Small Wars Journal

The New Generation of Operational Concepts

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 2:18am

The New Generation of Operational Concepts

George M. Gross

The Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) is the first in a new generation of operational concepts that envisions a change in the American way of war to respond to the challenges of anti-access/ area denial (A2AD), hybrid, and ambiguous warfare.  The new concepts have several striking features in common: they envision a dramatic increase in the levels of military activity in the early phases of operations as well as increased modularity, agility, and flexibility across the functions of war; they herald a tighter integration of intelligence and operations and a renewed emphasis on deception, stealth, and ambiguity to complicate enemy calculations; they imply new concepts of combined arms and sea power; and they facilitate a philosophic return to the roots of war. 

Yet in a sense the members of the new generation of concepts are not operational concepts at all.  After almost forty years there is still no formal definition of an operational concept in Department of Defense, Joint, or Service publications.  Instead doctrine now folds operational concepts under the rubric of the Joint Operating Concept.  The change in nomenclature involves a shift in the focus of operational concepts from their relationship to the operational art to their consequences for military capabilities development with a greater emphasis on technology and material systems than before.  With this change, operational concepts are directed less exclusively to operational commanders and more to the phalanx of capabilities developers across the four services, including the institutions of war-gaming and experimentation and the science and technology enterprises. 

In this paper, I’ll describe features of the new family of concepts, highlighting aspects that set them apart from the previous generation of concepts; I’ll discuss the idea of operational art in order to provide a broader framework for considering the evolution of our military operational concepts; and I’ll consider whether the shift in the language of concept development from the operational concept to the joint operating concept makes the former term obsolete or whether it leaves out something important.

The JOAC Family of Operational Concepts

The JOAC, signed in January 2012, is the main conceptual instrument for the Joint Force’s response to A2AD warfare.  The Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020 (CCJO) was revised and signed eight months after the JOAC and is formally the umbrella concept, but it adopted the themes of the JOAC while drawing out the broader framework that the JOAC implied.  Succeeding or subsequent concepts that are in turn supporting concepts under the JOAC include:

  • Joint Concept for Entry Operations (JCEO), signed in April 2014
  • Joint Concept for Command and Control of the Aerial Layer Network (JC2ALN, or JALN), signed in March 2015
  • Joint Concept for Rapid Aggregation (JCRA), signed in May 2015
  • Joint Concept for Health Services (JCHS), signed in August 2015
  • Joint Concept for Logistics (JCL) 2015, signed in September 2015 

An alternative frame of frame of reference might see some of these concepts as complementary to rather than subordinate to the JOAC.  But the view of this article is that the JOAC inaugurated a new era of operational concepts for the era of A2AD, hybrid, and ambiguous warfare, setting the tone even for the revised CCJO, and that each of the succeeding concepts named above subscribes to the view of the operating environment as the JOAC described it and is hence in every meaningful sense subordinate to the JOAC.

Some of the new concepts include the functional enterprises among their primary audiences.  For instance, the JCHS and the JCL 2015 address the medical and logistics enterprises, respectively.  It may seem odd for an operational concept to have a central idea that is global in scope, as do the JCHS and JCL in the central ideas of Globally Integrated Health Services (GIHS) and Globally Integrated Logistics (GIL).  Yet for operational purposes the primary audiences of the new concepts are the Joint Task Force commanders as well as the Combatant Commanders or COCOMs.[i]  The concepts adopt and further a globally integrative perspective while retaining the operational orientation and the goal of suggesting courses of action to the operational commanders.  In accord with the JOAC framework, they still gear their ideas, themes, and remedies to the conditions of denied access.  

The JOAC has had an uneasy relationship with AirSea Battle (ASB), the Pentagon’s first stab at an operational concept to counter A2AD.  The JOAC termed ASB to be a subordinate concept still under development, but because of the JOAC’s emphasis on maneuver, the use of denial operations in conjunction with access operations, and the centrality of the cost imposition theme, the JOAC really is a fresh start and a break with ASB.  After the release of the JOAC, the Pentagon announced that the Air Sea Battle Office will devote itself to a successor concept, the Joint Access and Maneuver – Global Commons (JAM-GC) joint operating concept, rather than to ASB.  

