EBO - Effects Based Operations

Mr Happy

Chums, I had to write a brief (v brief) explanation of EBO the other day and came up with this:

EBO refers to Effects Based Operations and is generally used in military circles to describe a policy of selecting targets, not for their strategic or tactical value but for the Effect - this can be the physical, functional, or psychological outcome, event, or consequence that results from specific military or non-military actions achieved by the application of military, diplomatic, psychological, and economic instruments.

Put more simply, the decision to deny a country Its basic infrastructure (Kosovo air campaign over Greater Serbia) is a strategic decision with a strategic outcome (for example, no electricity or running water). EBO describes the difference and follow on effects of bombing a power grid over say, the destruction of generator no.6 at a particular plant. It acknowledges the cascading effects and calls for BDA (battle damage assessments) to be made, not just on the Generator no.6 but on the power grid as a whole, Its supply to users and so forth.

An example of not applying EBO could be illustrated with the removal of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party and the violence and turmoil that followed.
Its not been seen yet but my question is, am I right? Should I do more than five minutes work on it or do you have anything better, I'll be popping the finished version on wilipedia later...


Mr H
Effects are the consequences of actions. They are achieved through activity and are subject to the actions and reactions of an enemy or other parties, and the influence of the environment. Each action will give rise to intended and unintended effects and these may be immediate, short-term or long-term. Tactical actions may have operational consequences that can, in turn, have strategic impact. In order to determine what must be achieved to conclude a campaign or major operation successfully, planning must consider the ends (desired outcomes), the ways (methods), and the means to achieve the desired effects at all levels.

An effects-based approach is a way of thinking that encourages a broader and longer-term view of a situation. It focuses on outcomes rather than activity and advocates collaboration and synchronized actions from military and non-military sources. It requires a thorough understanding of the strategic environment in order to determine the appropriate ends, and the application of both violent and non-violent means to generate effects which will achieve the desired outcome. This offers a more holistic way of influencing the will, understanding and capability of adversaries, allies and neutrals. This Comprehensive Approach enables the integrated application
of all instruments of national power. The goal is for the military to identify how it may best support, and be supported by, the other instruments of power.

The underlying philosophy of an effects-based approach should be understood at all levels, especially the key tenets that effects are the consequences of actions; that effects have both intended and unintended consequences; that a wide range of target audiences need to be influenced; and that land operations are conducted within a wider political context.

The effects-based approach and the Manoeuvrist Approach are complementary philosophies. The effects-based approach is more applicable at the operational and particularly the strategic levels, where consideration of non-military organizations and instruments becomes increasingly important. The Manoeuvrist Approach defines the philosophy for the planning and conduct of the military line of operation, particularly at the land tactical level.
Mr Happy said:
So re contribution and particularly the examples it that a no, ish, yes, yesish...?
Its a yes. :D I quoted from some Land based operations book type thingy. All planning is now effects based, as is targeting.:roll:

Mr Happy

Gosh, I hadn't expected to get it right, I read something in RAF Review 2003, ran around my brain a bit and came back with that, sort of stab in the dark type stuff hoping to get the old donkey on the nose....

Right, a bit of grammar work and off to wikipedia it'll go...
EBO. Hmmn...

Below is the text of an e-mail sent to the US Staff College big-wigs from a retired bloke called viper. Quite long - but an interesting read...


For the past three years, I have watched with misgiving as the new Joint Capability Integration and Development System evolved into its current form. Unfortunately, I believe my apprehension has proved valid for today JCIDS evidences all the signs of an overly bureaucratic and procedurally focused process. Moreover, in the last two years that process has led to the creation of an excess of concepts most of which-in my view-are devoid of meaningful content. My greatest concern is that as these concepts migrate into the curricula of professional military schools they will undermine a coherent body of doctrine creating confusion within the officer corps. In fact, I have begun to see signs of just that!

In the following paragraphs I outline evidence to support my fears that:

• The Joint Staff has created a flawed force development process
• This process has produced too many concepts and most lack substance
• The seeming inability to express ideas clearly, loose use of words, and ill-considered invention of other terms have damaged the military lexicon to the point that it interferes with effective professional military discourse
• The result will soon prove harmful to professional military education

These are not merely esoteric concerns of secondary importance. Ideas move institutions, for good or ill, and I firmly believe that the result of leaving these concerns unaddressed will be a military that is significantly less able to meet its future requirements.

