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Operational Concepts Studies

Added January 24, 2016
Type: Monograph
Military Engagement and Forward Presence: Down but Not Out as Tools to Shape and Win. Authored by Dr. John R. Deni.
View the Executive Summary

Forward military presence and, when employed selectively, military engagement – can promote stability and security and can contribute dramatically to operational capacity and capability across a range of military operations, including major interstate war. Unfortunately, significant cuts to overseas permanent presence and continuing pockets of institutional bias against engagement as a force multiplier and readiness enhancer have combined to limit the leverage possible through these two policy tools.
Added June 19, 2014
Type: Monograph
Operational Reservations: Considerations for a Total Army Force. Authored by COL John D. Ellis, COL (Ret.) Laura McKnight Mackenzie.
View the Executive Summary

Despite fighting shoulder-to-shoulder this past decade, the U.S. Army is comprised of essentially “three Armies”—the active component, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard. While an intriguing start to integrate the three components, the Army Total Force Policy is not a panacea for reform. Real and meaningful work still needs to be done to bring the three into effective alignment and in a way to foster cooperation and mutual respect.
Added September 22, 2011
Type: Monograph
Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present, and Future. Authored by Dr. Andrew Mumford.
Far from being the counterinsurgency exemplars that history has benevolently cast them, this monograph posits 10 myths of British counterinsurgency that debunk key elements of British performance in irregular warfare from Malaya to Iraq.
Added July 08, 2011
Type: Monograph
The New Aztecs: Ritual and Restraint in Contemporary Western Military Operations. Authored by Dr. Zhivan Alach.
The Western way of war has come full circle. After centuries, indeed millennia, of evolution toward increased totality and brutality, it has turned back once again to the ritualistic and restrained methods of primitive warfare.
Added April 25, 2011
Type: Letort Papers
Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq, 2003-09: A Case of Operational Surprise and Institutional Response. Authored by Brigadier Andrew Smith.
Institutional defense establishments guide the development of national military capabilities. Recent experience suggests that the orthodox approaches that they have evolved to perform this function in nominal peacetime are insufficiently responsive for contemporary threats and challenges.
Added February 25, 2011
Type: Letort Papers
Reforming Military Command Arrangements: The Case of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. Authored by Mr. Henrik Bliddal.
Our national security system turns our overall capabilities into active assets, protects us against the threats of an anarchic international system, and makes it possible to exploit its opportunities. Today, however, the system is arguably in dire need of reform.
Added December 21, 2010
Type: Student (Carlisle) Papers
A Risk-Based Approach to Strategic Balance. Authored by Colonel John A. Mauk.
This paper explores a risk-based approach to a strategically balanced force that assesses alternative postures and the viability of competing force concepts in mitigating national risk in a resource-constrained environment. This assessment also examines alternate definitions of balance and the continued relevance of U.S. conventional capabilities and nuclear deterrence.
Added August 27, 2010
Type: Book
David Galula: His Life and Intellectual Context. Authored by Ms. Ann Marlowe.
David Galula’s ideas are reflected in U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, and in nearly every speech that American commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq give, but until now, almost no biographical information was available about him. Arguably the greatest writer on counterinsurgency, Galula led a fascinating, although all too brief, life that gave him a bird’s eye view of most of the great conflicts of the second half of the 20th century.
Added August 24, 2010
Type: PKSOI Papers
U.S. Military Forces and Police Assistance in Stability Operations: The Least-Worst Option to Fill the U.S. Capacity Gap. Authored by Colonel (Ret.) Dennis E Keller.
Stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be challenged by the lack of effective local police forces to secure the civilian population from insurgent infiltration and criminal violence. Given U.S. government legal and organizational shortfalls to train and advise foreign police forces, coupled with an operational environment characterized by local police corruption and abusiveness, this monograph proposes a way ahead for effective community based policing despite these adverse circumstances.