Service-level concepts are coming into alignment with the JOAC orientation.  Win in a Complex World, the U.S. Army Operating Concept, signed in October 2014, stipulates that its vision is consistent with that of the JOAC and the JCEO.[ii]  The family tree of the JOAC-related concepts will extend deep into the Services as subordinate Service-level concepts come on line.  The authors of each new concept reflect on how each concept informs and extends the earlier concepts.  An important task in building a new operating concept is to “fix its proper relationships to other existing concepts.”[iii]

Each of these concepts whether Joint or Service-level has as a leading theme the observation that, in the words of JCL 2015, “The future joint forces cannot assume the unhindered use of the global commons that U.S. forces have enjoyed for decades.”[iv]  This observation serves to set the JOAC family of concepts apart from the previous generation of operating concepts.  JCL 2010, the predecessor joint concept for logistics, placed transnational organizations at the head of the list of threats to joint forces in the future operating environment and identified humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) as first in the list of missions requiring logistics support.  A2AD warfare and the cluster of military problems that are foremost in the view of the JOAC family of concepts were barely visible on the horizon in the earlier concepts.  (While barely visible, they were not invisible.  The Deterrence Operations Joint Operating Concept, signed in December 2006, anticipated that in the mid-term, which it defined as the period from 2012 to 2025, “adversary anti-access and area denial capabilities will increase.”[v]  By arriving at the beginning of 2012, the JOAC may seem to be a remarkably prompt response to the forecast in the earlier concept.  Yet by being just on time, the JOAC was really a little late:  the era of A2AD warfare had already begun, and our Joint and Service-level concepts now have to catch up.)

In line with the orientation to the threat of A2AD, hybrid, and ambiguous warfare, the JOAC states, “This is a warfighting concept.”[vi]  The Marine Corps Intelligence Reconnaissance Surveillance Enterprise (MCISRE) Plan, the operating concept for the Marine Intelligence Enterprise, similarly states, “Fundamentally, the MCISRE is a warfighting concept.”[vii]  These statements are genetic markers for the JOAC-related concepts.  Such statements in these and other concepts that belong to the same family of concepts might seem obvious and unnecessary.  After all, why would a military concept not be a warfighting concept?  In each instance, the statement underscores the difference from the previous generation of concepts, which were the products of an era that assumed US military superiority across domains in an era of unimpeded operational access.  

The focus on military capabilities development as a facet of the joint operating concepts is relatively new.  The generation of operating concepts before the JOAC was generally speaking the first to be capabilities-oriented, or in other words focused on future, or even futuristic, military capabilities.  One of the primary goals of that generation of concepts was to provide cues to military capabilities developers as to what warfighters wanted on the premise that U.S. superiority across multiple domains would continue to be largely unchallenged.  The Deterrence Operations Joint Operating Concept referred to “the capabilities-based methodology for Joint Force development,” underscoring that the target audiences for that concept were to include military capabilities developers in a largely unipolar environment.  Deterrence Operations still addressed the intelligence community and placed a high premium on the integration of intelligence and operations in order to anticipate and counter threats to operations.  Yet the threat it described and addressed came more from unreconciled populations than from high-end weaponry. 

Unlike the previous generation of concepts, the new generation of concepts takes account of rising and aspiring peer challenges to U.S. superiority and of emerging threats that are in the nature of hybrid or ambiguous war.  The new concepts are more threat-based than their predecessors, yet they still address the military capabilities developers as being among their primary audiences.  The result is that the new concepts tend to be more futuristic and less suitable for immediate adoption than concepts of an earlier era.  Generally, the methodology of concept construction is in the course of adapting to the era of A2AD warfare, which requires a greater integration of intelligence and operations than the preceding era of unchallenged U.S. superiority across domains.  In the new family of operating concepts, JCEO probably makes the most sustained address to the Joint and Service intelligence enterprises, while other members of the same concept family such as JCL 2015 pay minimal explicit attention to integrating operations and intelligence, devoting proportionally greater attention to future military capabilities.   

Changes in the American Way of War

The JOAC family of concepts advocates and in the best case scenario augurs changes in the American way of war that are philosophic and foundational in nature.  At the same time, the concepts build on recognizable American strengths in warfighting.  This section draws out themes in the concepts that are not as prominent as the central ideas but that together have the potential to be significant.

