NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pentagon War Gaming New Strategy

September 26, 2001

"We ... are going to have to fashion a new vocabulary and different constructs for thinking about what it is we're doing," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently of the war against terrorism.

William M. Arkin of the Washington Post says Pentagon planners used war games completed last year to test a concept called Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO), which seeks "to achieve rapid victory by attacking the coherence of an enemy's ability to fight."

RDO games employed "asymmetric advantages in the knowledge, precision, and mobility" of the U.S. "to create maximum shock" and defeat a hypothetical country's leader's "ability and will to fight."

In each game they attempted to create a "single, integrated, coordinated and synchronized 'National Campaign Plan' orchestrated by the White House."

  • The common element is "effects-based operations (EBO)," which "aims to encompass all elements of national power and influence -- not solely destruction by military force -- to achieve positive political outcomes."
  • Traditional military operations were fully integrated with deception, psychological operations, computer network attack, traditional electronic warfare, special operations reconnaissance, "direct action" and the "tagging" of key targets.
  • EBO calls for selecting targets -- which "may be a physical object or structure, a geographic location, a network or system, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, a person, group, constituency or population..." -- based on contributions to the desired effect, while minimizing undesirable ones.
  • Using EDO, Pentagon targeters are now calculating the value as well as the risk and cost of engaging specific targets.

EBO uses technological advances in communications distribution, data-mining tools, graphical display, and social/demographic modeling tools similar to those used in advertising, marketing and political campaigns.

But planners say it requires better intelligence than the U.S. currently possesses.

Source: William M. Arkin, "A New Mindset for Warfare," Washington Post, September 22, 2001.


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