Effects-Based Operations for Joint
Meeting the demands of an everchanging strategic
context requires the US military develop forces capable of achieving
what Joint Vision 2020 describes as "Full Spectrum Dominance."1
Building effective military forces for 2020 demands joint integration-intellectually,
operationally, organizationally, doctrinally and technically.2
For full spectrum dominance, we must use joint integrated effects
to maximum advantage in military operations: effects-based operations.
Current discussions of effects-based operations
involve various definitions and descriptions of the concept. According
to the US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) J9, effects-based operations
is "a process for obtaining a desired strategic outcome or effect
on the enemy through the synergistic and cumulative application
of the full range of military and non-military capabilities at
all levels of conflict." Furthermore, an "effect" is the physical,
functional or psychological outcome, event or consequence that
results from specific military or non-military actions.3
The defining elements in the J9 description
include emphasis on effects-based operations as a process, beginning
with developing knowledge of the adversary (viewed as a complex
adaptive system), the environment and US capabilities. Knowledge
of the enemy enables the commander to determine the effects he
needs to achieve to convince or compel the enemy to his behavior.
The commander's intent plays a central, critical
role in this determination and in explicitly linking tactical to
operational objectives and strategic outcomes. Execution plan follows;
the task then is to applicable and available capabilities, including
diplomatic, information, military and economic.
A study done by the Institute for Defense
Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia, offers a second interpretation
of effects-based operations. (Representative model in Figure
1.) It begins by arguing that effects-based operations rest
on an explicit linking of actions to desired strategic outcomes.
It is thus about producing desired futures.
Moreover, effects-based thinking must undergird
the concept by focusing on the entire continuum (peace, pre-conflict,
conflict and post-conflict) and not just on conflict.4
Understanding how to think in this manner enables effects-based
This study also emphasizes the need to understand
and model an adversary as a complex, adaptive system driven by
complex human interactions rather than just collections of physical
targets. Therefore, one should be able to focus operations more
Of note, this study places great importance
on communications among decision makers at the strategic, operational
and tactical levels and underlines the criticality of the commander's
intent for ensuring focused efforts and effects.6
Finally, this work says those engaging in effects-based operations
must continuously adapt plans, rules and assumptions to existing
reality-in other words, effects-based thinking and operations help
the commander "fight the enemy and not the plan."
Given the predominant ideas in these theories,
one might produce the following definition: "Effects-based operations
represent the identification and engagement of an enemy's vulnerabilities
and strengths in a unified, focused manner and uses all available
assets to produce specific effects consistent with the commander's
intent." Potentially then, the concept of effects-based operations
can serve as a common conceptual denominator or language for executing
joint operations in a unified, holistic approach.
Historical and Theoretical Perspective.
History provides many examples of theorists
arguing for and commanders planning and executing military operations
focused on outcomes-in essence, effects-based operations. In fact,
one can reach back to antiquity to see that classical theorists
advocated the efficacy of combining all elements of power to compel
an enemy to do one's will and achieve one's aims. Sun Tzu, the
classical Chinese theorist, emphasized the use of force as a last
resort: "those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle"
and "the best policy in war is to take a state intact."7
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian theorist,
focused on the primacy of military means and the physical destruction
of the opponent's forces as the best way to achieve desired ends.
However, Clausewitz explicitly recognizes the importance of using
all the elements of power, not just military force, to create desired
In a discussion of how to disrupt the alliances
of an enemy, he argued, "But there is another way. It is possible
to increase the likelihood of success without defeating the enemy's
forces. I refer to operations that have direct political repercussions,
that are designed in the first place to disrupt the opposing alliance
or to paralyze it, that gain us new allies, favorably affect the
political scene, etc. If such operations are possible it is obvious
that they can greatly improve our prospects and that they can form
a much shorter route to the goal than the destruction of the opposing
One recent example describes the potential
efficacy of effects-based operations.
Evidence of effects-based thinking and operations
show up clearly in the planning and execution of the Gulf War in
1990-1991, primarily in the use of air power. General H. Norman
Schwarzkopf, Commander-in-Chief of US Central Coommand, developed
a four-phased operation to achieve President George Bush's objectives.
A portion of his commander's intent stated:
"We will initially attack into the Iraqi homeland using air power
to decapitate his leadership, command and control, and eliminate
his ability to reinforce Iraqi ground forces in Kuwait and Southern
Iraq. We will then gain undisputed air superiority over Kuwait
so that we can subsequently and selectively attack Iraqi ground
forces with air power in order to reduce his combat power and destroy
Clearly, the commander's intent reflected
a view of the enemy as a system and the effects desired against
that system. According to the planners of the strategic air operation,
they employed an effects-based approach toward achieving the stated
objectives. Apparently, air planners continually thought through
how they could best employ force against enemy systems so every
tactical strike contributed toward achieving a desired effect on
A good example of this approach comes from
the attack of Iraqi air defense sector operations centers. Initially,
air planners determined that destruction of the facilities would
require eight F-117s to deliver four 2,000-pound bombs against
each of the hardened underground facilities. However, planners
argued that to achieve the effect desired, the facilities had only
to be rendered inoperative. Therefore, complete destruction was
not necessary; forcing the operators to abandon the facility and
cease operations would achieve the desired effect.
In this case, effects-based thinking and operations
produced the most efficient and effective way to employ force,
achieve the commander's intent and increase flexibility and responsiveness
by freeing up scarce assets for use elsewhere. One can see, therefore,
that effects-based thinking and operations are nothing new.
Much of the current discussions on effects-based
operations appear to center mostly on discussions of air power.
One must ask why it is that many of the leading writers and thinkers
regarding effects-based operations seem to be primarily airmen?
The answer is found in the Army's familiarity with the concept
that was institutionalized in AirLand Battle doctrine and the most
current joint operations manual Joint Publication 3.0, Doctrine
for Joint Operations.
AirLand Battle doctrine evolved from the mid-to-late
1970s to the early 1980s. It culminated in the publication of the
Army's FM 100-5, Operations in 1982 and in a revised version in
1986. Experiential observations and thinking about modern combat
by senior field commanders in the 1970s, including General Donn
Starry, moved the process of doctrine development from the central
battle to the integrated battlefield to the extended battlefield
and finally to AirLand Battle.
General Glenn K. Otis described AirLand Battle
doctrine in Military Review just before its official publication:
"AirLand Battle is now the doctrine of the United States Army.
It states that the battle against the second echelon forces is
equal in importance to the fight with the forces at the front.
Thus, the traditional concern of the ground commander with the
close-in fight at the forward line of own troops (FLOT) is now
inseparable from the deep attack against the enemy follow-on forces.
To be able to fight these simultaneous battles, all of the armed
services must work in close cooperation and harmony with each other.
If we are to find, to delay, to disrupt and kill the enemy force,
we will need the combined efforts of the Air-Army team."10
Thus, AirLand Battle contains the key components
of effects-based thinking and operations. Further examination of
the doctrine reveals a methodology that enables the idea of creating
and achieving desired effects: target value analysis.
The target value analysis process is an adjunct
to the Army's current military decision-making process (MDMP),
a single, established and proven analytical process for solving
problems. The purpose of the process is to produce an integrated,
coordinated and detailed operational plan. This process was the
cornerstone methodology for the practical application of AirLand
Battle and remains so, as "the estimate process" found in Joint
Joint doctrine describes targeting as the
analysis of enemy situations relative to the mission, objectives
and capabilities at the commander's disposal to identify and nominate
specific vulnerabilities that, if exploited, will accomplish the
commander's purpose through delaying, disrupting, disabling or
destroying critical enemy forces or resources.12
In turn, target value analysis offers the commander the means to
identify effects criteria, prioritize the engagement of targets
and plan for contingencies based on the enemy's likely adaptations
when his operation fails; it also enables the estimate of friendly
As a methodology, target value analysis helps
determine assets critical to the enemy commander's likely strategy.
Furthermore, it examines and anticipates the enemy's critical nodes
and potential decision points and suggests what might happen if
the enemy commander's plan fails and what actions make up his failure
options. Evaluation of the potential and likely enemy strategies
identifies critical enemy functions and determines where and when
the commander can selectively apply and maximize his combat power
against the enemy to achieve desired effects.