Recognizing your all too-busy schedules, I apologize for the length of this e-mail at the outset. I have attempted several times to shorten it; however, in each instance deleting material seemed to lessen the impact of the account. Thus, my hope is that the importance of the issues will encourage you to read and consider the entire e-mail.

First, I would like to share my thoughts on the current force development process.

Admiral Stansfield Turner, and Generals Donn Starry and Al Gray, worked diligently in the 1970s and 1980s to reintroduce the historically sound theories upon which their followers created new approaches to strategic thinking and operational art. Their efforts also led to the creation of the related air-land battle and manoeuvre warfare service doctrines, which demonstrated their value in Operation Desert Storm. In the 1990s, the joint community incorporated the essence of these ideas into a solid and relatively complete body of joint doctrine that has repeatedly proved itself. I fear that we are drifting away from these now time-tested concepts without offering worthy replacements. I am further troubled that if we weaken the intellectual content of the concepts upon which we base joint and service doctrine we will materially weaken professional military education.

Admiral Turner and Generals Starry and Gray focused on specific problems. This is not surprising for a truly useful military operating concept only results when there is a need to solve a significant problem or through recognition that an opportunity exists to perform some military function better or in a new way. Professor Williamson Murray notes in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period that between the two world wars:

A number of factors contributed to successful innovation. The one that occurred in virtually every case was the presence of specific military problems the solution of which offered significant advantages to furthering the achievement of national strategy." [Italics added.]

For this reason alone, recent claims of a "revolution in military affairs" or a "military transformation" ring hollow since there is little to suggest these movements were undertaken to solve clearly identified military problems. Merely to be "transformational" does not qualify as a specific military problem. Mostly, the names of the movements now serve as a mantra for those advocating advanced technologies.

The operating concept for air-land battle, as expressed in the 1982 and 1986 editions of Field Manual 100-5, Operations, fundamentally changed the way the U.S. Army approached war. Similarly, manoeuvre warfare, first explained in detail in a 1989 edition of Fleet Marine Force Field Manual 1, Warfighting, fundamentally changed the way the U.S. Marine Corps approached war. The unique thing about these documents is that no staffs produced them; rather they were the products of a few authors supervised by senior leaders championing the projects.

In the case of FM 100-5, it was then Lieutenant Colonels Don Holder, Huba Wass de Czege, and Rick Sinnreich working with General Starry. In the case of FMFM 1, it was then Captain John Schmitt working with General Gray. After each service promulgated a manual describing its operating concept, no one perceived a need to produce a vast hierarchy of supporting concepts offering increasing specificity. One document "drove" changes in doctrine, organization, material, and training and education throughout each service. Senior leaders expected combat developers, informed by their understanding of war, to exercise considerable judgment in their duties. They could not anticipate additional and more detailed concepts to justify directly their every programmatic decision.

In contrast, today, we see the creation of an overabundance of joint concepts-a Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, four operating concepts, eight functional concepts, and nine integrating concepts with more reportedly under development. Further, some plans I have seen call for the revision of these documents on a regular two-year cycle. Upon approval, the Joint Staff then employs these concepts to conduct capabilities-based assessments, another seemingly overly complex methodology. In an effort to remain consistent with the joint approach the services are beginning to create similarly overpopulated families of concepts and complex developmental processes.

Rather than a method to drive change, the joint concepts seem to serve more as a means to slow innovation. Services, agencies, and even individuals claim they need ever-increasing detail before they can proceed with force development. I can imagine what sort of reaction subordinates might have gotten from General Starry or General Gray if they had demurred from taking action because of a supposed lack of detail in FM 100-5 or FMFM 1. After an appropriate butt chewing and a short reminder of what mission-type orders meant, the generals would have sent the offenders away with orders to move out swiftly or pack up their gear and leave. Nowadays the more likely outcome is the development of another layer of concepts in an ever-expanding hierarchy. We have already seen the creation of "joint enabling constructs," a fifth level of concepts created to fit below integrating concepts in the hierarchy because developers deemed the integrating concepts not sufficient for the capabilities-based assessment.

