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Irregular Warfare (IW) Capabilities

What is it?
Army Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, defines IW as "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over a population." The U.S. Army's superiority in conventional combat operations has driven adversaries to avoid direct military confrontation and pursue more indirect means to achieve strategic objectives. In response to this, Department of Defense Directive 3000.07, Irregular Warfare, establishes IW to be as strategically important as traditional warfare and directs the Army to improve its IW proficiency.

Field Manual 3-0 groups military operations with common characteristics under five operational themes: peacetime military engagement, limited intervention, peace operations, IW, and major combat operations. The theme of an operation underway allows a commander to express his intent and shape the conduct of operations. The Joint military operations associated with IW are foreign internal defense, support to insurgency, counterinsurgency (COIN), combating terrorism, and unconventional warfare.

What has the Army done?
The Army recognizes that operations against irregular forces will be commonplace in the future. Therefore, the Army is continuing to develop and incorporate IW throughout its doctrine, organization, training, material, leader development and education, personnel, and facilities. Specifically:

  • Army doctrine is evolving to facilitate full-spectrum operations in a Joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational operating environment. The Army coauthored, with the Marines, FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency in December 2006. The Army followed this by updating its capstone doctrine, FM 3-0 Operations, in February 2008. Field Manual 3-0 elevated stability operations to a coequal status with offensive and defensive operations. Following FM 3-0, the Army published FM 3-05.130, Unconventional Warfare, in September 2008, which describes how special operations forces work through surrogates. Finally, FM 3-07, Stability Operations, was published in October 2008,
  • The Army is constantly improving COIN-focused individual and collective training to prepare Soldiers for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. To facilitate improving this, the Center for Army Lessons Learned embeds analysts in deployed units, debriefs returning personnel, and publishes timely handbooks. Improved knowledge management via the Battle Command Knowledge System on Army Knowledge Online is providing Soldiers with instant access to information required in full-spectrum operations through tools such as the COIN forum.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will continue to integrate skills relevant to IW into individual and collective training. For example, the Army is institutionalizing an enduring training capability for security force assistance (SFA). Currently the Army provides transition teams to assist both the Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The Army has recognized that similar SFA missions will be important in the future and is establishing a permanent capability to train and educate individuals, teams, and units for all SFA related missions.

Why is this important to the Army?
The Army recognizes that it must be capable of conducting operations across the spectrum of conflict with equal proficiency. To meet this requirement the Army will continue to educate, train, and exercise its forces to meet all potential threats.

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