Additionally, the process seeks to identify
specific enemy activities or events that confirm or deny potential
enemy strategies, thereby enabling the assessment of friendly desired
effects and, ultimately as necessary, adapting friendly actions.14
The decide, detect, deliver and assess (D3A) targeting methodology
serves as familiar shorthand for targeting and target value analysis.15
If, as the Institute for Defense Analyses
study proposes, effects-based operations identify and engage an
enemy's vulnerabilities and strengths in a unified focused manner
using all available assets to produce a specific effect consistent
with the commander's intent, then this concept should look very
familiar. Certainly it is not new to practitioners of AirLand Battle.
Because this is the case, the Army is singularly
well-suited to lead the debate on effects-based operations and
may have a fleeting opportunity to shape the conceptual foundation
for implementation of Joint Vision 2020.
Most of the Army's recent conceptual work
on effects- based operations originates from the Training and Doctrine
Command's (TRADOC's) Depth and Simultaneous Attack Battle Lab at
Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The technological developments and maturation
of the idea of effects-based operations spurred Fort Sill to look
for ways to increase the effectiveness of fires.
One of the emerging concepts, the fires and
effects coordination cell (FECC) focuses more on organizational
changes designed to employ fires (lethal and nonlethal) to create
effects efficiently and successfully. The first Stryker Brigade
Combat Team (SBCT) at Fort Lewis, Washington, is testing this organizational
Naturally, the Battle Lab's core competency
is thinking about the employment of fires with a complementary
professional expertise in targeting and target value analysis processes.
And because fire supporters have shaped the nature of the Army's
discussion of effects-based operations, the result has been a narrower
interpretation of the concept as compared to the current analysis.
Many in the joint community perceive the Army's
position on effects-based operations as limited to discussions
of creating effects solely with fires. Nothing could be further
from the truth. Because the Army adopted effects-based operations
and codified the concept in its AirLand Battle doctrine, the idea
and current debate appears to many in the Army as the "same candy
bar- different wrapper." There are however, some critical differences
between effects-based operations and AirLand Battle's target value
Like AirLand Battle doctrine and the enabling
methodology of target value analysis, effects-based operations
causes practitioners to think in terms of desired outcomes and
the importance of using all available assets. The concept of effects-based
operations differs in that it places more emphasis on understanding
the enemy and determining the linkages between cause and effect.
It also demands a greater capability to assess and adapt to the
vagaries and unknowns of warfare.
Thus, effects-based operations, as a concept,
is a refining and broadening evolution of Army doctrine. It offers
the potential for improving the Army's ability to achieve desired
effects through a more holistic and systematic approach to planning,
executing and assessing the results of military actions across
the entire spectrum of conflict.
Effects-based operations lend themselves to
a broader application-one that encompasses more than just military
operations. Such operations incorporate all the applicable elements
of national power for a given situation-diplomatic, economic, military
and information-and are relevant across the full spectrum of operations.
More so than current Army doctrine, effects-based
operations require commanders and staffs to link tactical actions
to operational objectives and desired strategic effects. The interrelated
focus at every level of command achieves the desired effects commensurate
with the commander's intent.
The strengths of effects-based operations
include predicting, controlling and achieving desired effects and
understanding that, that goal is not always achievable. Acknowledging
this reality leads to the requirement for adaptation in planning
and decision-making. The requirement to adapt and seize opportunity
relies on a thorough understanding of the commander's intent and
leader's ability to make decisive and sound decisions that will
achieve the desired effect without creating unwanted or unpredicted
second- and third-order effects.
However, it is not enough to say US forces
will operate in an effects-based way. Commanders and staffs must
think in an effects-based fashion if they are to operate successfully.
It may no longer suffice to tolerate a subordinate's cursory understanding
of the commander's intent two levels up. Leaders everywhere along
the chain of command must have a clear understanding of national
security and campaign objectives and at least a basic understanding
of those actions necessary to create effects that cumulatively
result in the desired end state.
Moreover, commanders must develop and subordinates
understand clear measures of success that explain why the operations
will work (planned actions, causal linkages and desired effects).
This requirement and a thorough understanding of the commander's
intent provide the two elements that will enable subordinates to
exercise initiative and seize fleeting opportunities.
