Information Papers

Full-Spectrum Operations in Army Capstone Doctrine

What is it?
“Full-Spectrum Operations” is the Army’s core idea about how to conduct operations on land—its operational concept. Full-spectrum operations entail the application of combat power through simultaneous and continuous combinations of four elements: offense, defense, stability, and civil support.

Army forces conduct full-spectrum operations within the larger framework of interdependent joint operations. Operations conducted overseas combine three elements: offense, defense, and stability.

Within the United States and in support of homeland security, the full spectrum entails offensive, defensive, and civil support operations. Each element of full-spectrum operations is necessary in any major campaign or operation. The effort accorded to each component is proportional to the mission and varies with the situation.

The Army’s commitment to full-spectrum operations acknowledges that conflict involves more than combat between armed opponents. Army forces must defeat enemies and simultaneously shape the civil situation through stability or civil support operations.

Soldiers operate in the midst of populations, not adjacent to them or above them. They often face the enemy among noncombatants, with little to distinguish one from the other until combat erupts. Killing or capturing the enemy while in proximity to noncombatants complicates land operations exponentially. Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success. Informing and influencing public opinion and perceptions is central to mission accomplishment. Within the context of current operations worldwide, stability operations are often as important as—or more important than—offensive and defensive operations.

What has the Army done?
In June 2001 the Army published FM 3-0, Operations. This edition of the manual moved away from “AirLand Battle,” with its predominant focus on the defeat of large, well-equipped armies. As part of that shift, full-spectrum operations were introduced, but stability and civil support operations were not as heavily stressed as they are now.

Experience gained since that book appeared led the Army to stress the idea of full-spectrum operations as the central idea, and to shape doctrine around it. FM 1, The Army, published in June 2005, articulated full-spectrum operations as part of the Army’s operational concept. The idea of full-spectrum operations moved into Joint doctrine with publication of JP 3-0 Joint Operations, in late 2006. With publication of FM 3-0, Operations, scheduled for early 2008, the central idea of Army doctrine becomes full-spectrum operations. The new doctrine stresses the importance of lethal and non-lethal actions, and how land power contributes to Joint campaign success through both. The rise in importance of full-spectrum operations reflects the Army’s experience at war even as it is transforming into a strategically agile, modular force.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
In early 2008 the Army will publish FM 3-0. Course developers are already revising Army leader education courses based on drafts of FM 3-0. To support the release of the new Operations manual, the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is developing an online education program. FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, was published a year ago. FM 3-07 Stability Operations, and FM 3-28, Civil Support Operations, will follow this year as keystone manuals for full-spectrum operations.

Why is this important to the Army?
The capstone field manuals are the basis for Army’s thinking and its conduct of operations globally. The Operations field manual is considered the Army’s top doctrinal publication. It guides training, leader development, and the conduct of operations. It also shapes force design and the fielding of equipment.

The Army requires forces with the capability to conduct Joint and multinational operations over the entire spectrum of conflict—from the low end, where stability and civil support operations predominate, to the high end, where the emphasis is on major combat operations, offensive and defensive. Accordingly, FM 3-0 states that units must train for all the components of full-spectrum operations—not just for combat. The latter is a major shift from previous capstone doctrine.

Effective training is the cornerstone of operational success. It is the means by which Soldiers, leaders, and units achieve the tactical and technical competence required to conduct successful operations across the spectrum of conflict. The Army trains its forces using training doctrine that sustains their expeditionary and campaign excellence. Focused training prepares Soldiers, leaders, and units to deploy, fight, and win. This same training prepares Soldiers to create stable, peaceful environments. Achieving this competence requires specific, dedicated training on offensive, defensive, stability, and civil support tasks. The Army trains Soldiers and units daily in individual and collective tasks under challenging, realistic conditions. Training continues in deployed units to sustain skills and to adapt to changes in the operational environment...

FM 3-0, Senior Leader Review Draft, November 2007, Headquarters TRADOC, Introduction.
Prior to 2001, the manual was entitled FM 100-5, Operations. The new Joint publication numbering system replaced the older Army numbering system with the release of FM 3-0. The 2007 version will be the 15th edition of the manual, which dates back to 1905.
“AirLand Battle” was introduced in the 1982 version of FM 100-5, and updated in 1986 and 1993.
FM 1 used “stability and reconstruction” as one of the supporting types of operations under full-spectrum operations. That term was simplified to “stability operations” with publication of the new Joint Publication JP 3-0, Joint Operations.
FM 3-0, Senior Leader Review Draft, November 2007, Headquarters TRADOC, page 1-18, paragraph 1-82.