Operational Command and Control

Military command and control is exercised at different levels. It can be exercised directly by a local superior or, for example, by a headquarters that is responsible for multiple units. The operational level of command is the level between immediate command and control at the tactical level and command and control at the strategic level, which is based on planning well into the future.

Exercise Common Tennacity 18

Operational command and control is a core competence of the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command. After all, it is responsible for exercising command and control over forces during operations in Germany. Command and control in this context does not only mean exercising command and control over forces from the Command’s own area of responsibility. It also means that military personnel from the Army, Air Force, and Navy as well as from the major military organisational elements Joint Support and Enabling Service, Bundeswehr Medical Service, and the Cyber and Information Domain Service may be temporarily assigned to the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command to enable it to accomplish its mission.

The same applies to the Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command and its missions and standby commitments. Both sister commands are thus entrusted with the operational command and control over military personnel from the entire Bundeswehr.

Trained for Crises and Threat Scenarios

At an early stage in their training, servicemen and women are introduced to a way of thinking and acting that enables them to deal with crises. They learn to quickly grasp complex situations and respond to these as effectively as possible. Due to their common training status, everyone in the team soon becomes aware of their own task and the capabilities they can contribute to resolving the crisis situation.

As leaders in a crisis situation, military personnel have learned to quickly develop a comprehensive situation picture from the information available. Above all, however, they have also been trained to respond quickly and appropriately.

Tactical Level

The tactical level is responsible for decision-making at the place of deployment and the level at which the employment of individual servicemen and women and individual items of equipment is specifically determined. With its 16 regional territorial commands, but especially the government region and government district liaison groups and the regional homeland security forces, the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command has a sound and well-established basis at the tactical level.

In keeping with the principle of mission command, the commander of the forces deployed knows the objective of their mission. The specific way in which they implement this mission at the place of deployment within the specified constraints is at their discretion.

Operational Level

During major operations or crises, however, a comprehensive overview of the overall situation is absolutely essential. The best example of this is the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic, during which the Bundeswehr provided support throughout Germany. Decision-making in the context of such major scenarios makes it necessary to look beyond the local/regional situation. This also applies to other areas such as host nation support, where allies or friendly armed forces have to cross several federal states on their way through Germany.

But also homeland security, for example in the case of forest fires or flood disasters, which can quickly affect several federal states. And finally, this also holds true in the case of hybrid threat situations or command and control over forces in Germany during national and collective defence operations, where in the vast majority of cases command and control must also be exercised over several units with different capabilities.

Working at the operational level also means comparing situation pictures, setting the course, taking command decisions, and allowing appropriate leeway.

In Pictures

How is operational command and control implemented in Ulm, for example?

The Multinational Joint Headquarters Ulm is capable of deploying a large part of its personnel and materiel to a crisis area at short notice, where it will act as a Force Headquarters, and plan and conduct operations. It is equally capable of conducting operations from Germany as an Operational Headquarters.

This applies to European Union missions and, by the same token, to NATO missions, in which the Multinational Joint Headquarters Ulm would act as the headquarters (Joint Task Force Headquarters or Joint Force Headquarters) under the direct command of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Both the NATO and EU-led missions involve the translation of politico-military objectives into military action, but always at the appropriate level of command. For EU missions, this would be at the higher military-strategic level and in the case of NATO missions, at the operational level.