  • Purposeful use of Theater Security Cooperation (TSC).  The JOAC-related concepts view international partnerships as a comparative advantage that the United States has in warfighting.  The JOAC highlights that in the context of anti-A2AD warfare, TSC or military engagement has to be more purposeful than before and is no longer about establishing friendship, trust, and presence in the simple sense.  We need to be able to look at our partners and consider what their key contributions can be to our anti-A2AD strategy, to our efforts to ensure operational access.  The JCL calls for U.S. forces to “be prepared to operate unilaterally when necessary in the interest of national defense,” but also to recognize that “joint operations will take place within an interagency and multinational context.”[viii]  Some commentators have begun to address just how partners in the different theaters can contribute to a strategy to counter A2AD.  Jim Thomas of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis proposes that our partners implement mini-A2AD strategies that are scaled and tailored to their capabilities,[ix] whereas Jakub Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell propose that in order to resist Russian aggression the Baltic countries should adopt a strategy of “preclusion” that is suitable to those countries’ legacies of partisan warfare during World War Two.[x]  Toshi Yoshihara has highlighted the Japanese strength in submarines as an aspect of a potential A2AD strategy that Japan can join to ours.[xi]  Thus the era in which we take a more casual approach to TSC is now or should now be a part of the past.  The importance of partnership in implementing strategies to counter A2AD implies an analysis mission to discern partner capabilities and roles under the new operating concepts.  Intelligence programs of analysis may need to adapt in order to raise and address the appropriate questions.
  • Increased levels of military activities in the early phases of operations.  TSC is not the only major activity in phase zero, Shaping.  Nor for that matter are information operations (IO).[xii]  The JOAC describes the importance of prepositioning supplies and of forward deploying forces, a theme that the CCJO embraces with respect to military operations broadly and not just in the context of A2AD.  The JCEO in turn, summarizing the argument of the CCJO, refers to “multinational exercises, access and support agreements, establishment and improvement of overseas bases, prepositioning of supplies, and forward deployment of forces” as essential to efforts “to shape the operational area in advance of conflict.”[xiii]  JCL 2015 refers to phase zero adaptations in logistics in the era of A2AD warfare as transforming the logistics enterprise.  Moreover, phase one, Deterrence, is as much an operational-level challenge as the other aspects of operational art.  Strategists will need to conceive new modes of deterrence for A2AD adversaries.[xiv]  But deterrence is not just a strategic-level problem.  Operational commanders will need to be the executors of deterrence plans, and effective deterrence will call on the operational art. If this interpretation is correct, then the JOAC may point to a need to revise Figure III-16, the Notional Operation Plan Phases Model in Joint Publication (JP) 5.0, Joint Operational Planning, in order to show higher levels of military activity in phases zero and one of military operations.  The 2014 review of the joint publications found that JP 3.0 and 5.0 are in need of revision.[xv]  The revision process will need to bring them in line with the JOAC-related concepts.  The current version of Figure III-16, JP 5.0 shows operations begun in phases zero and one to be continuous and ongoing in the later phases of operations, but the figure does not seem to be accurate with regard to the scale and proportion of phase zero and one actions under the JOAC.  The change in the purpose and orientation of phase zero under the JOAC family of concepts should lead to something like an exponential increase in the thinking and the military planning that go into TSC, logistics planning, and other phase zero events in the future and to that extent an increase in the level of military activity during phase zero. 
  • Agility, flexibility, and modularity across the functions and the domains of war.  The central idea of the JOAC is cross-domain synergy, that of the CCJO is globally integrated operations (GIO), and that of the new JCL is globally integrated logistics (GIL).  The aim of these ideas is to make an exponential extension of jointness, the U.S.’s well-established strength in warfighting, within and across the traditional domains of land, water, and air as well as through the new domains of space, cyber, and the electromagnetic spectrum.  The JOAC-related concepts draw upon and call upon technology-based, technology-driven changes to achieve these capabilities.  This aspect in particular lends to the JOAC concepts their speculative and futuristic nature.  The JOAC introduces cyber as a part of the global commons.  Through the theme of rapidly disaggregating and re-aggregating forces, these ideas also translate into increasingly distributed operations at the Service level, specifically in the Army and the Marine Corps.
  • Revival of deception, stealth, and ambiguity in the era of denied access.  The precepts of the JOAC concepts recommend the use of deception, stealth, and ambiguity to complicate enemy targeting and create confusion and uncertainty for enemy forces.   The JOAC inaugurates the discussion and the JCEO provides the most extensive rationale.  For instance, the JOAC argues suggestively that “the inherent mobility of seabasing can complicate the enemy’s defensive preparations by making the objective remain ambiguous through holding a large coastal region at risk.”[xvi]  The JCEO picks up the baton and outlines how “maximizing surprise through deception, stealth, and ambiguity, maneuvering through multiple domains during entry” can confound enemy intelligence efforts and paralyze enemy decision-making across multiple phases of operations.[xvii]  The JCL acknowledges that logistics is the most predictable of military sciences, and proposes that in the context of increased agility under the JCL, even logistics should strive to adapt in the spirit of the other concepts and to be less predictable.  Ambiguity in these concepts is a counter to the rise of “ambiguous warfare” by adversaries.  (But since the JOAC preceded by over a year the famous speech by Russian Army Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov on the topic of nonlinear warfare,[xviii] the JOAC may have served to prompt this theme in the thought of our adversaries, not just to respond to it.)
  • Maneuver across multiple domains.  Joint Access and Maneuver – Global Commons (JAM-GC) the successor concept to ASB, currently under development, is likely to explore themes in maneuver that run parallel to the emphasis on cross-domain synergy and integration in the JOAC, the JCL, and the other concepts.[xix]
  • New concepts of combined arms and sea power.  The use of concepts pertaining to the cyber, space, and electromagnetic domains, in conjunction with mission command (MC) and more flexible and agile command and control (C2), provides opportunities to expand traditional concepts of combined arms.  The JOAC family concepts also highlight that superiority in any domain may be only for the duration of fires, and thus for an even less sustained period or a shorter window of time than Corbettian sea control probably envisaged.
  • The virtues of austerity and expeditionary advanced basing.  The JOAC concepts strive to reverse the cost imposition by complicating enemy targeting while using expeditionary advanced basing instead of fixed basing to present less lucrative targets for enemy fires.  The concepts aim to exploit Joint and cross-domain synergies as offsets to adversary investment in military modernization, infrastructure, and technology.  Whereas generally speaking the concepts acknowledge and seek to explore the cost-imposition theme, the fact that, as the JOAC states, “In its fullest form, this is a resource-intensive concept,” may vitiate the effort.  Nonetheless the concepts make their case in an idiom that invites the best effort to win through austerity.

