Friday, April 08, 2005

How Do We Know We’re Winning?

Update: The CS Monitor has an excellent article about the evolution of the Iraq insurgency. The article also references videos of insurgent confesions that are being broadcast on Iraqi TV. See it here.

Original Post:

Over a year ago, Rummy’s (will I get in trouble if I call him that?) famous memo (more here)about the GWOT raised this interesting point:

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Are we getting answers?

After the Iraq elections, I think that we reached a turning point. That appears to be the consensus in the military blogoshpere, and the media seems to be catching on. Something has shifted. There have been less attacks and casualties. Things seem to be getting better. We’re winning. But, how can we really be sure?

Effects based operations (EBO) is the “new” doctrinal way of looking at warfare. (See definitions listed below for more info) The general idea is that all actions create an “effect” which will dictate a result. Effects are created and masses to reach a goal.

Tommy Frank’s order of the day a couple times early in the war was “Destroy the Medina Division”. Creating that effect is pretty simple. Mass fires and maneuver on enemy forces until there were smoking holes in the ground where all the tanks used to be. Easy. Blow shit up and break things. Brute force and ignorance. Huah!

But, things get more complicated when you have a goal “like neutralize all Iraqi regular Army forces south of Baghdad”. The goal is not necessarily destruction. So what are the best effects to mass on the regular Iraqi Army in order to achieve the desired effect?

The military has a laundry list of things to choose from. Kinetic/non-kinetic attack. Lethal/non-lethal. Information Operations and PYSOPs. I may be able to take an enemy unit out the fight without firing a shot.

But once you get beyond “kinetics” how do you know if you’re effects are working? Battle damage assessment (BDA) --destruction bean counting--is one of the toughest things in intelligence to get right. It sounds simple, but it can be enourmously complicated. The enemy has 100 tanks. I count 100 blown up tanks. I win. But, what if 50 of those smoking holes in the ground that I'm counting as dead tanks are really dead trucks. Oh shit.

It gets much harder to evaluate when you start factoring in non-kinetic attacks. Is my leaflet campaign working? How many enemy soldiers have deserted their posts? Will they fight if they come into contact with US forces?

Traditionally, you developed a set of information and intelligence requirements (PIRs, SORs, IRs) to answer these questions. These are still applicable, but no we have a new tool called “measure of effectiveness” (MOE). Basically, it’s a laundry list of indicators that evaluated whether or not you are achieving a desired effect. These measures may or may not be tied to intelligence.

Right now, our desire effect is to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, and we seemed to have turned a corner in doing so. But, how do you measure this? What are the metrics?

I may be talking out of my fourth point of contact, but here are some of my ideas:

HUMINT Reporting: Am I getting more HUMINT reporting? Has there be a shift in the quality and motivation of the reports that I am getting? Is money less a motivation? Am I getting new sources? A shift in HUMINT reporting may indicate a shift in the population.

Suicide Bombers: Despite their apparent abundance, suicide bombers aren’t actually that easy to come by. (great article) Are there less? Who are they? Iraqis or foreign Jihadis?

Frequency and type of attacks: This one actually has some pitfalls. Coalition forces may be getting attacked less, but does that mean there are less bad guys? Maybe. But, it might also mean that the good guys are hardened enough to discourage attacks.

If you look like a chuck wagon, you get treated like one. If you look like a war wagon, nobody will fuck with you. I’ll be there aren’t too many chuck wagons running around Iraq right now.

So are there still as many attacks, but not against coalition forces? Or are attacks dropping across the board?

Crime Rate: Does the crime rate appear to be dropping? Lots of factors can contribute to this, but it is an overall indicator of the civic health of Iraq.

These are just a few tools that can be used to measure if we’re winning or not. There are many more, and some of these questions cannot be answered in a public forum. But a savvy consumer of information might be able to evaluate these measures for him/herself.

Here are some other sites and links with EBO info:
Death By PowerPoint, Air Force Style
Death by PowerPoint, Army Style
Interesting Rand Study
Article: V Corps FECC - V Corps Fires and Effects Coordination Cell
Lots of EBO Links
Effects-Based Operations: Application of new concepts, tactics, and software tools support the Air Force vision for effects-based operations
ARR of EBO in Afghanistan
Effects-Based Operations Equals to “Shock And Awe”?
Effects-Based Operations for Joint Warfighters

And Bobby over at Bobby's World has some interesting things to say. Here and here.

Definitions from the JFCOM Glossary

Effect - The physical, functional, or psychological outcome, event, or consequence that results from specific military or non-military actions.

