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The Assessments Process in Contemporary Operating Environment

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The Assessments Process in Contemporary Operating Environment

by Jimmy A. Gomez

Download the Full Article: The Assessments Process in Contemporary Operating Environment

It sometimes seems as if the internal politics of Kabul are easier to understand than the latest doctrinal changes in our Field Manuals. However, as our doctrine evolves it continues to lag behind the reality and complexity of our operations in the Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR). As the security agreements and strategic objectives are changed, the Rules of Engagement (ROE) continue to evolve with them. This increases the degree of interactive complexity of any given situations within a unit's AOR and the staffs vision, understanding and execution of the operation.

As the ROE changes, the emerging spectrum of threats is not easily defined or understood by the staff which leads to our inability to develop and recommend solutions. Unfortunately, our doctrine does not keep up with these variables of the Contemporary Operational Environment (COE). As we enter the 10th year of combat operations in Afghanistan, a lot of questions continue to surface from every staff functional area and War Fighting Function (WFF) in reference to the validity, relevance and tactical applicability of the Assessments process.

FM 5-0 (March 2010) finally formalizes and outlines the Assessments Process. Depending on the structure of the problem, the staff may take different approaches to both understanding and defining problems and eventually developing solutions tied to campaign goals and the Division Commander's end state. Yet, the biggest question to habitually surface is "What is the role of each WFF within the Assessments process?" In this paper, we discuss and outline the staff participation in this essential, yet most analytically elusive process at the Division Staff level.

Download the Full Article: The Assessments Process in Contemporary Operating Environment

CW4 Jimmy Gomez is currently the Course Manager and Senior Instructor for the Field Artillery Warrant Officer Instruction Branch at Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He served with the 25th Infantry Division Staff in Afghanistan 2004-2005 and in Iraq 2006-2007.

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Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 1:04pm


Not sure your comments reference FA are on spot---if one looks at the FM 3-60 you will notice that it clearly defines positions and who does what say for example ISR.

If we look at ISR and Ft. H one will notice that there has been no clear ISR FM in the last 10 years---only a FMI and that never made it to even a Draft for approval. Now there is a TC---not even a formalized FM!

In even that FMI--not the single word "targeting" was even mentioned---you could though on the other side take the 3-60 hand it to an intel officer and he would know his tasks and responsbilities.

There has been a serious amount of effort out of the FIREs CoE to standardize vice other CoEs.

Targeting is now an easy process especially since current battle staffs do not even get MDMP. Ask the current 10 year Captains Course when they go in for their CCC about MDMP-ask them if they even know the seven steps--no answers or extremely limited knowledge---there is where the problem begins.

Look at how many of the AARs coming out of the CTCs-over and over issues with MDMP are being mentioned--but not a single unified effort in resolving the problem---JMO.

DESPONDENT (not verified)

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 11:33am

The core of the problems reside completely at TRADOC. The previous post skimmed the surface on a very important topic for those of us who work at "The Happiest Place on Earth" ...yes, I'm referring to implementing the Army Learning Concept (ALC) 2015 here at Fort S. and TRADOC at large.

There's a certain propensity at TRADOC to continue its use of legacy training models in a blanket fashion, leaving our force vulnerable and ill equipped to efficiently respond to the emerging requirements.

I firmly believe that our Operational Army deserves much better than just recycling concepts and ideas from past decades simply changing "happy to glad" and calling it "innovative" and "ground-breaking" work.

Your comments reference the proper use of the differing Targeting methodologies (D3A vs. F3EAD) are on point. In the Targeting realm, the gap between Training and Operations is actually wide enough to drive the entire 1st Armored Division abreast. As an example, consider the targeting doctrine governed by FM 3-60 recently updated in November 2010. The previous update was made in May 1996 when it was known as FM 6-20-10. It seems that the FA branch was on sabbatical during those 15 years, most notably the first 9 years of GWOT!

It's obvious that there is no feedback mechanism at the Fires CoE to feed the relevant lessons learned into training (neither IMT nor PME). The resident dedicated staff charged with those duties is too busy keeping the boss in the dark to retain the status quo.

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 8:41am

Can it be that the core issue lies within TRADOC?

