From Sacred Cow to Agent of Change: Reconceiving Maneuver in Light of Multi-Domain Battle and Mission Command
Russell W. Glenn and Ian M. Sullivan[i]
The term maneuver – currently defined in US joint doctrine as the employment of forces “in the operational area through movement in combination with fires to achieve a position of advantage in respect to the enemy” – is no longer sufficient to meet the demands posed by 21st-century conflict.[ii] One of the authors of this article previously proposed an alternative definition that recognizes the need to consider more than fires and movement alone in the service of gaining advantage; it instead includes all elements relevant to mission accomplishment or objective achievement. Under this paradigm, maneuver becomes “the employment of relevant resources to gain advantage with respect to select individuals or groups in the service of achieving specified objectives.”[iii]
Others, such as the United States Army Special Operations Command, similarly recognize a lag in doctrine when it comes to our thinking on maneuver.[iv] Such appeals for enhancing maneuver’s usefulness seek a number of ends in the service of better supporting today’s security challenges and others yet to come. They recognize that future operations and campaigns must orchestrate far more than fires and movement and instead incorporate a broad swathe of capabilities and authorities, some of which reside outside of the military and either wholly or partially within interagency partners. Last – but no less vitally – expanding how we conceive of maneuver frees it from exclusive application to tactical matters to embrace orchestration of capabilities in the service of operational and strategic concerns. These changes have the additional benefit of increasing maneuver’s relevance to two relatively recent and highly significant doctrinal innovations: Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) and mission command.
Maneuver and Multi-Domain Battle
With our understanding of a newly conceived maneuver established, it follows that any discussion of MDB requires us to likewise ponder what we mean by this initiative. Efforts to define or describe MDB abound. Some suggest the moniker itself is too restrictive, that “Multi-Domain Operations” would better describe a doctrine that encompasses more of the spectrum of conflict than combat alone. For example, operations and campaigns involving situations where capabilities are brought to bear in support of a humanitarian relief mission led by a civilian agency unquestionably fall under the rubric of MDB, a situation that might not be clear to some given the reference to “battle.”
Most portrayals of MDB in some way encompass the three points below, the concept being seen to provide a country’s armed forces or those of a coalition the ability to:
The term “inter-organizational” is important to note. One might be forgiven for overlooking MDB’s character beyond joint and multinational. We read – or hear – much of ground forces sinking ships from shore as an example of Multi-Domain Battles’ enhanced joint character. Most students of conflict today readily extend their thinking to encompass multinational partners as we habitually operate with other nations when deployed. Whole of government receives less attention and too often becomes a reality only as an afterthought in planning and coordination. Substantively broadening operations and the planning that precedes them to include nongovernmental (NGO), inter-governmental (IGO), and relevant commercial organizations remains a rarity, although some examples – particularly those involving the conduct of humanitarian relief operations – demonstrate the potential of such wider conceptualization. For example, the US response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 was led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It involved not only the military, Department of State, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but included coordination with more than thirty nations and hundreds of NGOs.[vi] A similar whole-of-government – and to some extent comprehensive – approach was used to combat the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In this case it was the Department of Defense (via AFRICOM) that led the on-the-ground effort with USAID, HHS, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and others working closely with partner nations and NGOs, while other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Food and Drug Administration, assisted from Stateside.[vii] Some believe an effective comprehensive approach remains an impossibility or an end too difficult to pursue despite such examples. These orchestrations of such diverse resources in response to humanitarian crises argue the contrary.
Other recent undertakings have unfortunately suffered this laissez faire attitude toward a comprehensive approach that inherently includes joint, multinational, and whole-of-government participation in addition to inclusion of NGO and other partners. It has become blatantly clear that accomplishing strategic security objectives in our new century requires substantive orchestration of more than exclusively military resources. Which among the (truly) myriad capabilities should be employed demands no less contemplation, planning, war-gaming, or inclusion during rehearsals than does military task organization. Yet too often those representing their organizations during planning and execution lack the experience or knowledge of theirs or associated agencies to ensure that all benefits that could be brought to bear are brought to bear. The Department of Justice is far more than lawyers; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Our intelligence community is rife with capabilities and nuance that may only in part be integrated at the echelons demanded should planning not include individuals best able to advise on how to incorporate its many assets. Other-than-governmental resources may be no less valuable. They are nonetheless habitually overlooked as potential members of a coalition or mission-specific partners, their competencies and capabilities thereby foregone.[viii]
We must begin espousing a broader concept of campaign planning and crisis management if we are to take advantage of whole-of-government and even wider capabilities. Too often the military, because of its size and resources, is placed in the lead for both planning and execution simply because it can quickly get to a problem area with the capabilities initially required. Such a construct may not be optimal in the longer term. Broader-based planning, perhaps under the auspices of the National Security Council, should allow for a more seamless and effective approach to MDB, allowing as it would participation of all relevant agencies visualizing a common operating picture, working from the same sheet of music, undertaking the critical mission of messaging with one unified voice, and working toward a common objective. The military might be in charge during planning and initial execution before handing over to the Department of State. Alternatively, it may make sense for some element of the intelligence community to take the lead during planning with the military assuming responsibility in a later phase of execution. What is needed is an adaptation of the model for amphibious assaults as developed by navy and ground force commanders during World War II. Closely cooperating during planning, the navy retained command of the operation during movement to the beaches and thereafter until a mutually agreed upon event signaled the time had come for a transfer of authority to the senior ground force commander. Only with detailed cooperative planning can organizations achieve the same effectiveness in support of future multi-domain operations. Properly executed, handoffs would take place at identified points to allow for more effective preparations, logistical support, messaging, and execution.
There are other factors supporting an expanded understanding of what we mean by maneuver in light of Multi-Domain Battle. MDB must span all three levels of war. So too, then, must the concept of maneuver if it is to meet requirements at this trio of echelons. Several sources seem inherently to imply there is call for a more robust conceptualization. TRADOC commander General Perkins speaks of maneuvering “all elements of combat power on the battlefield,” to include maneuvering “leadership, physical leadership, to a position of advantage.”[ix] He goes on to address “cross-domain maneuver,” placing “the enemy in positions of disadvantage by presenting multiple dilemmas”[x] while elsewhere a TRADOC pamphlet introduces “expeditionary maneuver...the rapid deployment of task-organized combined arms forces able to transition quickly and conduct operations of sufficient scale and ample duration to achieve strategic objectives.”[xi] The term “cognitive maneuver” appears to be gaining traction, a United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) white paper describing it as “the tactics of a campaign to shape the conditions of the global environment and influence actors’ decision-making and behaviors.”[xii] Logic would seem to dictate that these several seeming subtypes are each components of an overarching, all-encompassing maneuver. After all, each of these cases simply consists of an adjective – cross-domain, expeditionary, or cognitive – placed before the seemingly shared feature “maneuver.” Thus their sum, perhaps with other components in addition, would constitute the whole that is maneuver: cross-domain maneuver + expeditionary maneuver + cognitive maneuver = maneuver. Such is not the case. As we have noted, maneuver as currently described employs only fires and movement to gain advantage with respect to an enemy. The introduction of these new forms therefore threatens to confuse rather than clarify. Better to recognize that it is time for maneuver to enter the 21st century rather than allow it to barricade itself behind the ramparts of tradition. Reminding ourselves that doctrine is “fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives” and that “it is authoritative but requires judgment in application,” it is apparent that this judgment is no less called for in determining when doctrine should adapt to better meet the demands of today’s objectives.[xiii] Maneuver as defined in current doctrine is not up to the task of supporting Multi-Domain Battle.
The same is unfortunately true of doctrinal maneuver’s capacity to meet the demands of mission command, “the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based upon mission-type orders.”[xiv] Familiar to most in today’s Western militaries and many in civilian organizations as well, properly executed mission command sees senior leaders providing subordinates a mission, intent, and other guidance as appropriate, tailoring each of these elements after accounting for a subordinate’s experience, expertise, demonstrated performance, and the senior leader’s familiarity with the individual.
How do we want our subordinate leaders thinking in such a command environment? Better to train them to consider that guidance holistically, in a manner encompassing all aspects of what they must accomplish rather than thinking in terms of stove pipes such as combat activities (employing fires and movement), cognitive elements, expeditionary concerns, and other resource or requirement categories. This compartmentalized thinking is inherently suboptimal. Conceiving of operations only in terms of fires and maneuver overlooks both other specified and implied tasks during a given operation’s phase and threatens to optimize actions in terms of one function (combat, for example) while undermining opportunities to meet operational requirements during later phases (e.g., occupation or disaster relief).
