The problems created by the lack of a coherent strategy in Allied Force were further aggravated by a confusing chain of command, unsuitable organizational structures, and a lack of staff integration where it was needed most. Indeed, the air war was dominated by what General Short called about as murky a command relationship as you could possibly get.[468]Two parallel chains of command (see Figure 7.2) worked simultaneously for each allied participant: The first was a NATO chain of command, which began at the North Atlantic Council, the alliances political leadership, and went from there to General Clark as SACEUR, through the NATO military staff at SHAPE, to the regionally involved CINCSOUTH, Admiral Ellis, and his JTF staff in Naples, and finally to General Short as commander, Allied Air Forces, Southern Europe (COMAIRSOUTH) and his staff, along with his subordinate Allied Tactical Air Forces, including 5 ATAF, which also operated the CAOC at Vicenza, Italy.


Figure 7.2U.S. and Allied Organization for Allied Force


Paralleling this NATO chain of command were the individual chains of each allied member, typified by that of the United States, which began with the National Command Authorities (NCA) at the White House and Pentagon and proceeded to the regional commander in chief, General Clark, in his capacity as CINCEUR (CINC U.S. European Command) and, in turn, to the various subordinate U.S. component commands. The most important two of those subordinate commands were JTF Noble Anvil, established under the command of Admiral Ellis as CINCSOUTH, and USAFE, under the command of General Jumper, who retained operational control of some U.S. assets, specifically the B‑1, B‑2, B‑52, F‑117, E‑3, KC‑135, and U‑2 aircraft that flew in Operation Allied Force. General Short exercised tactical control over these aircraft and was assigned operational control of all other combat aircraft assigned to the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy.[469]Finally, a joint special operations task force maintained operational control over all aircraft dedicated to combat search and rescue missions, and the allied participants ceded operational and tactical control over their aircraft to General Short, who, in his capacity as COMAIRSOUTH, was the designated NATO operational commander and who directed all air missions flown in the NATO‑releasable ATO.[470]

This dual‑hatting of so many commanders and operational functions often made it hard for Allied Force participants, irrespective of level, to determine exactly who was operating in what capacity at any given time. For example, the CAOC at Vicenza, which was operated by NATOs 5 ATAF, performed command and control functions both for NATO and for U.S.‑only operations. That odd arrangement emanated from the fact that the command and control apparatus put in place for what ultimately became Operation Allied Force had initially been created for a U.S.‑only operation, an apparatus that remained in place even as the air war became a NATO effort. As one informed account of this flawed organizational structure later observed, the JCS, the USAFE staff, and Admiral Elliss JTF all performed roles outside their doctrinal bounds, further confusing the execution of Allied Force and producing numerous instances of conflicting guidance, command echelons being skipped or omitted entirely, and either a duplication of effort or functions not being performed at all, since one organization erroneously thought the other was responsible for a particular task.[471]

Amplifying further on this bizarre command arrangement, RAF Air Commodore Andrew Vallance later noted from his vantage point as chief of the NATO Reaction Forces air staff in Kalkar, Germany, that the control of an operation in NATOs southern region would normally have fallen to CINCSOUTH and his subordinate air commander (COMAIRSOUTH), Admiral Ellis and General Short, as had been the case earlier with Admiral Smith and thenUSAF Lieutenant General Michael Ryan during the successful Operation Deliberate Force over Bosnia in 1995. Yet in the case of Allied Force, following the precedent set earlier by NATOs IFOR/SFOR operation in Bosnia, General Clark as SACEUR elected to take direct personal control of the air effort, effectively cutting CINCSOUTH out of the command chain, to all intents and purposes.

