- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

A state-of-the-art command center in the Persian Gulf is beset by "significant confusion" and not ready to conduct an air war against Iraq, a confidential Air Force report said over the summer.
"There is significant confusion about roles, responsibilities and chain of command throughout key areas within the [Combined Air Operation Center]," the report said of the 1-year-old center. "It is difficult for the operators to know who to take direction from and who they talk to to get things done."
The report added, "The organization is not currently poised to smoothly transition to a MTW." MTW is a major theater war, such as the one planned against Iraq.
Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, ordered the report after problems arose in coordinating air operations over Afghanistan from the CAOC at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Gen. Jumper's orders for the investigative team were to determine what the CAOC needed in the way of personnel and organization to run a much larger war.
The thick report compiled by a panel of senior officers does not bode well for the CAOC's ability to direct complex air operations against Iraq involving hundreds of Air Force, Navy and coalition aircraft in synchronized attacks. It said the center is kept busy by various operations.
"The differing dynamics of these operations have led to a somewhat ad hoc organization optimized for none, and not well suited to expand to an MTW-size conflict," the report said.
Various staffs, it said, "are all mixed into one operation, creating unclear lines of command authority and supervisory responsibilities."
Saudi Arabia has given the Bush administration permission to use the Prince Sultan center to command air operations. The overall war would be commanded from a new post in Qatar. The air campaign would be a major war component, and its success could determine whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein falls quickly.
"There are concerns that the current confusion with authority will impact decision timelines," the officers wrote to Gen. Jumper and other top Air Force generals.
"During a major conflict with more targets, the need for clear lines of command will be even more imperative," said the "official use only" report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times. ABC News reported on portions of the report Jan. 23.
The general approved the report in July and ordered a continued investigation. "I expect strong focus across the Air Force in support of their continued efforts," the general said in a signed memorandum.
An Air Force spokesman yesterday said Gen. Jumper is considering the team's recommended actions.
The panel also found that intelligence reports were "excessively distributed" within the Combined Air Operations Center. This practice, it said, is "hindering coordination and unity of effort during execution. There is no single coordinator …"
Finding a cultural problem within the Air Force hierarchy, the report also said that the service's "corporate structure" has the wrong view of the air command attached to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., which oversees operations in the Gulf region.
The corporate Air Force does not view the air command, located at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., as primarily war fighters, resulting in sporadic manning schedules that rely on temporary personnel. "This culture has led to lessons relearned continuously in the staff," the report said.
"Manpower is just one example of how we have not been able to adequately provide all the resources [Central Command] needs to do its job as a warfighting command."

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