Effects-Based Operations: Building the Analytic Tools

By Desmond Saunders-Newton and Aaron B. Frank Defense Horizons 19



Defense Horizons 19The U.S. military, under the guidance of the Secretary of Defense, is moving toward a new concept of military planning and operations that is agile and adaptable to the conflict at hand. The aim is to develop capabilities that can rapidly break an adversary’s will to fight and undermine the utility of asymmetric capabilities. The new concept called effects-based operations (EBO) encompasses processes, tools, and organizations that focus on planning, executing, and assessing military activities for the effects produced rather than merely tallying the number of targets destroyed. EBO practitioners draw on the full range of instruments of national power to anticipate, track, and understand the indirect as well as direct effects of U.S. actions throughout the enemy political, military, and economic systems.

The EBO concept requires deep knowledge not only of enemy but also of friendly capabilities and structures. The current suite of analytic tools employed by the Department of Defense cannot support this approach to military operations. These tools were not designed to determine how the use of force affects adversary strategic will, to model adaptive behavior, to represent unintended consequences, or to evaluate alternative courses of action that include other instruments of national power beyond military force.