Effects-Based Operations (EBO) is a United States military concept that emerged during the Persian Gulf War for the planning and conduct of operations combining military and non-military methods to achieve a particular effect. The doctrine was developed to take advantage of advancements in weaponry and tactics, from an emerging understanding that attacking a second-order target may have first order consequences for a variety of objectives, wherein the Commander's intent can be satisfied with a minimum of collateral damage or risk to his own forces.
EBO has been an emerging concept, with multiple views  on what it meant and how it could be implemented. Most notably, military scientists at the Air Force Research Lab, the Army Research Lab and DARPA engaged in research to develop automated tools to annotate options and recommend courses of action. This is hard science and tools are slow to be implemented. For air forces, it supported the ability for a single aircraft to attack multiple targets, unlike tactics of previous wars, which used multiple aircraft to attack single targets, usually to create destruction without thought of later re-use by allied forces or friendly civilians.
EBO concepts emphasise the importance of technological sophistication in the Information Age, arguing that casualties can be avoided on both sides by taking advantage of the technological advances made since the end of the Cold War - for example, by utilising precision munitions and UAV attack drones. EBO concepts traditionally take a "systemic approach" to the enemy, arguing that the enemy's centre of gravity can be disrupted by attacking the command and control "mainframe" and the "support nodes" surrounding this central mainframe.
In 2008, Joint Forces Command stopped using the term "effects-based" after failure of the Army-led TEBO JCTD. The concept remains valid in the US Air Force.
As defined by the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), effects-based operations are "a process for obtaining a desired strategic outcome or effect on the enemy through the synergistic and cumulative application of the full range of military and nonmilitary capabilities at all levels of conflict." The intent and desired outcome of an effects-based approach is to employ forces that paralyze the enemy forces and minimize its ability to engage friendly forces in close combat.
Rather than focusing specifically on causing casualties and physical destruction resulting in the attrition or annihilation of enemy forces, effects-based operations emphasizes end-state goals first, and then focuses on the means available to achieve those goals. For instance, psychological operations, electronic warfare, logisitical disruptions and other non-lethal means can be used to achieve the demoralization or defeat of an enemy force while minimizing civilian casualties or avoiding the destruction of infrastructure. While effects-based operations does not rule out lethal operations, it places them as options in a series of operational choices for military commanders.
Batschelet's Seven attributes of EBO
JFCOM's description of the doctrine is quoted by LTC (now MG) Allen Batschelet, author of the April 2002 study Effects-based operations: A New Operational Model? He was later appointed in 2004 as commander of the Fires Brigade, the newly reorganized 4th Infantry Division Artillery Brigade which deployed to Iraq to implement such theories in practice.
According to Batschelet's paper, seven elements comprise and differentiate EBO:
- Focus on Decision Superiority
- Applicability in Peace and War (Full-Spectrum Operations)
- Focus Beyond Direct, Immediate First-Order Effects
- Understanding of the Adversary’s Systems
- Ability of Disciplined Adaptation
- Application of the Elements of National Power
- Ability of Decision-Making to Adapt Rules and Assumptions to Reality
Center of gravity
The core of the doctrine, to support superior decision-making and to understand the enemy's systems, lies in determining and calculating the philosophical (not physical) center of gravity (COG) of the combatants. "COGs are those characteristics, capabilities, or localities from which a military derives its freedom of action, physical strength, or will to fight" (such as leadership, system essentials, infrastructure, population, and field military). A similar modeling scheme refers to these as National Elements of Value (NEV). A relative weighting is made as to which of the elements are most critical to be targeted by operations.
EBO is less of a thing and more of a mindset. Except in cases where this developer or that has sought to use the term for their software application, EBO does not replace existing systems or core concepts. EBO is instead:
- a fully developed theory grounded in effects-based thinking;
- a process to facilitate development of an organizational culture of EBO processes; and
- a lexicon that promotes understanding through a common language.
EBO seeks to understand the causal linkages between events, actions and results. EBO is most useful in understanding secondary and tertiary consequences to actions. For example, the effect of feeding a hungry child could be accomplished by handing the child a meal, directing the child and/or guardian to a soup kitchen or food pantry, or by providing the child or the guardian a job as a means to earn sufficient ongoing income to afford daily meals.
EBO in practice
Although it was not called EBO at the time, the strategic bombing of Nazi rail lines from the manufacturing centers in Normandy to the interior of Germany disrupted critical resupply channels, weakening Germany's ability to maintain an effective war effort. Removing a few key bridges had the same effect as large-scale bombing.