Our leaders often apply such wider, more inclusive perspectives, of course, but they do so in spite of the current understanding of maneuver rather than because of it. The consequences can result in outcomes the opposite of what is desired. Those planning U.S. airstrikes during the air campaign supporting the 1991 Operation Desert Storm were careful to avoid damage of hospitals. Yet fuel, power, and select transportation facilities were destroyed or rendered inoperable in efforts to cripple Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities. The result was medical facilities standing ready to serve Iraqi sick and injured but with few if any doctors, nurses, or support personnel to serve them given an inability to move from residence to place of work. Hospital physical infrastructure stood untouched but without the power needed to operate equipment or fuel to power backup generators.
Both the guidance provided by senior leaders and the perspectives taken by subordinates executing in support of that guidance are the more effective for holistic thinking that conceives of how his or her organization’s capabilities fit into an operation from the beginning. A broader conceptualization of maneuver in support of training, planning, and execution would enable effective application of mission command regardless of echelon or mission type.
This broader understanding would also support more effective application of what we might call a reverse aspect of mission command: the need for the subordinate leader to keep his senior informed, to include communicating mission-essential needs. It is the subordinate who will tend to have a better understanding of the situation at the sharp end of operations and therefore the assets needed to bring to bear in support of senior commanders’ missions and intents. Here again the ability to conceive of requirements and tasks with greater breadth and deeper in time results in greater operational effectiveness.
Implementing mission command remains a challenge in the U.S. Army and other services both American and otherwise. MDB will ask even more of mission command than have recent operations. Understanding maneuver in terms of the complete set of resources at hand and parties of importance would serve to make mission command more responsive to those demands.
Maneuver is a vital and vibrant concept, one with dramatic potential to assist leaders in planning for and conducting operations that address one or more of the three levels of war anywhere along the spectrum of conflict. To do so effectively, however, it cannot wait for conditions in the field to blossom into combat. Such is nonetheless the case with maneuver as it currently is understood.
Though doctrine may lag, others recognize the need for change. The authors of “The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare” recognize this, noting in their discussion of warfare’s changing character that “planning and judgement” must take precedence over “reaction and autonomy” if we are to deal with the challenges of future security challenges.[xv] The above discussion makes clear that several of those addressing MDB recognize evolving doctrine demands a concept of maneuver addressing the complexity of 21st-century conflict and more than combat contingencies alone. The result should be operations and campaigns during which the orchestration of capabilities brought to bear are more than the sum of those parts, capabilities – we remind ourselves – that consist of more than military resources alone. Consider the figure below, the four braids of the rope representing major lines of effort (LOE) or lines of operation (LOO) during an operation or campaign.[xvi] (The four shown are merely examples. The number and character of each braid would depend on the mission and objectives at hand.) The advantages gained in orchestrating capabilities along an individual LOE or LOO increase over time as the leaders and organizations involved learn to better synchronize efforts over time (recognizing that each braid consists of many strands, each representing a supporting capability or organization). This orchestration and shared objectives tighten braids of the rope over time; the result is a synergy achieved through a broader understanding of what we mean by maneuver.[xvii]
Applying an expanded understanding of maneuver: Employing relevant resources to gain advantage with respect to select individuals or groups in the service of achieving specified objectives
An example aids in further demonstrating the essentiality of such orchestration, one demonstrating how a broad selection of capabilities brought together in the service of a strategic objective can not only result in success but preclude the need for an expansion of combat commitments. Orchestrating military, diplomatic, social, and economic pressures on Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic precipitated the Serbian leader’s capitulation on June 3, 1999.[xviii] A non-exhaustive list of the factors influencing Milosevic’s decision to resign included:
None of these parts of the whole alone was sufficient to bring about the Serbian leader’s exit. Together, the diplomatic, political, military, social, and economic braids – and the individual strands within those braids – eventually caused Milosevic to resign, forestalling the need for ground combat or further air operations.
