What is C4I?
From: Realizing the Potential of C4I: Fundamental Challenges

The acronym C4I stands for "Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence".


DOD Definitions of Terms: Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I)

Command and control (C2) The exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached 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.

Command The authority that a commander in the Armed Forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by
virtue of rank or assignment. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available
resources and for planning the employment of, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions.

Computing and communications Two pervasive enabling technologies that support C2 and intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance. Computers and communications process and transport information.

Control Authority which may be less than full command exercised by a commander over part of the
activities of subordinate or other organizations. Physical or psychological pressures exerted with the intent to
assure that an agent or group will respond as directed.

Intelligence (I) The product resulting from the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation, and
interpretation of available information concerning foreign countries or areas. Information and knowledge about an adversary obtained through observation, investigation, analysis, or understanding.

SOURCES: Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as amended through December 7, 1998
(Joint Publication 1-02).


Command and control is about decision making, the exercise of direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of a mission, and is supported by information technology (the computers and communications part of C4I). The United States is aggressively exploiting these technologies in order to achieve information superiority, with the objective of achieving better and faster decisions, and continually projecting, albeit with uncertainties, future desired states and directing actions to bring about those future states.

One important capability that C4I systems provide commanders is situational awareness--information about the location and status of enemy and friendly forces. A necessary component of achieving superiority in decision making, it does not alone guarantee superior decision making. Commanders must take relevant knowledge and combine it with their judgment--including difficult-to-quantify aspects of human behavior (such as fatigue, experience level, and stress), the uncertainty of data, and the plausible future states resulting from actions by both their own force and the enemy--to make decisions about future actions and how to convey those decisions in ways to facilitate their proper execution. In doing so, commanders are supported by tools to enable and accelerate the planning and decision-making process, to achieve the decision-making superiority envisioned by DOD. And, of course, to be effective, command decisions must be implemented, a process to which C4I technologies are also relevant (e.g., in speeding up the link through which targeting information is passed to weapons, the so-called sensor-to-shooter link). The development and use of the right tools allow the commander to focus better on those issues associated with the essence of command--the art versus the science. As more and better-automated tools are developed and people are trained to use them, it will become even more important to recognize the art of command as distinguished from the mechanics of the tools used to provide information.


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Last updated 2.21.03