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What is command and control?


Command and control encompasses all military functions and operations, giving them meaning and harmonizing them into a meaningful whole. Command and control is fundamentally the task of a military commander [1].

"Command and control is the means by which a commander recognizes what needs to be done and sees to it that appropriate actions are taken. Sometimes this recognition takes the form of a conscious command decision—as in deciding on a concept of operations. Sometimes it takes the form of a preconditioned reaction—as in immediate-action drills, practiced in advance so that we can execute them reflexively in a moment of crisis. Sometimes it takes the form of a rules-based procedure—as in the guiding of an aircraft on final approach. Some types of command and control must occur so quickly and precisely that they can be accomplished only by computers—such as the command and control of a guided missile in flight. Other forms may require such a degree of judgment and intuition that they can be performed only by skilled, experienced people—as in devising tactics, operations, and strategies."

"Sometimes command and control occurs concurrently with the action being undertaken—in the form of real-time guidance or direction in response to a changing situation. Sometimes it occurs beforehand and even after. Planning, whether rapid/time-sensitive or deliberate, which determines aims and objectives, develops concepts of operations, allocates resources, and provides for necessary coordination, is an important element of command and control. Furthermore, planning increases knowledge and elevates situational awareness. Effective training and education, which make it more likely that subordinates will take the proper action in combat, establish command and control before the fact. The immediate-action drill mentioned earlier, practiced beforehand, provides command and control. A commander’s intent, expressed clearly before the evolution begins, is an essential part of command and control. Likewise, analysis after the fact, which ascertains the results and lessons of the action and so informs future actions, contributes to command and control."

"Some forms of command and control are primarily procedural or technical in nature—such as the control of air traffic and air space, the coordination of supporting arms, or the fire control of a weapons system. Others deal with the overall conduct of military actions, whether on a large or small scale, and involve formulating concepts, deploying forces, allocating resources, supervising, and so on. This last form of command and control, the overall conduct of military actions, is our primary concern in this manual. Unless otherwise specified, it is to this form that we refer. "

"Since war is a conflict between opposing wills, we can measure the effectiveness of command and control only in relation to the enemy. As a practical matter, therefore, effective command and control involves protecting our own command and control activities against enemy interference and actively monitoring, manipulating, and disrupting the enemy’s command and control activities."

"The basis for all command and control is the authority vested in a commander over subordinates. Authority derives from two sources. Official authority is a function of rank and position and is bestowed by organization and by law. Personal authority is a function of personal influence and derives from factors such as experience, reputation, skill, character, and personal example. It is bestowed by the other members of the organization. Official authority provides the power to act but is rarely enough; most effective commanders also possess a high degree of personal authority. Responsibility, or accountability for results, is a natural corollary of authority. Where there is authority, there must be responsibility in like measure. Conversely, where individuals have responsibility for achieving results, they must also have the authority to initiate the necessary actions [2]."


MCDP 6, Command and Control
1. Command and control the business of the commander: In Joint Pub 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, defined as: “The exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned forces in the accomplishment of the mission. Command and control functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission."
2. Authority and responsibility: Henri Fayol, General and Industrial Management (Pitman Publishing Corp., 1949), pp. 21–22.


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