Tactical and Technical

Effects–Centric Warfare: Across the spectrum of conflict

By Jason Selman June 25, 2019

In May this year I attended the Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019 (JWA19), a Command Post Exercise (CPX) held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle in the United States. The aim of the CPX was to improve coalition interoperability and test a number of future concepts by fighting a near-peer enemy using a joint coalition force in an operational environment complicated by multi-domain effects. The CPX also aimed to test the functionality of the Mission Partner Environment (MPE) software and the digital interoperability among the coalition forces. The CPX utilised the US Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7ID) as the primary fighting organisation in the land component of the operation – testing their 2025-2028 warfighting concepts with all the applicable emerging weapons, equipment, and technology. I was very fortunate to be an augmentee to HQ 7 ID working in the future operations (FUOPS – G35) cell. Integral to 7ID were the 3rd Brigade (Australia), 1st Strike Brigade (UK), 2nd Canadian Mounted Brigade Group, the 4/25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (US brigade), and a number of enablers such as combat aviation, mobility enhancement, and sustainment brigades. 7ID also had divisional fires (artillery and rockets) at their disposal and had the ability to request corps and national assets for phases of the operation.

One of the purposes of the exercise was to test the concept of the application of multi-domain effects to support the operation. This was somewhat vague as multi-domain effects were considered to be a new concept which would leverage off the changing and connected digital space through a combination of organisational reform and emerging technologies. As the exercise played out, it was evident that there were quite different opinions on exactly what multi-domain effects were and how they should be used to support operations. As the exercise intensity increased, and battles were occurring on multiple fronts, it was evident that many Divisional staff regressed to what they knew and were comfortable with. The result was they tended to concentrate on winning the land battle at the expense of supporting the development of the application of multi-domain effects.

While multi-domain effects are not a new concept, there are now new means of delivery (and defence) available. Operation Overlord, the lodgement of the Allies into Europe centred on the D-Day landings at Normandy in 1944, is a good example of a past multi-domain operation. Multi-domain effects were used both to shape the German defences well before the landing, and to enhance the success of the operation itself. Firstly Operation Overload was a joint (navy, army, and air force) operation which required cooperation and coordination between the services. Extensive reconnaissance was undertaken; a number of air and sea feints hid the location of the bulk of the landings; espionage and counter-espionage gave misleading information about the location, size, and force dispositions; deceptive radio traffic was used to simulate allied forces invasions in Norway and Pas de Calais (electronic warfare); and a deception plan included the use of dummy paratroopers. Importantly, encrypted German radio messages sent via the Enigma machine were decoded (a precursor to modern cyber warfare) to track German formation movements to measure the success of the effects. Measurement of multi-domain effects is an important issue to which I will return.

The G35 cell in HQ 7ID consisted of a number of coalition field-rank arms corps officers from the US, UK, Singapore, France, and Australia. We also had the ability to pull in subject matter experts from aviation, intelligence, air defence, logistics and others as required. We were given two major tasks. Our first task was to conduct ongoing planning for Divisional operations 48 hours and further out from the current battle, wargame courses of action, develop branch plans and sequels, and draft FRAGOs to be handed to Current Operations (G3) for adjustment and subsequent issue as the battle progressed. Our second task was to develop the effort to synchronise the application of multi-domain effects at the Divisional level and higher. As the battle progressed and intensified we spent more of our time on the first task and less on the second – although developing the ability to use multi-domain effects was arguably more important overall. As noted earlier, this is an emerging concept for many, and as the HQ 7ID staff were presented with multiple dilemmas, the majority concentrated on the land battle.

We in the G35 cell continued to develop the multi-domain effects model in order to fully understand the problem and the intent of fighting across the multiple domains. We needed to understand what the problem was in order to develop a solution. The broad range of problems present in multi-domain operations likely require warfighters to adapt the way they fight. We developed a visual model, dubbed Effects-Centric Warfare, to frame the problem and which is presented below in figure 1.

There are some elements in this model which require explanation. Central to the whole model is the contested space. This can either be physical terrain or can be something a little more esoteric. For example, the US and China are currently engaged in a contest for cyber dominance, while Israel and Palestine are currently engaged in a contest for international opinion.

There are an undefined number of overlapping domains which can be used to generate effects. Obvious domains include land, air, sea, space, and cyber. However, information (including traditional news and social media), the human & cultural domains, the electromagnetic spectrum, and espionage are all domains which can produce effects. These domains operate from the tactical level all the way through to the strategic and political levels and can be interacted with in the contested space early to shape conditions or can be engaged directly to achieve an outcome. Cross-domain perception, decision-making, and action can all be accelerated to the point where these functions occur almost simultaneously: a convergence of effects. The domains can also be used to generate quantitative (directly measurable with numbers) or qualitative (attributes, characteristics, or properties which cannot be directly measured) effects. The effects generated by these domains can be both kinetic and non-kinetic.

