Chapter 4

Fundamentals of Full Spectrum Operations

The art of war owns certain elements and fixed principles. We must acquire that theory, and lodge it in our heads—otherwise, we will never get very far.
Frederick the Great



The Elements of Combat Power
The Foundations of Army Operations
     The Principles of War
     The Tenets of Army Operations
The Operational Framework
     Theater Organization
     Area of Operations
     Battlefield Organization
Army Capabilities
     Task Organization
     Combined Arms
     Army Command and Support Relationships
     Complementary and Reinforcing Effects

4-1.     Doctrine for full spectrum operations depends upon certain fundamentals. These fundamentals provide the conceptual foundations for execution in the field as well as leader development in the classroom. They provide the basis for the efficient and effective generation, employment, and sustainment of Army forces. Ultimately, knowledge and application of the fundamentals enable Army forces to be decisive across the range of military operations.

4-2.     The fundamentals provide the basis for full spectrum operations (see Figure 4-1). The elements of combat power are building blocks that underlie the generation of combat power. In land operations, commanders combine and apply the elements of combat power to produce overwhelming effects. The principles of war guide and instruct commanders as they combine the elements of combat power. The principles reflect the distillation of Army experience into a set of time-tested guidelines. The tenets of Army operations characterize both the substance and form of full spectrum operations. The tenets permeate Army doctrine. The operational framework relates the activities of Army forces in time, space, and purpose. Combined with tenets of Army operations, the framework provides commanders with a conceptual basis for applying combat power. Commanders combine and use the capabilities of combined arms formations in complementary, reinforcing, and asymmetric ways. Combined arms organizations apply combat power to achieve decisive results across the range of operations.

Figure 4-1. The Fundamentals of Full Spectrum Operations

Figure 4-1. The Fundamentals of Full Spectrum Operations


4-3.     The ability of Army forces to fight and win underlies success in all operations, whether lethal force is used or not. Combat power is the ability to fight. It is the total means of destructive or disruptive force, or both, that a military unit or formation can apply against the adversary at a given time. Commanders combine the elements of combat power— maneuver, firepower, leadership, protection, and information— to meet constantly changing requirements and defeat an enemy (see Figure 4-2). Defeating an enemy requires increasing the disparity between friendly and enemy forces by reducing enemy combat power. Commanders do this by synchronizing the elements of friendly force combat power to create overwhelming effects at the decisive time and place. Focused combat power ensures success and denies an enemy any chance to maintain coherent resistance. Massed effects created by synchronizing the elements of combat power are the surest means of limiting friendly casualties and swiftly ending a campaign or operation.

Figure 4-2. The Elements of Combat Power

Figure 4-2. The Elements of Combat Power


4-4.     Maneuver is the employment of forces, through movement combined with fire or fire potential, to achieve a position of advantage with respect to the enemy to accomplish the mission. Maneuver is the means by which commanders concentrate combat power to achieve surprise, shock, momentum, and dominance.

Operational Maneuver

4-5.     Operational maneuver involves placing Army forces and resources at the critical place in time to achieve an operational advantage. It is complex and often requires joint and multinational support. Deployment and intratheater movements are operational maneuver if they achieve a positional advantage and influence the outcome of a campaign or battle.

4-6.     To achieve operational results, commanders seek operational advantages of position before combat begins and exploit tactical success afterwards. Ideally, operational maneuver secures positional advantage before an enemy acts and either preempts enemy maneuver or ensures his destruction if he moves. Operational movements and maneuver allow commanders to create the conditions they desire for battle and take full advantage of tactical actions. During Operation Desert Storm, for example, US Central Command (USCENTCOM) moved VII and XVIII Corps west of Kuwait to position them to envelop or turn the strongest Iraqi defenses. This undetected operational movement resulted in surprise at both the operational and tactical levels. This surprise, combined with rapid tactical movement and overwhelming combat power, resulted in the decisive defeat of the Iraqi army.

Tactical Maneuver

4-7.     Tactical maneuver wins battles and engagements. By keeping the enemy off balance, it also protects the force. In both the offense and defense, it positions forces to close with and destroy the enemy. Effective tactical maneuver continually poses new problems for the enemy. It renders his reactions ineffective and eventually drives him to defeat.

4-8.     In stability operations, effective tactical maneuver preempts adversary options. It concentrates friendly combat power where it can deter or reduce the effects of violence and places friendly forces in position to use firepower should combat follow. Tactical maneuver gives credibility to an operation by providing tangible evidence of Army force capabilities. In support operations, maneuver positions Army forces to apply their capabilities where they are needed.

Close Combat

4-9.     Close combat is inherent in maneuver and has one purpose—to decide the outcome of battles and engagements. Close combat is combat carried out with direct fire weapons, supported by indirect fire, air-delivered fires, and nonlethal engagement means. Close combat defeats or destroys enemy forces, or seizes and retains ground. The range between combatants may vary from several thousand meters to hand-to-hand combat.

Close Combat at Landing Zone X-Ray

On 14 November 1965, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry engaged in close combat with North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam.

Specialist 5 Marlin T. Dorman recalled hugging the ground because "if you moved you got hit." He noted that "our training really showed then. We shifted into defensive positions. We had five men killed in 25 minutes. Then all of a sudden they [the NVA] tried a mass assault from three directions, rushing from bush to bush and laying fire on us. We put our M-16s on full automatic and killed most of them." Specialist 4 Galen Bungum added, "We gathered up all the full magazines we could find and stacked them up in front of us. There was no way we could dig a foxhole. The handle was blown off my entrenching tool and one of my canteens had a hole blown through it. The fire was so heavy that if you tried to raise up to dig you were dead. There was death and destruction all around."

On the third morning of heavy fighting, the NVA tried one last attempt to break through the battalion perimeter. Under the light of flares, the NVA massed 50 yards in front of the American positions and ran forward. The soldiers responded with air burst field artillery shells, mortar rounds, machine guns, and small arms. After 14 minutes of continuous combat, the NVA force broke off the attack and ended the three-day battle at Landing Zone X-Ray.

4-10.     All tactical actions inevitably require seizing or securing terrain as a means to an end or an end in itself. Close combat is necessary if the enemy is skilled and resolute; fires alone will neither drive him from his position nor convince him to abandon his cause. Ultimately, the outcome of battles, major operations, and campaigns depends on the ability of Army forces to close with and destroy the enemy. During offensive and defensive operations, the certainty of destruction may persuade the enemy to yield. In stability operations, close combat dominance is the principal means Army forces use to influence adversary actions. In all cases, the ability of Army forces to engage in close combat, combined with their willingness to do so, is the decisive factor in defeating an enemy or controlling a situation.


4-11.     Firepower provides the destructive force essential to overcoming the enemy's ability and will to fight. Firepower and maneuver complement each other. Firepower magnifies the effects of maneuver by destroying enemy forces and restricting his ability to counter friendly actions; maneuver creates the conditions for the effective use of firepower. Although one element might dominate a phase of an action, the synchronized effects of both are present in all operations. The threat of one in the presence of the other magnifies the impact of both. One without the other makes neither decisive. Combined, they make destroying larger enemy forces feasible and enhance protection of friendly forces.

