Staff Functions

Effects Based Tactics – Layering Effects at the Formation Level

By Richard Thapthimthong August 15, 2019


Orchestration is the arrangement of physical and non-physical actions to ensure their unified contribution to the mission.

LWD 1 – The Fundamentals of Land Power, 2017

Introduction

The provision of a fully realised Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) enemy on Ex Talisman Sabre 19 (Ex TS 19) required Headquarters 7th Combat Brigade (HQ 7 Cbt Bde) to change the way it thinks and plans at the formation level. The fielding of both conventional and non-conventional force elements required the Bde to think beyond its normal organisation for battle. Equally, the addition of numerous non-kinetic effects required bespoke coordination and a coherence in planning and execution. This circumstance required the Bde HQ to rethink how it had traditionally applied effects at the tactical level and apply a sense of creativity to a familiar, but unique, opportunity.

Applying effects at the tactical (formation) level is a familiar endeavor for the Bde HQ. Through the Joint Warfighting Series (JWS) of 2018, HQ 7 Cbt Bde (as the Readying Bde) was provided ample opportunity to integrate its combined arms within a joint and interagency setting enabled by HQ 1st Division. However, on Ex TS 19 the Bde was no longer part of 'friendly forces', but instead was tasked to generate a fully enabled DATE opponent to oppose a Coalition Joint Task Force based on HQ 1st Division. This generated a unique command and control (C2) dilemma for the HQ. Firstly, without a higher headquarters the Bde quickly found that the power provided by a Divisional HQ to coordinate effects (beyond tactical manoeuvre and intimate ISR/fires) was no longer there: in effect 7 Cbt Bde was now an 'independent' Bde. Additionally, the effects able to be generated were non-traditional to a tactically thinking (and tactically staffed) Bde HQ. Specifically, control of the population, the media, strategic and operational messaging, hybrid elements (including guerilla, terrorists and criminal organisations) intertwined with conventional combined arms required the HQ to adapt the way it planned and executed operations across all its accessible domains.

Thus, HQ 7 Cbt Bde needed to develop a unique and bespoke way to plan the integration of these effects to successfully realise their full potential. The planning was required to be creative and distinctive which developed over the entire length of the JWS (being fully implemented on Ex TS 19). This article will reflect on this process and seeks to provide an option that future formation HQs (or indeed any tactical HQs) could consider when approaching a tactical problem using effects based planning in conjunction with the traditional military appreciation process (MAP).  

 

 
Step One - What is the enemy doing?

The daily effects working group within HQ 7 Cbt Bde began with an analysis by the S2 of what the enemy will be doing over the next 24, 48 and 72 hours. Whilst these were the general timeframes applied, they simply existed to provide a framework to begin the conversation. It was during this phase of the planning that the entire staff would comment, assess and compliment (or debate) the S2 assessment. Providing an open forum to benchmark an agreed assessment of the enemy was key to ensure that the plan was enemy focused.

Step Two - What are we going to do next?

The next part of the effects planning process was a confirmation of what the Bde plan was for the next 24, 48 and 72 hours. Often, this would be a confirmation via the synchronisation matrix (which was updated daily) but more commonly, it was a hypothetical response to the summary of what the enemy was going to do. Specifically to Ex TS 19 (where 7 Cbt Bde was in the defence) this step provided a clear picture of where the FLOT would likely be for the next planning period – a crucial tool in the defence.

Step Three - Identify the focus areas (and focus domains).

With a comparison of both the enemy and friendly plans, the key outcome was then to confirm where in the Area of Operations the likely effects would be required to be generated. Often, this was a focal point on the forward line of own troops (FLOT) where contact was expected, a population center that would be contested, or a non-contested location that would require some sort of coverage. Equally important were the domains that would become the areas of focus for the next period of time. These were the domains that the Bde HQ could affect both physically (land and air) and non-physically (information, electromagnetic spectrum and human).

Step Four - Confirm the Commander’s Priorities

With the confirmation of the focus areas for effects now determined, the staff would then conduct an analysis of the current priorities issued by the Commander. These priorities were key to ensure that the limited resources were applied in the correct manner. Additionally, a review of these priorities allowed the staff to confirm that the priorities issued by the Commander aligned with what the enemy (and indeed the Bde) were anticipating to be the next step in the battle. Once this step was completed, the context for which effects needed to be overlaid was now set.

Step Five - Assign the desired effects

With plans confirmed, geography and domains ascertained and the Commanders intent aligned – the next step in the planning process was a session on the desired effects to be applied on the battlefield. This took the form of the Army Combat Functions (even though they no longer contained in doctrine) and required the staff to be disciplined in their visualisation of effects (and not simply the means to achieve them). The staff focused on the desire to Shield, Shape, Strike, Sustain or Know within the areas (and domains) identified through planning. This was a general conversation about desired effects to achieve the Commander’s priorities and where the layering of effects began to take shape through the scope of the Army Combat Functions.  

Step Six - Brainstorm the achievable effects (the means)

The next step (based on the desired effects) was to brainstorm how each battlespace operating system (BOS) could achieve these effects within the specified period. This is where the realisation of layering took place. This was an intuitive (and enjoyable) process that was creative and thought provoking. Each BOS was required to analyse how they could support the priorities (within the geography and domains highlighted) and were enabled to provide input and suggestions across other BOSs. It was common that the most creative and useful ideas came from those that had nothing to do with that specific BOS, but were enabled by the analysis of the context to that point in time.

Step Seven - Gain approval from the Commander

The final part of the planning process was the daily backbrief to the Commander and presentation of the recommendations as a result of the planning and brainstorming. This was often a tabletop discussion where the previous steps (representing the logical thought process of the staff) were presented. The backbriefs ended with a concept of operations (CONOPS) for the layering of all effects going forward and allowed the Commander to confirm the design for battle and his intent. This process was flexible and often conducted via secure voice means.   

Step Eight - Implement the effects

With the planning approved, the daily effects-based tactical planning was complete and the implementation of the plan was conducted through verbal orders (if time sensitive) or through the daily Battlespace Management System (BMS) FRAGO. The updated Commander’s intent and layered effects were then briefed in detail to the JOR and were included within individual handovers for the next period of time.

Conclusion

The power of this process was profound for the Bde HQ. It followed a simple logic, was focused on the enemy, and took into account the limited (and unique) resources available to the Bde. It also provided a stopgap between the completion of a Military Appreciation Process and the ongoing refinement of the plan through execution. It was intuitive and promoted creativity of thought which resulted in a layering of effects on top of the combined arms that was being generated through the conventional execution of formation tactics. It demonstrated to the staff that the Bde HQ has the ability to plan and implement layers of effects without distracting it from the conventional (close) fight. However, it also demonstrated the power of creative thought and an egalitarian approach to planning where staff are empowered to think beyond their posting, hat badge and basic trade skills. The necessity of creating a credible DATE enemy allowed this to occur.


Portrait

Biography

Richard Thapthimthong

Major Richard Thapthimthong is an Infantry Officer who is currently the Brigade Major of the READY Brigade – the 7th Combat Brigade. His participation in formation level manoeuvre is inclusive of 7th Combat Brigade’s experience through the Integrated Sea and Land Series into Ex HAMEL 2018 and again through the Joint Warfighting Series of 2019 which culminated in Talisman Sabre where the Brigade provided the Opposing Force for the exercise. His planning experience is inclusive of Unit level manoeuvre as the Operations Officer for the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment and as the lead Land Planner for the Amphibious Task Group HQ as part of Op FIJI ASSIST 2016.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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