Doolittle Series 18 – Multi-Domain Operations

 June 2019
Warfare Domains: Multi-Domain Operations

Courtesy of Air University Press, Web Edition, 9 January 2019, Lemay Center for Doctrine Development and Education

Note: Except for the Assessment done by the JAPCC, below is a summary of the article from ‘Doolittle Series 18: Multi-Domain ­Operations’.1

A Table Top Exercise to Explore Multi-Domain Warfighter Concepts

The Doolittle Series (DS18) was chartered by the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force to explore Multi-Domain warfighting concepts to improve command and control of air, space, and cyberspace forces in support of dynamic and operationally agile operations. The event held 6 – 8 November 2018 at the LeMay Center Wargaming Institute, Air University, was the first in this series.

Three teams were assembled with individuals having backgrounds in cyberspace, electromagnetic spectrum, space, air, ISR, nuclear operations, legal, and Air Force special operations. There were also participants from the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. Each team was presented with the same scene-setting scenario of fighting a peer competitor in the 2030 timeframe while having to constrain ­simultaneously another peer competitor.

Team #1 was to maintain the ‘Status Quo’ of organization and policy, but was allowed to slightly modify the current C2 architecture.

Team #2, ‘Status Quo Redesigned,’ was encouraged to modify ‘within the box’ the current C2 architecture and use likely technology.

Team #3, ‘Clean Sheet Unconstrained’ was encouraged to look at technology within the realm of the possible and create an ‘outside the box’ MDC2 architecture.

Doolittle Series 18 Concepts and Objectives

DS18 specifically examined Multi-Domain Command and Control (MDC2) with the hypothesis that, ‘The USAF must modernize rules, ­responsibilities, relationships, and authorities and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to effectively command and control (C2) Multi-Domain Operations to converge air, space, and cyber capabilities to meet the challenges of these contested domains.’ To test the ­hypothesis, the following objectives guided DS18’s development and execution:

1. Examine the opportunities and limitations regarding commanders’ ­authorities, command relationships, and their collective abilities to exercise command and control at the operational level.

2. Examine the C2 mechanisms and processes the respective commanders use to exercise authority and direction to facilitate integrated planning and synchronized execution of operations to achieve integrated effects across the Air, Space, and Cyber domains.

3. Examine Air, Space, and Cyber effect timelines and tasking order ­processes (to include classification restrictions) to achieve integrated ­effects across the Air, Space, and Cyber domains.

Cross-Cutting Observations

Analysis of the interviews conducted with game participants and comments made during the game and by senior facilitators found three cross-cutting observations.

OBSERVATION 1: Invest in a shared data ‘cloud’ backed by resilient / reliable / secure communication network.

Discussion: The two teams with freedom to manoeuvre from the Status Quo both cited the need for a shared data network, even Team #1 team emphasized the need for reliable communication networks and nodes to secure and enhance current C2 operations. The backbone of any system discussed during this exercise was access to and manipulation of large amounts of information. Terms used to describe these data networks were ‘robust’ and ‘self-healing’, a network back by multiple nodes with multiple machine-to-machine access points. Team members stressed the need for ‘cloud’ based data storage, machine learning, algorithmic targeting solutions effects pairing with tasks, an application-based interface, and a common data standard. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was emphasized to automate many, if not most, AOC processes, and a robust global communication network would need to be in place for this to be possible.

OBSERVATION 2: There is a need for highly trained and operationally experienced personnel in Command and Control.

Discussion: It is important to understand current C2 structure in order to build future C2 structures, and a first and key enabler to exercise MDO is training. Observations across the teams during this exercise showed an apparent lack of knowledge of the overall C2 structure and, specifically, an overall lack of familiarity and experience with C2 processes in domains players are not familiar with. For example, a cyber-player did not understand Space C2. A senior leader commented that many players had a lack of understanding of the processes in an AOC and resulting products. Much of the discussions on the first day focused on gaining a shared understanding of the current C2 structure. As the exercise progressed, players consistently commented on the need for larger exercises to integrate Multi-Domain Operations. The integration of Multi-Domain operators in large exercises should foster support for and training on MDO while providing participants needed experience. In addition to large exercises, a global communications system could provide training in a real-time environment. Teams suggested that training should consist of less white cards and more realism.

