Small Wars Journal

Department of Defense Directive 3000.07

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 9:00pm

Department of Defense Directive 3000.07 - Irregular Warfare (IW) Dated August 28, 2014

Of note, it is DoD policy that:

a. IW is as strategically important as traditional warfare and DoD must be equally capable in both. Many of the capabilities and skills required for IW are applicable to traditional warfare, but their role in IW can be proportionally greater.

b. DoD will be proficient in IW.

c. IW is conducted independently of, or in combination with, traditional warfare.

Department of Defense Directive 3000.07


Bill C.

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:44pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

The "powers that be" wish to avoid -- at all costs -- a "family of solutions." These powers, instead, are driven by the desire to effect one specific solution and one specific solution only. For example:

a. During the American Civil War and re: the North: The ending slavery and, thereby, the diversification of the economy of the South.

b. Back in the day and re: the Soviets: Causing other states and societies to become organized, ordered and oriented only along communist lines.

c. Today and re: the West: Causing outlying states and societies to become organized, ordered and oriented only along modern western lines.

Here the overarching/overriding goal is not to avoid conflict but, rather, to achieve one's desired ends in spite of conflict. ("Conflict" being seen here as inevitable/unavoidable due to such things as fundamentally different ways of life and fundamentally different values, attitudes and beliefs.)

"Democracy," illegal or otherwise, in this instance (sole acceptable solution), to be seen as the enemy, in that it does not lead to the achievement of one party's desired ends.

Thus an analysis to find "buckets or bundles of actors" -- so as to determine a "family of solutions" and, thus, "avoid conflict" -- this is viewed, within the context of the "sole accepted solution," as THE most deadly and exceptionally counterproductive sin.

If, however, one does an analysis to find "buckets or bundles of actors" (ex: weak, failed or failing states, AQAA, etc.) so as to justify the desired actions of the sole solution actors (ex: intervention so as to achieve state and societal westernization), then this such analysis, in stark contrast, is considered both acceptable and desirable.

To sum up:

Warfare -- irregular or otherwise -- to be understood within the context of my "sole acceptable solution" concept noted above?

Conflict prevention, on the other hand, to understood as being applicable to those instances when (1) differing solutions might (2) be considered as acceptable to (3) all parties concerned?

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 10:07am

In reply to by Bill C.

My biggest problem with IW is that it is a construct that bundles problems by criteria that do not lead to an associated family of solutions. This produces more bad than good.

Most IW is not "irregular," in that it is quite common, with deep historic roots, and as likely to show up in state on state war (state-based conflicts) as it is to show up in some sort of conflict internal to a single system of governance (populace-based conflict). Equally, much of IW is not "warfare" in a Clausewitzian sense. Many times it does not manifest in violent tactics. Many times, while violent, if it is in support of an internal revolutionary insurgency is probably best thought of as illegal democracy and a civil emergency than as some sort of war to conduct warfare against.

My vote is that we seek to understand conflicts in more fundamental terms, and try to overcome the natural tendency to be overly fixated on if a party's legal status or tactics; and focus more on understanding the overall context of the contest, and then attempting to understand the primary purpose for action of the various parties and what is their relationship to each other and the populations the operate among. I think this begins to create buckets or bundles of actors in a context that suggests a family of solution for each.

We have to move beyond thinking of all political conflict as "war"; or thinking that all "war is war"; or thinking that revolutionary insurgency is solved in the same way as resistance insurgency (or not recognizing which it is we are dealing with or that very often both are happening in the same time and space).

Constructs to facilitate targeting, such as "AQAA" are incredibly counter-productive to getting to tailored solutions more apt to produce meaningful or enduring results. IW is another such bundling construct that does not provide the clarity one finds in "simple," but rather provides the frustration and ineffectiveness one finds in "simplistic."

Bill C.

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 11:54am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

Thanks for the clarification.

And I apologize for the promotion/demotion :-)

Bill M.

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 6:59pm

In reply to by Bill C.


First off I appreciate the promotion, but I am not now nor previously a COL like my esteemed SF brothers COL Maxwell and COL Jones. In my defense I worked for a living :-). Now on a serious note in response to your questions.

While it is not talked about as much as the in the vogue counterinsurgency/insurgency topic, unconventional warfare is part of the U.S. IW concept, and that addresses how IW is or can be used in the context of great power/state on state conflict. Russia is using what we would call IW in the Ukraine for example.