Added June 03, 2010
Type: Monograph
Human Intelligence: All Humans, All Minds, All the Time. Authored by Mr. Robert D. Steele.
The author explores the centrality of Human Intelligence in meeting the needs of the U.S. Army, as well as the Department of Defense, and the whole of government, for relevant information and tailored intelligence essential to creating a national security strategy; for defining whole of government policies that work in harmony; for acquisition of the right capabilities at the right price in time to be useful; and for operations, both local and global.
Added April 19, 2010
Type: Book
Short of General War: Perspectives on the Use of Military Power in the 21st Century. Edited by Dr. Harry R Yarger.
In this anthology, students in the U.S. Army War College Class of 2008 critically examine the emerging 21st century security environment and offer diverse and innovative thoughts on how military power should be applied in situations short of general war.
Added November 03, 2009
Type: Op-Ed
Army Football and Full Spectrum Operations. Authored by Dr. Stephen J. Gerras.
Each month a member of the SSI faculty writes an editorial for our monthly newsletter. This is the Op-Ed for the November 2009 newsletter.
Added September 16, 2009
Type: Monograph
Alien: How Operational Art Devoured Strategy. Authored by Brigadier Justin Kelly, Dr. Michael James Brennan.
This authors argue that the idea of an operational level of war charged with the planning and conduct of campaigns misconceives the relationship between wars, campaigns, and operations, and is both historically mistaken and wrong in theory. They conclude that its incorporation into U.S. doctrine has had the regrettable impact of separating the conduct of campaigns from the conduct of wars and consequently marginalized the role of politics in the direction of war. In essence, they argue that the idea of the campaign has come to overwhelm that of strategy.
Added October 09, 2007
Type: Student (Carlisle) Papers
A Concept at the Crossroads: Rethinking the Center of Gravity. Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Rudolph M. Janiczek.
The author concludes that, in an effort to operationalize Clausewitz's signature concept, the U.S. military probably limited its utility. The Center of Gravity is best applied as an abstract, rather than as a practical, concept.
Added August 16, 2007
Type: Letort Papers
An Introduction to Theater Strategy and Regional Security. Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Clarence J. Bouchat (USAF, Ret.).
Theater strategy and theater security cooperation (TSC) are two of the most important tools available in attaining national security. This paper explains what theater strategy is, its basis, how it is formulated, and how it is executed with emphasis on theater security cooperation.
Added May 07, 2007
Type: Op-Ed
Manning the Force. Authored by Dr. Douglas V. Johnson, II.
Each month a member of the SSI faculty writes an editorial for our monthly newsletter. This is the Op-Ed for the May 2007 newsletter.
Added January 04, 2007
Type: Letort Papers
Naval Transformation, Ground Forces, and the Expeditionary Impulse: The Sea-Basing Debate. Authored by Professor Geoffrey Till.
While naval forces often are out of sight and out of mind to land forces engaged in expeditionary operations, their contribution is vital and becoming much more so. But they face major challenges, which if not resolved may mean the end of what has been called the "expeditionary era."
Added August 18, 2006
Type: Student (Carlisle) Papers
How to Make Army Force Generation Work for the Army's Reserve Components. Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E Whitlock.
This paper describes ARFORGEN, discusses some of its critical assumptions related to reserve component (RC) units, and explains what changes are required at the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of the Army (DA), and the individual RC levels so that the Army can integrate its RC units fully into ARFORGEN. The paper details needed changes at both the institutional and operational level at DA and DoD.
Added March 01, 2006
Type: Letort Papers
Planning For and Applying Military Force: An Examination of Terms. Authored by Lieutenant General (USMC Ret) Paul K Van Riper.
Joint doctrine is currently undergoing some potentially major revisions. The author asks the doctrine community to take a step back from the process of change and take a hard look at the differences between the original concepts and the proposed revisions.
Added February 01, 2003
Type: Monograph
Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya: Military Strategic Culture and the Paradoxes of Asymmetric Conflict. Authored by Major Robert M. Cassidy.
