The Operational and Tactical Nexus
Small Steps toward Seamless Effects-Based Operations
The literature on effects-based operations (EBO) seems to row each day. Myriad definitions have appeared in service and joint doctrine writings as well as in other writings. Most are too far reaching for current capabilities, and they may be too far reaching for future capabilities. Both the United States Air Force (USAF) and the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) EBO definitions encompass all facets of national policy, including strategic outcomes. USAF and USJFCOM are attempting a quantum leap when smaller, more manageable steps are indicated to enable and embed an EBO culture in the planning community. Making the effort more difficult, service and joint doctrine writings often convey a sense of multipolarity when it comes to explaining EBO methodology. Joint planning doctrine is conceptually opposed to an idealized EBO methodology. Another impediment to EBO is a dichotomy in the way the USAF trains at the tactical level of war and the way EBO enthusiasts view campaigning at the operational level of war. One view focuses on events, missions, and platforms, while the other focuses on applying capabilities toward affecting systems and achieving a desired end state. The USAF purposefully evolved towards mission-based training programs following Desert Storm to link missions to combatant commanders’ desired capabilities. Unfortunately, this change fosters the misperception that missions are capabilities and leads to inefficient force presentation to the combatant commanders. Finally, though service and joint doctrine writings strive to distinguish the three levels of war, the officers who will plan campaigns matured during a time when the lines became increasingly blurred. While it is clear that tactical actions can have strategic effects, the doctrinal desire to segregate levels and the institutional desire to view operational planning as completely distinct from well-founded and practiced tacticallevel effects-based thinking is limiting the evolution of EBO in the operational realm. Solving these mind-set differences and smoothing the disconnects at the tactical/operational nexus may hold the key to seamless effects-based operations in future joint fights. However, small steps, not quantum leaps, are required.
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