Reorienting "Effects" Focus
General Jim Mattis, USMC, Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, is continuing to demonstrate his leadership at the command who once claimed its Area of Responsibility was "the future". His latest salvo is at one of the "sacred cows" of the defense transformation movement: Effects Based Operations.
"EBO" in the modern sense was derived from the work done by CHECKMATE on the Air Staff (the targeteers who selected critical "nodes" for precision strikes nearly 20 years ago) and by then-Lt Col Dave Deptula, USAF (principal attack planner for the Operation DESERT STORM coalition air campaign in 1991). The evolution of various technologies (GPS, precision-guided munitions, integrated command architectures, over-the-horizon communications) ushered in many new warfighting concepts like EBO.
Despite much fanfare from USJFCOM J9 over the past decade, where EBO became the cornerstone of the "Rapid Decision Operations" overarching concept (and a constant source of chagrin for LtGen(ret) Paul Van Riper), earlier today General Mattis closed the door on EBO in favor of "time honored principles and terminology that our forces have tested in the crucible of battle and are well grounded in the theory and nature of war." His official guidance can be downloaded here.
This is an appropriate (albeit belated) adjustment by CDR USJFCOM to distinguish between "potentially good ideas" and "doctrine". Not just for EBO (an idea that suffered from vagueness and service parochialism since its inception) but also for "Operational Net Assessment" (ONA) and "System of Systems Analysis" (SoSA).
EBO never got over the "persistence" question (e.g., how long would "effects" endure), just as ONA never solved the "adaptability" question (i.e., how would enemy adaptations be accounted for in the model). Gen Mattis's assertion of JPs 3-0 and 5-0 is the proper thing for a Combatant Commander to do -- doctrine, not concept, drives operations. And just as doctrine itself is a reflection of shared values that have stood the test of time and culture, he correctly identifies USJFCOM's role in "help[ing] joint doctrine evolve as our views on effects and related concepts evolve."
However, one concern I do have is that this correction may stymie some of the forward-thinking elements of USJFCOM. J9 has suffered pretty severe budget cuts since my departure two years ago; this could indicate even more to come -- and a command orientation away from "Futures" to "Training" (J7) and "Systems Integration" (J8).