In summary, neither uniform nor civilian leaders can simply mandate the development of worthwhile concepts. For every concept, there must be a problem in search of a solution or a previously solved problem for which someone envisions a better solution. Though force development is inherently a complex undertaking, making the process too complex causes commanders and staffs to focus inward on that process rather than on the problem they are trying to solve. When they do the process becomes dysfunctional.

Let me turn now to what I perceive to be a lack of intellectual content in emerging joint concepts.

Assigning our best thinkers to infuse content into vacuous slogans such as "information superiority" and "dominant manoeuvre," is fruitless and wastes valuable resources. Even worse, such efforts are potentially dangerous when they produce an empty "concept" that is imposed upon our operating forces. I believe there is considerable evidence that the latter is happening.

Several cases come to mind, none more egregious than the idea of "effects-based operations." This concept has its roots in efforts undertaken by Colonel John Warden (USAF) and then Lieutenant Colonel Dave Deptula (USAF) during the planning for Operation Desert Shield. These two officers wanted to move beyond the practice of building air-tasking orders based on the work of targeting experts employing joint munitions effectiveness manuals, since this practice focuses on the efficient servicing of single targets. Accordingly, Warden and Deptula did not allow their "Checkmate" staff to concentrate on individual targets. Rather, they required the staff to build ATOs that took into account the larger effects or results they wanted to achieve.

This required the staff to identify a target-set and then to select an element within that set to be attacked in order to accomplish a specific effect or outcome. To illustrate, rather than planning to strike each launcher in a ground-to-air missile site the staff would target the radar unit, thus offering a more efficient way to eliminate the site's capability. Warden and Deptula later expanded this technique to target systems, for example, taking out a few key transformers rather than destroying an entire plant to shut down an electrical power grid. This targeting methodology is eminently sensible and proved its worth during Operation Desert Storm.

Unfortunately, Colonel Deptula argued after Desert Storm that this "effects-based" approach offered a new way to plan for and conduct all military operations. He did not seem to recognize that mission-type orders with their tasks and associated intents accomplish the same goal, but in a far less restrictive way. More important, neither he nor Colonel Warden showed that they had any understanding of the differences between structurally complex systems-such as integrated air defence systems and power grids-and interactively complex systems-such as economic and leadership systems. Operational planners can understand the first using the reductionism of systems analysis. They can only understand the second type of system holistically. Tools for one type of system are inappropriate for the other.[ii][ii]

The concept of effects-based operations formally entered the joint community's thinking when a former JWAC commander put forward a refined version as an "operating concept." This occurred in 2000 during a congressionally mandated experiment sponsored by the Joint Forces Command, known as the Rapid Decisive Operations Analytical War Game.

The effects-based operations concept, despite its title, is at most a concept for planning not an operating concept. Operating concepts by definition centre on how joint forces bring combat power to bear, normally through manoeuvre and fire, not how they plan. However, even as a planning concept its utility is limited since it does not deal effectively with the interactively complex systems that make up most of the systems that military forces must deal with.

Many of the ongoing endeavours to train joint headquarters on effects-based operations concentrate on defining the word effects.[iii][iii] Since 2002, I have seen upwards of a hundred e-mails and papers that staffs have written in an attempt to define "effects." The usefulness of these endeavours is suspect as the following transcript of a recent Joint Forces Command training session illustrates.

Student: "What is an objective?"
Instructor: "A goal that is clearly defined and achievable."
Student: "What is an effect?"
Instructor: "A change in behaviour or capability after an element of DIME is applied against the adversary."
Student: "Is this a good objective? [Pointing to a statement written on butcher block]"
Instructor: "No. That is really an effect."
Student: "Okay...so what about this? Is this a well written effect?"
Instructor: "Sort of. How are you going to measure that?"
Student: "How would you measure my effect that was previously an objective?"
Instructor: "Well, sometimes objectives can also be effects."
. . .
Student: Next, I point out . . . [the centre of gravity] analysis methodology as being useful and similar to the Effect-Node-Action-Resource link in EBO.
Instructor: "Well, yeah...but we really don't use that stuff. Clausewitz is just too ethereal."