I think our leaders very much believe the probability of a state on state conflict is increasing, which is part of the reason we see a shift away from IW in the military. Increasing probability still doesn't mean likely, but the potential threat is acknowledged. In my opinion we have to be prepared to do both, which is what Secretary Gates told a few years back. We have to balance our ability to conduct both regular and irregular warfare. Sometimes the view that is one form of warfare or another is misleading and unhelpful. It is my uninformed opinion that military strategic thinking, what little we do, has been polluted by too much influence from the corporate world (too many officers with degrees in business management). This has led to the misperception that we can only do one thing (we have a competitive in X, so we'll do X and quit doing Y), or that we can only have one priority, so any problem we're given that doesn't fit that priority we'll try to steer away from or frame the problem as a conventional threat we can employ conventional tactics against. We're the department of defense, we have to be prepared and willing to deal with a wide range of threats to our national security interests. We don't get to pick and choose what method or character of warfare our adversary will employ.

I don't like the term IW, but for now since it is defined I'll live with it. It certainly has application in support of conventional war (5th column), or can be used against a state in lieu of conventional options if the conditions support it and it is adequate to achieve our political objective. We have a long history of doing this, mostly through the CIA, but DOD has supported some UW efforts and still capable of leading or supporting others. There are a lot of issues with UW though, and unfortunately we fail to think through those options in many cases because we just assume getting someone else to do our dirty work is always a better solution. I think that is true sometimes, but often that isn't the case and there are negative effects from UW that tend to manifest overtime, such as the emergence of al-Qaeda for example, or drug lords in Burma, etc. Long drawn out conflicts that destroy social norms and militarize societies create conditions that are not easy to reverse.

All that said I think UW is a viable option in some cases, and that we can modernize our operational approach for conducting UW in ways that perhaps mitigate some of the noted historical and undesired side-effects.

The comments by COLs Moore, Maxwell and Jones below make me ask what (hopefully) is an appropriate, correct and relevant question:

a. Why the heck is IW -- today -- seen only within the context of "fragile state" and/or "population-centric" problems,

b. And not also (or primarily) within the context of great power/state-on-state conflict/war?

Do our national leaders somehow believe (even with our current problems with Russia before them) that -- due to such things as economic interdependence -- the era of great power/state-on-state war has ended?

Does this explain why these national leaders do not identify and specifically spell out -- as they do for "fragile states" and population-centric" problems:

a. The problems of great power/state-on-state conflict/war and

b. The applicability of IW in that specific, traditional, "normal" (and I might I say current) setting?

Bill C.

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:22pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Moved to the top of the page.

Bill M.

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 11:44pm

In reply to by Bill C.


Clearly a global war between states would be the greatest risk to our interests, but it is illogical to assume that just because a great war is the most dangerous threat to our interests, that irregular threats don't pose a threat to our interests so they can be ignored. Afghanistan and Iraq were aberrations of choice, we didn't have to choose the ends that we choose for either conflict, and it was the ends we choose that turned them into mission impossible. After getting stuck in both locations and making little progress we saw the emergence of the COINdistas who pulled out an old doctrine and then promoted it, and although it ultimately failed, their illogical argument is if we just do it for another decade we'll get better results. Obviously it was more complicated than that, but it is easy to understand why the military and perhaps the U.S. government as a whole is tired of irregular warfare if they view it in the context of how we choose to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nonetheless, irregular threats are actively threatening us, threatening our allies, threatening our economic interests, and in many cases threatening the international order helps safeguard our country and enables us to promote our our interests. We can't ignore the threat simply because we're uncomfortable with it. Irregular warfare involves more than COIN, and we need to develop strategies and operational concepts to deal with the most serious IW threats well beyond the scope of COIN.

Bill C.

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 2:34pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Could it be that, within the context of our political objective in Asia-Pacific (maintain regional stability, so as to ensure economic growth, which is driving the global economy) that preventing "regular"/conventional war between the great economic powers (China, Japan, Korea, the U.S.) is thought to be most important?

This being the matter that caused us to re-balance to Asia-Pacific and prepare (train, deploy, equip) our forces there to deter conventional warfare between these great economic powers?

(Here the goal is to prevent another World War I/World War II, to wit: catastrophic conventional wars that devastated the global economy of the day).

Irregular warfare between these great economic powers (at least of the variety seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) being considered much less likely, much less harmful (to the global economy) and, therefore, a matter of much less concern?

Other irregular warfare, however (example: cyber), due to its clear ability to devastate/destroy the global economy, being a different matter entirely.


a. The current emphasis (via credible deterrence) on conventional and cyber warfare prevention and

b. The seeming lack of interest in irregular warfare (at least of the variety seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)?

Bill M.

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 9:23pm

In reply to by IronMike

I want to focus on balance for a minute. First off DOD deliberately changed the phrase from pivot to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. That is intended to convey that we're not ignoring the rest of the world, which is increasingly difficult to do. While part of the rebalance is intended to signal to our allies and partners that we intend to support our security commitments in the region, to include encouraging China to pursue its claims via ways that conform to international norms instead of using coercion. However, there is much more to the rebalance than preparing for some imaginary war that neither side wants, it is largely focused on maintaining regional stability to help ensure economic growth in the region, which in theory is driving the global economy. Maintaining stability in the region includes conducting CT and FID. Hopefully we won't be conducting any major stability operations, but there is certainly potential for stability operations in the future. In sum, there is a considerable amount of activity in the Asia-Pacific that would fall under the realm of IW.

