Small Wars Journal

The Targeting Process: D3A and F3EAD

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 9:50am
The Targeting Process: D3A and F3EAD

by Jimmy A. Gomez

Download the Full Article: The Targeting Process: D3A and F3EAD

Since October 2001, combat operations in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations have presented the U.S. Army with constant evolution of complex situations that have routinely highlighted shortfalls in current doctrinal solutions. At every echelon, the Army has adapted to the complex situations within the Operational Environment (OE) by revising doctrine to reflect the adaptive responses to the ever-evolving spectrum of threats. The spectrum of threats within the operational environment range from smaller, lower-technology opponents using more adaptive, asymmetric methods to larger, modernized forces able to engage deployed U.S. forces in more conventional, symmetrical ways. In some possible conflicts (or in multiple, concurrent conflicts), a combination of these types of threats could be especially problematic to a one-dimensional, all inclusive Targeting Process.

The Operational D3A framework emphasizes full spectrum operations throughout the conduct of operations. It takes the entire staff to identify the sources of instability that interdict the Shaping Operations that were designed to set the conditions to decisively achieve the Strategic Objectives outlined in the Campaign Plan. In contrast, F3EAD enables the dynamic tasking process required at Tactical targeting level in support of Full Spectrum Operations. Currently, F3EAD has emerged as the methodology of choice to address certain sources of instability such as Personality and Network Based Targeting.

D3A is a great planning tool but it lacks in agility to execute the dynamic tasking process in the full spectrum operations environment. F3EAD is a great execution tool in the full spectrum environment but it lacks in depth and fidelity during the planning process! Simply put, D3A is a great planning tool and F3EAD is a great execution tool for short suspense targets!

Download the Full Article: The Targeting Process: D3A and F3EAD

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.

About the Author(s)


Hubba Bubba,

If Soldiers don't "speak and act in terms that doctrine says they can use" how does the commander issue orders (missions/task/purpose in particular) or commander's intent and expect intended outcomes? How do they "think" if they completely misunderstand obscure terms "Design" proponents feel we need to use.

The higher level officers may pretend they comprehend, but their subordinates will be thinking "huh" and will go out and do whatever they think is best. Nothing wrong with that if within the broad commander's intent but that is doubtful without common understanding of terms/TTP/SOPs.

Question for others,

The new Targeting Process manual, FM 3-60 came out in November 2010 and still places primacy in D3A. It has an Appendix for F3EAD but also another one for F2T2EA. Only brief mentions of F3EAD are included in the new BfSB manual and no mention is in the relatively new FM 2-0, Intelligence. There's no mention in the latest FM 3-0 and no mention in the Joint Doctine for Kill Boxes.

Someone must have considered conflicts over the past decade and still believed D3A fit lethal and nonlethal targeting. What's wrong with the KISS principal. It's hard enough to integrate D3A with intelligence and operations let alone a broader F3EAD that skips Decide.

Both F3EAD and F2T2EA start out with Find. They essentially add additional steps into Detect, Deliver, Assess steps of D3A. Therefore, why not just add:

* Find as part of Detect
* Fix and Track as parts of Deliver
* Exploit/Analyze/Disseminate as parts of Assess

How can we skip Decide upfront? We employ IPB and PIR/NAI/TAI as part of upfront ISR synchornization/integration process to "decide." Courses of action (which is Decide) are determined during MDMP or RDMP. Isn't an initial Decide process essential to correlate targeting with mission ISR and COA?

Finally, how do we deconflict fires and airspace if we don't synchronize it in advance...which requires a decision on FSCM and ACM, not to mention boundaries based on COA. Don't forget the ATO/ACO that ARE cyclical and force the targeting working group to live with air targets planned 24, 48, and 72 hours out.

Great effort Chief and I learned a lot. But unsure that dynamic re-tasking is better facilitated by F3EAD. Can't you Decide ahead of time which ISR assets you can bump, or create contingency plans to support an adjacent BCT sector without aerial lethal/RSTA support?