Most would agree that this emphasis on adaptation
is a great strength of effects-based operations. But it also exposes
a critical vulnerability. The viability of effects-based operations
becomes questionable if commanders fail to provide subordinates
clear intent or measures of success.
Moreover, commanders must trust and have confidence
in their subordinates' abilities to exercise initiative and operate
within the intent. If commanders become overly concerned with the
need to control second- and third-order effects, the potential
exists for them to "reach into the turret" and personally direct
operations, negating the advantages of effects-based operations.
Decisions and actions taken by General Tommy
Franks, Commander, US Central Command, during the opening stages
of Operation Iraqi Freedom, provides an excellent example of effects-based
thinking and operations. During a 22 March press conference, General
Franks described actions he initiated to attack, as he described
it, an "emerging target." Information regarding the location of
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had reached President Bush and General
Franks on the afternoon/evening of 19 March.
While President Bush considered options, General
Franks, demonstrating a clear understanding of the commander's
intent and anticipating potential orders, directed two F-117s into
the air, each carrying two 2,000-pound bombs. No better example
exists of effects-based thinking and actions.
General Franks' decision to launch the F-117s
anticipated President Bush's order to strike, but more importantly,
his actions envisioned a desired future informed by the President's
stated intent of removing the Iraqi regime from power. Without
General Franks' flexibility of thought and willingness to adapt
his plans, President Bush would not have had the opportunity to
order the attack, as the target, Saddam Hussein, reportedly would
have departed the known location in a matter of hours.
Moreover, Franks' decision reflected an acknowledgement
of and accepted the risk associated with executing a mission not
planned for the current air tasking order (ATO). Normal, expected
and necessary planning for suppression of air defenses would not
be possible. In short, General Franks demanded the immediate adaptation
of the current plan with its accepted, attendant risks in an attempt
to achieve the commander's intent in one quick, decisive strike.
At the time of this writing, the outcome remains
in doubt. What is not in doubt, however, is General Franks' effects-
based approach to planning and executing operations. His actions
reflect his background as a fire supporter, a professional, accomplished
in the Army's AirLand Battle and full spectrum dominance operations
doctrine. In turn, this anecdote describes a soldier who knows
the importance and necessity of seeing the desired future and creating
conditions necessary to achieve the commander's intent.
The differences found in the evolution, refinement
and broadening of current doctrine and the conceptual dynamics
of effects-based operations will have practical implications for
changes in joint culture, organizations and leader training. Implementing
effects-based operations as a concept described in this article
will provide challenges, all of which are surmountable.
Implementing effects-based operations in the
Army should prove relatively easy. However, leading the transition
to effects-based operations in the joint community is likely to
be problematic and will require cultural changes within each of
the services. Changing the culture will take many years as leaders
and staffs become familiar with the concept and effects-based thinking
becomes inculcated in service and joint educational programs and
While I have proposed a definition of the
effects-based concept, it is apparent that an agreed upon definition
that is incorporated into service and joint doctrine is necessary
before the methodology can be of use. Almost as important as agreeing
on a definition is the need to establish a common language.
The Army has an extensive but not always well-understood
language to define effects. A familiar example involves the use
of the terms "disrupt," "delay," "limit" and "destroy" that are
so nebulous as to be of little use.16
These terms have primarily served to describe effects associated
with the kinetic attack of a specific target. Moreover, their intended
use is to guide those involved in fire support operations.
In this context, effects-based operations
take on a narrow definition of the effects of fires in support
of maneuver. This limited viewpoint fails to address other areas
where effects are important, such as the effects created by maneuver.
On the other hand, the view that associates
effects-based operations as achieving effects without fires or
maneuver fails to address the concept in the holistic manner in
which its value rests. A key step in implementing any effects-based
concept, then, would be to get the services and joint community
to agree on usage of the relevant terms.
Of most importance is the need to field organizations
with a physical makeup that enables commanders and their staffs
to cooperate in dynamic and orchestrated ways. Instead of having
linked but separate separate centers for intelligence, operations,
logistics and information operations (among others), the Army needs
a combined operations center of generalist operators and functional
area specialists, including intelligence analysts and technical
This team of experts who are aware of the
desired effects, linkages between objectives and the commander's
intent would understand the "why" of changes in policy goals that
inevitably occur during operations. More importantly, they could
adapt to the new realities, given the shared knowledge and cooperation
derived from the proposed organization. In this instance, the Army
is well on its way toward the proposed command and control organization.
