Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 42

experience, rarely revisited after steps one and two of IPB. The constant reframing of Army design methodology (systemic operational design) with focus on the environmental system(s) would better serve commanders in the COE. Design allows commanders to take an unstructured approach or “agnostic” approach to generating understanding.13 As Martin states, an agnostic approach is more inclusive and “appreciates multiple view points and paradigms.”14 He goes on to observe, “Creatively thinking about warfare ought to be encouraged, and we must resist institutional attempts to codify how to approach thinking.”15 Therefore, to be truly successful in the COE, Army leaders have to challenge fundamental beliefs, take a critical approach to warfare, and unwed themselves from any one approach or checklist. More than ever before, the Army needs unbridled critical and creative thinkers; this is especially true for intelligence professionals. With that said, the Army cannot completely divorce itself from models; it must have something to help guide it, and systemic operational design and systems theories offer a better way to analyze and understand unstructured problems than IPB. On the operational side of the house, the use of systemic concepts is not new—Army design methodology is well codified in doctrine. However, on the intelligence side, the embrace of systems thinking and incorporation of it into doctrine and into tactics, techniques, and procedures has been slow going, even though understanding the complex adaptive systems that comprise the environment is the lynchpin to success in the COE. In the COE, commanders do not have the luxury of clarity, certainty, or templates. In most cases, the commander’s set of circumstances will be wholly unique and unlike anything experienced in the past. The value of having a profound and penetrating understanding and awareness, or what soft systems theorists would call a “rich picture” understanding, cannot be overstated because it helps the commander understand “why” things are happening and drives center of gravity analysis, collection planning, targeting, and the overall operational design.16 Thus, the systemic approach focuses on the environment and problem as opposed to IPB’s focus on the enemy. Systemic thinking characterizes the environment and identifies root causes to such problems, not just the symptoms. Lt. Col. Brigham Mann puts it this way: “In essence, systemic thinkers attempt to ensure the military is ‘doing the right things,’ which is arguably much more important than just ‘doing things right.’”17 IPB is first in class for structured, enemy-centric problems, but systems theory-based approaches will better satisfy the commander’s information requirements in complex environments. Experiences over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan show the potential consequences of failing to understand the environment, a failure partly due to the limitations of IPB. Not to be misunderstood, this article does not advocate the death of IPB, but draws attention to the limitations and drawbacks concomitant with IPB, and advises using it only where appropriate (i.e., structured, enemy-centric operating environments). Conclusion The consequences of failure in the COE are high. So it is incumbent on intelligence professionals and commanders to take every step and precaution necessary to avoid psychological traps that would lead to the use of ill-suited analytical models and framing tools. Therefore, for operating in the complex world, the Army should update intelligence doctrine to include systems theory analysis and intelligence operations. By understanding the character, function, and behavior of the complex adaptive systems of an operational environment, an intelligence staff officer will be better able to characterize the environment and help the commander frame the problem, thus making sense of the chaos. We can never fully understand the full complexity of the “cloud” in the same way we understand the “clock,” but we can develop a better appreciation for it as well as greater understanding on how to deal with it by incorporating systemic approaches. To this end, IPB and systems theory approaches complement each other and together are a great one-two punch. Maj. Donald Carter, U.S. Army, holds BA and MA degrees in political science. He is a military intelligence officer and has served in a variety of assignments from tactical to strategic. 40 March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW