Effects-Based Approach Reshapes Strategic Landscape

June 2006
By Henry S. Kenyon

The scenario for Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE4) focused on ongoing operations in Afghanistan. It is the goal of MNE4 to develop new strategies that can be applied to peacekeeping and stability efforts in many parts of the world.
Multinational tests examine ways to win wars by building bridges, not destroying them.

A recently completed international military experiment has developed strategies and doctrines for stability and peacekeeping operations that now are being applied in Afghanistan and Iraq. The event focused on using all available capabilities to achieve mission goals, ranging from direct combat to reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command-led Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE4) examined the procedures, organizations and tools required to support effects-based operations in Afghanistan. NATO played a key role in the event by linking participants to subject matter experts on a dedicated information sharing network, explains Cmdr. Edward Whalen, USN, MNE4’s NATO experiment director, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), Norfolk, Virginia.

In the context of the experiment, Cmdr. Whalen describes effects-based operations (SIGNAL Magazine, August 2001) as the use of all available capabilities—from either a national or NATO perspective—to achieve strategic objectives. He describes some of the spectrum of capabilities as diplomatic efforts, economic initiatives and humanitarian outreach such as sending water purification trucks into a region. “It could be anything. It may not be military and in a lot of cases, it probably shouldn’t be,” he says.

Effects-based strategy is not new. The commander notes that both Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz describe it in their texts. However, effects-based strategy has never been specifically organized and systematically applied. “What we are doing is formalizing it, so that every person—every commander, every corporal out in the field—can understand what their role is and how they can affect things,” he says.

Cmdr. Whalen cited the events at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as an example of how a few low-ranking soldiers can throw an entire strategic situation into turmoil. “By codifying what we’re doing, people now understand that they have a much bigger role in the picture than they thought,” he declares.

MNE4 is one experiment with two separate tests. The U.S.-led side of the event was called the Coalition Task Force (CTF) and included Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom. Most of these nations participated remotely from their national locations with the exception of Finland and Sweden, which sent personnel to the United States.

The NATO-led nations were Denmark, Norway, Turkey and Slovakia. Additional participants operated from three major Joint NATO Command Headquarters located in Brunssum, the Netherlands; Naples; and Lisbon and from a series of other joint commands. The NATO contingent operated from the Ataturk Wargaming, Simulation and Culture Center in Istanbul. Some of the NATO personnel also served as subject matter experts from ACT headquarters in Norfolk. “It was very limited reach-back, but it was enough to demonstrate the capability,” he says.

The experiment linked all of the members into a single network established specifically to support the event. “Although the players were separated, on both the CTF and NATO sides, the controllers—the guys who were ensuring that the experiment moved along correctly—were combined. We were sharing information throughout all the countries all the time,” Cmdr. Whalen explains.

MNE4 focused on ongoing stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. In the event’s scenario, the country’s modernization and rebuilding efforts were challenged by a resurgence of civil strife that threatened to destabilize the government. In the experiment, Afghanistan’s government has requested NATO to help stabilize a region of the country.

Because the event emphasized stabilization and national recovery, representatives from civilian government organizations also participated. NATO was represented by individuals from the German foreign ministry, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Justice and by two military members from the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. A retired German ambassador served as the civilian equivalent of a military commander for the experiment.

The CTF was represented by 10 U.S. government agencies, six British government organizations and various agencies from Canada, France and Germany. He notes that almost all of these nations had members of their foreign ministries present.

A key technology enabler linking all of the event’s participants was the NATO collaborative information environment (CIE). Cmdr. Whalen explains that the CIE features a Web portal similar to Microsoft Internet Explorer, allowing users to pull information from the Web, and a search capability that he describes as a “mini Google.” Collaboration software was used within the headquarters to allow participants to collect information for answers quickly and as a reach-back capability to multiple sites in the United States and Europe.

For MNE4 NATO created a collaborative network connecting event participants in Turkey, the United States and across Europe. The network featured a variety of collaborative tools that allowed users to exchange information in real time and to facilitate information gathering.
The commander says that NATO could have conducted the experiment without the CIE, explaining that the participants are used to working face-to-face for this type of stabilization operation. But once the CIE’s capability was demonstrated and the attendees realized that they could accelerate their operations, it became a popular tool. “They were so used to using it that by the end of the experiment they said, ‘We want this in the field now.’ It’s a force multiplier. It just takes a bit of convincing for people to realize that it does work,” he shares.

