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Dr. John Reese
Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 12 April 2001 (as amended through 9 June 2004), defines force protection as
actions taken to prevent or mitigate hostile actions against Department of Defense personnel (to include family members), resources, facilities, and critical information. These actions conserve the force’s fighting potential so it can be applied at the decisive time and place and incorporate the coordinated and synchronized offensive and defensive measures to enable the effective employment of the joint force while degrading opportunities for the enemy. Force protection does not include actions to defeat the enemy or protect against accidents, weather, or disease. (p. 207)
The draft version of Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-4.1, Force Protection (as of 11 May 2004), focuses this definition for Airmen by calling force protection “an integrated application of offensive and defensive actions that deter, detect, preempt, mitigate, or negate threats against Air Force air and space operations and assets, based on an acceptable level of risk” (p. vi; all references to AFDD 2-4.1 come from this version of the document). Although Airmen have always regarded force protection as essential to the mission, the events of the last decade—the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex on 25 June 1996 in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 are the most striking examples—have underscored its importance.
According to AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 November 2003, force protection doctrine for the Air Force flows from the proposition that “air and space power is most vulnerable on the ground” (p. 25). Today’s Airman confronts a new enemy who fights by a different set of rules and seeks an asymmetric advantage over a technologically superior foe, as Maj David P. Briar reminds us in the following article. An enemy will try to exploit this advantage to deny access to our air and space expeditionary task forces. Failing this effort, he will attempt to delay, disrupt, or otherwise degrade air and space operations. Consequently, in addition to the familiar kinetic and nuclear, biological, and chemical threats of the Cold War era, Airmen must be prepared to defeat a new array of chemical, biological, radiological, enhanced-explosive, environmental, informational, psychological, and electronic threats. Air Force doctrine and practice are moving beyond their traditional emphasis on law enforcement, physical security, and ground defense of air bases to meet these challenges.
Although AFDD 2-4.1 notes that “force protection is both an individual and [a] command responsibility” (p. 2), commanders at all levels have a special obligation to balance force protection and operational mission requirements. Operational risk management—sound intelligence, realistic threat assessment, and careful risk analysis—is the foundation for this balancing act. Moreover, force protection is one arena in which “small-scale [enemy] operations” (AFDD 2-4.1, p. 15) can have disproportionate operational, psychological, or other effects. For this reason, force protection is very much effects-based, and AFDD 2-4.1 insists that planning be based on an appreciation of the long-term “effects intended to be produced by the threat, not just the nature of the threat itself” (p. 15). The result of this planning—integrated base defense—is the Air Force concept for embedding force protection capabilities within a “well-defined, networked command and control architecture,” as described by AFDD 2-4.1 (p. 30). The goal remains freedom of action for air and space forces.
To Learn More . . .
Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-4.1. Force Protection, 29 October 1999. https://www.doctrine.af.mil/Main.asp?
AFDD 2-4.1. Force Protection. Draft, 11 May 2004. https://www.doctrine.af.mil/Main.asp?
Joint Publication 3-10. Joint Doctrine for Rear Area Operations, 28 May 1996. http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new_pubs/jp3_10.pdf.
Joint Publication 3-10.1. Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Base Defense, 23 July 1996. http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new_pubs/ jp3_10_1.pdf.
Vick, Alan. Snakes in the Eagle’s Nest: A History of Ground Attacks on Air Bases. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1995.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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