In contrast, the commander, Allied Air Forces, Central Europe (COMAIRCENT), a USAF four‑star general, would not normally have been directly involved in a southern region operation. However, in the case of Allied Force, through his national responsibilities as commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe (COMUSAFE), General Jumper had a major say in how the huge USAF contribution was used.[472]Moreover, unlike General Horner in Desert Storm, who answered directly to the theater CINC, General Schwarzkopf, Short reported not to Clark but rather to Admiral Ellis, who in turn reported to Clarka situation which, Short cautiously said, colors the equation a bit in terms of my latitude, if you will, in this air campaign.[473]Considering all this confusion and more, concluded an informed and expert observer, operational effectiveness in Allied Force was probably achieved in spite of the command structures and processes rather than as a direct result of them.[474]

In addition, because NATO had initially anticipated that the bombing would last only a couple of days, the CAOC was woefully understaffed and unprepared for the demands that immediately fell upon it. For example, on the night the air war began, there was no assigned strategy cell, no flexible targeting cell, no established guidance, apportionment, and targeting (GAT) process, and no BDA team in place.

Even when more fully developed, the BDA process left much to be desired. It was well enough equipped, calling as required on national and theater offboard sensors such as satellites and the U‑2, tactical sensors such as Predator and Hunter UAVs, and onboard sensors such as the LANTIRN targeting pod carried by the F‑14D, the F‑15E, and the Block 40 F‑16CG. Inputs from these information sources would be forwarded to the JAC at RAF Molesworth, which wielded chief BDA authority, and other BDA‑related entities such as the CAOC, national agencies, the SACEUR staff, JTF Noble Anvil, and the JFACC apparatus. However, inputs from national and theater assets could take days to register an impact because of frequent weather complications and higher‑priority taskings. Moreover, because BDA often required two or more independent sources to confirm a target kill, combat assessment often took longer than the time required for mission planning and retargeting. As a result, targets were often reattacked unnecessarily, which made for additional operational inefficiencies, and the air wars overall progress could not be adequately tracked and measured. For fixed targets in Serbia, BDA confirmation was generally adequate, but the results were frequently not incorporated into replanning. Daily counts of flexible targets known to have been hit in the KEZ were not kept, resulting in a large band of uncertainty with respect to estimates of kills of mobile targets. Finally, there was a recurrent problem with ISR prioritization, reflected in repeated tension between SACEURs tasking of information sources to support BDA and the felt need at the operator level for information to support the attacking of targets.[475]

The CAOC also suffered from an inadequate airspace management system for assigning tanker tracks and for managing the nightly flow of combat and combat‑support aircraft. Not until late April did the CAOC create separate flexible targeting cells for enemy IADS assets and fielded forces. Only by Day 37 was there a smoothly running target development and review mechanism in place, and only on Day 47 was the first Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List (JIPTL) produced, along with the first operational assessment briefing to Short and Clark. Until that time, the would‑be Master Air Attack Plan (MAAP) team had been picking targets almost solely on the basis of what had been politically approved. That meant that for the first half of Operation Allied Force, a consistent targeting strategy not only was not attempted but was not even possible.[476]

Moreover, the generally poor intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) occasioned by the faulty assumption that Milosevic would capitulate after just a few days of token bombing complicated both planning and execution. NATOs failure to anticipate and prepare adequately for a range of adverse enemy actions, such as the commingling of Kosovar Albanian civilians with Serb military convoys and the highly successful VJ and MUP camouflage, concealment, and deception measures, made air operations against both fixed and mobile targets far more difficult than they had been in Desert Storm. In addition, IPB in the KEZ was hindered by the absence of a land component commander in the Allied Force chain of command, which meant that some of the attendant organizations that could have helped the JFACC with this mission were also absent.[477]On top of that, the nonstandard target nomination and approval process, SACEURs unusually heavy involvement at the micro‑level of targeting, and a de facto requirement for zero friendly losses and an absolute minimum of collateral damage hindered the application of classic doctrinal solutions, limited the choices that were available, and put extra stress on systems such as UAVs and other ISR assets that always seemed to be in insufficient supply. Finally, the extended timelines created by the demands of the target approval process, as well as the multiplicity of players at senior levels who had managed to insert themselves into that process, frequently rendered operations against fleeting targets downright impossible and further attested to the poor integration of ISR management practices with the command and control functions required to respond within those timelines. Because the process was so time‑consuming, it was frequently impossible to balance the competing priorities of target development and battle damage assessment.

