Gatland, recently appointed as British and Irish Lions head coach to tour Australia next summer, will be at the Wales helm against New Zealand and Australia in November and December.
But the remaining two autumn appointments with Argentina and Samoa - plus Wales' entire RBS 6 Nations campaign - are in Howley's hands as Gatland concentrates on Lions business.
And one of Howley's early plans is to take the squad back to the training camp in Spala, Poland, where they worked prior to World Cup 2011.
Wales, viewed as arguably the fittest team in the tournament, enjoyed their best World Cup campaign for 24 years before bowing out to semi-final conquerors France.
Howley is set to name his squad for the autumn series on October 22, after which players and coaches will head to Poland and another stint working with facilities that include a cryotherapy centre.
Former Wales captain Howley was in charge for the 3-0 summer Test series defeat against Australia, and memories of those setbacks remain fresh. Wales lost all three games by a combined total of 11 points.
"We spoke after that final match (on the Australia tour) as coaches and warned against hiding away from the fact that we had lost the series 3-0," Howley said.
"The difference between winning and losing those games was about holding our nerve, mastering a particular moment, having the mental strength in the last 30 seconds of a game to do the right thing.
"These were things we were unable to do in those instances, but we need to remember what it feels like so we can get it right next time.
"It had been a whitewash, and it is important to face up to that, but from both a player's and coach's perspective we know we can draw strength from adversity like that.
"We thought as a nation we closed that gap in our mental toughness, but we know there is still an improvement to make."
Wales open their autumn schedule - the Dove Men Series - against Argentina on November 10, before facing Samoa six days later, then New Zealand on November 24 and finally Australia.
Their defence of the Six Nations title won in Grand Slam fashion last season begins against Ireland in Cardiff barely two months later.
Wales and Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies said: "We achieved a lot over the last year or so, but after the disappointment of Australia it just took the edge off what we achieved that year.
"We have four very tough games in the autumn, but the way this squad has gone over the last year or so it's a campaign we can be really competitive in. I think we have to target some real big wins there.
"We need to make sure we build momentum with our performances and build confidence with victories."
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