I am behind the news curve on this one but here’s a good article from InsideDefense.com ( Hat tip Chris Castelli) on the controversey over the call by USMC General James Mattis to banish “EBO” (Effects-Based Operations) and “Systems” terminology from military doctrine. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Air Force is less than pleased:
….How Mattis’ guidance will be implemented remains unclear, but the memo signals a sea change in the way JFCOM will address EBO.
By declaring that JFCOM will no longer use, sponsor or export the terms and concepts related to EBO, ONA and SoSA in its training, doctrine development and support of military education, Mattis tees up a major opportunity for EBO critics to curtail the use of these terms and ideas in American military discourse. Some EBO proponents see this as a threat, while other EBO advocates see an opportunity to hone the concept and discard unhelpful baggage.
Mattis explicitly calls for refining two joint doctrine publications that dictate how military officials use effects in joint operations in terms of desired outcomes.
….Before Deptula provided comments on the missive to ITP, Air Force headquarters referred questions on the topic to retired officers like McInerney, who unloaded heaps of criticism.
“Even though I am no longer on active duty I am embarrassed for a combatant commander to publish such a document,” McInerney says. “I am a fan of Mattis but this is too much.”
McInerney even encouraged combatant commanders to “ignore” what he sees as a shocking memo.In an e-mail to ITP, McInerney calls JFCOM’s missive the “most parochial, un-joint, biased, one-sided document launched against a concept that was key in the transformation of warfare — and proven in the most successful U.S. military conflicts of the past 20 years (Desert Storm and Allied Force).”
He belittles the two-page memo as a “tantrum” and the accompanying five-page guidance as “puerile” and “totally unbecoming” of a JFCOM commander.Mattis should be “encouraging multiple perspectives for the enhancement of joint operations — not trashing them,” McInerney asserts. The JFCOM memo is “intellectually bankrupt” and the policy’s conclusions are “profoundly out of touch with reality,” he adds.”The rationale ignores any notion of strategic art much less operational art, and instead relies on centuries’ old, discredited ‘commander’s intuition’ to design, plan and execute campaigns rather than offering a demonstrated better alternative,” he insists.
All strategic theories as they percolate through a massive bureaucracy tend to become distorted, misunderstood, inflated, stretched to cover pre-existing agendas, get advanced in tandem with career interests and be misapplied to situations for which they were never intended. EBO is no exception but “banning” concepts wholesale from discussion is less healthy for the long term intellectual good of an organization than is simply subjecting them to warranted criticism.
Those interested in a USAF practitioner’s counterpoint might look at a series from the now defunct FX-Based blog where Sonny was responding to an op-ed by Ralph Peters, one of the more colorful EBO critics:
Extensive discussion of the Mattis pronunciamento can be found ( and engaged in) at The Small Wars Council.