Seeing Red: Creating a Red-Team Capability for the Blue Force

By Fontenot, Gregory | Military Review, September/October 2005 | Go to article overview

Seeing Red: Creating a Red-Team Capability for the Blue Force


Fontenot, Gregory, Military Review


This is not exactly the enemy we wargamed against.

-LTG William S. Wallace, Commander of V Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom1

LIEUTENANT GENERAL William S. Wallace had considered the adaptive nature of the enemy, but apparently he had not expected the intensity of the insurgency that followed decisive operations in Iraq. The Army and its sister services and coalition partners discovered that, contrary to assumptions, defeating Saddam Hussein's forces and seizing Baghdad did not produce a decisive victory. Why? Perhaps U.S. planners did not correctly identify the centers of gravity in Iraq. Saddam, his regime, and his capital city, Baghdad, were assumed to be centers of gravity during various stages of contingency planning but, in hindsight, none of them were. While it is too early to say why toppling Saddam and seizing Baghdad did not produce the expected victory, one could argue that U.S. planning efforts attributed perspectives, motivations, and options to the Iraqis that they did not have. Is it possible the unexpected outcome was a result of these assumptions? Did we mistakenly assume Iraqis would view the world through lenses similar to our own?

The complexity of today's operational environment (OE) requires Army leaders to see through multiple lenses. Ambiguous, nontraditional adversaries seek new means to destroy, disrupt, or just outwait us. Events in Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan have unmistakably confirmed the OE's dynamic nature. Every day our adversaries rapidly adapt, requiring us to reassess how they think about themselves, their environment, and us.

In addition to continuous reappraisal of the operational environment, the Army should examine its processes, structures, and practices. Because adversaries adapt to invalidate our techniques, we must guard against core competencies becoming core rigidities. For example, a previously successful enemy course-of-action template might prove inappropriate for a dynamic adversary or for one we do not understand well. Templates remain useful, but we must acknowledge their limitations.

Our forces require the organic capacity to adapt quickly to new, unanticipated requirements. Lessons from contemporary operations, trends, and estimates of the future suggest we must improve our decisionmaking and planning and the execution of our operations. Operation Iraqi Freedom and Army chief of staff focus area experiences identify deficiencies in the way we learn, understand, and adapt. With this in mind, the Army is examining how to understand, anticipate, and manage change. In addition to learning how to do things better, we must learn to ask: What is the next right thing to do?

Red teaming, a structured and iterative process executed by trained, educated, and practiced team members with access to relevant subject matter expertise, is uniquely suited to this kind of critical analysis. Red teaming provides the commander with an independent capability to continuously challenge OE concepts, plans, and operations from partner and adversary perspectives.

Red teaming is neither new nor unique. In one form or another, it has been successfully applied throughout history. Both government and industry use red teaming, but the Army has no doctrine, procedures, or methodologies for red teaming, and no formal education or training structures are available to institutionalize the capability. When the Army does conduct red teaming, it does so in an ad hoc manner.

Army red teaming emphasizes technical issues and vulnerability analysis, focusing on capabilities rather than the enemy's potential use of those capabilities. Red teaming Army concepts and plans from the perspective of adversaries and coalition partners will help soldiers in the field anticipate and manage change. Effective red teams provide fullspectrum iterative operations and OE analysis from perspectives that can help identify vulnerabilities and develop mitigating strategies. …

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