OBSERVATION 3: The capability to integrate Coalition partners needs to be built into new MDC2 hardware and software from the beginning.

Discussion: Coalition access to data and the network was identified as key. The teams thought that this would require addressing classification, access to the network and the ‘cloud’ from coalition locations, and a mechanism to allow easy, yet selective, access to information of varying levels of classification. The teams thought that coalition capabilities / effects need to be ‘baked in’ when planning operations rather than ‘tacked on.’ To accomplish this may require significant policy changes where a standing Alliance is formed rather than ad-hoc coalition to deal with an unplanned crisis. However, there are things the US military can do to improve coalition integration into MDC2. For example, when Team #3 group proposed new command relationships, the terminology and ­definitions were modified to use terms and concepts understood by the RAF and the RAAF. In addition, the post-DS18 surveys pointed out that there may be a situation where the US is not the lead in an operation, and how the US would integrate its MDC2 into that coalition’s command and ­control.

OBSERVATION 4: Push capabilities and authorities to the lowest level possible.

Discussion: All teams stressed the need for a fast and agile C2 structure to quickly respond and counter threats from a peer competitor. In order to increase the speed of their C2 structure, teams recommended pushing capabilities and authorities to the lowest level possible. Pushing authorities down to trained personnel who understand the employment risks allows those personnel to perform C2 faster. Currently there are a lot of unknown risks in the MDO environment and those risks need to be quantified, with the potential for holding some risks at a higher level. This could lead to a structure built on conditions-based authorities and allow quick reaction to known scenarios.

In order to push authorities to the lowest level capable of integrating MDO, those authorities and supported / supporting relationships need to be defined. All teams said that supported / supporting relationships are not well-understood. In a global fight, with multiple problems, the relationships between combatant and functional commanders is very important.

OBSERVATION 5: Each team included a Multi-Domain Operations Center (MDOC).

Discussion: Each team saw a need to incorporate various forms of a Multi-Domain Ops Center into their command structure. Team #1 placed an MDOC directly under the Joint Forces Air Component Commander. The MDOC would operate as a planning cell in direct support of the JFACC to integrate effects. This MDOC would include liaison officers from the functional combatant commands. Team #2 designed a virtual MDOC using cloud-based technology and limited use of Artificial Intelligence. This virtual MDOC would combine inputs from all planning levels to build an integrated battle plan. Users could make inputs and adjustments regardless of location as well as have a common picture of the battlespace. Team #2’s focus was on unity of effort rather than unity of command. Team #3 incorporated an MDOC at the Global Command level with MDOC functions replicated at lower echelons. Various functions of this future MDOC would be fully automated and led by advanced Artificial Intelligence, with a human in control of critical decisions. This AI-led MDOC would continuously calculate COAs based on current conditions and support various Mission Task Groups.

Assessment of the outcome of the Table Top Exercise to explore Multi-Domain warfighter concept.

The availability of information and the processing of large amounts of information is key to a successful MDO. Therefore not only full availability of the communication network is a must but due to the vast amount of information, the required knowledge of all possible domains (AIR, LAND, SEA, SPACE, CYBER), all possible effects and employment risks, makes the use of AI inevitable to support highly trained MDC2 teams in large scale exercises. Furthermore, a paradigm shift from Need to Know to Need to Share over all domains and all participating allies, including the AI, is imperative. Where to put MDC2 in our organizations remains a question. Whether it will be centralised or decentralised or even replicated by AI over all levels, with only a man in the loop for critical decisions, should be a major vector in the development of new concepts within NATO.

Content Navigation

Other Essays in this Read Ahead

Accelerating Multi-­Domain Operations: Evolution of an Idea

What is a Multi-Domain Operation?

Defining the ‘Domain’ in Multi-Domain

Multi-Domain Operations

The Complexity of Multi-Domain Operations

Is Fluidity the Key to Effective Multi-Domain Operations?

Multi-Domain Operations and Challenges to Air Power

Training Joint Forces for Multi-Domain Operations

Multi-Domain Operations and Counter-Space

Cyberspace and Multi-Domain Operations

Tracing Opinio Juris in National Cyber Security Strategy Documents

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