The second balance issue is what Sec Gates pushed for, and that is maintaining a balance in our ability to conduct both IW and regular war. While it is certainly possible, I am having a hard time envisioning where we would engage in strictly a regular/conventional war that didn't involve varying degrees of irregular warfare, and of course IW is always ongoing in many places of the world. For most of these conflicts we don't deploy the U.S. military, but irregular warfare is a constant that will not go away. Seems to be we should maintain an ability to conduct it if called upon to do so.

I agree with those who feel IW is poorly articulated, and that is it is always focused on legitimacy, but that is another discussion. I also disagree with much of what is in the directive and the IW Joint Operational Concept. In both documents we seem to rely on tactics as strategy, yet in all wars, all types of war, the political object should shape how we pursue that objective. The more options the services can provide our leadership the more likely we'll align the tactics with the strategic ends.

I disagreed a while back with SJW Ed that DOD would attempt to push IW to the back burner like we did post-Vietnam because it was blatantly obvious that IW would be part of our future, but based on my observations I admit I appear to be wrong and we're seeing history repeat itself.


Wed, 09/03/2014 - 8:38pm

This Directive has been largely resisted by the conventional forces of the USMC. Of the 5 pillars of IW (COIN, Stab, CT, FID, UW) Stability has caused the most contention. Stability to most of the ground element means providing security. Building tasks that clarify or add training resources and time to an already overburdened OpFor have not been acceptable.
The Ground Combat Element has been resistant to take on the burden of training or sustaining personnel trained in governance, biometric enrollment, attack the network operations, language skills, expeditionary contracting, and a plethora of other skills that were defined in DoDD 3000.07. I personally sat in meetings where O-7s and O-6s disagreed on just the lexicon of terms surrounding COIN and Stability.
The end result is and will remain that these are skills that the conventional forces can ramp up to, via pre-deployment training, versus expending the time and funding required to keep them on staff. The rebalance to the Pacific language seemed to provide carte blanche approval to dump IW skills in favor of conventional operations, while selling the DoD on having an "Off the shelf" capability.

If one's state (due to, for example, foreign influence or aggression) has become compromised such that it cannot or does not perform the basic function of a state (protect and defend the way of life of its citizens, and protect and defend the foundational values, attitudes and beliefs upon which this way of life is based),

Then populations within these states/civilizations may proceed to (1) organize in some non-state fashion (AQ), (2) organize in some NEW-state fashion (ISIS) and/or (3) adopt some non-traditional approach to warfare. All this, so as to do what their present states are no longer willing or able to do (see "protect and defend" in the paragraph immediately above).

This (organize in some non-state fashion; organize in some new-state fashion; adopt some non-traditional approach to warfare) is what one would expect the citizenry of the West to do -- if the West's present state mechanisms proved either uninterested in, or inadequate to, the task of defending our way of life, our way of governance and our foundational values, attitudes and beliefs.

Thus, the United States/the West today, in accordance with our/its enduring goal of outlying state and societal transformation, must be prepared to deal with:

a. Present state entities who use traditional and/or un-traditional warfare methods to protect and defend the way of life and values, attitudes and beliefs of their citizens,

b. New state entities who do the same and

c. Non-state entities who, lacking competent and/or loyal state mechanisms, use traditional and un-traditional methods of warfare to achieve this self-same goal (preservation of one's way of life, foundational values, attitudes and beliefs, etc.).

This, I believe, is the post-Cold War reality that such publications as DoD Directive 3000.07 seek to (1) acknowledge and (2) address.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 1:15pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell


Agree on all. The whole pursuit of IW as a means to understand and distinguish types of conflicts has not been helpful, IMO.

What I personally find most helpful as I think about and discuss these things with others, is to use "State-based conflicts" and "Populace-based conflicts." Neither term is perfect, but perfection is so often the enemy of good enough.

Using Clausewitz's Social Trinity as a simple model for a "state" with components of Government, Army (security forces), and People (that segment of the human domain not resident within the government or security forces); a State-based conflict is one between two or more of these systems, regardless of the type or mix of tactics and approaches they apply. These are all forms of warfare and one can apply Clausewitz fairly directly to ones thinking of the problem at hand.

By contrast, a populace-based conflict is one which occurs WITHIN a single system of Government-Army-People. Until that system divides into two or more systems (as Iraq and Syria have, like it or not) this type of conflict is much more a form of civil emergency rather than warfare, and the application of Clausewitzian thinking is more problematic than helpful. Of course there will nearly always be external parties that seek to leverage these internal conflicts. Some waging UW to leverage the energy of the people to advance their own agendas; and others believing their interests best served by supporting the existing government. The presence of these external parties does not change the nature of the conflict.