Concepts are usually associated more with doctrine than with philosophy, but the JOAC family of concepts through its increased emphasis on the early phases of operations, the use of ruses and ambiguity, and the virtues of austerity, lends itself to philosophic reflection on the nature of war in a way that returns to the foundations of military thought.  Through the astute use of partnerships and the setting of preconditions, the concepts hold out the prospect of winning without fighting or before the first shots are fired.  This orientation adds up to a philosophic shift in the conduct of war.

Yet they are, after all, warfighting concepts.  It is probably true that phases zero and one carry a greater part of the planning burden than under the older concepts.  No one would say that Sun Tzu’s counsel that “one who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious,”[xx] expressed an underlying aversion to war.  The same should be true of the JOAC-related concepts.

The Operational Art and the Operational Concept

The JOAC weaves the above themes together at a time when operational art and operational concepts should be coming into their own as mature thematic guides to U.S. military planning in the era of A2AD.  “Operational art” is a term that has a relatively young history in U.S. military thinking.  The term entered the U.S. military vocabulary in the 1980s in the course of the military’s self-assessment after Vietnam.  Its emergence in an America idiom after a long history in the twentieth century in the military thought of other countries coincided with and prompted thinking on “the operational level of war” as a framework for uniting battlefield tactics and national strategy.  The Goldwater-Nichols reforms gave a boost to thinking at “the operational level” by way of the Combatant Command (COCOM)-oriented approach to military planning, which established the regional theater as the unit of operational planning.[xxi]

