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Operation(al) Transformation

August 2001
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Collaboration among government agencies could bring more power to the battlespace.

While the individual armed services continue their march toward change, some forward-thinking military leaders are examining transformation on a larger scale—the realm of operations. Technologies likely to be available in the future will enable effects-based operations, a concept that may not replace conventional warfare but certainly could narrow its breadth.

Effects-based operations (EBOs) use advanced technologies to help understand the enemy as a system of systems. Instead of looking only at an adversary’s military might, EBOs also examine political, economic, cultural and decision-making factors. The objective would be to take apart the connection among these systems in such a way as to defeat an enemy’s ability to make war. The approach would complement traditional warfare tactics.

This technique is not entirely new. In past conflicts, the military identified communications links and used weapons to destroy them. However, the concept being examined by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, takes this method to a new—a strategic—level.

David J. Ozolek, deputy director, Joint Futures Lab, Joint Experimentation Directorate, JFCOM, relates that EBOs expand on the relationship between technology and operations. “In EBOs, we are not focusing on any specific technologies. We are focusing on, given the technology trends that we see, how they convert into warfighting capabilities and how that affects operations in the future,” he says. U.S. troops could fight more effectively and efficiently than in the past, he offers.

Because EBOs involve the strategies of warfare, the military would need several capabilities that technology can support, Ozolek states. First, commanders would require an absolutely detailed understanding of the enemy. To disrupt the functionality of the adversary’s system of systems, they would have to obtain data about various components of the enemy’s war-making capability. This knowledge may reside in agencies other than the U.S. Defense Department, so this approach would require interagency cooperation. “This is truly a national approach to operations that is strategic,” Ozolek notes.

EBOs would take a precision rather than a linear approach to operations. Military strikes could take place throughout the battlespace and may not be solely kinetic in nature. For example, cutting off an adversary’s revenue that pays for weapons would affect the ability to fight. This activity would not necessarily affect the citizens of a warring nation, only its military. However, the U.S. military would need a second capability—the ability to precisely assess the effect this action is having on the adversary, Ozolek relates.

The third capability U.S. commanders would require would be the mobility to conduct noncontiguous operations. This tactic calls for a complete understanding of the battlespace when it is needed and where it is needed and would most likely require a joint force effort, he says.

Col. Allan Bacon, USMCR, points out that the effects an EBO may have on a mission could be more extensive than a commander originally intended, and this must be examined. Col. Bacon, who is the director of the Advanced Concept Team, Warfare Integration Division, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia, relates that second-, third- and fourth-order effects must be considered.

As an example, the colonel describes a mission that would involve collecting illegal weapons from a small town. Armed with the knowledge that residents possess 250 illegal weapons, the military would present leaders with an ultimatum: Deliver the 250 illegal weapons to the town square by 10:00 a.m. on Thursday. If you do not deliver all of the weapons, on Friday at 10:00 a.m. you will no longer have power. If all the weapons are not accounted for on Thursday, the military goes into action on Friday, and all of the power is cut off. But the ultimate effect may not be so simple. “What if a journalist from Reuters covering the action is in the area and his child is on a respirator? The power goes out and the child dies. Now, the word goes out to the world that the military’s action caused the death of a child. So you can see, there are second-, third- and fourth-order effects that have to be considered,” Col. Bacon relates.

Developers of the EBO concept are well aware that employment of such an approach is complicated. At its core will be the ability to both collect as much data as possible and then sort through it to obtain a clear, complete picture.

Col. William Jackson, USAF, Air Force liaison to the Joint Experimentation Directorate, JFCOM, explains that for EBOs to be successful, commanders will need knowledge, not just information. “There’s a lot of data out there. We need to understand the economic and political status of an adversary, which has been understood by entities other than the Defense Department for a long time. The greater the knowledge base, the greater the chance for a success in noncontiguous, parallel operations. We need a link from the national strategic to the tactical actions,” the colonel explains.

Technology is a key component of harvesting information from various governmental agencies. Ozolek explains that JFCOM is currently looking at all the federal organizations and trying to determine which technologies would be needed to facilitate data sharing. “We would need networking across the interagency community, not as a military operation but as a military component of a national operation. We are looking at a partnership with the political arms and transportation, those that could help us understand the cultural aspects.

“But the key is the ability to fuse all of that information into the knowledge that the colonel is talking about. There have been interesting proposals. One is a national fusion center, but some think that this may be archaic. A network approach—to be able to tie together all the agencies—would be better,” he offers.

