Domain Control for Cross-Domain Effect: Defining the Central Purpose of the US Air Force

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to release the newest publication in its Forum paper series, Domain Control for Cross-Domain Effect: Defining the Central Purpose of the US Air Force, by RAF Wing Cmdr. Andy Massie. Massie, a Royal Air Force pilot and qualified weapons instructor currently serving as an exchange officer in the strategy cell of Headquarters USAF, explores and articulates a theory he calls “domain control.” This theory, Massie argues, helps explain and illuminate the role of the US Air Force in military operations and articulates its fundamental purpose: to gain then exploit advantage in air, space, and cyberspace in pursuit of US national security interests.

“In an era of fiscal austerity, great power competition and non-state threats, the US Air Force must pursue a clear and consistent narrative to articulate its priorities and value to the nation,” Massie writes. Controlling the domains of air, space, and cyberspace, and leveraging that control for “cross domain” effects is USAF’s greatest strength, and is helpful to track the service’s shifting priorities over the last quarter century. Massie argues domain control highlights a fundamental assumption underpinning modern American military operations and aerospace power, the ubiquitous access to information through networks, and how that dominant capability has fueled a period of strategic dominance over would-be adversaries since the conclusion of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. This era of dominance, however, is coming to an end. “To succeed in an era of technological parity, the Air Force must keep its adversaries on the horns of a dilemma: to leverage cyberspace to achieve advantage in the air, to leverage air to achieve advantage in space, and to compete at a tempo and complexity with the Air Force they cannot match.” said Massie.

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