4-12.     Firepower is the amount of fires that a position, unit, or weapons system can deliver. Fires are effects of lethal and nonlethal weapons. Fires include fire support functions used separately from or in combination with maneuver. The extended range, capabilities, and accuracy of modern weapons systems (direct and indirect) and target acquisition systems make fires more lethal than ever before. These capabilities also allow commanders to create effects throughout the area of operations (AO). Commanders integrate and synchronize operational and tactical fires to accomplish their mission.

Operational Fires

4-13.  . They are a vital component of any operational-level plan. Assets other than those supporting tactical maneuver normally furnish operational fires. Commanders direct operational fires against targets whose destruction or neutralization they expect to significantly affect a campaign or major operation. Planning operational fires includes allocating apportioned joint and multinational air, land, and sea means. Operational fires can be designed to achieve a single operational-level objective, for example, interdiction of major enemy forces to create the conditions for defeating them in detail.

4-14.     Operational maneuver and operational fires may occur simultaneously but have very different objectives. In general terms, operational fires are not the same as fire support, and operational maneuver does not necessarily depend on operational fires. However, operational maneuver is most effective when commanders synchronize it with, and exploit opportunities developed by, operational fires. Combining operational fires with operational maneuver generates asymmetric, enormously destructive, one-sided battles, as the Desert Storm ground offensive showed.

Tactical Fires

4-15.     Tactical fires destroy or neutralize enemy forces, suppress enemy fires, and disrupt enemy movement. Tactical fires create the conditions for decisive close combat. Commanders take special care to synchronize fires with the effects of other systems. Massing maximum fires requires a thorough understanding of the commander's intent and the ability to employ all available means simultaneously against a variety of targets. The effective application of tactical fires relies on procedures for determining priorities; locating, identifying, and tracking targets; allocating firepower assets; and assessing effects. Effective fires demand well-trained, competently led units with a high degree of situational understanding.

Operational Maneuver and Fires—Operation Desert Storm

On 27 February 1991, Operation Desert Storm demonstrated how operational fires and maneuver can generate a one-sided, decisive battle. The campaign plan identified the Iraqi Army, a force whose elimination would decisively conclude the war, as the operational center of gravity.

XVIII Airborne Corps turned Objective Tim into Forward Operating Base Viper and launched two aviation brigades into Engagement Area Thomas, north of Basrah. There they destroyed over 80 Iraqi vehicles. To the south, the corps pushed eastward. They seized Jalibah Airfield and moved at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour as they overran and destroyed Iraqi forces.

After destroying the Iraqi Tawakalna mechanized and Medina armored divisions, VII Corps pressed an attack that destroyed more than 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers just short of the Kuwaiti border. British forces under operational control of the corps pressed the attack beyond the Basrah-Kuwait City highway to the coast. The remaining Iraqi forces fled encircling coalition forces for sanctuary across the Euphrates River.


4-16.     Because it deals directly with soldiers, leadership is the most dynamic element of combat power. Confident, audacious, and competent leadership focuses the other elements of combat power and serves as the catalyst that creates conditions for success. Leaders who embody the warrior ethos inspire soldiers to succeed. They provide purpose, direction, and motivation in all operations. Leadership is key, and the actions of leaders often make the difference between success and failure, particularly in small units.

4-17.     The duty of every leader is to be competent in the profession of arms. Competence requires proficiency in four sets of skills: interpersonal, conceptual, technical, and tactical. Army leaders hone these skill sets through continual training and self-study (see FM 6-22).

4-18.     Leaders instill their units with Army values, energy, methods, and will. The professional competence, personality, and will of strong commanders at all levels represent a significant part of every unit's combat power. All Army leaders must demonstrate strong character and high ethical standards. Leaders are soldiers first: they know and understand their subordinates and act with courage and conviction. During operations, they know where to be, when to make decisions, and how to influence the action.

4-19.     Leaders build teamwork and trust. Trust is a key attribute in the human dimension of combat leadership. Soldiers must trust and have confidence in their leaders. Leaders must command the trust and confidence of their soldiers. Once trust is violated, a leader becomes ineffective. Trust encourages subordinates to seize the initiative. In unclear situations, bold leaders who exercise disciplined initiative within the commander's intent accomplish the mission.


4-20.  . Protection is neither timidity, nor risk avoidance. The Army operates in tough, unforgiving environments where casualties occur. Full spectrum operations create an inherently tense relationship between accomplishing the mission and taking casualties. Accomplishing the mission takes precedence over avoiding casualties. However, soldiers are the most important Army resource, and excessive casualties cripple future mission accomplishment. Casualties from accident and disease are particularly galling. They contribute nothing to mission accomplishment and degrade unit effectiveness. Commanders are responsible for accomplishing the mission with the fewest friendly casualties feasible.

4-21.     Protection has four components: force protection, field discipline, safety, and fratricide avoidance. Force protection, the primary component, minimizes the effects of enemy firepower (including weapons of mass destruction [WMD]), maneuver, and information. Field discipline precludes losses from hostile environments. Safety reduces the inherent risk of nonbattle deaths and injuries. Fratricide avoidance minimizes the inadvertent killing or maiming of soldiers by friendly fires.

Force Protection

4-22.  . It includes air, space, and missile defense; nuclear, biological, and chemical defense; antiterrorism; defensive information operations; and security to operational forces and means. The increased emphasis on force protection at every echelon stems from the conventional dominance of Army forces. Often unable to challenge the Army in conventional combat, adversaries seek to frustrate Army operations by resorting to asymmetric means, weapons, or tactics. Force protection counters these threats.

4-23.     Force protection at all levels minimizes losses to hostile action. Skillful and aggressive counterintelligence and threat assessments decrease the vulnerability of friendly forces. Effective operations security (OPSEC) keeps adversaries from exploiting friendly information. Proper dispersion helps reduce losses from enemy fires and terrorist action. Camouflage discipline, local security, and field fortifications do the same. Protection of electronic links and nodes, to include combat troops with electronic devices, is vital to protecting information, information systems, and soldiers. At the operational level, rear area and base security contributes to force protection. Air defense artillery forces protect installations and civilian populations from over-the-horizon strikes by conventional warheads and WMD. Army air and missile defense units complement the air component's control of the air. Nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) defense measures provide the capability to sustain operations in nuclear, biological, or chemical environments.

Field Discipline

4-24.     Field discipline, a second component of protection, guards soldiers from the physical and psychological effects of the environment. Oppressive environments can sap soldier strength and morale far more quickly than enemy action. Soldiers can adapt to the point that they outperform indigenous populations; however, this adaptation can only stem from training in fieldcraft skills and thorough preparation.