A personal observation made by someone recently that there is a deep chasm between field operations and training may in fact be true---and training is where there seems to be large enough gaps to drive a tank through.

As we moved from a MCO/CAM environment to what we felt was COIN then we felt at the Staff levels that with COIN-- insurgents were able to adapt faster than we could so we had to change our processes and precedures in order to get inside the insurgent decision making curve---ie we changed targeting from the D3A model to the F3EAD model and we changed our staff processes to enchance "adaptive and creative staff thinking" etc.

BUT what if in fact the model say for targeting (D3A) was correct to be begin with and the staff processes built on MDMP/RDSP were in fact correct?

Just as we created 24 different and new "enablers" and pushed them down to the BCTs with virtually no doctrine we also created numerous training organizations on the defense contracting/JFCOM/JIEDDO sides that rolled to the field with the expicit mission of passing on enemy TTPs and new staff processes---and surprising with no feedback mechanism into the training side of the house.

For example, as Ft. H only changed their interrogation training in 2006 to reflect the Iraq scenario any field changes being imported with both battle tested Army and defense contractors clashed with the approved TRADOC training and their suggestions on how to improve the training fall on deaf ears.

Now we hear that intel analysts at the 10 level are having their training shortened in order to get more manpower to the field-the students are being told that they will get follow on training/refresher training at home station-is not occurring based on the current ops tempo.

These are only a number of examples-examples can fill two pages here on this blog.

Lessons learned are in fact not making it back into the training side unless imported and implemented by dedicated training staff who have a clear vision of what is not occuring in the field and there are General Officers willing to support them.


Sat, 06/25/2011 - 9:40pm

Hey Jim,

I appreciate your paper, and have been thinking about it. Although this addresses only a portion of your very pithy work, perhaps you might find these links to be of interest:

The whole sorry business, By Gillian Tett, at the FT, June 24, 2011 8:04 pm (

<i>"Such semantics will certainly not appease his (many) critics. But it does beg another fascinating question: is there ever an effective way for a politician, corporate leader, or central banker to admit that they have made a mistake in their thinking?

Over the course of history, some societies have developed traditions which enable leaders to express regret. In Jewish culture, for example, there is a well-developed concept of sacrifice and atonement. But in the modern western policy sphere there is a paradox. On the one hand, there are extensive modern television rituals that enable leaders to express apology for personal "sins", such as adultery. Sometimes these "work", in the sense of producing "atonement"; sometimes they do not. Either way, there is a culturally accepted formula: teary-eyed press conferences, grim-faced spouses and a speech about "seeking forgiveness", "hurting others" and "seeking help". The recent tragic spectacle around Anthony Weiner, the former US congressman for New Yorks 9th district, is a case in point.

But when it comes to the issues that really matter to mankind - such as public policy or ideology - there is no obvious formula for confessing to a "flaw". If a leader admits while still in office that he or she has been mistaken with an idea, they are usually expected to resign. However - and unsurprisingly - most officials and politicians do not publicly admit to mistakes, least of all in America. The economist John Maynard Keynes might have once observed that, "When the facts change, I change my mind." Few modern leaders have that luxury; or not in public.</i>
. . .
Frankly this is a pity, not least because it makes so much political debate feel immature. Most voters know perfectly well that intellectual mistakes occur. In any American bookstore today you will find reams of "personal growth" books which point out that acknowledging - and then learning - from mistakes is a key part of life. But not, it seems, in public policy."

Jim Gomez (not verified)

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 3:42pm

Traditionally, lessons learned from on-going combat operations compels Senior Army Leaders (and eventually TRADOC) to routinely develop and implement ways to assist tactical commanders and their staffs.

Some of these initiatives have evolved from TTPs designed to outline a simple but efficient methodology for applying critical and creative thinking, designed to understand, visualize, and describe complex, ill-structured problems. Over time, these TTPs have morphed into broad approaches which resolve and manage the contemporary COIN-centric problems emblematic of on-going Stability Operations and Support Operations in support of the prolonged Global War on Terrorism.