Having experimented with command and control
issues connected to digitization and Force XXI, the Army has moved
forward in innovative and varied ways, including conducting tests
with effects coordination cells (ECCs) and deep operations coordination
cells (DOCCs). Supporting these organizational initiatives are
those programs involving the Army battle command system (ABCS),
which provides digital communications among strategic, operational
and tactical headquarters down to the individual soldier/weapon
system level. This point is critical to the successful use of effects-based
operations because of the cyclic, nested nature of the concept.
Determining correct organizational design
by itself is a necessary condition for enabling effects-based operations
and so too is the requirement to develop leaders with the broad
background needed to apply the concept.
Leader Training Challenges.
For reasons other than developing proficiency
in effects-based operations, the Army has initiated a new approach
to conducting initial-entry officer training, the basic officer
leader course (BOLC) with a pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia. Designed
to expose every Army officer to basic warfighting fundamentals,
this training could provide an institutional "start point" for
developing effects-based operations as a common conceptual denominator,
a way of thinking for the Army's future leaders.
The holistic, nested and integrated nature
of effects-based operations places a premium on leaders who understand
the big picture and the potential impact their decisions could
have on achieving desired effects. Coupled with increased emphasis
on rapid adaptation, leaders of the future will have to think in
new ways that are more comprehensive. They must have the confidence
to deal with uncertainty, the willingness to bridge gaps with thinking,
the desire to take insightful calculated risks and the ability
to visualize an abstract battlespace and think in nonlinear dynamic
ways, incorporating multiple perspectives. This effects-base thinking
is no small challenge.
The conceptual thinking skills required by
practitioners of effects-based operations will change the way the
Army develops and trains leaders. The Army's current approach to
leader training focuses too much on process to the detriment of
outcome. Battle drills, situational lane training and rote teaching
of the military MDMP all contribute to the development of leaders
who are able to apply proven, but limited responses to battlefield
Faced with complex challenges, leaders often
resort to executing conditioned practiced battle drills with little
regard to current realities. This technique offers predictability
of response, which is an important component for success at the
tactical level, but one that is increasingly less useful in operational
and strategic level decision-making.
Incorporating an effects-based approach to
operations calls into question the future utility of the "battle
drill" approach, even at the tactical level of decisionmaking.
Effects-based operations demand the Army develop
leaders capable of conceptual thinking. Leaders must be able to
admit what they do not know, recognize patterns, spend more time
in problem identification and determination and, ultimately, be
adaptable. Educating leaders with these skills requires a shift
in the emphasis in their training away from process to outcome.
Leaders of tomorrow employing effects-based
operations must train in environments that center on the student,
not the instructor, in situations where complexity is maintained,
not removed. Checklists and process will remain important, but
the focus must be on outcomes instead of getting the procedures
Of course, there is no substitute for leaders
having a complete knowledge of the art and science of military
operations. Implementation of effects-based operations will expand
the requirement for leaders to develop and maintain a minimum competency
in areas previously deemed outside the prevue of military leaders.
If not expertise, for example, proficiency
in domestic and international politics, culture, diplomacy and
economics will prove critical to the successful application of
effects-based operations. Leaders rightly will focus on being experts
in the realm of military art and science, but they also must develop
a depth of knowledge in other elements of power.
Developing future leaders with the right specific
and general skills to use effects-based operations must begin from
the moment they enter the service. The broader education requirements
demanded by this concept are achievable if they are instilled in
leaders beginning with their initial entry into service.
The Army has an unparalleled understanding
of effects-based operations. Of all the services, it is best suited
to "show the way" in the development of the concept as a joint
common conceptual denominator. This will require moving forward
on two fronts simultaneously: one joint and the other service-specific.
Define Effects-Based Operations and Terminology.
First, the joint community and the services
must agree on a common definition of effects-based operations.
Realizing the potential of the concept requires the Army to expand
what is a "fires centric" notion of effects into a more comprehensive
definition, such as the one suggested. This should be a relatively
simple task, given the Army's desire to focus on creating effects
with all means available.