Joint Forces Command instructors and others have displayed this sort of convoluted logic as well as disdain for the classical theorists during their nearly five years of trying to teach effects-based operations. It reminds me of a "Mobius Strip" approach to thinking! One officer who has worked with the development of effects-based operations from its outset recently noted that it had taken him fours years to earn a degree in electrical engineering, yet in the same amount of time he has not mastered effects-based operations.

If there is an advantage to effects-based operations as an approach to operational art, it must be explainable in simple English. Moreover, if the joint community desires to introduce this term into the existing planning lexicon its proponents should be able to explain how it improves upon current terms, especially mission with its inherent task and purpose or intent. They have not! Incredibly, some officers in the joint community are advocating for an entirely new definition of mission that would include effects. Attached as an annex is a discussion of today's planning terms to illustrate not only their heritage, but also their great power.

To correct the shortcomings outlined above will require several steps. First, senior joint and service leaders must clearly identify the most significant problems or opportunities-not more than one or two of each-presently confronting joint forces. I would offer two problems for consideration, insurgency and operational design and planning. In the case of the latter, the good news is that both the Army and Marine Corps are evaluating "systemic operational design" as a potentially more powerful approach.

Second, with close involvement of these leaders, staffs need to assist in developing a clear understanding of each identified problem or opportunity. That is, what are its boundaries, its character and form, and most importantly its logic.

Third, senior leaders through discourse with other experienced and professionally schooled officers must seek to find a counter-logic that will enable them to solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity. Such a counter-logic constitutes the essence of a concept as it describes in some detail how to attack or solve the identified problem. Failure to discover and portray a counter-logic is the most serious deficiency in current methods of concept development. Thus, many contemporary concepts are merely descriptive and filled with jargon.

Concurrent with step three, leaders must select a few authors of known talent and immerse them in the process to ensure they are conversant with the best thinking, thereby helping them to explain the concept in clear and concise language, language free of slogans and jargon. This, I believe, was one of the "secrets" of General Starry's and General Gray's successes when they set out to solve the post-Vietnam operational problems-they chose a few very talented writers who possessed a special ability to grasp and then write clearly about complex ideas.

Since retiring eight years ago I have spent considerable time teaching and mentoring field grade officers. Without a doubt, they are the most motivated and intellectually curious officers the American military has ever produced. Recently, however, I have found they lack a firm grasp of many proven doctrinal concepts and their speech and writing is filled increasingly with an unintelligible "effects-speak." A flawed force development process is producing a plethora of concepts that, from my observations, make it difficult to focus current force development efforts. In addition, it is eroding what until recently was a clear and concise professional lexicon.

Very respectfully,

Paul (Rip) Van Riper

I have it in a MS Word doc if anyone wants it!

van Riper is a true military intellectual and I would take his views seirously. He was the OPFOR commander for a (CENTCOM?) exercise set in the MIddle East some years ago. Basically instead of acting like the tin-pot dictator who would allow the US to repeat DESERT STORM he used a number of asymmetric tactics (using speedboat VBIEDs to destroy shipping, not using conventional military communications etc). Result: he was invited to rethink his tactics and to 'play by the rules'- ie deploy his divisions in nice neat lines in the desert for the USAF to destroy. I believe he refused, resigned as the OPFOR commander but stayed as a mentor/observer for the bluefor.
Most of that was a little above my pay grade - effects based planning makes a lot of sense to me at BG level... or maybe I just don't have the brainpower to see that it doesn't make sense! The following struck a chord, though:

Viper said:
[...]making the process too complex causes commanders and staffs to focus inward on that process rather than on the problem they are trying to solve.
Good review of literature on the subject here:

Phd On EBO Literature

That said, I agree with Van Riper: it's a case of obscuring simple truths with a layer of wordsmithing that got Mr Deptula promoted. Rather than 'EBO', I'd call it 'actually thinking about what the best target to smack upside the head is with my scarce resources'. As with all these 'new' ways of winning, it's a codification of what skilled commanders have always done. They appeal to commanders and politicians because of the implicit undercurrent of achieving the same with less...
So what are EBOs in relation to ground troops?
A very good question: back in the 80's we all knew that we had to hit Soviet air defence and command vehicles first: the required 'effect' did not require a new doctrinal buzz concept to be understood.