Unarguably, the greatest strength of our Army is our innate ability to improvise and innovate. However, if we do not understand the doctrinal framework from which to improvise, our innovations lose their applicability as has been the case with the diminishing returns from the Working Groups. We are collectively caught in the "this is what worked last time" mindset. Once we achieved a solid doctrinal foundation, we deliberately and permanently implement these TTPs which were designed only for specific situations or specific targets.

All things remaining equal, the real challenge however, remains synchronizing our Intel, Operations and Targeting efforts across all echelons of the Army to enable a holistic approach. This requires educating Army leaders at all echelons, consistently revising and emphasizing doctrine across all Institutions (Centers of Excellence) to see why the concepts we have chosen are either working or falling short of our intent. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Anonymous (not verified)

Fri, 06/24/2011 - 8:55am

Is is an interesting article in that the previous commenter indicates that the Working Group concept that the Army is using in it's COIN decision making process maybe failing and failing in a large way.

What used to be BCT battle drills in 2004/5 became in early 2006 the first stages of Working Groups with BCTs trying 2 or 3 WGs following the motto COIN is different than major combat operations so we need a different decision making process to reflect this "new style of warfare" in order to adapt faster than the insurgency. Maybe years later some are starting to see that really major combat operation staff processes actually do work in COIN thus that had to be little or no changes to the original concept-just a thought.

As the COIN fight has progressed and more and more "enablers" have been pushed down to the BCT level under the guise of "helping" the BCT understand the OE the number of WGs steadily increased---there is almost a direct correlation between the two events. In 2007, the first attempt at showing the BCTs the increasing number of "enablers" was at the NTC and that number was a lowly 6 (NGOs, US agencies, early stages of HTS, PRTs, LEPs etc.) now it is well over 20 and none of them are doctrinally reflected anywhere in the FMs on how to intergrate them into a BCT battle rhythm/Staff processes.

Now we have BCTs in Afghanistan conducting 14 to 24 WGs per week in virtually every area there is an "enabler". Most Staffs spend so much time in meetings that they are getting less and less face time outside the wire.

Now the WGs are reaching a point of diminishing returns and we have now "huddles" in an increasing number next to WGs---a huddle is a select group of individuals who really make decisions speaking among themselves in order to move things forward which should have occurred as decisions in the WGs.

I guess the next Staff developmental stage will be "group hugs".

In some aspects this development was reflected in MG Flynn's critique of the intel efforts in Afghanistan and that message was again reenforced in the recent SWJ article on sharing civilian/military information.

Nowhere is this negative trend being better reflected than in the areas of targeting and ISR---reference the recent Defense Science Board's article on ISR--there has been an increasing linkage between poor performance in targeting equals poor staff operations and poor intelligence operations and vice versa.

To summarize---through the use of the assessment process unit Staffs should be "seeing" these developments and taking internal corrective measures---but that is not occuring-the core question is "why not"?

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 06/23/2011 - 9:35am

Surprised that this article has not generated a single comment as it goes to the heart of what is occurring currently in Corp Commands down to BCTs.

Just how has an Army that has prided itself in being a synchronized organization become so de-synchronized in the last seven years?

We have virtually no officer staffs willing to accept accountability for their decisions or actions. We have maybe through risk aversion or maybe through the concept of Working Groups created a generation of officers unwilling to accept responsibility for their decisions unless there is buy in from the working group---almost like decision making via consensus building. Example --how many have attended a WG meeting where a single person does a 65 PowerPoint slide presentation, everyone in the rooms nodds their acceptance of what is being said and then it is over without a single decision being made---in the synchronization world decisions would be made, inputs/outputs created to flow into other processes. Many walk out of those meetings and will comment "death by PowerPoint"---not why in the heck did'nt we make decisions as per the MDMP?

Now we have BCTs in Afghanistan holding on average 13-18 WGs per week--and that is an average.

Assessment talked about in this article is a topic that many Commanders run from as it goes to the heart of measures of unit performance/effectiveness which should be driving all staff processes.

When will the system admit that it is really stumbling along and needs to hit a reset buttom? Many know it but will use the argument that there is not enough dwell time or the ops tempo is to high--I contend those are arguments used to simply ignor the problem

A thought provoking article.