Field Discipline—Preventive Medicine in Combat

In the 1898 war with Spain, the US mobilized the Army and sent soldiers to fight in Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Combat claimed 379 American lives. Well over 10 times that number were lost to disease. Almost 1,000 soldiers died from typhoid fever and diarrhea in crowded, filthy training camps in the US. Once in the tropics, malaria and yellow fever increased the disease-related deaths to several thousand. The resulting scandal led to efforts to reform the War Department.

Nearly a century after the Spanish-American War, the US conducted contingency operations in Panama (1989-90) and Haiti (1994-96). In both cases, combat casualties were minimal, while deaths from disease were nonexistent. Today, good leadership, the advanced state of medical knowledge, formalized measures designed to prevent disease, and first-rate medical treatment ensure that US troops sent overseas are among the healthiest in the world.

4-25.     Commanders take every measure and precaution to keep soldiers healthy and maintain their morale. Such actions include securing equipment and supplies from loss or damage. Commanders ensure systems are in place for adequate combat health support (to include preventive medicine) and the quick return of minor casualties. They provide effective systems for maintenance, evacuation, and rapid replacement or repair of equipment. Tactical commanders take care of their soldiers' basic health needs and prevent unnecessary exposure to debilitating conditions.


4-26.     Safety is a third component of protection. Operational conditions often impose significant risks to soldiers' lives and health and make equipment operation difficult. Trained crews and operators must know the capabilities and limitations of their weapons systems. Commanders must know how to employ them. In designing operations, commanders consider the limits of human endurance. They balance the possible benefits of sustained, high-tempo operations with the risks involved. In combat, fatigue extends reaction times and reduces alertness. Fatal accidents, loss of combat power, and missed tactical opportunities may follow. Command attention to safety and high levels of discipline lessen those risks, particularly as soldiers become exhausted. Safe operations come from enforcing standards during training. While taking calculated risks is inherent in operations, commanders are obligated to embed safety in the conduct of all operations.

Fratricide Avoidance

4-27.     A fourth component of protection is fratricide avoidance. Fratricide is the unintentional killing or wounding of friendly personnel by friendly firepower. The destructive power and range of modern weapons, coupled with the high intensity and rapid tempo of combat, increase the potential for fratricide. Tactical maneuvers, terrain, and weather conditions may also increase the danger of fratricide. Commanders seek to lower the probability of fratricide without discouraging boldness and audacity. Good leadership resulting in positive weapons control, control of troop movements, and disciplined operational procedures contributes to achieving this goal. Situational understanding and using friendly personnel and vehicle identification methods also help. Eliminating fratricide increases soldiers' willingness to act boldly, confident that misdirected friendly fires will not kill them.


4-28.     Information enhances leadership and magnifies the effects of maneuver, firepower, and protection. In the past, when forces made contact with the enemy, commanders developed the situation to gain information. Today, Army leaders use information collected by unmanned systems to increase their situational understanding before engaging the enemy. They also use offensive information operations (IO) to shape the operational environment and create the conditions for employing the other elements of combat power.

4-29.     The common operational picture (COP) based on enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and disseminated by modern information systems provides commanders throughout the force with an accurate, near real-time perspective and knowledge of the situation. Information from the COP, transformed into situational understanding, allows commanders to combine the elements of combat power in new ways. For example, superior understanding of the situation allows commanders to avoid enemy engagement areas, while concentrating fires and maneuver at the decisive place and time. This ability increases the survivability of the force without substantially increasing passive protective systems, such as armor. Modern information systems help leaders at all levels make better decisions faster. Better decisions rapidly communicated allow Army forces to mass the effects of combat power more rapidly and effectively than the enemy. This enables Army forces to see first, understand first, and act first.

Information Modernization—AH-64D Longbow

The AH-64D attack helicopter represents the wave of integrated digital weapons systems now entering service. The aircraft provides the commander with digital links to the ground and air situation. Its computer shares the situational picture with all other aircraft on the mission. The radar fire control system on the aircraft can scan, detect, and classify more than 128 targets, prioritize the 16 most dangerous ones, transmit the information to other aircraft, and initiate a precision attack¾all in less than a minute.

4-30.     Information is not neutral; opposing sides use it directly and indirectly to gain exploitable advantages and apply them against selected targets. Just as fires are synchronized and targeted, so is information. Some examples illustrate the use of information as an element of combat power: In 1989 during Operation Just Cause, and again in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, psychological operations (PSYOP) units accompanied maneuver forces. In both conflicts, PYSOP, combined with the demonstrated destructive power of Army forces, convinced many enemy troops to surrender. In Operation Desert Storm, military deception (an element of offensive IO) resulted in the diversion of forces away from USCENTCOM's decisive operation.

4-31.     Army forces are modernizing information systems to an unprecedented degree. This effort will have far-reaching effects on Army operations. The aim of these improvements is to provide all leaders with near real-time information that will allow them to understand the tactical situation and act within the commander's intent. This increased capability poses operational challenges. While subordinates have access to the broader tactical situation, commanders have access to layers of tactical detail. Higher-level commanders yielding to the temptation to direct minor tactical actions could reduce the benefits of advanced information systems and the situational understanding they support.


4-32.     Understanding the principles of war and tenets of Army operations is fundamental to operating successfully across the range of military operations. The principles of war and tenets of Army operations form the foundation of Army operational doctrine.


The Principles of War

  • Objective
  • Offensive
  • Mass
  • Economy of force
  • Maneuver
  • Unity of command
  • Security
  • Surprise
  • Simplicity

4-33.     The nine principles of war provide general guidance for conducting war and military operations other than war at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The principles are the enduring bedrock of Army doctrine. The US Army published its original principles of war after World War I. In the following years, the Army adjusted the original principles, but overall they have stood the tests of analysis, experimentation, and practice.

4-34.     The principles of war are not a checklist. They do not apply in the same way to every situation. Rather, they summarize the characteristics of successful Army operations. Their greatest value lies in the education of the military professional. Applied to the study of past campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements, the principles of war are powerful tools for analysis.


Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.

No one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war.


4-35.     At the operational and tactical levels, objective means ensuring all actions contribute to the goals of the higher headquarters. The principle of objective drives all military activity. When undertaking any mission, commanders should have a clear understanding of the expected outcome and its impact. At the strategic level, this means having a clear vision of the theater end state. This normally includes aspects of the political dimension. Commanders need to appreciate political ends and understand how the military conditions they achieve contribute to them.

4-36.     Military leaders cannot divorce objective from considerations of restraint and legitimacy, particularly in stability operations and support operations. The amount of force used to obtain the objective must be prudent and appropriate to strategic aims. The military objective must also sustain the willing acceptance of a lawfully constituted agency, group, or government by the population in the AO. Without restraint or legitimacy, support for military action deteriorates and the objective becomes unobtainable.

4-37.     To accomplish missions, commanders persevere. Offensive and defensive operations may swiftly create the conditions for short-term success, but protracted stability operations or support operations may be needed to cement lasting strategic objectives. Commanders balance a natural desire to enter the AO, quickly accomplish the mission, and depart with the broader requirements for incremental achievement of national goals and objectives.


Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.

4-38.     Offensive action is key to achieving decisive results. It is the essence of successful operations. Offensive actions are those taken to dictate the nature, scope, and tempo of an operation. They force the enemy to react. Commanders use offensive actions to impose their will on an enemy, adversary, or situation. Offensive operations are essential to maintain the freedom of action necessary for success, exploit vulnerabilities, and react to rapidly changing situations and unexpected developments.


Concentrate the effects of combat power at the decisive place and time.

4-39.     Commanders mass the effects of combat power to overwhelm enemies or gain control of the situation. They mass combat power in time and space to achieve both destructive and constructive results. Massing in time applies the elements of combat power against multiple targets simultaneously. Massing in space concentrates the effects of different elements of combat power against a single target. Both dominate the situation; commanders select the method that best fits the circumstances. To an increasing degree, joint and Army operations mass the full effects of combat power in both time and space, rather than one or the other. Such effects overwhelm the entire enemy defensive system before he can react effectively.

4-40.     Army forces can mass effects without concentrating forces to a far greater extent than in the past. They can also mass effects more quickly. This does not imply that Army forces accomplish their missions with fires alone. Swift and fluid maneuver supported by situational understanding complement firepower. Often, this combination accomplishes in a single operation what formerly took an entire campaign.

4-41.     Commanders mass the effects of combat power against a combination of elements critical to the enemy force to shatter its coherence. Some of these may be concentrated and vulnerable to operations that mass in both time and space. Others may spread throughout the AO, vulnerable only to simultaneous, nonlinear operations that mass in time only. Commanders combine simultaneous and sequential operations to mass effects in time and space.

Economy of Force

Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.

4-42.     Economy of force is the reciprocal of mass. It requires accepting prudent risk in selected areas to achieve superiority—overwhelming effects—in the decisive operation. Economy of force involves the discriminating employment and distribution of forces. Commanders never leave any element without a purpose. When the time comes to execute, all elements should have tasks to perform.


Place the enemy in a disadvantageous position through the flexible application of combat power.

4-43.     As both an element of combat power and a principle of war, maneuver concentrates and disperses combat power to place and keep the enemy at a disadvantage. It achieves results that would otherwise be more costly. Effective maneuver keeps enemies off balance by making them confront new problems and new dangers faster than they can deal with them. Army forces gain and preserve freedom of action, reduce vulnerability, and exploit success through maneuver. Maneuver is more than just fire and movement. It includes the dynamic, flexible application of leadership, firepower, information, and protection as well. It requires flexibility in thought, plans, and operations and the skillful application of mass, surprise, and economy of force.

Unity of Command

For every objective, ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander.

4-44.     Developing the full combat power of a force requires unity of command. Unity of command means that a single commander directs and coordinates the actions of all forces toward a common objective. Cooperation may produce coordination, but giving a single commander the required authority unifies action.

4-45.     The joint, multinational, and interagency nature of unified action creates situations where the military commander does not directly control all elements in the AO. In the absence of command authority, commanders cooperate, negotiate, and build consensus to achieve unity of effort (see JP 3-0; FM 6-22).


Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.

4-46.     Security protects and preserves combat power. It does not involve excessive caution. Calculated risk is inherent in conflict. Security results from measures taken by a command to protect itself from surprise, interference, sabotage, annoyance, and threat ISR. Military deception greatly enhances security. The threat of asymmetric action requires emphasis on security, even in low-threat environments (see FM 3-13; FM 3-90; FM 3-07.2).


Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared.

4-47.     Surprise is the reciprocal of security. Surprise results from taking actions for which an enemy or adversary is unprepared. It is a powerful but temporary combat multiplier. It is not essential to take the adversary or enemy completely unaware; it is only necessary that he become aware too late to react effectively. Factors contributing to surprise include speed, information superiority, and asymmetry.


Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.

4-48.     Plans and orders should be simple and direct. Simple plans and clear, concise orders reduce misunderstanding and confusion. The factors of METT-TC determine the degree of simplicity required. Simple plans executed on time are better than detailed plans executed late. Commanders at all levels weigh the apparent benefits of a complex concept of operations against the risk that subordinates will not be able to understand or follow it.

4-49.     Multinational operations put a premium on simplicity. Differences in language, doctrine, and culture complicate multinational operations. Simple plans and orders minimize the confusion inherent in this complex environment. The same applies to operations involving interagency and nongovernmental organizations.


4-50.     The tenets of Army operations—initiative, agility, depth, synchronization, and versatility—build on the principles of war. They further describe the characteristics of successful operations. These tenets are essential to victory. While they do not guarantee success, their absence risks failure.


4-51.     Initiative has both operational and individual components. From an operational perspective, initiative is setting or dictating the terms of action throughout the battle or operation. Initiative implies an offensive spirit in all operations. To set the terms of battle, commanders eliminate or reduce the number of enemy options. They compel the enemy to conform to friendly operational purposes and tempo, while retaining freedom of action. Army leaders anticipate events throughout the battlespace. Through effective command and control (C2), they enable their forces to act before and react faster than the enemy does.

4-52.     From an individual perspective, initiative is the ability to be a self-starter, to act when there are no clear instructions or when the situation changes. An individual leader with initiative is willing to decide and initiate independent actions when the concept of operations no longer applies or when an unanticipated opportunity leading to the accomplishment of the commander's intent presents itself (see FM 6-22). Despite advances in C2 from digital technology, individual initiative remains important for successful operations. In battle, leaders exercise this attribute when they act independently within the framework of the commander's intent. They trust their subordinates to do the same. Disciplined initiative requires well-trained and competent leaders who carry out studied and considered actions.

4-53.     Initiative requires delegating decision making authority to the lowest practical level. Commanders give subordinates the greatest possible freedom to act. They encourage aggressive action within the commander's intent by issuing mission-type orders. Mission-type orders assign tasks to subordinates without specifying how to accomplish them (see FM 6-0). Such decentralization frees commanders to focus on the critical aspects of the overall operation. Using mission-type orders requires individual initiative exercised by well-trained, determined, disciplined soldiers. It also requires leaders who trust their subordinates and are willing to take and underwrite risks.

4-54.     In the offense, initiative involves throwing the enemy off balance with powerful, unexpected strikes. It implies never allowing the enemy to recover from the initial shock of an attack. To do this, commanders mass the effects of combat power and execute with speed, audacity, and violence. They continually seek vulnerable spots and shift their decisive operation when opportunities occur. To retain the initiative, leaders press the fight tenaciously and aggressively. They accept risk and push soldiers and systems to their limits. Retaining the initiative requires planning beyond the initial operation and anticipating possible events. The higher the echelon, the more possibilities the commander must anticipate and the further in advance the staff must plan.

