Academic journal article Military Review

The Operations Targeting and Effects Synchronization Process in Northern Iraq

Academic journal article Military Review

The Operations Targeting and Effects Synchronization Process in Northern Iraq

Article excerpt


The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.

--Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 CE

IN THE EARLY 4th century BCE, more than five centuries before the great philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius made the observation quoted above, Gallic tribes sacked Rome. Faced with the first real threat to its existence, the young Roman state recognized the need to rethink how it organized for combat. Of the various changes adopted, the most important and extreme transformation was the abandonment of the Greek-style phalanx. This military organizational structure had been long-established as the most effective way to achieve success against opponents with a similar operational paradigm. However, the Romans understood that--unlike Greece--Italy and Gaul were not governed by city states, whose armies met on large plains deemed suitable by both sides to settle disputes. Rather, they were a collection of hill tribes adept at using the complex terrain to their advantage. Accordingly, the Romans acknowledged the need for something more flexible than the unwieldy, slow-moving phalanx to achieve their operational goals. Faced with a newly complex operating environment, the Romans took the transformative step of adopting the more flexible infantry formations of their most tenacious enemies, the Samnites. (1)

Today, America is experiencing an analogous military epiphany as its military adapts to complex, adaptive, and asymmetric operating environments that defy accepted military conventions. In January 2008, in the wake of its final after action review from its 2006-2007 deployment to northern Iraq, the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division Headquarters found itself revising longstanding organizational thinking to adapt its structure to the new demands it would face in northern Iraq later that year. The division's new operational milieu presented an increasingly complex operating environment, an adaptive asymmetric threat, and a traditional staff organization ill-suited to deal adequately and effectively with either. The division recognized a vital requirement to rethink how to organize its staff to best meet the commander's vision and intent (as embodied in our campaign plan). We felt this reorganization should fulfill three critical roles: inform and enhance the commander's decision making cycle, create a logical nesting of our staff processes with the Joint architecture used by our higher headquarters, and make our subordinate units more effective in their counterinsurgency roles across northern Iraq.

To support the needs of the command, we applied a deliberate problem-solving process. This process was rooted in "value-focused" thinking; that is, we first delineated what was important to achieve--operational success (what we valued). Then we built our organization around it. The result was a staff organization employing an "operations, targeting, and effects synchronization" (OTES) process appropriate to our goals. This process evolved in the context of Joint doctrine, as we projected the best likelihood for achieving the "enduring effects" envisioned in our campaign plan. This article sets forth--

* The methodology we applied.

* The results of the process.

* The implementation of the desired course of action.

* An assessment of how it performed in a combat environment.


* Our staff organization methodology began in January 2008, after the 25th Infantry Division's after action review of its recent deployment to northern Iraq from August 2006 to October 2007. Foremost among various lessons learned, we determined that a conventional Prussian general staff structure was inadequate to address the complexities of the evolving operational environment. The following factors drove this determination:

* There was exponential growth in relevant available information.

* Staff responsibility lines had become less clear as problem complexity grew. …

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