Yet another source of friction in the orderly execution of the daily ATO was the complex overlay of institutional roadblocks and delays, the net result of which was an information‑sharing arrangement described by one participant as cumbersome. It really means we were unable to get timely intelligence to our allies, particularly the British. Its not that the information is so secret. Its that we have a bureaucracy, and the way we transfer from U.S. Secret to NATO Secret takes a little bit of time.[478]As a rule, each allied nation had its own levels of security classification, and each of these had to be downgraded in order for the information to be released to other allied participants. Frequently the computer systems that operated with these different levels were not mutually compatible, and there were instances, notably in the area of information operations, but also including B‑2 and F‑117 operations, in which the very nature of the activity meant that information could not be widely released.[479]

Over time, the CAOC went from badly understaffed to packed with a surfeit of personnel as a result of the rampant inefficiencies of the target planning and apportionment process. On one occasion, there were as many as 1,400 people in the small and cramped facility, producing a staffing level that bordered on gridlock.[480]Some augmentees from other USAF commands brought only limited experience with high‑intensity operations, further hampering the CAOCs operational effectiveness. In a representative example of the needless inefficiencies that ensued, a PACAF colonel, say, serving as senior duty officer, would overrule something decided at a lower level with a we dont do that in PACAF, only to have a lieutenant colonel on the permanent CAOC staff reply, uneasily, that that was the way it was done in Allied Force, for good reason.[481]In general, the abnormally large number of senior officers (lieutenant colonels and colonels) populating the CAOC limited the effectiveness of the often more expert junior officers in shaping key decisions. As a rule, the CAOC and General Short mainly performed battle management and support functions rather than operating as a master planning center and high‑level command and control entity along the lines of the Air Operations Center and General Horner in Desert Storm.

Yet for all its eventually ramped‑up staffing and improved organization, according to its director at the time, the CAOC remained target poor throughout much of Allied Force. Because it was denied any opportunity to apply an overarching strategy in shaping the air operations plan owing to the slowness and randomness of the target approval process, as targets were approved, wed go hit them. We had plenty of targets [in principle to go after]850 or 900but no authority to hit them. Indeed, the CAOC was reportedly so lacking in available targets and BDA feedback that by Days 5565, planners were putting the same targets up [for approval] two and three nights in a row, hoping we could give you different DMPIs from the night before.[482]

As for the flexible targeting effort against VJ forces in the KEZ, the CAOC at first lacked any on‑hand Army expertise to help develop the ground order of battle. With no land component in place, the Armys TPQ‑36 and TPQ‑37 counterbattery radars in Albania required a direct feed to the CAOC, yet information from them was not provided until the very end because Army doctrine had planned for those systems to be used in a different manner and the CAOC was not configured to take advantage of them. Worse yet, TF Hawk and its parent command, the U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR), evidently elected not to provide processed intelligence data to the JFACC and JTF Noble Anvil until circumstances and senior‑official intervention occurred later.[483]Eventually, Clark sent a 10‑man Army team to the CAOC to provide such assistance, which aided considerably in the flexible targeting effort. By mid‑May, TF Hawk finally began sending the CAOC useful real‑time targeting information collected by its counterbattery radars, and a battlefield coordination element staffed with TF Hawk representatives was established in the CAOC to provide additional ground intelligence and operator input into the flexible targeting cell concerned with dispersed and hidden enemy forces in the KEZ.