4-55.     In the defense, initiative implies quickly turning the tables on the attacker. It means taking aggressive action to collect information and force the attacker to reveal his intentions. Defenders aim to negate the attacker's initial advantages, gain freedom of action, and force the enemy to fight on the defender's terms. Once an enemy commits to a course of action, defending forces continue to seek offensive opportunities. They use maneuver and firepower to dictate the tempo of the fight and preempt enemy actions.

4-56.     In stability operations, initiative contributes to influence over factions. It establishes conditions conducive to political solutions and disrupts illegal activities. For instance, commanders may establish conditions in which belligerent factions can best achieve their interests by remaining peaceful. Other examples of exercising initiative include defusing complicated crises, recognizing and preempting inherent dangers before they occur, and resolving grievances before they ignite open hostilities.

4-57.     To gain and maintain the initiative in support operations, commanders develop a comprehensive understanding of the situation and anticipate requirements. Doing these things allows massing of resources to mitigate and prevent the effects of disasters. Commanders can then contribute to relieving suffering, managing consequences, and providing essential services.


4-58.  . It springs from trained and disciplined forces. Agility requires that subordinates act to achieve the commander's intent and fight through any obstacle to accomplish the mission.

4-59.     Operational agility stems from the capability to deploy and employ forces across the range of Army operations. Army forces and commanders shift among offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations as circumstances and missions require. This capability is not merely physical; it requires conceptual sophistication and intellectual flexibility.

4-60.     Tactical agility is the ability of a friendly force to react faster than the enemy. It is essential to seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative. Agility is mental and physical. Agile commanders quickly comprehend unfamiliar situations, creatively apply doctrine, and make timely decisions.


4-61.  . Commanders use depth to obtain space for effective maneuver, time to conduct operations, and resources to achieve and exploit success. Depth enables momentum in the offense, elasticity in the defense, and staying power in all operations.

4-62.     In the offense and defense, depth entails attacking the enemy throughout the AO—simultaneously when possible, sequentially when necessary—to deny him freedom to maneuver. Offensive depth allows commanders to sustain momentum and press the fight. Defensive depth creates opportunities to maneuver against the enemy from multiple directions as attacking forces are exposed or discovered.

4-63.     In stability operations and support operations, depth extends influence in time, space, purpose, and resources to affect the environment and conditions. In stability operations, ISR combined with IO help commanders understand factional motives, identify power centers, and shape the environment. In support operations, depth in resources, planning, and time allows commanders to stop suffering and prevent or slow the spread of disease.

4-64.     In all operations, staying power—depth of action—comes from adequate resources. Depth of resources in quantity, positioning, and mobility is critical to executing military operations. Commanders balance depth in resources with agility. A large combat service support (CSS) tail can hinder maneuver, but inadequate CSS makes the force fragile and vulnerable.


4-65.  . Without synchronization, there is no massing of effects. Through synchronization, commanders arrange battlefield operating systems to mass the effects of combat power at the chosen place and time to overwhelm an enemy or dominate the situation. Synchronization is a means, not an end. Commanders balance synchronization against agility and initiative; they never surrender the initiative or miss a decisive opportunity for the sake of synchronization.

4-66.     Some activities—such as electronic warfare, suppressing enemy air defenses, and shifting maneuver forces—might occur before the decisive operation. They may take place at locations distant from each other. Though separated in time and space, commanders closely synchronize such actions to mass overwhelming effects at the decisive time and place. Synchronization often requires explicit coordination and rehearsals among participants.


4-67.  . Competence in a variety of missions and skills allows Army forces to quickly transition from one type of operation to another with minimal changes to the deployed force structure. Versatility depends on adaptive leaders, competent and dedicated soldiers, and well-equipped units. Effective training, high standards, and detailed planning also contribute. Time and resources limit the number of tasks any unit can perform well. Within these constraints, commanders maximize versatility by developing the multiple capabilities of units and soldiers. Versatility contributes to the agility of Army units.

4-68.     Versatility is a characteristic of multifunctional units. Commanders can take advantage of this by knowing each unit's capabilities and carefully tailoring forces for each mission. Military police, for example, can provide a mobile, lethal show of force, restore civil order, process detainees, and support peacekeeping operations. Engineer units can rebuild infrastructure, construct ports and base camps, and maintain lines of communications (LOCs). At higher echelons, versatility implies the ability to assume more complex responsibilities. For example, a corps headquarters can serve as an ARFOR headquarters or, with augmentation, a joint task force headquarters.


4-69.   The framework establishes an area of geographic and operational responsibility, and provides a way for commanders to visualize how to employ forces against the enemy. Commanders design an operational framework to accomplish their mission by defining and arranging its three components. They use the operational framework to focus combat power.


4-70.     The operational framework for Army forces rests within the combatant commander's theater organization. Combatant commanders with geographic responsibilities conduct operations within an area of responsibility (AOR) (theater) assigned by the Unified Command Plan. When warranted, they designate theaters of war, theaters of operations, combat zones, and a communications zone (COMMZ). Joint force commanders (JFCs) at all levels may establish subordinate operational areas (see Figure 4-3). Joint doctrine discusses the assignment and responsibilities associated with theater operational areas.

Figure 4-3. Theater Organization

Figure 4-3. Theater Organization

4-71.     Either the National Command Authorities or a combatant commander may designate a theater of war. It is the area of air, land, and water that is, or may become, directly involved in the conduct of the war. A theater of war does not normally encompass a combatant commander's entire AOR and may contain more than one theater of operations. Combatant commanders typically assign theaters of operations to subordinate unified commanders.

4-72.     A theater of operations is a subarea within a theater of war defined by a combatant commander required to conduct or support specific combat operations. Different theaters of operations within the same theater of war will normally be geographically separate and focused on different enemy forces. Theaters of operations are usually of significant size, allowing for operations over extended periods of time.

4-73.     A combat zone is that area required by combat forces for the conduct of operations. It normally extends forward from the land force rear boundary. The COMMZ is the rear part of theater of operations (behind but contiguous to the combat zone). It contains the LOCs, establishments for supply and evacuation, and other agencies required for the immediate support and maintenance of the field forces. It reaches back to the continental US, to a supporting combatant command AOR, or both.


4-74.     An AO is an operational area defined by the JFC for land and naval forces. AOs do not typically encompass the entire operational area of the JFC but should be large enough for component commanders to accomplish their missions and protect their forces. AOs should also allow component commanders to employ their organic, assigned, and supporting systems to the limits of their capabilities. Within their AOs, land and naval force commanders synchronize operations and are supported commanders.

4-75.     Component commanders normally designate AOs for subordinate units. They use control measures to describe AOs and design them to fit the situation and take advantage of joint force capabilities. Commanders specify the minimum control measures necessary to focus combat power, delineate responsibilities, assign geographic responsibility, and promote unified action. At a minimum, control measures include boundaries on all sides of an AO (see FM 3-90). In linear operations, AOs require forward boundaries.

4-76.     Commanders typically subdivide some or all of their AO by assigning AOs to subordinate units. Subordinate unit AOs may be contiguous or noncontiguous (see Figure 4-4). When AOs are contiguous, a boundary separates them. When AOs are noncontiguous, they do not share a boundary; the concept of operations links the elements of the force. The higher headquarters is responsible for the area between noncontiguous AOs.

