Spitballing Barbary Dreadnaught

by Captain Brett Friedman

To echo General Van Riper, the efforts to institute design in the planning process, for both the Army and the Marine Corps, have fallen short. MCWP 5-1’s description of design is little better than a few printed pages of lorem ipsum dolor. The design portion of EWS draws a lot of confused stares and disbelieving snark. Even having read into design before hand, including this this Small Wars Journal article by Adam Elkus, I did not fully understand the concept after reading through MCWP 5-1 this year

But Thursday of last week, I got it.

In the course of Barbary Dreadnaught, a MEB level planning exercise at EWS, the FACAD used a very hands-off approach when it came to design. Previously, we had always been working towards a problem framing brief. This time, we just had a group discussion on the problem we were facing. Somewhat surprisingly, the discussion quickly turned to the strategic level. Students utilized concepts from Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Thucydides in the course of evaluating the problem. This discussion arose organically and I was surprised at how much it meshed with strategic theory concepts as well as how much it affected the tactics chosen.

The discussion began with a focus on the enemy, in this case Country L. The group discussed how Country L’s goal, at its heart, was about securing more control over oil in the region. Once this was agreed, it became clear that Country L was utilizing the strategic offense to secure key territory within Country T (territory that included oil pipelines and refineries) in order to use their possession of said terrain as a bargaining chip at subsequent negotiations. Depicted graphically these conclusions look like this:

Country L’s Strategic Analysis

1) Ends: Increased control over oil rights

2) Ways: Strategic Offensive

3) Means: Favorable position at negotiations based on possession of key terrain within Country T

Once this was understood, their tactics made a great deal of sense.

Country L’s Tactical Analysis

4) Ends: Retain possession

5) Ways: Tactical Defense

6) Means: Country L’s Operations Group-West (LOG-W: a task force composed of three divisions organized according to former Soviet Union doctrine)

Our own situation flowed from that understanding of the enemy situation.

Coalition Strategic Analysis

7) Ends: Secure and defend Country T’s sovereignty

8) Ways: Strategic Defense

9) Means: Coalition Military Forces

Coalition Tactical Analysis

10) Ends: Clear LOG-W in zone

11) Ways: Tactical Offense

12) Means: 1st MEB, Country T attachments, and joint enablers

The numbers represent the order that each portion of this framework was addressed in the organic discussion amongst the OPT and each number flowed from the previous one, matching the order in which the group discussed each aspect. Once it was placed on a whiteboard, it was arranged like this:

L’s Strategy               L’s Tactics             Coalition Strategy       Coalition Tactics

(1)                                (4)                                      (7)                                  (10)

(2)                                (5)                                      (8)                                  (11)

(3)                                (6)                                      (9)                                  (12)

This is definitely not a finalized concept and I post it here to get input from CSC. As you can see, I used Clausewitz’ strategic-tactical framework for this post. I’m still examining whether or not the operational level of war is useful in this context or if the J. F. C. Fuller/John Boyd physical, mental, moral framework has a play. MCWP 5-1 does not suggest using strategic theory to frame the problem but when it happened organically I took notes and this discussion matched up best with an ends, ways, means construct split up into Clausewitz’ strategic and tactical levels. The problem many students have (including me) is the nebulous nature of current design doctrine. It would be nice if every problem framing discussion came out so neatly, but without guidance to that end it may not occur to an OPT to examine both combatants sequentially from the strategic level down to the tactical.

I would love to hear CSC students’ input on whether or not this makes sense. I ran it by other students and it passed the “grunt test”: students not involved in the original discussion remarked that it instantly made sense to them without any explanation, something that the Problem Framing step of MCPP cannot boast. It certainly helped me to understand the problem situation value to the group as a problem framing for a conventional exercise, but would this apply to other kinds of warfare and, most importantly, reality? What does this tell us? If we use this methodology during problem framing, what do we end up with? In a future post, I plan to test this framework on Operation Enduring Freedom.


One thought on “Spitballing Barbary Dreadnaught

  1. The strength and weakness of the current doctrine, in my judgement is the fact that it is nebulous. Unlike the other steps of the planning process, it should be radically different for every scenario, and we should use whatever tools and techniques are most appropriate. In many cases the best COA will be to use several techniques and look at the problem from multiple perspectives.

    The challenge is not to arrive at “the answer,” and move on with the rest of the process. The most often overlooked piece of current doctrine is the iterative nature of design. We need to review our concept during every step of the process, to ensure that our plan fits our design concept, and that no changes are necessary to the problem statement/design.

    In our last exercise at CSC, our FACAD let us approach PF I’m a novel way as well. We started by breaking into lines of effort (stability ops) working groups and considering the problem only through that “lens,” before putting the pieces together. Our problem statement was very simple. “Combat operations have destabilized the AOR. Our end state had a subbullets for each LOE, but the overarching idea was transition. So our plan was designed to rest aniline the area IOT allow transition to local control and withdrawal. Simple, but easy to check your piece of the puzzle and see if it fits with the overall intent.

    Problem framing/design is the one step of the planning process that really allows out of the box thinking and creativity. It’s up to us to take advantage of this freedom. My judgement is that the doctrine is fine, but the typical military mindset makes the abiguity of how to pursue design feel very uncomfortable.

    The more we test different ideas here at Quantico, the more tools we will have available out in the “real world.”

    I know I didn’t answer directly, but hopefully my indirect approach was helpful anyway.

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