Multi-Domain Command and Control: The Air Force Perspective with Brigadier General B. Chance Saltzman (Part 1 of 2)

Over the Horizon (OTH): General Saltzman, We appreciate your time today as we strive to create a space where people can bring and further these types of discussions. We wanted to get your thoughts on the Air Force’s view on the new Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept. We saw you were tapped by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Goldfein, to be the point man for multi-domain Command and Control. Can you define how you see your role, and how you see MDO progressing within the Air Force?

General Saltzman (GS): In order to support my quest to support him in MDO, we kicked off an Enterprise Capabilities Collaboration Team (an ECCT for those not familiar); it is a part of strategic development planning. Before we dive right into analysis of alternatives, writing of requirements, and buying systems to do various missions, it might be good for us to step back and say “how is it that we envision doing this mission in the future”? Our first ECCT dealt with air superiority. Given the proliferation of new Anti-Access/Anti-Denial (Area Denial?) capabilities like missile systems and advanced fighters, how do we plan on gaining air superiority in the future?” The result of that ECCT was a series of capabilities, requirements/needs, and different concepts of operations.

The Chief was happy with the result, so the follow-on ECCT is what we really need to do next, which is command and control (C2). And not just plain old C2, I want us to think about Multi-Domain C2. So, my job is to organize the Air Force’s thinking about the future of war. It is going to require a Multi-Domain mindset, so what do we need to invest in now so that we have a C2 structure that will then be able to coordinate the effort that we call MDO. The Chief gave me a year to organize our thoughts. I plan to bring the experts together in a series of working groups, round tables, exercises, technology demos, you name it. I have all of those tools at my disposal.

In November, I’ll [give an] out-brief [to] senior Air Force leadership at the annual Strategic Planning Choices brief. There, they [will] agree or disagree [with] the investment options I laid out, and modify as they see fit. But those investments will be both materiel and non-materiel. It won’t just be about hardware or software, but also changes to the way we train, educate, perhaps different policies. Anything that helps contribute to the broader ability to accomplish Multi-Domain C2 is on the table. So, once the senior leadership make their decisions, I’ll be required to put the choices into a flight plan, or roadmap, so that we time phase how we are going about this construct. Then I will turn it over to the broader Air Force where it’ll go through the Air Force Requirements Oversight Council (AFROC) process, now called the Capabilities Development Council, to define the requirements, do the Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) and push it further up the process where it will enter the traditional Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) staffing process for non-materiel solutions.

So that’s quick overview of what my role is in that focus area. In short, it’s about organizing thoughts around MDO and how we C2 and providing a series of recommendations, and investment options towards materiel/non-materiel solutions to put that system in place.

OTH: As a follow-on, it is interesting to see the use of words such as MDO come into vogue. Many are discussing whether older terms like joint warfare and combined arms equate to the same thing as MDO. Some are arguing the Air Force has been doing Multi-Domain Operations since our inception. So what, from your point of view, is the bumper sticker showing MDO is meaningfully different from previous concepts?

GS: Sure, those are good comparisons, so let’s talk about Combined Arms (CA). From my vantage point, which won’t be the doctrinal answer, CA is using the assets you have, in some cases from different functions or different domains. Whether its artillery, armor, infantry, aviation, those are the traditional arms we’re talking because a lot of times we talk about combined arms in terms of the Army sense of things. But, the assets are all used towards a single campaign, the ground campaign. The Army uses aviation assets, but they do so in support of the ground campaign. They have a Combined Arms approach to prosecute that ground campaign. Likewise, the Navy uses aviation assets, they use surface ships, they even have ground forces, but it is all in pursuit of the maritime campaign.

If you want to consider joint, that’s a good point too, but that’s where multiple services come together to contest multiple domains to provide a Joint Forces Commander effects to achieve objectives. When we are talking MDO, and this is again constrained to our [the Air Force’s] problem set, we are talking about a single service combining effects to gain or maintain superiority in multiple domains. Adaptive Domain Control is the term we are using now instead of the “superiority” language we were using.

