Thursday, May 11, 2006

Effects-Based - Part 1

The fundamental idea behind the concept of effects-based operations is that of causal relationships: the connection between two things in which one event occurs as a result of another event. All actions have direct and indirect effects. But you also can achieve an effect via multiple means. This idea has been around for centuries. Good war time leaders have always concentrated on results and on the human element of war. In fact, great commanders since antiquity have all planned to directly attack the will of their opponents through speedy, decisive maneuver wars, but more often than not found themselves faced by enemies too large or too tough for that to be successful. Attrition warfare has never been the first (or a random) choice. It has been the only remaining option. Seizing the spirit of what many past strategists imagined, but never saw in reality, entails assiduous study and a new mind-set. An effects-based approach to operations is not a template or a formula. It is a way of thinking that takes advantage of causal relationships through the use of sound analysis and while this approach exploits the current technological revolutions in sensors, information technology, and weapons, it does not necessarily imply that technology will endow its users with guaranteed triumph. Technology, can hasten the development of a more mature effects-based approach, but it is only an accelerator, not the main engine behind the concept.

The effects-based approach is not mainly focused on winning quick decisive battles; the focus is on actions and the effect of those actions over an extended period of time. It focuses on political objectives, rather than military objectives.

Some Terms

The word “effects” is very vague. In the Air Force definition, taken from AFDD 2, “effects” are basically “the full range of outcomes, events, or consequences of a particular cause. A cause can be an action, a set of actions, or another effect.” We can also think about “effects” in terms of a number of classifications in order to guide the discussion.

Direct and Indirect Effects

A direct effect, also known as a first order effect, is the consequence of events with no intervening effect or mechanism between act and result. An action causes an effect. An effect can be achieved via different actions. Direct effects can have physical, functional or collateral results and are typically instant and easy to identify. A direct effect is an act that directly brings about an alteration in a condition; it is the actual physical impact of an action. A direct effect is one in which there is nothing in-between the action and the effect. I bombed all the oil refineries in country X; I destroyed the bomb refineries and I can see that they are burning.

An indirect effect, also known as a second or third order effect, is an outcome shaped through an intermediary effect or mechanism to create the ultimate result which may be physical, psychological, systemic, cumulative, or cascading in nature. An action causes an effect and that effect generates other effects. An indirect effect is an alteration in a condition that happens somewhere else in the system that can be traced back to the original act and effect. Indirect effects are likely to be delayed and may be hard to identify. I bombed all the oil refineries in country X; I destroyed the bomb refineries and I can see that they are burning and now the enemy tanks will have trouble refueling.

All actions have effects. All efforts should have clear objectives. EBO compels planners to deliberately link efforts with objectives and lower-level objectives with higher ones.

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