Each of the domains also includes defeat and protect functions. Defeat mechanisms – enemy focused – include deny (in space or time), detect, destroy, dis-locate, and dis-integrate, etc. Protect functions – friendly, civilian, infrastructure, etc. focused – include deny (information), deceive, defend, dominate, etc. Importantly, success is more likely when there is a convergence of multi-domain effects as the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The effects should be applied on a risk versus opportunity basis when there are windows of opportunity or windows of vulnerability. Opportunities include defeating the enemy through attacking their targetable critical vulnerabilities (TCV) or targeting specific enemy equipment or systems in the High Value Target (HVT) matrix. Vulnerabilities to be protected include locations and dispositions of forces and friendly Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFIs). For example, multi-domain effects may be used to deny or deceive an enemy of the time, place, and content of a logistic convoy providing resupply forward.

Importantly, all effects should be applied using SMART criteria. Effects should not be generated using a shotgun approach as many of the effects are limited in duration or application – some cyber effects may be a one-shot application, and the application of other effects may add risk to the asset providing the effect. Effects should be focused at a place (not necessarily a geographical place) and time, should be achievable and realistic, and must be measurable. While the effects of many domains, such as manoeuvre and fires are directly measurable (through battle damage assessment), measurement of the effects of domains such as electronic warfare are more difficult to measure and must be more considered. An effect to disrupt enemy command and control through electronic warfare may be measured through a reduction in enemy electromagnetic or radio emissions, while an effect to disrupt enemy legitimacy through information operations may be measured through open source international media reports. There is no denying that measurement of some of these effects is difficult and forms part of the art rather than the science of war.

Finally, success is more likely to be achieved through a convergence of domain effects. Success of an engagement should not depend on the success of effects – force ratios should be maintained – but rather the effect should “turbo-charge” the force. To use a land force example: a Combat Team assaults an enemy counter attack force of a tank platoon and finds the tanks oriented away from the assault and unable to manoeuvre to defend against the threat. Multi-domain effects have assisted the Combat Team by identifying the location and orientation through unmanned aerial systems, have deceived the enemy of the direction of attack (through false radio traffic), and spoofed their location 48 hours ago through a cyber effect on their satellite navigation and positioning system resulting in missing a refuelling convoy. The enemy is overwhelmed through the multi-domain effects – including the attacking land forces – and is defeated. Most of the effects remain invisible to the Combat Team.

While this is a presentation of a model for Effects-Centric Warfare, the application of this model through to the targeting of these effects at a desired time and place still requires some further development. Targeting of effects must remain flexible and should be condition-based rather than time-based if they are to achieve the best results, noting this is more difficult to synchronise using current targeting tools and processes. The source of the effect may be also subject to security classification and thus the request should consist of the effect rather than the asset providing the effect. Embracing Effects-Centric Warfare to conduct operations will assist the Australian Army and her allies to remain at the forefront of contemporary warfare.



Jason Selman

Jason Selman is a Royal Australian Engineer officer posted to HQ 3rd Brigade.


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.


Gareth, Great article and has generated some interesting responses with additional ways to view conflict. I’d like to add to that discussion. In a traditional sense we often talk about the relevant balance of forces and use analytics to estimate combat force ratio’s as an indicator of likely success or failure. Similarly, on more complex environments we also use analysis to measure success (number of schools opened, number of CIMIC projects completed). However, lets thing back to what Billy Beane actually did…changed the game. He took some traditional and some new techniques of analysis and applied them differently. He also chose to use them to influence the future in a very direct sense. War (and war like operations) are actions that are actually seeking a political, economic or social outcome. In the context of accelerated warfare and operations in a multi-domain operating environment should we also use the kind of analytics to seek out ways of creating effects aligned to the over-all political, economic or social goal? In Malaysia in the 50’s the British Bligh campaign against the communist insurgents, focussed not on military might, but separation from villages. This resulted in the insurgents gradually retreating to the jungle and starving on the basis of being separated from their key source of food. The relevance of this was the analysis of the scenario and behaviour identified a new strategy and the game was changed. During WW2 the British military had a plan to devalue the Deutsch-Mark. They printed millions of Marks with the intent of dropping into Germany, using them to purchase tactical items, but also to flood the economy with money that could not possibly have come from the central bank. This would have become an economic disruptor and if the war had endured and this had been executed, may have driven distrust into their own currency. In and of itself this would have been a significant disruption as factories and workers need to get paid in order to operate. How would this have worked if nobody trusted the money they were being paid with? Where next? Should the concept of analysing the economics of our operating environments be examined more thoroughly? Billy Beane’s approach was use existing information in new ways. In the context of Afghanistan where it is largely accepted that a significant source of funding is money generated by drug crop; should we be examining methods to disrupt the economics behind this? If the drug crop was suddenly devalued by an economic effect what would be the effect on the ability to sustain military action? Great thought prompting article, one that many of us should re-visit once in a while to challenge our own paradigm. Regards Paul

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