The JOAC is the product of a renaissance in U.S. military thinking parallel to the one that took place thirty years ago, but the JOAC follows on the heels of victory rather than defeat (in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s fall rather than in the aftermath of Vietnam).  A theme in the JOAC family of concepts is that the operational art fell into disuse as a result of the U.S.’s preeminence as the sole and unrivalled superpower during the quarter century from 1989 to 2014, when force-on-force effort was the rule.  With rivals reasserting themselves under a variety of rubrics for asymmetric warfare, including hybrid warfare, indirect warfare, nonlinear warfare, ambiguous warfare, and others, often but not always under the A2AD umbrella, the operational art is likely to be in high demand. 

The interest in the operational art has thus surged twice in U.S. military planning over the last thirty years:  first in the decade after Vietnam, and then again about thirty years later with the rise of near-peer adversaries in the context of A2AD warfare.  Both surges have led authors to look at the past through the lens of the operational art in order to see what insight, however anachronistic, it might provide.  Two worthwhile exercises in this kind of anachronism were Arthur V. Grant’s comparative study of General Robert E. Lee and General George G. Meade’s operational art at Gettysburg, published in 2005, and Derek Granger’s study of Admiral George Dewey’s operational art at Manila Bay, published in 2011.

Writing in the mid-2000s, Arthur V. Grant sought to vindicate the relatively new ideas of operational art and the operational level of war by showing the unifying effect of a clear strategic purpose on Meade’s operations and the dissipating effects of the lack of a clear strategic purpose on Lee’s operations.  Both generals adhered to the idea of decisive, force-on-force battle, which Lee pursued to his military detriment, and Meade failed to pursue to his political detriment.  Yet Meade was the greater operational artist because he understood the operational consequences of having clear priorities among potentially competing strategic goals.[xxii]

Derek Granger described Dewey’s contribution to the operational art by showing how Dewey “won the battle of Manila Bay before the first round was fired.”  Dewey used ambiguity, stealth, and other tactics to complicate enemy targeting, thereby “offsetting Spanish critical strengths.”[xxiii]  Granger’s interpretation reflected great emphasis on the role of phases zero and one as integral and decisive elements of operational art. 

Grant’s study of repeated force-on-force conflict reflected what is perhaps too commonly referred to as the traditional American way of war; whereas Granger’s interpretation of Dewey as continuing the tradition of Admiral David G. Farragut signified perhaps a naval counterpoint to that tradition.  Granger showed Dewey to be a forerunner to today’s anti-A2AD planners and warfighters, and his case study, published on the eve of the Pentagon’s release of the JOAC, reads like an anticipation of warfare under the JOAC family of operational concepts.

From Operational Concepts to Joint Operating Concepts

Operational concepts are now approaching the forty-year mark in their history in the Department of Defense.  Yet there is no formal definition of an operational concept in any Department of Defense, Joint, or Service publication.  Instead we look at operational concepts historically through the study of campaigns generally beginning with the Napoleonic Wars.  Moreover, the Joint Staff introduces new concepts under the rubric of the joint operating concept rather than that of the operational concept.  This change has accompanied a shift in the concepts to a greater focus on future capabilities and capabilities development. 

OPNAVINST 5401.9A, published by the Chief of Naval Operations in June 2014, is an exception that provides an important corrective at the Service level.  This directive defines “concept” but without using any modifying adjective at all.  The directive provides that “a concept” is “a visualization of future operations that describes how warfighters, using military art and science, might employ capabilities to meet future challenges and exploit future opportunities.”  Like the joint operating concepts, it leans initially to future war and technology, but immediately it tacks back and provides that “concepts are not limited to technology, but should also address non-materiel options that create advantages.”  Moreover, the directive tips its hand in stipulating that any candidate concept must “translate into advantages at the strategic or operational level.”[xxiv]  In line with the best writing in the literature on operational concepts, the directive defines a concept in terms of the visual insight that it makes possible for an operational warfare commander,[xxv] that is to say, in terms of its contribution to the operational art.  As the best remedy to date for the lack of a working definition of the operational concept, the directive still encompasses the various ambiguities that I have discussed here, but it strives to neutralize them or make them less harmful. 

