Academic journal article Defense Horizons

Effects-Based Operations: Building the Analytic Tools

Academic journal article Defense Horizons

Effects-Based Operations: Building the Analytic Tools

Article excerpt


The U.S. military, under the guidance of the Secretary of Defense, is moving toward a new concept of military planning and operations that is agile and adaptable to the conflict at hand. The aim is to develop capabilities that can rapidly break an adversary's will to fight and undermine the utility of asymmetric capabilities. The new concept called effects-based operations (EBO) encompasses processes, tools, and organizations that focus on planning, executing, and assessing military activities for the effects produced rather than merely tallying the number of targets destroyed. EBO practitioners draw on the full range of instruments of national power to anticipate, track, and understand the indirect as well as direct effects of U.S. actions throughout the enemy political, military, and economic systems.

The EBO concept requires deep knowledge not only of enemy but also of friendly capabilities and structures. The current suite of analytic tools employed by the Department of Defense cannot support this approach to military operations. These tools were not designed to determine how the use of force affects adversary strategic will, to model adaptive behavior, to represent unintended consequences, or to evaluate alternative courses of action that include other instruments of national power beyond military force.

During the Cold War, the dominant principle of military planning was the ability to mass forces at key points while preventing the adversary from doing the same. Success in battle was understood to depend on the ability to dominate the enemy in an extended attrition campaign. However, the operations that the U.S. military has been called on to execute have changed in character. They are typically against opponents who have nowhere near the military might of the United States (let alone the United States with its allies), and they are not limited to the classic cross-border invasion that leads to defined battle lines, with success measured by territory defended or gained. As demonstrated by Operation Allied Force in Kosovo and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, considerations of military superiority at strategic or operational levels are inappropriate when compared with other factors, such as the enemy's will to fight and local considerations of military force that allow for asymmetric capabilities to be employed effectively. The new concept of effects-based operations (EBO) is an effort to leverage American military and technical might with enormous advantages in computation, information, and analysis to achieve political-military outcomes that so far have eluded the United States in the new strategic environment.

Making EBO a reality will depend on developing and using appropriate analytic frameworks of political and military problems. These frameworks and associated methodologies will enable commanders to plan more effectively for operations and then adapt those plans and operations as political and military situations unfold. Future operations that reflect the principles of EBO will require U.S. political and military leadership to understand the consequences of what may occur in the future beyond immediate military activities. Political and military decisionmakers will require a modeling framework that integrates concepts such as the explicit linking of military actions to national strategy, the continual assessment of operational outcomes and unintended consequences, the coordination of interagency efforts, and the appropriate utilization of emerging operational concepts such as network-centric warfare and rapid decisive operations.

EBO seeks to control the duration and scale of a conflict, allowing the state to achieve strategic objectives at an acceptable cost. Efforts to achieve the desired effects are pursued under the dual objectives of operational efficiency and political effectiveness. Under EBO, commanders would not commit to operations that squander precious resources, nor would they undertake actions without a likelihood of success; for example, they would not commit to a strategy of deterrence against an adversary intent on fighting regardless of the potential costs or loss. …

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