Figure 4-4. Contiguous and Noncontiguous Areas of Operations

Figure 4-4. Contiguous and Noncontiguous Areas of Operations


4-77.     Battlespace is the environment, factors, and conditions commanders must understand to successfully apply combat power, protect the force, or complete the mission. This includes the air, land, sea, space, and the included enemy and friendly forces, facilities, weather, terrain, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the information environment within the operational areas and areas of interest (see Figure 4-5).

Figure 4-5. Battlespace Components

Figure 4-5. Battlespace Components

4-78.     Battlespace is conceptual—a higher commander does not assign it. Commanders determine their battlespace based on their concept of operations, accomplishing the mission, and protecting the force. Commanders use their experience, professional knowledge, and understanding of the situation to visualize and change their battlespace as current operations transition to future operations. Battlespace is not synonymous with AO. However, because battlespace is conceptual, Army forces conduct operations only within that portion of it delineated by their AO.

Areas of Influence and Interest

4-79.     Battlespace has an associated area of influence and area of interest. An area of influence is a geographical area in which a commander can directly influence operations by maneuver or fire support systems normally under the commander's command or control. Areas of influence surround and include the associated AO. The extent of subordinate units' areas of influence normally guides higher commanders in assigning subordinate AOs. An AO should not be substantially larger than the unit's area of influence. An area of interest is that area of concern to the commander, including the area of influence and areas adjacent to it. It extends into enemy territory, to the objectives of current or planned operations. This area also includes areas occupied by enemy forces that could jeopardize the accomplishment of the mission. Areas of interest serve to focus intelligence development and IO directed at factors outside the AO that may affect the operation.

The Information Environment

4-80.     A commander's battlespace includes that part of the information environment that encompasses information activity affecting the operation. The information environment contains information activities that collect, process, and disseminate information to national and international audiences but are beyond direct military influence. It includes space-based systems that provide data and information to Army forces. To envision that part of the information environment that is within their battlespace, commanders determine the information activities that affect their operation and the capabilities of their own and opposing C2 and information systems.

Force Projection Bases

4-81.     Army forces may deploy from home station directly to the AO or may move to the AO through force projection bases. Intermediate staging bases and power projection platforms are force projection bases. Force projection bases influence operations in a fashion similar to home stations. Sometimes one part of the deploying force will be at the force projection base while another operates in the AO. The deployed force may receive combat support (CS) and CSS from the force projection base for some or all of the operation.

Home Station

4-82.     Home stations are the permanent locations of active component (AC) units and reserve component (RC) units (for example, the location of an armory or reserve center). Because the Army is a power projection force, its AC units deploy from and return to home stations. RC forces normally mobilize and deploy from installations that serve as power projection platforms (see FM 3-100.22). Although home stations and power projection platforms lie outside the AO, the commander's battlespace includes them. Home stations provide support to deployed forces until they return. The ability to receive CS, CSS, and C2 support from home station assets reduces the size of the deployed force. To a significant degree, events occurring at home station affect the morale and performance of deployed forces. Thus, the commander's battlespace encompasses all home station functions, including family readiness programs.


4-83.     As part of the military decision making process, commanders visualize their battlespace and determine how to arrange their forces. The battlefield organization is the allocation of forces in the AO by purpose. It consists of three all-encompassing categories of operations: decisive, shaping, and sustaining. Purpose unifies all elements of the battlefield organization by providing the common focus for all actions. Commanders organize forces according to purpose by determining whether each unit's operation will be decisive, shaping, or sustaining. These decisions form the basis of the concept of operations. When circumstances require a spatial reference, commanders describe the AO in terms of deep, close, and rear areas. These spatial categories are especially useful in operations that are generally contiguous and linear and feature a clearly defined enemy force.

Decisive Operations

4-84.   There is only one decisive operation for any major operation, battle, or engagement for any given echelon. The decisive operation may include multiple actions conducted simultaneously throughout the AO. Commanders weight the decisive operation by economizing on combat power allocated to shaping operations.

4-85.     In the offense and defense, decisive operations normally focus on maneuver. For example, Third Army's decisive operation in the Gulf War sent VII Corps against the Iraqi Republican Guard after a major shaping operation by the USCENTCOM air component. Conversely, CSS units may conduct the decisive operation during mobilization and deployment or in support operations, particularly if the mission is humanitarian.

Shaping Operations

Sample Shaping Operations

  • Economy of force actions
  • Security Operations
  • Actions designed to limit enemy freedom of action
  • Actions to deny the enemy the ability to concentrate
  • Attacks designed to fix enemy forces
  • Destruction of enemy capabilities
  • Information operations (including military deception)
  • Covering force actions

4-86.   Shaping operations include lethal and nonlethal activities conducted throughout the AO. They support the decisive operation by affecting enemy capabilities and forces, or by influencing enemy decisions. Shaping operations use all elements of combat power to neutralize or reduce enemy capabilities. They may occur before, concurrently with, or after the start of the decisive operation. They may involve any combination of forces and occur throughout the AO.

4-87.     Some shaping operations, especially those that occur simultaneously with the decisive operation, are economy of force actions. If the force available does not permit simultaneous decisive and shaping operations, the commander sequences shaping operations around the decisive operation. Regardless of the type of operation, commanders may designate a successful shaping operation as the decisive operation. In that case, commanders weight the new decisive operation with combat power from other shaping operations. The concept of operations clearly describes how shaping operations support the decisive operation.

4-88.     Security operations are important shaping operations. They enable the decisive operation of the next higher headquarters and provide time and space for friendly forces to react to enemy activities. They also blind enemy attempts to gain information on friendly forces and protect friendly forces from enemy observation and fires.

4-89.     A reserve is a portion of a body of troops, kept to the rear or withheld from action at the beginning of an engagement and available for a decisive movement. Until committed, reserves shape through their placement within the AO. For example, the placement or movement of the reserve helps deceive the enemy as to the decisive operation and influences when the enemy commits forces. When committed, reserves either become or reinforce the decisive operation. Reserves prepare to seize and retain the initiative as a situation develops. Commanders use them to influence circumstances or exploit opportunities. When commanders anticipate uncertainty, they hold a greater portion of the force in reserve. Reserves reposition as necessary to ensure their protection and prompt availability.

Sustaining Operations

A tactical combat force is a combat unit, with appropriate combat support and combat service support assets, that is assigned the mission of defeating level III threats.

4-90.     The purpose of sustaining operations is to generate and maintain combat power. Sustaining operations are operations at any echelon that enable shaping and decisive operations by providing combat service support, rear area and base security, movement control, terrain management, and infrastructure development. Sustaining operations include the following elements:

  • Combat service support encompasses activities at all levels of war that generate and sustain combat power. It provides the essential capabilities and performs the functions, activities, and tasks necessary to sustain all forces in theater.