Many CIE functions are designed to operate like commercial applications such as Yahoo and Windows messenger. However, the CIE can be scaled to incorporate up to 1,000 people into a network.

The environment currently is not secure. Cmdr. Whalen notes that NATO has only recently begun examining solutions enabling messages to move from secret domains to unclassified ones and back. He adds that U.S.-based groups soon will have a solution approved but that NATO is perhaps 24 months behind with its own application because it is still determining how to apply multiple security standards.

Cmdr. Whalen states that the majority of the participants were excited about applying effects-based approaches and thought. But he admits that it was challenging to convince military personnel to think not only about destroying targets but also about rebuilding towns and taking care of people. “It’s hard for some people to do [this]. But by the end of the experiment, it was almost second nature to everyone,” he says. Conversely, the civilian participants generally did not approve of how the military conducted its operations in the context of a stabilization program. However, by the end of the event, the commander says they were excited about participating in the next series of experiments.

Several software tools were introduced at the MNE4, including applications for operational planning and force assignment and collaboration. This software was well received, and the users indicated that they wanted to see these applications in the field.

The event did uncover some flaws in how effects-based operations were implemented. “Some things were overlooked, or something that we thought made a great deal of sense didn’t work for the guys who were seeing it for the first time. So we had to make some adjustments,” he shares.

For example, the initial concept for a civil affairs group, which was meant to unite civilian and military organizations during a mission, had a rocky start. The civilian participants indicated that this arrangement was not working for them. “We had to redo it during the experiment, but we gathered a great deal of information from the civilians on how to do it better,” he explains.

After each of the previous multinational experiments, the effects-based lessons learned were applied immediately in the field. The commander notes that event participants will incorporate the information they have learned into their operations, a phenomenon that already is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Folks are using some of the things they’ve learned. It’s not a complete product yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any pieces ready for use in the field,” he says.

For example, Australia used an effects-based approach for stabilization operations in the Solomon Islands. The Australian federal police served as the lead agency and commanded Australian military units that were supporting the mission.

But effects-based operations are not a silver bullet, Cmdr. Whalen warns. Individual national strengths and capabilities must be weighed when deciding how effects-based operations can best contribute to a multinational operation.

The experiment was divided evenly between developing new doctrine and studying new technological solutions to operational challenges. Cmdr. Whalen explains that effects-based approaches can be attempted without technology, but they will be less than 50 percent effective. Networking technology increases effectiveness to from 70 percent to 75 percent, but if all available assets are used, the success rate climbs to 90 percent, he says.

For example, in effects-based operations, commanders must be able to communicate with experts. Technology allows rapid information sharing between commanders and specialists during an operation. “That person could be a professor in India or Australia. It’s difficult to call them on the telephone or send them an e-mail. But with the CIE—especially if you have a subject matter expert index—you can very quickly find the person you need to talk to. Or if they are online, the collaboration software allows you to talk to them in real time, share information and use it immediately,” the commander says.

An example of such information sharing occurred in Multinational Experiment 3 between two civilian agencies from different countries. Representatives from these organizations met for the first time in the experiment via the collaborative suite, where they solved a real-world issue in Afghanistan in 30 minutes. “There is a lot of power in using the technology—it is an enabler that we need to be as effective as possible,” he states.

Data from MNE4 was presented at a senior leaders seminar in Brussels in May. The event, attended by North Atlantic Council civilian and military representatives and civilian leaders from the participating nations, focused on the lessons learned and their implications.

A fifth multinational experiment is scheduled to take place between February and April 2008. A series of smaller experiments beginning this summer will lead up to the event. Cmdr. Whalen notes that the multinational experiments actually are capstone events. “The intent is to take all of the development efforts that have gone on for the last two years to address specific issues, bring them together in a multinational experiment and ensure that they will integrate together correctly. The intent for all of us is to put out a comprehensive capability that can be used in the field as soon as possible,” he says.


Web Resources
NATO Allied Command Transformation: www.act.nato.int/multimedia/articles/2006/060130mne4.html
Multinational Experimentation, U.S. Joint Forces Command: www.jfcom.mil/about/experiment/multinational.htm


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