The first examples of consciously using effects-based approach of limited military actions to create strategic effects with little collateral damage occurred when the US dropped CBU-94B anti-electrical cluster bombs filled with 147 reels of fine conductive fiber. These were employed on high-voltage electrical transmission lines leading to Serbia to short them and "knock the lights out." On the first attack, these knocked out 70% of the electrical power supply, crippling the enemy's command and control and air defense networks.
During the first Gulf War in 1990 and 91, USAF LtCol (now Ret LtGen) Dave Deptula argued against the dominant view of targeting for destruction, instead opting for alternate and unconventional means to achieve desired effects. For example, as chief air power planner, he chose to target the Iraqi air defenses first, removing opposition that would have kept subsequent missions from creating effective precision attacks. This allowed him to achieve desired effects with far fewer munitions, reserving those critical assets for future missions.
The January –February 2004 issue of Field Artillery magazine featured a report on the implementation of Effects-Based Operations in Afghanistan "to help shape an environment that enables the reconstruction of the country as a whole." United States policy objectives are to create a "government of Afghanistan committed to and capable of preventing the re-emergence of terrorism on Afghan soil." All mission efforts are undertaken with that end-state goal in mind. To coordinate endeavors, the US military maintains a Joint Effects Coordination Board (JECB) chaired by the Director of the Combined/Joint Staff (DCJS) which serves to select and synchronize targets and determine desired effects across branches and operational units. Besides representatives from combat maneuver organizations, staff also is drawn from the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA), Psychological Operations (PSYOP) and Public Affairs (PA). Weekly Joint Effects Working Group (JEWG) targeting team meetings provide recommendations and updates to the JECB based on three priorities:
- Enable Afghan institutions
- Assist in removing the causes of instability
- Deny the enemy sanctuary and counter terrorism.
The result is a three-week-ahead planning window, or battle rhythm, to produce the desired effects of the commanders, as defined in operations orders (OPORDs) every three weeks and fragmentary orders (FRAGOs) each week to update the standing OPORDs. Activities include both lethal and non-lethal missions, including civil-military, public affairs, reconstruction, intelligence and psychological operations and feedback as well as conventional combat and fire support missions.
An FA lieutenant, as an “Effects Support Team” (EST) leader, must understand how to employ lethal and non-lethal assets to realize the maneuver company commander’s vision of future operations. He must be able to work with civil affairs teams, special operations, coalition and host-nation forces, as well as NGOs and OGAs.
This requires a shift away from "hot steel" (artillery fire) as a solution to all problems, and a focus on integration of multiple dimensions and methods to achieve desired results.
A recent study concluded that a contributing factor to the Israeli Defense Force's defeat in the Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict in the Summer of 2006 was due in large part to an over reliance on EBO concepts.
EBO In and Out of Favor
In 2008, Joint Forces Command, the caretaker of US Military Joint Warfighting doctrine, noted the failure of US Army's Theater EBO software development and issued memorandum and a guidance documents from then commander, Marine General James Mattis, on Effects Based Operations. In these documents dated 14 August 2008 Mattis said, "Effective immediately, USJFCOM will no longer use, sponsor or export the terms and concepts related to EBO...in our training, doctrine development and support of JPME (Joint Professional Military Education)." Mattis went on to say, "...we must recognize that the term "effects-based" is fundamentally flawed, has far too many interpretations and is at odds with the very nature of war to the point it expands confusion and inflates a sense of predictability far beyond that which it can be expected to deliver."
The US Air Force, however, not only has not abandoned EBO, but has increased mention of 'effects-based' thinking in official doctrine and has codified it in AF Doctrine Document 2. It is also mentioned 124 times in Joint Pub 5-0. Colonels Carpenter and Andrews, writing in Small Wars Journal noted "When EBO has been misunderstood, overextended, or misapplied in exercises, it has primarily been through misapplication or over-engineering, not because of EBO principles themselves. Specifically, the bundling of ONA and SoSA with EBO weighed down a useful concept with an unworkable software engineering approach to war." 
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- Kyle, Charles M. 'RMA to ONA: The Saga of an Effects-Based Operation' http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA499725 US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2008.
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- http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/jfqcarpenterandrews.pdf Carpenter, Paul M., Col, USAF and Andrews, William F., Col USAF; JFQ / issue 52, 1st quarter 2009, p 79-80