Effects-Based Operations: Change in the Nature of Warfare

ARLINGTON, VA (2001) —The Gulf War air campaign introduced profound changes in the planning and conduct of warfare. The results were dramatic in that they changed the expectations of modern warfare. Today and in the future, armed conflict is expected to be short, decisive, and accomplished with a minimum of casualties. Much of the success achieved by the US and its allies in Desert Shield/Desert Storm is rightfully attributed to advances in technology—the combination of greater precision in weapons with the access enabled by stealth, along with more rapid dissemination of knowledge through information technologies. Over a decade has elapsed since the Desert Storm turning point in the conduct of conventional war. The security environment has changed and the tools of warfare have been improved, but what is yet to be fully understood and incorporated into our security planning is another critical element of what enabled success of the Gulf War air campaign: the effects-based approach to its planning and execution. In this essay, Brigadier General Dave Deptula updates an earlier work, and explains the essence of effects-based operations. Describing how it was used as the basis of air campaign planning in the Gulf War, he goes on to suggest that the US security establishment incorporate effects-based operations as the foundation of its security strategy as we move into the future. General Deptula’s paper has significant implications for how we fight in the future, how we will define success in warfare and—perhaps most important of all—the nature and type of forces that we must field to deal with emerging and future threats to our national security interests. It also has very significant implications for the mix of aerospace, land, and sea forces for the future.

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