Col. Jackson points out that with Web-enabling technologies, the potential already exists to create the systems without necessarily creating centers. Many agencies currently have these technologies within their departments, he relates.

JFCOM is looking beyond today’s technologies to enable this governmental knowledge web. Ozolek indicates that joint planners are exploring peer-to-peer computing. “This approach revolutionizes the concept of the Web that we have today. It replaces the client-server of today with all computers that can talk to all computers,” he says. Peer-to-peer computing also could solve some of the other problems networking poses today such as multilevel security and bandwidth issues. “If the Web breaks down and soldiers don’t have the reach-back capabilities, they can communicate peer-to-peer to provide a self-healing net.” With a better understanding of this type of computing, the military could be on the verge of operational transformation, Ozolek offers.

Technology could solve other problems as well, Col. Jackson indicates. While the military understands the tactical and strategic elements of mission planning, not all personnel in other government agencies have the experience to appreciate the value of data they have stored. “At the State Department, for example, some may understand some parts but not all because of the organizational structure. The technology provides the solution to this issue if we can set up ways of communicating with other entities as well as communicating with the Defense Department,” he says.

Ozolek admits that some people contend that the military has always employed EBOs. However, he maintains that it has been done on a bit-by-bit basis. “Now we’re talking about doing this all of the time. Information is pushed into the network rather than being pulled. The questions are how do we keep from drowning in the information? How do we fuse the information and make it useful and available to get it to the right person, then also how do we share and collaborate? It has to be an integrated national operation,” he states.

Col. Jackson agrees. “If we become successful at this, we will see virtual seamless operations. From the outside it would be hard to tell if it were a diplomatic situation or a military operation. We could diffuse the situation without going to the military. We try to do this now, but we’re not as good as we could be,” the colonel says.

Ozolek and Col. Jackson point out that EBOs offer another benefit. If the military can prevent an incident or limit the destruction that takes place during an operation, reconstruction of an area could occur faster. “We will not be left with the same conditions that we had after World War I or World War II,” Col. Jackson relates.

EBOs also could influence military components and planning in other areas. Ozolek relates that one problem the Defense Department has been trying to solve for several years is strategic lift. The department has concentrated on designing and building more powerful aircraft and faster ships to transport materiel to the theater of operations. The knowledge gained through EBOs would allow planners to tailor their materiel requirements.

In past operations, a joint task force has been sent to the site carrying assets from many sources. These were sorted out upon arrival in the theater. The Gulf War is one example of this situation. Ozolek relates that, because of the limited amount of available knowledge about targets, 180,000 pounds of ordnance was transported for every target that was destroyed. With the assistance of EBOs, this amount could be reduced to 250 pounds, he maintains.

“This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to look for ways to increase lift capabilities,” Ozolek warns. “There has to be some balance between the two at which point we can start decisive operations earlier than we’ve been able to before.”

JFCOM explored the EBO concept at Unified Vision 2001 (UV 01), an experiment held earlier this year. The concept will be further examined at Millennium Challenge 2002, a joint experiment scheduled for next summer in which participants will study EBOs from the perspective of today’s technologies and those that are likely to be available during this decade. During Olympic Challenge, an experiment planned for 2004, participants will consider what capabilities will be needed in the future. “Next-decade systems will be built to conduct this type of operation,” Ozolek predicts.

To facilitate further study of the lessons learned from UV 01, representatives from each of the services met in Quantico this summer. More than 21,000 comments from the experiment’s participants need to be reviewed and evaluated, Ozolek says. The key to developing the concept will be collaboration and cooperation, and a team will operate in a virtual environment to accomplish this task, he offers. Because this concept is in its formative stages, developers must determine what needs to be done, how it would be done and what part each service, working in a joint environment, would play, Ozolek relates.

UV 01 demonstrated the potential power of three-dimensional collaboration. Participants worked together across service, functional and chain-of-command lines. The ability to reach back for expertise resulted in acquiring better knowledge about an operation. Interagency participation added valuable input that could be incorporated into planning, Ozolek explains.

If EBOs become a standard strategy, JFCOM’s role will change, Col. Jackson indicates. Emphasis will increase on creating integrated capabilities so that all nine unified commands can consistently carry out operations.

Ozolek and Col. Jackson point out that the concept of EBOs must be refined before specific technologies can be chosen to support them. The goal of experimentation is to explore the concept; only then can the required technical capabilities that would support such operations be identified, they agree. However, because EBOs will require both collaboration and cooperation among several organizations, the commercial sector will play a key role, they relate.