What is the desired effect wrt enemy forces in the field, except destroying their will/capability to fight? By that count, Chelmsford was employing EBO when he refused to accept Ceteswayo's overtures of peace until he'd brought the Zulu army to battle and killed off sufficient warriors to break their spirit and resolve. It was classical attritional warfare, but it 'had the desired effect'. It is a non-meaningful phrase that signifies nothing - classic emporer's new clothes.
Rip makes some good comments but he has discredited himself in doctrine circles by being too zealous in his hatred of EBO. He really is the anti-christ of EBO - apart from that though he is a nice bloke and spins great dits about his time in 'Nam doing (in other terms) effects-based operations. Anyway, enough of my own dits. The UK version of EBO is now gaining momentum and will be properly codified in a Joint Doctrine Note by the end of the summer. It is a sensible approach based on continued practice over the past few years fused with operational experience (Herrick Prelim Ops, Op VOSPER in SL and others). Forget Deptula, Warden, JFCOM and other 'knowledge-based' systems that fly in the face of established causality theory.

Howay-Man above has eloquently captured the essence of EBO (the UK view). To my mind it is: Focusing on end-state not activity, Approaching problems with a cross-government approach (the military are only part of the solution), Being mindful that we need learning organisations that are agile and adaptive to deal with today's adversaries.

Within UK plc, the services has different understanding of what an 'effect' is, hence there has been a move away from using the term at the term level - purely to avoid confusion and not force on the component level (land, air, maritime) definitions they are not familiar or happy with.

Sermon ends.
Howay-Man above has eloquently captured the essence of EBO (the UK view). To my mind it is: Focusing on end-state not activity, Approaching problems with a cross-government approach (the military are only part of the solution), Being mindful that we need learning organisations that are agile and adaptive to deal with today's adversaries.
That's a very sensible approach, but is emphatically not 'classical' EBO. The focus on the end-state is manouverist, if anything: learning organisations is closer to SOD/ knowledge management theory than EBO. Cross government is interesting, but definitely not part of the EBO mindset as derived from ATO construction. Howay-man has captured the essence of an intelligent approach to operational design.

The key element of EBO is the belief - stated or implicit - that causality can be applied to military operations: 'if this happens, then that effect follows'. Therefore, as a planner, I can decide that if I wish 'that effect' to occur, I should seek to make 'this happen'. It is a logical technique for deconflicting and simplifying complex coordination problems in time and space - hence its attractiveness to air planners, in the first instance. It is as applicable as any other operational art - provided that the commanders responsible are competent and capable of identifying the point at which original premises are rendered invalid - which is, of course, the thrust of SOD, without the verbiage.

Mr Happy

I wonder if the following might be true (thus distancing myself from the libel/slander suit/MI5 hit squad sure to follow)

Nobody is more keen on EBO than the RAF. The principle reason for this is that the Bigwigs in light blue have realised that they don't have anyone left to shoot down and so they need to get into the land war winning game as effectively as possible. EBO allows them to talk about winning a war in Eritrea from the air by dropping a 500lb'er on a 7 year old girls rabbit hutch in Angola. It is, in essence, an attempt in the UK MOD for the RAF to stay in the budget game. The Navy, has a vested interest as there is nobody left to sink and everyone knows the RM should be part of the army anyway so they're on the bandwagon. The Army is there protecting its budget.
The only addition i would make is that EBO (at its highest order) is really a political tool, of which the military force is one of the "bigger sticks" that are employed to make it happen. the principle can then be employed right down the chain of command, but starts to get lost below battlegroup level!
It might then be a truism to say that EBO is only a strategic planning tool, although perhaps the thought process can be extrpolated below Battlegroup the effect of any particular activity will perforce be limited. The counter agrument might suggest that the activity of a particular BG (in say adopting a flanking position) might influence the whole of an enemies defensive posture to the benefit of a strategic goal.

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