Hubba Bubba (not verified)

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 11:02am

Classic. For the last unnamed blogger- you say something is not linear by cyclic "because it says so in doctrine." Do you not see the madness in that thinking? You state that doctrine "is a guide" yet in order to frame your theoretical concepts within the prefered narrative of your organization, you cite static vocabulary IAW what doctrine says.

Breaking free of groupthink requires you to critically think, and to question WHY instead of WHAT. Do not accept a term or concept "because the book says it is so..." plenty of military doctrine over the past century had some maddening concepts within that eventually were changed.

Doctrine tries to codify how a military organization reacts and interacts with a complex environment- it seeks universal, predictable, and repetitive solutions where soldiers do not need to think; if they do think, they must SPEAK AND ACT IN TERMS THAT THE DOCTRINE SAYS THEY CAN USE. This marginalizes the essential human element that breaks away from procedures and invents new vocabulary- new ideas....words that are not always in a JP....

Just some thoughts to chew on.

Hubba Bubba

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 10:50am

Hubba Bubba---it is cyclic---check the JP terms for synchronization and integration.

Secondly doctrine is really a guide post as it gives you a left and right marking post--it never was designed to be a "For Dummies 101"---doctrince has always allowed for adaptation using the RDMP which many staff officer had battle drilled into them up through 2002--since 2003 that has been a far different case.

Targeting I would state has gotten off the beaten path just as has ISR and MDMP.

Would also venture a guess that when we watch units during their MCTPs or at the CTCs-one can see a direct realtionship between a units poor MDMP, poor ISR performance, and equally poor targeting. there is in fact a direct correlation between fgailures in targeting and failures in staff MDMP and failures in use of ISR.

Hubba Bubba (not verified)

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 3:23am

Quote-"IPB, MDMP, Targeting and Combat Assessments are cyclic, not linear."

I suggest that this is entirely wrong. The military collectively likes to mis-label concepts with the more popular "bumpersticker of the day"- which currently is "non-linear."

Cycles do what? How does targeting, MDMP, IPB, MCPP, JOPP, or any proceduralized step-by-step "do not pass go until you collect $200" military doctrinalized method work? A cycle is indeed linear, unless the blog author suggests that a staff might do MDMP out of order, skip a step, add a new step, go back to a previous step, then jump to a yet undiscovered step, and finish somewhere else...that is non-linear. Cyclic procedures are just linear processes that REPEAT into infinity (or until your unit RIPs and the next staff jumps onto the crazy train of repeating linear thinking)....

If we really want to think in non-linear terms, the military needs to stop looking at doctrine for the answers because doctrine is the last place you will find creative, innovative thinking that breaks the mold- that jumps the cyclic train tracks of mindless repetition that focuses on linear constructs.

Doctrine is a guide, and often a poor one at that; it empowers the intellectually lazy and those fearful of looking outside their comfort zone- and it gives them all the credibility they need in our top-down organization to say, "I am doing this in accordance with Field Manual XX-XX chapter X, section X-X...." and they go about their merry ways, driving the cyclic train to failure...never asking WHY but only WHAT.

Hubba Bubba (chew me up, I am still sweet)

I think the Chief captured the sum of his argument in his last sentence or two, which basically calls for relooking our targeting processes.

I am beginning to think it would be helpful if we purged the EBO rhetoric altogether from targeting, and once again narrow our targeting discussion to the military perspective of killing/capturing and breaking to support the overall plan. All the other important things that need to be done and planned for probably need their own planning process.

I suspect we got in this situation because almost overnight we had nation building thrown in our laps, and we didn't good staff processes to use for development, stabilization, etc., so we took an existing process and used it. That is fine to start with, but 10 years is this the best we can do?

Determining how to change a population's behavior or facilitate effective development is much more complex than using PMESII and other tools and models can't hope to address. While better than nothing, in my view, we are attempting to dumb down the complexity of development and social change to identifying a specific task or tasks, then issuing an order to execute the task, and then try to measure its effect (assess) and restart the cycle. We all understand that several tasks take considerable time to have an effect at all, and there are numerous factors besides the task(s) we conducted that will influence whether we achieve our desired effect in this non-lethal areas.