Conceiving of maneuver in terms of applying relevant capabilities to gain advantage over select parties would allow the present, elegantly simple concept to better support leader thinking when confronting future challenges, and do so without sacrifice of that simplicity. Maneuver so defined would throw off the shackles currently binding it to the tactical level of war alone. Its value would henceforth no longer be limited to combat action (or the contortions of expanding what we mean by fires to include resources such as aid, psychological operations, and negotiations). No less simple yet far more powerful, maneuver as “the employment of relevant resources to gain advantage with respect to select individuals or groups in the service of achieving specified objectives” frees this invaluable concept from the constraints of fires and movement alone. Ironically, in so doing it might on no few occasions forestall the need for combat, thereby making the application of fires and movement completely unnecessary.[xxvi]
[i] We thank the following individuals who reviewed an earlier draft of this article, this with the understanding that the content here is entirely the responsibility of the authors: Greg Fontenot and Dr. Luc Pigeon,
[ii] Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1.02, Washington, D.C.: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 8, 2010 as amended through February 15, 2016, 145, https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp1_02.pdf (accessed May 31, 2017).
[iii] Those wanting a more extensive discussion of the benefits in redefining maneuver, see Russell W. Glenn, Questioning a Deity: A Contemplation of Maneuver Motivated by the 2008 Israeli Armor Corps Association “Land Maneuver in the 21st Century” Conference, Latrun, Israel: Israeli Armor Corps Associations, 2008, ix; and Russell W. Glenn, “Meeting Demand: Making Maneuver Relevant to the 21st Century,” Small Wars Journal (July 5, 2017), http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/meeting-demand-making-maneuver-relevant-to-the-21st-century (accessed August 9, 2017). Importantly, the newly proposed definition for maneuver does not cast fires and movement aside. It instead augments them with any other capabilities that are pertinent to achieving sought-after objectives.
[iv] For example, see “Expanding Maneuver in the Early 21st Century Security Environment,” United States Army Special Operations Command white paper, January 12, 2017; and “Cognitive Maneuver For the Contemporary and Future Strategic Operating Environment,” United States Army Special Operations Command white paper, May 31, 2016.
[v] These three elements are from David Perkins (General, US Army), “Multi-Domain Battle: Achieving Cross-Domain Synergy” slide first shown 7:50 minutes into presentation at Association of the United States Army, March 15, 2017, http://www.snafu-solomon.com/2017/03/latest-us-army-buzzword-cross-domain.html (accessed August 8, 2017).
[vi] The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “United States Government Haiti Earthquake Disaster Response Update 1/21/10,” 21 January 2010, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/united-states-government-haiti-earthquake-disaster-response-update-12110 (accessed 23 August 2017)
[vii] The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Response to the Ebola Epidemic in West Africa,”16 September 2014, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/16/fact-sheet-us-response-ebola-epidemic-west-africa, (accessed 23 August 2017) and Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, “Testimony: Statement Before The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations,” Washington DC: 12 November 2014 (https://2009-2017.state.gov/s/dmr/remarks/2014/233996.htm), (accessed 23 August 2017)
[viii] For those interested in further discussion of how whole of government and other-than-government resources might be incorporated in support of security affairs, see Russell W. Glenn, Band of Brothers or Dysfunctional Family? A Military Perspective on Coalition and Alliance Challenges During Stability Operations, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2011.
[ix] David G. Perkins (General, U.S. Army), presentation to the Association of the United States Army, March 15, 2017, (accessed August 8, 2017). Material quoted here begins 11:17 minutes into the presentation. http://www.snafu-solomon.com/2017/03/latest-us-army-buzzword-cross-domain.html (accessed August 8, 2017).
[x] David Perkins (General, US Army), “Cross-Domain Maneuver…Seize, Retain, Exploit the Initiative from positions of advantage” slide shown presentation at Association of the United States Army, March 15, 2017, slide first shown 12:11 minutes into presentation at Association of the United States Army, http://www.snafu-solomon.com/2017/03/latest-us-army-buzzword-cross-domain.html (accessed August 8, 2017).
[xi] The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, 2020-2040, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, October 31, 2014, http://www.tradoc.army.mil/tpubs/pams/tp525-3-1.pdf (accessed August 8, 2017).
[xii] “Cognitive Maneuver For the Contemporary and Future Strategic Operating Environment,” United States Army Special Operations Command white paper, May 31, 2016, 2.