  • Rear area and base security includes measures taken by military units, activities, and installations to protect themselves from acts designed to impair their effectiveness. It has four components: intelligence, base and base cluster self-defense, response force operations, and combined arms tactical combat force (TCF) operations (see FM 3-100.40).

  • Movement control includes planning, routing, scheduling, and controlling personnel and materiel movements into, within, and out of an AO. Maintaining movement control, keeping LOCs open, managing reception and transshipment points, and obtaining host nation support are critical to movement control.

  • Terrain management includes allocating terrain, designating assembly areas, and specifying locations for units and activities. It includes grouping units into bases and designating base clusters as necessary.

  • Infrastructure development applies to all fixed and permanent installations, fabrications, or facilities that support and control military forces. Infrastructure development focuses on facility security modifications and includes area damage control and repairs.

4-91.     While sustaining operations are inseparable from decisive and shaping operations, they are not usually decisive themselves. However, in some support operations, CSS forces may be the decisive element of the Army force. Sustaining operations occur throughout the AO, not just within a rear area. Failure to sustain normally results in mission failure. Sustaining operations determine how fast Army forces reconstitute and how far Army forces can exploit success.

4-92.     At the operational level, sustaining operations focus on preparing for the next phase of the campaign or major operation. At the tactical level, sustaining operations underwrite the tempo of the overall operation; they assure the ability to take immediate advantage of any opportunity.

Main Effort

4-93.     Within the battlefield organization of decisive, shaping, and sustaining operations, commanders designate and shift the main effort. The main effort is the activity, unit, or area that commanders determine constitutes the most important task at that time. Commanders weight the main effort with resources and priorities and shift it as circumstances and intent demand.

4-94.     The main effort and the decisive operation are not always identical. Commanders anticipate shifts of main effort throughout an operation and include them in the plan. In contrast, changing the decisive operation requires execution of a branch, sequel, or new plan. A shaping operation may be the main effort before execution of the decisive operation. However, the decisive operation becomes the main effort upon execution.

Close, Deep, and Rear Areas

4-95.     Despite the increasing nonlinear nature of operations, there may be situations where commanders describe decisive, shaping, and sustaining operations in spatial terms (see Figure 4-6). Typically, linear operations involve conventional combat and concentrated maneuver forces. Ground forces share boundaries and orient against a similarly organized enemy force. Terrain or friendly forces secure flanks and protect CSS operations. In some multinational operations, the capabilities and doctrine of partners may dictate spatial organization of the AO. In such situations, commanders designate close, deep, and rear areas.

Figure 4-6. Close, Deep, and Rear Areas

Figure 4-6. Close, Deep, and Rear Areas

4-96.  . When designated, the close area is where forces are in immediate contact with the enemy and the fighting between the committed forces and readily available tactical reserves of both combatants is occurring, or where commanders envision close combat taking place. Typically, the close area assigned to a maneuver force extends from its subordinates' rear boundaries to its own forward boundary. Commanders plan to conduct decisive operations through maneuver and fires in the close area and position most of the maneuver force within it.

4-97.     The activities of forces directly supporting fighting elements also occur in the close area. Examples of these activities are field artillery fires and combat health support. Within the close area, depending on echelon, one unit may conduct the decisive operation while others conduct shaping operations. Commanders of forces engaged in the close area may designate subordinate deep, close, and rear areas.

4-98.  . When designated, the deep area is an area forward of the close area that commanders use to shape enemy forces before they are encountered or engaged in the close area. Typically, the deep area extends from the forward boundary of subordinate units to the forward boundary of the controlling echelon. Thus, the deep area relates to the close area not only in terms of geography but also in terms of purpose and time. The extent of the deep area depends on the force's area of influence—how far out it can acquire information and strike targets. Commanders may place forces in the deep area to conduct shaping operations. Some of these operations may involve close combat. However, most maneuver forces stay in the close area.

4-99.  . When designated, the rear area for any command extends from its rear boundary forward to the rear boundary of the next lower level of command. This area is provided primarily for the performance of support functions and is where the majority of the echelon's sustaining operations occur. Operations in rear areas assure freedom of action and continuity of operations, sustainment, and C2. Their focus on providing CS and CSS leaves units in the rear area vulnerable to attack. Commanders may designate combat forces to protect forces and facilities in the rear area. In some cases, commanders may designate a noncontiguous rear area due to geography or other circumstances. In this case, the rear area force protection challenge increases due to physical separation of forces in the rear area from combat units that would otherwise occupy a contiguous close area.


4-100.     Commanders combine AC and RC Army forces—consisting of different types of units with varying degrees of modernization—with multinational forces and civilian agencies to achieve effective and efficient unified action. A broad range of organizations makes up the institutional Army that supports the field Army. Institutional Army organizations design, man, train, and equip the force. The institutional Army assists effectively integrating Army capabilities. It does this through leadership and guidance regarding force structure, doctrine, modernization, and budget (see FM 3-100.11).


4-101.     The Army supports JFCs by providing tailored force packages to accomplish joint missions and dominate enemies and situations on land. Trained and equipped AC and RC units comprise these force packages. Within these force packages, Army commanders organize groups of units for specific missions. They reorganize for subsequent missions when necessary. This process of allocating available assets to subordinate commanders and establishing their command and support relationships is called task organizing. A temporary grouping of forces designed to accomplish a particular mission is a task organization. The ability of Army forces to tailor (select forces based upon a mission) and task organize (temporarily organize units to accomplish a tactical mission) gives them extraordinary agility. It allows operational- and tactical-level commanders to organize their units to make best use available resources. The ability to task organize means Army forces can shift rapidly among offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations.


4-102.     The fundamental basis for the organization and operations of Army forces is combined arms. Combined arms is the synchronized or simultaneous application of several arms—such as infantry, armor, field artillery, engineers, air defense, and aviation—to achieve an effect on the enemy that is greater than if each arm was used against the enemy separately or in sequence. The ultimate goal of Army organization for operations remains success in joint and combined arms warfare. Its combined arms capability allows commanders to form Army combat, CS, and CSS forces into cohesive teams focused on common goals.


4-103.     Commanders build combined arms organizations using command and support relationships (see Figure 4-7). Command relationships define command responsibility and authority. Support relationships define the purpose, scope, and effect desired when one capability supports another.

Figure 4-7. Army Command and Support Relationships and Inherent Responsibilities

Figure 4-7. Army Command and Support Relationships and Inherent Responsibilities


4-104.     The services and the various arms within Army forces complement each other by posing a dilemma for the enemy. As the enemy evades the effects of one type of action, he exposes himself to destruction by another. This leads to enemy paralysis, destruction, or surrender. A tactical example of complementary effects is suppressing a defender with indirect fires while maneuvering to envelop and destroy him. If the enemy attempts to move to meet the threat, he risks destruction from the fires. If he remains in place to survive the fires, he risks being encircled and trapped.