We need a better process for addressing the non-lethal aspects of conflict. While all targets and actions need to be deconflicted, that doesn't mean we should apply the same tools to a wide array of problems. We can have staff meetings to deconflict potential fiction points. I'm not arguing against fusion, I'm arguing against using the same simple process in the Army's never ending attempt to find a simple equation/answer that is replicable so no thinking is actually permitted. I agree with the author I think it is time to move forward, and start relooking this entire effort.

MikeF (not verified)

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 9:06pm

Reposting MG Flynn's comment into the appropriate thread.


First, great article. Among the issues you raise is for us (Jointly) to consider the evolution of our doctrine as we extract ourselves from these slogs we've been involved in for the past decade (as it stands today, we seem to be operating on best practices--or articles written in SWJ).

That said, the D3A was based on a very finite battlefield. We applied it to our "targeting" using long range fires and deep attacks by massive aviation and fixed wing support. The intelligence effort was very narrow and focused on deep targets and the assessment component was about assessing battle damage to systems (tanks, artillery, airfields, radars, formations, etc...) Based on results, we would consider reattacking. There is clearly much more to this, but it didn't rely on precision as much as it relied on our ability to mass effects.

With F3EA, the "main effort" is not with the F3 (like D3) components, it is with the EA (exploitation and analysis). This is where the commander and staff should (and will most likely) spend the majority of their time. This is where decisions are discussed, debated and then made--I could go on and on about the decisions phase or how decisions are made, but I don't believe we need a "D" to tell commanders to decide. What we do need is to determine what it is we want to accomplish (i.e., what our mission is). And, this is with full understanding that our mission is likely to change, especially in the dynamic environments we face on today's battlefields. I do see the synchronization of activities as vital. these activities include all the pieces you described in the various acronyms you defined--all good descriptions from what I read and all are necessary tools for our commanders to apply (based on which phase of the spectrum of operations they find themselves in).

In your below statement (which I found enlightening), I would expand the questions and ask them (or add them) more along the lines:
1. What do we know?
2. What don't we know?
3. What do we believe (or at least think)?
4. What does it all mean (SO What)?

IPB, MDMP, Targeting and Combat Assessments are cyclic, not linear. All must be focused on the environment not the enemy. Focusing on enemy networks limits your thinking and often ignores the real problem: the threat. The sum of the Combat Assessments process provides the point of departure to meet the Commanders¸ intent, vision, guidance, priorities and Campaign Objectives. Assessments must be threat oriented and must answer the three fundamental questions: What are we doing? How are we doing it? And, are we doing the right things?

If I read you right, you are a strong advoctae of examining the entire environment and not solely focusing on the capture / kill component. That is where I am at. In fact, our ability to C/K is actually the easier of the missions we execute. As long as the precise intelligence is made available, the final finish is made vastly simpler (not less dangerous). In places like AFG and IR (or other full spectrum operations environments we are likely to find ourselves fighting within, dealing with the people and understanding WHY they are functioning the way they are is vastly more important (and much harder to understand) than figuring out where the true enemy is (or what I will call the WHERE). However (and, at times, to our detriment) we start with the where is the enemy before we understand the why he even exists.

Thanks for taking this issue on and if you need help reviewing any doctrinal manuals being crafted on this subject, don't hesitate to reach out to me for help.


RCS (not verified)

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 8:42pm

Good article - particularly because I think it does an excellent job of breaking down the nuts and bolts of both processes.

I'd actually like FLYNN's opinion on the negatives of getting too caught up in network analysis vice seeing the bigger threat. It seems that many folks have latched on to phrases such as "Attack the Network" (AtN) and may fail to see the forrest from the trees. However, with that in mind, recent articles contradicting Pop-Centric COIN would indicate that AtN is perhaps the best course of action to take.