[xiii] Definition of doctrine from Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms and Associated Terms, Washington, D.C.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 8, 2010 as amended through February 15, 2016, 71.
[xiv] Definition of doctrine from Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms and Associated Terms, Washington, D.C.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 8, 2010 as amended through February 15, 2016, 155.
[xv] G2, US Army Training and Doctrine Command, “The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare,” Small Wars Journal, (July 29, 2017), http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-operational-environment-and-the-changing-character-of-future-warfare (accessed August 9, 2017).
[xvi] From Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1.02, Washington, D.C.: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 8, 2010 as amended through February 15, 2016, 142, https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp1_02.pdf (accessed May 31, 2017):
Line of effort: In the context of joint operations planning, using the purpose (cause and effect) to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions by linking multiple tasks and missions.
Line of operation: A line that defines the interior or exterior orientation of the force in relation to the enemy or that connects actions on nodes and/or decisive points related in time and space to an objective(s).
[xvii] Altering the size of each braid in the figure provides a way of showing which of the LOE or LOO are of higher priority at a given point in time. Further discussion of the figure’s nuances can be found in Russell W. Glenn, Rethinking Western Approaches to Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Post-Colonial Conflict, Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015, 9. (Published in paperback in 2016).
[xviii] The authors thank Dr. Robert M. Toguchi for suggesting the example of the Kosovo campaign.
[xix] Stephen T. Hosmer, The Conflict Over Kosovo: Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001, xiv.
[xx] Stephen T. Hosmer, The Conflict Over Kosovo: Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001, xvi.
[xxi] Jim Mokhiber, “Why Did Milosevic Give Up?” Public Broadcasting Station, undated, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/kosovo/fighting/giveup.html (accessed August 10, 2017); and Rodney Carlisle, Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015, https://books.google.com/books?id=6HusBwAAQBAJ&pg=PT1300&lpg=PT1300&dq=%22operation+matrix%22+serbia&source=bl&ots=1NNxf0vlYh&sig=JA1ogFhLGnQ3qxup2oxen4abC4c&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwii1Zm82czVAhVFVyYKHWSoAVcQ6AEINTAD#v=onepage&q=%22operation%20matrix%22%20serbia&f=false (accessed August 10, 2017). Also see Ivo H. Daalder and Michael E. O’Hanlon, Winning Ugly: NATO’s War to Save Kosovo, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004, 145.
[xxii] Benjamin S. Lambeth. NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001, 20-21; Jim Mokhiber, “Why Did Milosevic Give Up?” Public Broadcasting Station, undated, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/kosovo/fighting/giveup.html (accessed August 10, 2017); Zbigniew Brzezinski “The Lessons of Kosovo” testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 6, 1999, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/attachments/ts991006_brzezinski.pdf (accessed August 10, 2017); and Carlotta Gall, “Serbian Orthodox Church Urges Milosevic and His Cabinet to Quit,” The New York Times (June 16, 1999), http://politics.nytimes.com/learning/students/pop/articles/061699kosovo-milosevic.html (accessed August 10, 2017).
[xxiii] Jim Mokhiber, “Why Did Milosevic Give Up?” Public Broadcasting Station, undated, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/kosovo/fighting/giveup.html (accessed August 10, 2017).
[xxiv] Stephen T. Hosmer, The Conflict Over Kosovo: Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001, xxi.
[xxv] Anthony H. Cordesman, “The US and the Ground Option in Kosovo: A Working Paper,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2000, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/media/csis/pubs/kosovoground%5B1%5D.pdf (accessed August 10, 2017); Stephen T. Hosmer, The Conflict Over Kosovo: Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001, xx; and Jim Mokhiber, “Why Did Milosevic Give Up?” Public Broadcasting Station, undated, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/kosovo/fighting/giveup.html (accessed August 10, 2017).
[xxvi] In a slightly different context, USASOC authors of their “Expanding Maneuver in the Early 21st Century Security Environment” posit that bringing the capabilities of an expanded maneuver concept to bear could “influence the trajectory of events without triggering a more forceful intervention.” “Expanding Maneuver in the Early 21st Century Security Environment,” United States Army Special Operations Command white paper, January 12, 2017.