Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Air Campaign, 1989–1991 by Diane T. Putney. Air Force History and Museums Program (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/publications.htm), 200 McChord Street, Box 94, Bolling AFB, Washington, DC 20332-1111, 2004, 481 pages (softcover).
I have read most of the literature on the planning of the Gulf War air campaign (GWAC). Relative to other documents on the subject, Diane Putney’s Airpower Advantage is the most accurate, complete, and unbiased account available to date. A lucid writer and meticulous researcher, the author substantiates her statements with references to firsthand documentation of critical events. The book uniquely ties together the key decisions and briefings that occurred in Saudi Arabia; Tampa, Florida; Washington, DC; and locations around the Southwest Asia theater. Although Putney wrote this account shortly after the Gulf War, it has taken 10 years to declassify the text, gain publication-release authority, and make available the book’s critical insights.
The author provides a tutorial on how planning a major theater war unfolds and discusses its key elements: limiting factors, logistical concerns and requirements, command relationships, and the importance of personalities¾specifically, the role of leadership in putting together an executable plan from disparate pieces. Readers gain complete and accurate understanding not only of the design and development of the GWAC, but also of the combatant commander’s creation of his overall campaign plan and the integration of service components. Unlike some of the more myopic accounts of Operation Desert Storm, this book merges a number of viewpoints into a balanced, coherent whole, thus lending insight into the variety of planning elements, perspectives, and inputs that other books have either missed or avoided. It is also the first study to capture the importance of the effects-based planning approach used to design the GWAC.
One finds here a wealth of perspectives and case studies that can assist future planners. For example, with respect to the role of the joint force air component commander (JFACC) as area air defense commander, Putney summarizes Gen Charles A. Horner’s action as follows: “Grafting onto the host nation’s organization precluded other [US Central Command] components from establishing their own area air defense system,” that would have inhibited the development of an integrated and effective theaterwide system (p. 108). Putney also allows readers to examine the effective style employed by General Horner as he worked with other services to meet objectives (p. 114). Chapters 6 and 9 offer Desert Storm case studies of the failure of intelligence institutions and architectures to adapt to the demands of precision warfare and effects-based assessment. Unwavering adherence to an established intelligence process, regardless of the demands of the situation, hampered bomb damage assessment and rendered intelligence support of the overall effort less than optimal. At the same time, we learn how the integration of intelligence and operations might enhance their efforts.
In addition to addressing the influence of different players, the author accurately captures the magnitude of the tasks that General Horner, as JFACC, adroitly wove into a cohesive air campaign. Such insights validate the utility of a JFACC, an organizational construct first employed in Desert Storm. From General Horner’s example we learn that a great commander does not micromanage but leads best by providing operational-level guidance.
The real-world evidence found in this book—especially the challenges and elements involved in designing a campaign plan—will prove invaluable to the professional military education and training of our country’s future leaders. For that reason, I almost wish Putney had given it a different title because the insights found therein do not limit themselves to airpower but address the concerns of all leaders and planners in each of our military services. Clearly, Airpower Advantage merits inclusion in the required reading lists of anyone with an interest in campaign planning.
Maj Gen David A. Deptula
Hickam AFB, Hawaii
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.