At a minimum, the Air Force is responsible for the adaptive space and air domain control, or superiority, to use the old terms. So how do we integrate our capabilities to create multiple dilemmas for the enemy so that we can achieve our objectives? That is how it is slightly different than Combined Arms, [which focuses] on a single domain, or Joint Warfare with multiple services coming together to achieve objectives. This is an Air Force lens looking at what we call Multi-Domain Operations, but how do we get the most out of our Air, Space, and Cyber capabilities to have adaptive domain control of at least air and space, and probably to a degree, cyber, to achieve effects across those domains?

The big difference in my opinion, is in the past we used space and cyber capabilities to enhance air operations but that’s not going to be sufficient in the future. It’s not just going to be integrating capabilities to support one domain. We are going to have to achieve space superiority. We are going to have to use air and cyber capabilities to do that. We will need some level of domain control in cyber, and we’ll probably use space and air capabilities to do that as well. So, because we have an integrated approach, an MDO approach, we can create multiple dilemmas for the adversary across the broad spectrum of domains so they do not know where the attack vector is coming from. If they deny us access to a target through one domain, we can broadly achieve effects through another domain. So, that where it’s a little different from Combined Arms and Joint Warfare.

OTH: After looking at how other services use the term MDO, each service, including the Army and the Navy do seem to allude to a service-lens view of MDO. Given the different lenses through which each service views MDO, is there any joint office or inter-service working group set up to coordinate what MDO looks like across different service lines of operation or perhaps to set a standard for the terms or expectations?

GS: Whether you look at it from a service prospective, with its focus on organizing, training, equipping or whether from a joint warfighter perspective, those questions still matter because things still have to come together for the joint fight. You have to be joint and be coalition ready, it can’t be developed in a vacuum. One step we’ve taken internally is that one of my ECCT working groups is interoperability focused. It’s led by a British officer. Additionally, I have an Australian officer, an army officer and a navy officer that make up that working group. I’ve charged them with looking at everything we discuss through their service or country lens and tell me where there is going to be problems with interoperability, problems with coordination, problems with integration.

I need to call those out at the beginning so that in the design phase, in the conceptual phase, we don’t bake in problems or seams that’ll cause issues down the road. Nothing we build will be able to be seamlessly integrated with our coalition partners and other services, but I will also tell you the J3 and J5 guys are discussing these concepts. They know that command and control, whether you say it’s multi-domain or not, is an issue for all the services and that we’re pursing various descriptions of our future C2 capability.

The Joint Staff is keeping their eye on it closely, we have J39 representatives on our team to lash everything together and make sure no one builds anything that is so custom that it doesn’t fit into the joint fight as a whole. At this point its coordination and collaboration, but we understand it could create seams if we’re not careful, so we’re kind of tracking to that point.

OTH. As you mentioned, you have Joint Staff helping and the inter-service members on your staff, but have you had direct conversations with the Department of Army or Navy or are you working through the Joint Staff for that coordination?

GS: So the short answer is both, but mostly we are looking internally as “what is it the AF wants to do” and we’ve embedded the other services and Joint Staff into our effort. They can keep us apprised of anything we do that runs counter to what they think the other services or Joint Staff is doing. So it’s mostly an inward look at this point, but I’ll tell you that I’m going to brief the annual warfighters talks and in April I’m attending the Air Force/Navy warfighter talks and I’ll discuss MDC2 efforts. So at that level we are engaging with the service directly. And I’ll do the same at the Air Force/Army talks, and at the Air Force/National Reconnaissance Office talks. We try to stay linked at the senior levels of leadership wherever we can.

Brigadier General B. Chance “Salty” Saltzman serves as the Director of Future Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S Air Force, Washington, D.C. The directorate provides senior Air Force leaders and Air Force major commands vision, expertise and staff support to fully integrate and synchronize air, space and cyberspace capabilities across the spectrum of conflict.

This interview was conducted by Brandon Davenport, Senior Editor, and Sean Atkins, Editor-in-Chief of Over the Horizon, on March 10th, 2017.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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