Effects Tasking Order (ETO) - Formalizes output of JTF virtual collaborative planning. It is the means to task and synchronize the actions and orders required to achieve the commander's intent. ETOs replace the current operations orders (OPORDs) and Fragmentary Orders (FRAGOs) issued as required to support current and future operations. They do not replace component execution planning and execution orders.

Effects Based Operations (EBO) - A process for obtaining a desired strategic outcome or "effect" on the enemy, through the synergistic, multiplicative, and cumulative application of the full range of military and nonmilitary capabilities at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Effects Based Planning (EBP) - An operational planning process to conduct EBO within RDO. EBP is results-based vice attrition-based. EBP closely mirrors the current joint planning process, yet focuses upon the linkage of actions to effects to objectives. EBP changes the way we view the enemy, ourselves, and what is included and emphasized in the planning process. EBP uses a flexibly-structured battle rhythm that leverages a collaborative knowledge environment and capitalizes on the use of fewer formal joint boards. It employs virtual, near-simultaneous planning at all echelons of command.

Effects Based Strategy - The coherent application of national and alliance elements of power through effects-based processes to accomplish strategic objectives.

Effects Based Targeting - The focus of the targeting process is to produce COAs that will change the enemy's behaviors and compel him to comply with our will. The behavioral changes we attempt to create are the result of effects that flow from the employment of our lethal and nonlethal capabilities. Thus, effects-based targeting is distinguished by the ability to generate the type and extent of effects necessary to create outcomes that facilitate the realization of the commander's objectives.

Effects Based Warfare - The application of armed conflict to achieve desired strategic outcomes through the effects of military force.

Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) - Measures of effectiveness are most often subjective indicators that the outcomes of the "tactical actions" have achieved, or contributed to achieving the desired effect. MOE articulate where to look and what


At April 08, 2005, Blogger J. said...

Wow - i had no idea how hot this idea was. Thanks for the links, I will have to study them. Geez, I need to change my skill to be a powerpoint ranger. Looks like a full-time, high-paying job.

At April 09, 2005, Anonymous Bobby said...

The other problem with relying on BDA reports is that it requires tremendous battlefield awareness of the enemy's composition-- when we report 50 tanks destroyed, we need to know if it was 50 out of 55 or 50 out of 505. We also need to know the rate at how fast new enemies are being churned out-- destroying 500 out of 1000 insurgents is great, until we find out that another 1000 joined the cause in the last three months.

I like your MOEs for Iraq. I've always thought that since there's really two parts of a counterinsurgency-- the combat security and the reconstruction and development-- that the MOEs should be crafted that trace the development along those lines. That is, the MOEs generate a function of how the security and development looks like in a country, and thereby gives us an idea of how far we're progressing.

I also think that the MOEs should be developed during the planning process and become some kind of IR, since a lot of them will match up anyway. As subordinates report the IR, the Effects Assessment Cell compiles it with other MOEs, analyzes it, and makes their assessment. JFCOM hasn't written this into their publication, but at least the team that was out here last month all seem to acknowledge that it's the right direction to move in.

At April 09, 2005, Anonymous Bobby said...

Come to think of it, I think the two pillars of counterinsurgency might better be security and extending the legitimacy of the government-- reconstruction and development just support that extension, but aren't really independent objectives of their own.

At April 10, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...


Thanks for your comments. I did an exercise with I Corps last year, and their effects cell had some pretty good tools for tracking MOEs. They were getting away from whether or not something was "answered" and moving towards tracking trends.

I think our traditional way of looking at PIRs-- that a question is asnwered at a specific point in time and tied to a descision point--doesn't work as well in an insurgency. I think tracking trends and really getting in the weeds with your IRs is the only way to go.

I also think everyone needs to understand the MOEs. In the "three block war", your best collectors are the guys on the ground.

At April 11, 2005, Anonymous Bobby said...

Determining trends and charting patterns is definitely the way that operational analysis needs to go in low-intensity conflict or the SASO that follows a high-intensity "classic" war. I think JFCOM was on to that by crafting their Measures of Effectiveness Indicators (MOEI): "observable criteria that should provide predictability to MOE achievement. MOEI develop trends and patterns that allow the staff to project MOE occurrence which forecasts desired effect achievement."

The problem is that we then tend to craft MOEIs as the sub-components of an MOE, which does great at telling us the extent to which an MOE has been achieved, but doesn't quite tell us that, based on the occurrence of A and B, that we can anticipate seeing Effect XY... If that makes any sense.

At April 11, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...

Makes sense to me. Of course, we are pegging the needle on the doctrinal "geek-o-meter".


At April 11, 2005, Anonymous Bobby said...


At April 12, 2005, Blogger J. said...

DefenseLINK has a transcript of Rumsfeld talking about "metrics" with NPR. See here.


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