands, establishing routes and schedules, deploying communications and information systems, terminating and redeploying resources when contingency operations end, and integrating the intra-and intertheater airlift system into the end-to-end joint multimodal movement system. Expanding the basic STT framework, we incorporate resource allocation processes and constraints into movement planning and execution activities. We also describe how movement resources and processes can be related to operational effects. Finally, using this framework for analysis, we recognize that no optimal solution exists for configuring contingency movement networks. Rather, the network is derived from a set of choices on how limited movement resources can be used.

Using this expanded STT framework, we identify supply-side processes associated with planning, replanning, and executing common user contingency airlift operations within the COCOM AOR and coordinating these activities within the end-to-end joint movement systems. We identify demand-side processes associated with common user contingency airlift operations, and we identify integrator processes associated with allocating scarce movement resources to those needs with the highest COCOM priorities.

We use this expanded STT framework to examine the AS-IS set of processes, organizations, doctrine, training, and systems. We identify disconnects and missing processes by comparing the AS-IS against those processes that are identified as being necessary theater airlift planning and execution processes in the expanded STT framework. We then identify TO-BE options that can be developed to address disconnects and missing processes.

Finally, we evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the TO-BE options. See Figure 1.1 for a diagram of our analytic approach.

In addition to applying the expanded STT framework to theater airlift planning and execution, we document the AS-IS theater airlift planning and execution system. The research team began by evaluating how CENTCOM currently plans and executes theater airlift operations. During site visits, we interviewed individuals involved in airlift planning and execution. The team reviewed internal memorandums and Air Force and joint doctrine, manuals, instructions, and concepts of operations (CONOPs) and described the processes and organizational responsibilities derived from the documents, interviews, and analyses of recent contingencies.

We have worked with Air Force, other Service, and joint COCOM stakeholders in conducting this research. Each organization openly and candidly discussed issues associated with TDS planning and execution from their vantage points. Each was interested in helping us address options for improving TDS options and ensuring that our results could be implemented. Our aim is to improve theater airlift planning and execution, but it is so enmeshed with the Joint Multimodal Movement System (JMMS) that our framework and some policy recommendations reach beyond theater airlift.

Related Activities

Any analysis should be considered in context with other ongoing initiatives that may have an impact on outcomes and potential implementation actions associated with the analysis. These ongoing initiatives include actions by the Secretary of Defense, in September 2003, to assign ownership of the military distribution process to U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and ownership of the deployment process to Joint Forces Command (denoted as the Distribution Process Owner and Deployment Process Owner, respectively). The intent of these assignments is to give responsibility and authority to one agency for developing and improving processes that rely on many organizations to execute the process. For example in distribution activities, cargo preparation, movement, and receipts are generally done by different organizations, at different echelons, in different services.

The analysis needs to be consistent with joint vision and doctrine as captured in the Air Force Agile Combat Support, Global Mobility, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) CONOPs that will guide Air Force operations in the future. In addition, policymakers need to understand the impacts for TDS resulting from the Army's initiatives to create smaller, more mobile units, including the unit of action. The Army has also sponsored an analysis of the intra-theater distribution system as a result of problems that they experienced with supply movements keeping pace with the rapid movement of combat units in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This analysis is being undertaken by the RAND Arroyo Center at the request of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. All improvement options need to be considered within the context of these and other ongoing initiatives.

Organization of This Report

In Chapter Two, we apply the expanded STT and closed-loop frameworks to theater airlift planning and execution from which we derive theater airlift planning and execution requirements, including discussions on resource management and planning processes for theater airlift planning and execution. Chapter Three discusses problems with the AS-IS CENTCOM TDS. Chapter Four suggests revisions to CENTCOM's theater airlift planning and execution process, with organizational, doctrinal, and training changes to support the revisions. Chapter Five contains our conclusions and recommendations. Appendix A lists the organizations contributing to this analysis. Appendix B presents the basic STT and closed-loop frameworks. Appendix C is an illustration of the closed-loop planning and execution process. Appendix D is an illustrative example of how reachback can be used in the AMD, and Appendix E is the Reachback Support Decision Tree used in reachback decisionmaking. Appendix F outlines CENTCOM's evolved intratheater airlift planning process.

Chapter Two

Strategies-to-Tasks and Closed-Loop Planning Applied to Theater Airlift

The STT framework was developed at RAND during the late 1980s and has been widely applied in the Department of Defense (DoD) to aid in strategy development, campaign analysis, and modernization planning. The framework has proven to be a useful approach for providing intellectual structure to ill-defined or complex problems. Working through the STT hierarchy can help identify areas where new capabilities are needed, clarify responsibilities among actors contributing to accomplishing a task or an objective, and place into a common framework the contributions of multiple entities and organizations working to achieve some common objective. In this analysis, we use an expanded STT framework to show how combat support elements, or more specifically movement capabilities, can be related to task-organized operational elements used to create desired joint operational effects by supporting the COCOM's campaign plan.


Excerpted from A Framework for Enhancing Airlift Planning and Execution Capabilities Within the Joint Expeditionary Movement System by Robert S. Tripp Kristin F. Lynch Charles Robert Roll, Jr., John G. Drew Patrick Mills Copyright © 2006 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Preface iii

Figures xiii

Tables xv

Summary xvii

Acknowledgments xxvii

Abbreviations xxxi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Motivation for the Analysis 1

Focus and Scope of the Analysis 4

Analytic Approach 6

Related Activities 9

Organization of This Report 10

Chapter 2 Strategies-to-Tasks and Closed-Loop Planning Applied to Theater Airlift 11

The Theater Airlift Planning and Execution STT Framework 12

National Security Objectives 12

National Military Objectives 13

Regional Operational Objectives 14

Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Operational Tasks 15

Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Force Elements 17

Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Closed-Loop Planning and Execution Processes 17

Deployment 17

Sustainment 18

Resource Allocation Within the STT Framework 19

Nested Responsibilities 23

Chapter 3 Shortfalls in the AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution System 27

AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Process Shortfalls 28

AS-IS Process Shortfall Examples 36

AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Organizational and Doctrine Shortfalls 43

AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Training Shortfalls 46

AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Communications, Systems, and Asset Visibility Shortfalls 47

Summary of AS-IS Theater Airlift Planning and Execution Shortfalls 55

Chapter 4 Evaluation of TO-BE Improvement Options 59

TO-BE Process Improvements 59

TO-BE Process Improvement Challenges 63

TO-BE Organizational Improvement Options 64

Planning Responsibilities Assigned to Existing Organizations Following the Expanded STT Framework 65

Planning Responsibilities Assigned to a New End-to-End LineOrganization Following the Expanded STT Framework 66

Another Organizational Option 70

Applying Reachback to the STT-Suggested Improvements 71

Assessment of TO-BE Organizational Improvement Options 72

TO-BE Organizational Improvement Challenges 74

TO-BE Doctrine and Training Improvement Options 75

TO-BE Communications, Systems, and Asset Visibility Improvement Options 77

TO-BE Improvement Summary 80

Chapter 5 Summary and Conclusions 83


A Theater Distribution System Analyses Contributing Organizations 85

B The Strategies-to-Tasks Framework and a Closed-Loop Planning and Execution Process 87

C Closed-Loop Planning and Execution Example 93

D Illustrative Example of Reachback in the Air Mobility Division 99

E Reachback Decision Tree 107

F Evolved CENTCOM Intratheater Airlift Planning Process 109

Bibliography 113

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