The author uses a detailed assessment of the Russian experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya to draw important conclusions about asymmetric warfare. Even in this era of asymmetry, the U.S. Army exhibits a cultural preference for the "big war" paradigm. He suggests that the U.S. military in general, including the Army, needs a cultural transformation to master the challenge of asymmetry fully
Added September 01, 2002
Type: Monograph
Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!. Authored by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II.
The center of gravity concept has long been hailed by the U.S. military as the cornerstone of the operational art; yet, the term has many different meanings. In going back to the original concept, the author reveals that Clausewitz intended the center of gravity to function much as its counterpart in the mechanical sciences, that is, as a focal point—as the one element within a combatant's entire structure or system that has the necessary centripetal force to hold that structure together.
Added February 01, 2002
Type: Monograph
The New Craft of Intelligence: Achieving Asymmetric Advantage in the Face of Nontraditional Threats. Authored by Mr. Robert D. Steele.
This monograph is the third in the Strategic Studies Institute's "Studies in Asymmetry" Series. In it, the author examines two paradigm shifts--one in relation to the threat and a second in relation to intelligence methods-- while offering a new model for threat analysis and a new model for intelligence operations in support to policy, acquisition, and command engaged in nontraditional asymmetric
Added November 01, 2001
Type: Book
Rapid Decisive Operations: An Assumptions-Based Critique. Authored by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II.
The author argues that, while those who developed the concept of rapid decisive operations (RDO) deserve high praise for attempting to link two relative properties—speed and decisiveness—the definition of RDO is at present incoherent and based on several deeply flawed assumptions. He goes on to recommend a method—which he calls Assumption-based Concept Development—for identifying and addressing an operational concept's critical assumptions.
Added November 01, 1999
Type: Book
The Fog of Peace: Finding the End-State of Hostilities. Authored by Mr. Manfred K. Rotermund.
Peace arrives only when domestically centered progress is established in a post-conflict environment. As a result, the end of hostilities represents the beginning of a transition to peace--not peace itself.
Added September 01, 1999
Type: Book
America's Army in Transition: Preparing for War in the Precision Age. Authored by Major General Robert H. Scales.
The following two articles were written during and immediately after the war in Kosovo. The first is an adaptation of an earlier work written after a trip to Asia in 1998. In that essay, I suggested that foreign militaries were beginning to perceive our fixation on a firepower-centered way of war as an exploitable weakness. In fact, some states, armed with experience gained against us in real war, had already begun to evolve a doctrine to counter our superiority in precision.
Added September 01, 1999
Type: Book
The Growing Imperative to Adopt "Flexibility" as an American Principle of War. Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Robert S. Frost.
The author makes it clear that he is not interested in throwing out the old tried and true existing Principles of War, he only wants thought given to their expansion to include a principle of Flexibility. After all, the hallmark of the course of instruction at the U.S. Army War College is the new environment in which its graduates should expect to operate--an environment that we at the War College characterize as vague, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In such an environment, the author argues, Flexibility must be an operating principle, and it would serve all the services well to recognize it as such.
Added September 01, 1997
Type: Book
Force Planning in an Era of Uncertainty: Two MRCs as a Force Sizing Framework. Authored by Professor John F. Troxell.
The two MRC framework constitutes a logical scheme for organizing U.S. defense planning efforts. New approaches to planning scenarios and the operational concept for employing forces offer the potential for such adjustments concerning the "ways" of the strategic paradigm, while force thinning and modernization are two important categories for adjusting the affordability of the strategic "means."
Added August 01, 1997
Type: Book
Strategic Planning and the Drug Threat. Authored by COL (RET) William W. Mendel, COL (RET) Murl D. Munger.
The primary purpose of this publication is to show how the principles and techniques of strategic and operational planning can be applied to the supply reduction side of our national effort to curb the trafficking of illicit drugs. An earlier version was published in 1991 which introduced campaign planning methodology as a means to help bridge the gap existing between the policy and strategy.