Monday, August 25, 2008

I have not come to praise EBO ....

...but to bury it. Thanks to the good folks over at SmallWarsJournal, we have Gen. Mattis's fully JFCOM memo on EBO. You can and should read the full document available here, but to get you started here is the full intro. If nothing, it should remind you that we live in a time of giants - Gen. Mattis is one of them.
14 August 2008


Subject: Assessment of Effects Based Operations

1. Attached are my thoughts and Commander’s guidance regarding Effects Based Operations (EBO). The paper is designed to provide the JFCOM staff with clear guidance and a new direction on how EBO will be addressed in joint doctrine and used in joint training, concept development, and experimentation. I am convinced that the various interpretations of EBO have caused confusion throughout the joint force and amongst our multinational partners that we must correct. It is my view that EBO has been misapplied and overextended to the point that it actually hinders rather than helps joint operations.

2. Therefore, we must return to 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. At the same time, we must retain and adopt those aspects of effect based thinking that are useful. We must stress the importance of mission type orders that contain clear Commander’s Intent, unambiguous tasks and purpose, and most importantly, links ways and means with achievable ends. To augment these tenets, we must leverage non-military capabilities and strive to better understand the different operating variables that make up today’s more complex operating environments.

3. My assessment is shaped by my own personal experiences and the experience of others in a variety of operational situations. I’m convinced we must keep the following in mind: First, operations in the future will require a balance of regular and irregular competencies. Second, the enemy is smart, and adaptive. Third, all operating environments are dynamic with an infinite number of variables; therefore, it is not scientifically possible to accurately predict the outcome of an action. To suggest otherwise runs contrary to historical experience and the nature of war. Fourth, we are in error when we think that what works (or does not work) in one theater is universally applicable to all theaters. Finally, to quote Sherman, “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.” History is replete with such examples and further denies us any confidence that the acute predictability promised by EBO’s long assessment cycle can strengthen our doctrine.

4. The joint force must act in uncertainty and thrive in chaos, sensing opportunity therein and not retreating into a need for more information. JFCOM’s purpose is to ensure that joint doctrine smoothes and simplifies joint operations while reducing friendly friction. My goal is to return clarity to our planning processes and operational concepts. Ultimately, my aim is to ensure leaders convey their intent in clearly understood terms and empower their subordinates to act decisively.

5. While NATO and many Partner Nations have adopted the EBO nomenclature, NATO’s policy focuses on the whole of government/Comprehensive Approach. In short, NATO’s Effects Based Approach to Operations (EBAO) does not fully mirror U.S. EBO. NATO’s use of EBAO is left unaddressed in this USJFCOM Commander’s Guidance.

6. A pre-decisional working draft of this document was prematurely circulated and should be discarded. I regret any confusion resulting from the unintended early release of this draft document.

General, U.S. Marine Corps

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