Over their forty-year history in American military thought there have now been three generations of operational concepts.  The first generation began with AirLand Battle and addressed operational commanders during the last decade of the Cold War and into the era of DESERT SHIELD/ DESERT STORM.  The second generation, of which Deterrence Operations, 2006, is an example, addressed military capabilities developers as well as operational commanders in the era of the Revolution in Military Affairs.  The third generation, comprising the JOAC family of concepts in the era of A2AD, hybrid, and ambiguous warfare, is ambiguous as to who its primary target audience is.  The JCEO provides a manual on entry operations for an operational commander.  In contrast, JCL 2015 is just a proposal, a provocative set of ideas not yet validated for the logistics enterprise.  To the degree that these concepts are speculative and require further validation in the context of future technology, is it premature to talk about their contribution to the operational art?  The ambiguity as to who the primary target audience is makes the new concepts vulnerable to larding with program-specific requirements and to focusing on future desired capabilities instead of suggesting options to the operational commander, the primary purpose of an operational concept.  Perhaps they are called joint operating concepts now in order to suggest that they have other fish to fry and no longer serve that primary purpose.

A number of factors seem to be combining now to diminish or even rescind thinking on the operational level of war.  The CCJO theme of Globally Integrated Operations (GIO) and the JCL theme of Globally Integrated Logistics (GIL), along with related themes in the other new concepts, may be fostering this trend in their emphasis on global integration as distinct from a theater perspective.  Recent testimony before Congress that proposes it is time to reconsider or greatly revamp the Goldwater-Nichols reforms in order to remedy an excessive devolution of planning authority to the Combatant Commands may also reflect or contribute to this trend.[xxvi]  There has always been a certain amount of Service-level skepticism about the operational level of war in any case stemming partly from a parochial resistance to jointness and partly from tactical immersion on the battlefield.[xxvii]  Such skepticism can make its presence felt even in the Service intelligence organizations, which are dual-hatted as members of the intelligence community and as supporters of operations in the field but are often ambivalent about operational-level support to the Service component as distinct from the deploying forces.  The shift in nomenclature from the operational concept to the joint operating concept may have stemmed from independent considerations, but it is a spur and a confirmation of these other factors.  The view of this article is that the concepts’ shift in emphasis from guiding the operational art to requisitioning future technology is more decisive in shaping this trend.

Concepts now have to take into account a broader range of readers than before.  Because they are threat-oriented the new concepts will have a different relationship to the intelligence enterprises than the concepts of the preceding generation.  Anticipating this relationship is an implied task for the authors of the new concepts.  Concepts will need to provide cues to the intelligence enterprises for shaping programs of analysis in order to anticipate support for operations that align with these concepts in the future.  The MCISRE Plan articulates a vision of tighter integration between intelligence and operations, and the other concepts imply it.  The tendency in the new concepts to understate this particular goal may hinder the concepts in reaching their full effect. 


Unlike the predecessor generation of concepts, the new generation of concepts envisions military operations in an era of denied access.  The concepts have a pronounced threat orientation as distinct from a more primary and even exclusive orientation to future military capabilities, and thus they differ by being warfighting concepts.  They contend for a more purposeful approach to Theater Security Cooperation and they correct a tendency to see deterrence only as a strategic problem rather than as an operational problem as well.  The new concepts point to what is literally a graphic increase in the level of military activity in phases zero and one.  Their audience is broader than either theater commanders or concept developers because they assert or imply a vision of tighter integration between intelligence and operations; the intelligence enterprises should take heed.  Through these characteristics and the precepts that express them, the new concepts facilitate revisiting the philosophic fundamentals of war in the era of A2AD, hybrid, and ambiguous warfare.

End Notes

[i] For instance, “[JCEO] focuses on the actions of military forces in joint and multinational commands at the operational level.  It applies to combatant commands (CCMDS), Joint Task Forces (JTFs) and their subordinate commands.” Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Entry Operations [JCEO], 7 April 2014, p. 5; see also section 7, pp. 10-23, where the primary audience is the JTF Commander.  Accessed at  concepts/jceo.pdf.

