Academic journal article Military Review

A Logical Method for Center-of-Gravity Analysis

Academic journal article Military Review

A Logical Method for Center-of-Gravity Analysis

Article excerpt

LARGELY DUE TO its enigmatic nature, the center of gravity (COG) determination process has always been considered more of an art than a science. But even art has rules and structures that can turn chaotic sounds into language and language into poetry. Currently, the COG determination process described in joint doctrine lacks the clear rules and structure that might rationalize, discipline, and therefore improve campaign planning. Joint doctrine only describes the COG construct and its utility to military planning. This is unfortunate because the value of this conceptual tool cannot be overstated. Joint Pub 5-0, Joint Operational Planning, clearly states the critical role of COG analysis: "One of the most important tasks confronting the JFC's [joint force commander's] staff in the operational design process is the identification of friendly and adversary COGs." (1) It is the "most important task" because "a faulty conclusion resulting from a poor or hasty analysis can have very serious consequences, such as [impairing] the ability to achieve strategic and operational objectives at an acceptable cost." (2)

This paper explores using the strategic framework of ends, ways, and means; a validation test; and a clear COG terminology to provide a logical and disciplined method for COG determination. (3) In military planning, determining the center of gravity is too important to leave to guesswork; therefore, any technique or method that improves COG determination is certainly worth exploring. My experience as an instructor at the School of Advanced Military Studies and the U.S. Army War College, combined with recent operational experience as a strategist with U.S. Central Command and Multi-national Forces-Iraq, has convinced me that there must be a better process for determining a center of gravity than the current guess-and-debate method.

By using clear terminology with accepted definitions, and by linking COG analysis to the strategic framework, we can create rules and structure that permit the creation of art from chaos. No method, no matter how detailed, will produce truly scientific solutions to our questions about centers of gravity; however, a disciplined process that includes a validation test can help separate the kernels from the chaff and focus campaign planning efforts.

The ends, ways, and means framework sets the foundation for COG analysis. Identifying the ends and the ways they may be achieved determines the means required (although in short-term strategies or crisis planning, the means currently available may determine the ways and ends). The ways of a strategy are the essential determinants of a critical capability, and the means that possess that critical capability constitute the center of gravity. In other words, the ways determine the critical capability, which identifies the center of gravity. Linking the strategic framework (ends, ways, means) and COG analysis will greatly enhance military planning.

The Strategic Framework

Arthur F. Lykke Jr. developed the strategic framework of ends, ways, and means. (4) For Lykke, strategy is a coherent expression of a process that identifies the ends, ways, and means designed to achieve a certain goal. Mathematically, we might express this as "Strategy = Ends + Ways + Means." Ends are the objectives or desired outcomes of a given strategy. The term end-state is synonymous with ends. An end or ends comprise the goal of the strategy. Ways are actions. They are the methods and process executed to achieve the ends. More simply, they answer the question, How are you going to get to the end-state? Means are the resources required to execute the way.

Lykke cites a need to balance ends, ways, and means, which he likens to the three legs of a stool (the stool itself representing the strategy). A strategy is balanced and entails little risk if the selected way (method) is capable and has sufficient means (resources) to obtain the desired end (objective). …

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