These ground support elements became progressively more integrated with CAOC operations over time, but their contribution was disturbingly slow in coming. In his postwar briefing to the Pentagon leadership, Admiral Ellis suggested that even though no ground operation had been planned for Allied Force, having an assigned joint‑force land component commander in place from the very beginning would have gone far toward obviating these and most other related deficiencies.[484]There was also a sentiment in the CAOC toward the end of the air war that the many other units involved in the war effort, including naval air and the B‑2 and F‑117 communities, needed to send their most experienced operators to the CAOC where their expertise was most badly needed, even if they risked hindering the operational performance of their parent units as a result. As it was, the best use of certain systems available to the JFACC was not always made. For example, the 6th Fleet battle staff consistently felt that its Carrier Air Wing 8 deployed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt was improperly treated by the CAOC merely as just another allied fighter squadron, rather than the integrated and independent strike force with ISR and command‑and‑control backup it actually was. Navy planners and operators also pressed repeatedly to have the F‑14 TARPS capability employed for direct mission support, whereas the CAOC persisted in using it primarily for BDA.[485]

In a widely noted operations management first, the use of video teleconferencing communications was pioneered in Allied Force, with VTC sessions taking place daily at the most senior level because of the wide geographic spread of the key players. Sometimes as many as three or four VTCs were conducted in one day among the most senior principals. Admiral Ellis later characterized them as a powerful tool if properly used, owing to their ability to shorten decision cycle times dramatically, to communicate a commanders intent clearly and unambiguously, and to obviate any requirement for the leading commanders to be collocated. But he cited the propensity of VTCs to be voracious consumers of leadership and staff working hours (often involving time wasted composing flashy but unnecessaryand even at times counterproductivebriefing graphics) and poor substitutes for rigorous mission planning and written orders. Decisions made in the VTC were all too readily prone to misinterpretation as key guidance was successively handed down to lower staff levels.[486]

Indeed, in contrast to Desert Storm, the ad hoc nature of the initial planning, the absence of collocation of senior commanders, the highly distributed nature of the bombing effort, the compartmented and often overclassified planning, and an overreliance on email, VTCs, and other undocumented communication resulted in a notable lack of integration of many of the key staff elements in Allied Force. Typically the only time General Clark was able to speak to his subordinate commanders was via the daily VTC, a limitation that one observer said made it extremely difficult for the senior leaders to develop a useful working relationship where they possessed the necessary trust and confidence to issue and execute mission‑type orders without the need to provide detailed tactical guidance.[487]Clarks VTC guidance was never written down or distributed in any systematic way. In the absence of such formal documentation, most cell chiefs did their best to debrief their staffs. Yet the time‑pressures of combat frequently made doing that nigh impossible, with the result that rumor guidance tended to predominate throughout the course of Allied Force.[488]

After the war ended, criticism of the VTC approach by many senior officers was quite vocal. In a characteristic observation, the UK Ministry of Defenses director of operations in Allied Force, RAF Air Marshal Sir John Day, remarked that for all its admitted efficiencies when its use was properly disciplined, the VTC mechanism was highly conducive to adhocracy of all sorts, sometimes resulting in a lack of clarity regarding important matters of both planning and execution. For example, he observed that because of the federated nature of the operations planning and the extensive use of VTCs involving a large number of U.S. and NATO headquarters, many agencies had full knowledge of the planning details. That generated initial confusion among the UK participants as to who precisely was running the air war, since, until it was confirmed (as suspected) that it was indeed General Short, they could obtain the same information from any headquarters that was involved in the VTC. Consistent with others who reflected on the many negatives of VTCs with the benefit of hindsight, Air Marshal Day suggested that participation in highlevel VTCs should henceforth be limited exclusively to those directly in the chain of command and that the commander in chief should devote careful thought beforehand to the following: (1) the appropriate participants and viewers; (2) a prior agenda, so that essential participants would not hesitate to raise an item out of fear that an item might already be on the CINCs checklist; (3) diligent minutetaking; and (4) a summary of command decisions taken, so that the commanders intent would always be unambiguous.[489]



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