General Kenney’s Air Task Force: A Model for Distributed Control

  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas P. Seymour

United States air forces have operated under the tenet of Centralized Control/Decentralized Execution for decades. The proliferation of advanced technology, however, has enabled potential adversaries to disrupt the communication systems that Centralized Control requires. To address this challenge, Air Force leaders are developing the concept of Distributed Control in order to enable lower-echelon commanders to continue operations when communication links with higher-headquarters have been broken. While this term may be new, the idea behind it is not. Air commanders have relied upon Distributed Control at other points in history. This work examines how General George C. Kenney, who commanded Allied Air Forces in the Pacific, overcame similar challenges during World War II. Using Kenney’s organization as a model, this paper discusses ways in which future air commanders might organize the air component in preparation for Distributed Control operations. By examining doctrine, this work also considers the specific authorities the Combined Force Commander and Air Component Commander must delegate to their subordinates to continue air operations under the Distributed Control concept.