4-105.     Complementary capabilities protect the weaknesses of one system or organization with the capabilities of another (see Figure 4-8). For example, tanks combine protection, firepower, and mobility. However, they are vulnerable to mines, antiarmor missiles, concealed infantry, and restricted avenues of approach. They are particularly vulnerable in urban areas and dense vegetation. Therefore, commanders combine tanks, infantry, and engineers into combined arms teams and task forces. The infantry maneuvers on terrain where armor cannot and eliminates concealed threats to the tanks. The engineers clear obstacles, restoring the mobility of the armor. Unhindered by small arms fire, the armor maneuvers to deliver devastating firepower to support the infantry and engineers. CSS units support, providing the capabilities that the mix of systems requires.

Figure 4-8. Complementary Effects

Figure 4-8. Complementary Effects

4-106.     At the operational level, the capabilities of the services complement each other. This situation provides JFCs with a wide range of options and confronts enemies with difficult dilemmas. Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force aircraft engage targets that degrade enemy capabilities. Space, airborne, and land-based sensors monitor enemy reactions. Pilots and aviators use this information to refine and sharpen strikes. Ground forces maneuver, seize terrain, and destroy enemy forces. If the enemy attempts to meet the ground maneuver, he leaves his protected areas and exposes himself to the full weight of air power and long-range missiles. He is then even more vulnerable to the effects of maneuver. If the enemy attempts missile strikes on US air bases and lodgments, theater missile defenses, supported by space systems, intercept the weapons. As US ground forces maneuver, they overrun enemy air defenses, air bases, launch areas, command posts, and CSS units, eliminating both tactical and operational threats and rendering the enemy's situation hopeless.

4-107.     Army forces and those of the other services reinforce each other when they combine the effects of similar capabilities (see Figure 4-9). Commanders reinforce to achieve focused, overwhelming effects at a single point. When massed, different types of field artillery systems, such as howitzers and missiles, reinforce each other. Aerial fires have similar effects and can reinforce indirect fires. In a similar manner, commanders reinforce maneuver elements to guarantee superiority at the decisive time and place.

Figure 4-9. Reinforcing Effects

Figure 4-9. Reinforcing Effects

4-108.     Achieving complementary and reinforcing effects requires synchronization, initiative, and versatility. Synchronized action is the basis for complementary and reinforcing effects. Commanders focus systems in space and time to generate synergy that increases effects. The initiative of leaders combines units and systems in the fluid circumstances of action, often in the absence of orders. Confronted with a constantly changing situation, leaders develop new combinations of systems and pose new dilemmas for the adversary. Properly combined, these effects produce asymmetries that the joint force uses to achieve theater objectives.


4-109.     Asymmetry concerns dissimilarities in organization, equipment, doctrine, capabilities, and values between other armed forces (formally organized or not) and US forces. JFCs arrange symmetrical and asymmetrical actions to take advantage of friendly strengths and enemy vulnerabilities, and to preserve freedom of action. Engagements are symmetric if forces, technologies, and weapons are similar; they are asymmetric if forces, technologies, and weapons are different, or if a resort to terrorism and rejection of more conventional rules of engagement are the norm. In one sense, there are always asymmetries between forces: differing circumstances lead to differing military structures. Asymmetry becomes very significant, perhaps decisive, when the degree of dissimilarity creates exploitable advantages. Asymmetric engagements can be extremely lethal, especially if the target is not ready to defend itself against the asymmetric threat. Asymmetry tends to decay over time as adversaries adapt to dissimilarities exposed in action. In a larger sense, asymmetric warfare seeks to avoid enemy strengths and concentrate comparative advantages against relative weaknesses. The following tactical and operational examples illustrate the dynamic nature of asymmetry.

4-110.     Third Army forces in the Gulf War were equipped with second-generation thermal sights. Iraqi units depended upon older, far less capable active infrared and light amplification systems. In engagement after engagement, US, British, and French armor destroyed Iraqi units, who could only return ineffective fire. At the system level, the advanced armor on the US and British tanks resisted the occasional hit from Iraqi fire, while friendly rounds immediately destroyed their targets. At tactical levels, Army forces exploited asymmetry in terms of equipment and organization.

4-111.     In 1999, Serbian forces in Kosovo faced unrelenting aerial bombardment by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air forces. As the air operations intensified, NATO refined its strike techniques while the Serbs applied techniques learned by the Iraqis during the Gulf War. Over time, the Serbs became very proficient at using decoys and concealment. Although they were unable to prevent losses, Serbian units protected most of their ground combat systems from this asymmetric attack. Thus, the asymmetric advantage conferred by advanced air power over ground elements decayed over time.

4-112.     At the operational level in the Gulf War, USCENTCOM exploited the inherent flexibility of sea power and amphibious assault to threaten the Iraqi forces in Kuwait with a major strike from the Persian Gulf. Lacking a navy, the only possible operational response by the Iraqi high command was to shift six divisions to coastal defense. The coalition ground offensive enveloped and destroyed these Iraqi forces, which were fixed by the threat of amphibious assault.

4-113.     The likelihood of asymmetric attack increases with the continued conventional dominance of US forces at sea, on land, in the air, and in space. Such attacks may only disrupt tactical activities briefly; however, the operational and strategic consequences, particularly in stability operations and support operations, may be far-reaching. In Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, and again at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, massive truck bombs destroyed portions of US military compounds, with heavy loss of life. Both attacks demonstrated asymmetry in terms of equipment and values. In addition, each was a political act of terrorism taken against a military objective. The risks of asymmetry multiply with the threat of WMD.

4-114.     Asymmetric attacks pose dilemmas to both friendly and enemy forces. Countering asymmetric attacks requires the disadvantaged side to alter rules of engagement, organization, doctrine, training, or equipment. The higher the echelon, the longer it takes to remedy an enemy asymmetric advantage. To reduce the vulnerability to asymmetric attacks and to minimize their effects, Army organizations, training, and equipment emphasize flexible employment in diverse situations. Protective measures, such as physical security and OPSEC, lessen the effects of asymmetry. A credible NBC defense capability at the tactical level deters the use of WMD. Commanders must anticipate asymmetries and take preventive measures that reduce adversary advantages. Commanders identify and exploit friendly capabilities that pose asymmetric challenges to the enemy force, even as Army forces act to counter hostile asymmetric threats.Asymmetric attacks pose dilemmas to both friendly and enemy forces. Countering asymmetric attacks requires the disadvantaged side to alter rules of engagement, organization, doctrine, training, or equipment. The higher the echelon, the longer it takes to remedy an enemy asymmetric advantage. To reduce the vulnerability to asymmetric attacks and to minimize their effects, Army organizations, training, and equipment emphasize flexible employment in diverse situations. Protective measures, such as physical security and OPSEC, lessen the effects of asymmetry. A credible NBC defense capability at the tactical level deters the use of WMD. Commanders must anticipate asymmetries and take preventive measures that reduce adversary advantages. Commanders identify and exploit friendly capabilities that pose asymmetric challenges to the enemy force, even as Army forces act to counter hostile asymmetric threats.

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