[ii] The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, 2020-2040, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, 31 October 2014, p. 7, accessed at

[iii] John F. Schmitt, “A Practical Guide for Developing and Writing Military Concepts,” Hicks & Associates, Inc., Defense Adaptive Red Team (DART), Working Paper #02-4, December 2002, p. 6, accessed at

[iv] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Logistics [JCL], v. 2.0, 25 September 2015, p. 7, accessed at .

[v] Department of Defense, Deterrence Operations Joint Operating Concept, Version 2.0, December 2006, p. 15, accessed at .

[vi] Department of Defense, Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), Version 1.0, 17 January 2012, p. 3, accessed at .

[vii] Marine Corps Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Enterprise Plan, 2015-2020, September 2014, p. 20, accessed at .

[viii] JCL 2015, p. 16.

[ix] Octavian Manea, “A Strategic Blending:  When RMA Meets the Revolution in IW,” Interview with Jim Thomas, in Small Wars Journal, June 3, 2015,

[x] Jakub Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell, “A Preclusive Strategy to Defend the NATO Frontier,” in The American Interest, December 2, 2014,

[xi] Toshi Yoshihara, “Japan’s Competitive Strategies at Sea: A Preliminary Assessment,” in Thomas G. Mahnken, ed., Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), pp. 219-235.

[xii] But cf. Tyrone L. Groh and Richard J. Bailey, Jr., “Fighting More Fires with Less Water:  Phase Zero and Modified Operational Design,” Joint Force Quarterly 77, 2nd Quarter 2015, pp. 101-108.

[xiii] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Entry Operations [JCEO], 7 April 2014, p. vi, accessed at .

[xiv] Vincent A. Manzo, “After the First Shots: Managing Escalation in Northeast Asia,” Joint Force Quarterly 77, 2nd Quarter 2015

[xv] Rick Rowlett, et al., “The Way Ahead for Joint Operations and Planning Doctrine,” Joint Force Quarterly 77, 2nd Quarter 2015.

[xvi]JOAC, p. 20.

[xvii]JCEO, pp. vii, 12.

[xviii] Robert Coalson, “Top Russian General Lays Bare Putin’s Plan for Ukraine,” The World Post, 2 September 2014,

[xix] Sam LaGrone, “Pentagon Drops Air Sea Battle Name, Concept Lives On,” USNI News, January 20, 2015, .

[xx] “Sun Tzu’s Art of War,” Ralph D. Sawyer, ed., The Complete Art of War:  Sun Tzu / Sun Pin (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), p. 52 (from chapter three, “Planning Offensives”).

[xxi] Bruce W. Menning, “Operational Art’s Origins,” in Michael D. Krause and R. Cody Phillips, Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2005), pp. 3-21.

[xxii] Arthur V. Grant, “Operational Art and the Gettysburg Command,” in Michael D. Krause and R. Cody Phillips, Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art (Washington, DC: Center of Military History/ United States Army, 2005), p. 387.

[xxiii] Derek B. Granger, “Dewey at Manila Bay: Lessons in Operational Art and Operational Leadership from America’s First Fleet Admiral,” Naval War College Review, Autumn 2011, pp. 128, 135, 138.   

[xxiv] Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, OPNAV Instruction 5401.9a, “Navy Concept Generation and Development Program,” June 24, 2014, accessed at .

[xxv] “The operational concept is an image of combat:  a concise visualization that portrays the strategic requirement, the adversary and his capabilities, and the scenario by which that adversary will be overcome to accomplish the strategic requirement.”  David A. Fastabend, “That Elusive Operational Concept,” Army, June 2001, p. 40, accessed at

[xxvi] Jim Thomas, “Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Defense Reform,” November 10, 2015,

[xxvii] Lawrence M. Doane, “It’s Just Tactics:  Why The Operational Level of War is an Unhelpful Fiction and Impedes the Operational Art,” Small Wars Journal, September 23, 2015, accessed at


About the Author(s)

George M. Gross ( is a civilian employee of the United States Marine Corps on Quantico MCB, Virginia.  He has a Ph.D. in political science and has taught at Temple University.  Before coming to Quantico, he was a civilian employee of the Army at Fort Bragg, NC.  This article expresses his views and not those of the Army, the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, or any government agency