Hampering the debate over effects-based operations
is the ambiguity of the language in the many descriptions of the
concept, each of which employs unique descriptions and terms of
reference. Before going forward, the services must reach consensus
in defining effects-based terminology. Without a clear understanding
provided by jointly codified terms of reference, development of
the concept may deteriorate into service-centric views, ultimately
negating the unifying potential of effects-based operations. Approved
definitions and language will provide the means to expand and begin
the institutionalization of effects-based operations.
Establish a Joint Professional Military
Education Strategy (JPMES).
Effects-based operations places a premium
on leaders with specific expertise in military art and science
and a working knowledge of the characteristics of the other elements
of national power. Necessarily, practitioners of the methodology
will use conceptual thinking focused by internalized and well-understood
guidance in the form of the commander's intent. Institutionalizing
the training and education of leaders must begin at the outset
of their careers and continue for the duration.
The same must be true for each service. For
the Army, BOLC is the place to start. However, service-specific
training and education alone will not suffice.
If the concept is to serve as common to the
joint community, it also must be taught as part of a JPME strategy.
Design Effects-Based Organizations.
Leaders, educated to employ effects-based
operations, must have facilities and communications networks that
enable their skills. Here too, each service must design field organizations
to take advantage of the inherent potential of the concept.
The Army's FECC is a step in the right direction.
While currently narrow in focus, the idea brings together operators,
intelligence analysts as well as system technicians to employ lethal
and nonlethal fires more efficiently and successfully. Easily expandable,
this idea provides a start point for the creation of a more all-inclusive
organization designed to orchestrate all effects, not just fires.
The bilateral command and control relationship
of battlefield coordination detachments (BCDs) that the Army resources
in cooperation with the Air Force could serve as a start point
to expand the concept to joint task force organizational design.
This proven command and control organization that was designed
to synchronize and integrate fires, air power and ground maneuver-effects
is expansible. And, given the evident interest shown by the Army
and Air Force, effects-based operations could serve as a platform
for the joint development of the concept as well as needed experimentation.
As with any new idea, testing and proving
the theory through experimentation, practice and limited application
is a prerequisite to specific service and joint adoption. JFCOM
already has begun experiments that include looking at effects-based
operations. Beyond this initiative, separate service experimentation
must occur. In the Army's case, many venues and organizations exist
that could conduct experiments with effects-based operations. TRADOC
should task a specific battle lab with the lead-logically, the
Battle Lab at Fort Sill.
Clearly, effects-based operations are not
new. The renewed interest in the idea provides an opportunity to
expand effects-based operations to the joint community. The Army
is uniquely suited to take the lead in the further development
of the effects-based operations concept through a collaborative
effort involving all services. Championed by the Army, the concept
of effects-based operations may provide the enabling idea needed
to achieve the goals of joint intellectual, operational, organizational,
doctrinal and technical integration set out in Joint Vision 2020.
1. Henry H. Shelton, Joint
Vision 2020 America's Military: Preparing for Tomorrow (Washington,
DC: 2000), 3.
2. Ibid., 2.
3. "Effects-based Operations White Paper Version
1.0," (Norfolk, VA: Concepts Department J9, US Joint Forces Command,
4. "New Perspectives on Effects-Based Operations"
(Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses, 30 June 2001),
5. Ibid., 4.
6. Ibid., 8.
7. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translation by Samuel
B. Griffith (New York: 1971), 79.
8. Ibid., 92-93.
9. T. W. Beagle, "Effects-Based Targeting: Another
Empty Promise?" (US Air Force Air War College), 59.
10. General Glenn K. Otis, "The AirLand Battle,"
Military Review, No. 5 (1982), 2.
11. Joint Publication 3-0, Doctrine for Joint
Operations (Washington, DC: US Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2001), B-1-3.
12. Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense
Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Washington, DC: US
Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2001), 429.
13. US Army Field Manual (FM) 6-20-10, Tactics,
Techniques and Procedures for the Targeting Process (Washington,
DC: Department of the Army, 8 May 1996), A-9.
14. Ibid., A-1.
15. Ibid., 1-5.
16. FM 6-20-10, Chapter One.