For those in DoD to not recognize populace-based conflicts as unique from state-based conflicts is why we cobbled together the clumsy IW construct; why many see IW as just a subset of W; and frankly, why we have been so ineffective at the strategic level in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan (and Yemen, Africa, etc) in recent years. Clausewitz provides the context to help us understand these other types of conflicts, but I believe that recognizing that not all conflict is "war" in a Clausewitzian sense helps us move forward.


Mon, 09/01/2014 - 12:36pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

A significant cadre in the Pentagon and in the field believe that IW is a lesser included of conventional warfare training. So much so that the talking points on IW haven't changed in the last few years. The lack of changes to 3000.07 is a sign of lack of interest more than stale thinking.

I am instantly drawn to your thought on relooking the definition of IW. But I would add that the way to ensure IW is always represented in our doctrine and training is to rid ourselves of the UW/IW/Conventional Warfare mental framework. It's a level of specialization that simply cannot be easily sliced up into branches or special service options.

What we call IW/COIN now in the past would have been pacification and occupation. As tasks, those make a lot more sense in the way our post-Industrial age military is organized. If your task is to pacify then you can include all kinds of supporting tasks that more than cover the spectrum of COIN without ever challenging the conventional warfare TOE's. In other words, instead of treating COIN as a separate "way of war" it should be treated as a task within the spectrum of war. A task for which you have organize, train, and equip.

...which, incidentally, is how the ACTUAL doctrine on the Range of Military Operations treats the subject. There seems to be a massive disconnect between operational doctrine and the foundational doctrine within the military. But I digress...

In fact, to pacify a restive population is far more relevant to us than waiting for an insurgency to appear so that we can have something to act on. The UW/Conventional divide is perhaps a little more defensible, but only from the TOE perspective. But UW, when reduced to a TOE difference, doesn't rise to the level of accounting for everything that counts as IW by current definitions...regardless of how much SOCOM wishes it to. There is nothing IW about direct action. It's actually very conventional, just differently task org'ed. There is a lot IW about mobilizing the local civilian population to support a COIN campaign, but conventional can and should do that too. Only when you get to the really interesting and murky world of FID do you encounter a truly different skill set...dare I say, a "special" skill set...that doesn't have as much play in any other scenario.

In any case, IW/COIN seems to be dying by neglect, which will allow doctrinal stagnation and less and less space in training. Perhaps that is a signal to grab the force by it's neck and remind it that the spectrum of WAR isn't conventional and is everything that has to do with coercive force, which might mean being ready to reduce an enemy formation, pacify a hostile population, or maintain the confidence of a friendly population.

Dave Maxwell

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 10:26pm

No significant change from the December 2008 version. In fact I have not been able to find anything significantly different except that the 2014 version is signed by DEPSECDEF Robert Work as the new DEPSECDEF, the elimination of US Joint Forces Command (which of course no longer exists today but did in 2008), and the new one is 14 pages long while the 2008 version was 12 pages long.

I would also point out that like the 2008 version there are three terms that are not doctrinal and not in JP 1-02 (Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms). I would have thought that by now these two terms would have been added to the Joint Dictionary.

civilian-military teams. Temporary organizations of civilian and military personnel specifically
task-organized to provide an optimal mix of capabilities and expertise to accomplish specific
operational and planning tasks, or to achieve objectives at the strategic, operational, or tactical
levels. Civilian-military teams may conduct both overt and clandestine operations.

irregular. Characterization used to describe a deviation from the traditional form of warfare
where actors may use non-traditional methods such as guerrilla warfare, terrorism, sabotage,
subversion, criminal activities, and insurgency for control of relevant populations.

(note in JP 1-02 there are the terms irregular forces and irregular warfare but not the singular irregular with the above definition)

traditional warfare. A form of warfare between the regulated militaries of states, or alliances of
states, in which the objective is to defeat an adversary’s armed forces, destroy an adversary’s
war-making capacity, or seize or retain territory in order to force a change in an adversary’s
government or policies.

(For reference for the next comment: IW. A violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).)

I wish that we could relook the definition of irregular warfare (and irregular above) because I think the focus on "control of relevant populations" or a struggle for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s). In my mind this implies that IW is overly focused on insurgency and being "population centric." I think this limits our thinking about IW. I would say that in Ukraine, in Syria, and in Iraq the actions and strategies of Russian and the ISIL/IS are not dependent on the legitimacy and influence over the "relevant" population. Counterinsurgency tactics, techniques and procedures or a campaign designed around the principles of FM 3-14 are unlikely to have much utility in Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq today.