Viewing the Center of Gravity through the Prism of Effects-Based Operations

By Umstead, Robert; Denhard, David R. | Military Review, September/October 2006 | Go to article overview

Viewing the Center of Gravity through the Prism of Effects-Based Operations


Umstead, Robert, Denhard, David R., Military Review


Editor's Note: This article was written in June 2005 and came to Military Review in the fall of the same year. In February of 2006, U.S. Joint Forces Command published the Commander's Handbook for an Effects-Based Approach to Joint Operations. Readers may notice some similarity between the figures in this article and some of the figures in the Commander's Handbook. The similarity is coincidental.

IN THE MAY-JUNE 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described his strategy for transforming the U.S. military. Part of that strategy is to "change not only the capabilities at our disposal, but also how we think about war."1 Fundamentally, joint doctrine describes how the armed forces think about war, and under the Secretary's vision that thinking process is changing to meet the challenges posed by global terrorist organizations and potential nation-state adversaries. As part of this transformation, the old battle-proven objectives-based methods used to plan, execute, and assess operations are evolving into methods based on effects. But how radical should this evolution be? How will the traditional hierarchical focus on a center of gravity evolve into a focus on the connections among actions, effects, and objectives in pursuit of a desired end-state?

In recent years, effects-based planning and assessment has moved from doctrinal debate into operational implementation by the U.S. military. Although strategies to implement Effects-Based Operations (EBO) vary among the combatant commands and services, each faces the difficult task of planning and assessing operations. The Joint Warfighting Center, Joint Doctrine Series: Pamphlet 7, Operational Implications of Effects-Based Operations, provides valuable insight for implementing EBO.2 The pamphlet defines the concept; discusses in detail an effects-based approach to planning, execution, and assessment; and reviews operational implications for doctrine, leadership, education, and training. What's missing, though, is any frame of reference showing how the objectives-based (in effect, center-of-gravity-based) planning concepts are folded into the EBO methodology.3 This essay therefore offers current planners a means for viewing centers of gravity through the prism of EBO.

Defining EBO

The definition of EBO has changed as the concept has developed, and for many, defining EBO has been like trying to hit a moving target. For the purposes of this paper, the definition in Pamphlet 7 suffices: "Operations that are planned, executed, assessed, and adapted based on a holistic understanding of the operational environment in order to influence or change system behavior or capabilities using the integrated application of selected instruments of power to achieve directed policy aims."4

EBO Today

With the publication of Pamphlet 7 in 2004, the effects-based methodology has fully evolved from a linear strategy-to-task approach into a system-of-systems baseline to develop relationships (or linkages) between effects, nodes, and actions. The three key EBO components (planning, execution, and assessment) are enabled by a collaborative information environment and operational net assessment, the latter intended to provide a holistic understanding of the environment through a system-of-systems analysis (figure 1). Within each of the interrelated Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information (PMESII) systems, "nodes" represent a functional component of the system (person, place, or thing) while "links" represent the relationships (behavioral, physical, or functional) between the nodes.5

In the effects-based planning method described in Pamphlet 7, an adversary system-of-systems analysis output determines the direct and indirect relationships between nodes across the PMESII that can be exploited by friendly actions. System-of-systems analysis results become the input for the development of a linkage between enemy nodes and friendly Effects, Nodes, Actions, and Resources (ENAR). …

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