Military Strategy Magazine  /  Volume 4, Issue 4  /  

The Post-Operational Level Age: The Operational Focus Approach, Part 2

The Post-Operational Level Age: The Operational Focus Approach, Part 2 The Post-Operational Level Age: The Operational Focus Approach, Part 2
To cite this article: Bengo, Yacov and Segal, Giora, “The Post-Operational Level Age: The Operational Focus Approach, Part 2,” Infinity Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4, summer 2015, pages 4-11.

© Slidezero | – Merkava Mk 4 Baz Main Battle Tank Photo


Today there are two rival approaches to operating military forces in conflicts:

On the one hand are those who argue that nothing has changed and all discussion of a new type of war represents the confusion of people not sufficiently cognizant of the details of the military profession. These argue that today’s wars are conducted according to the same rules as they have been over the past thousands of years.

On the other hand are those that argue that the change in the phenomenon of war is so deep that almost every parameter of the old world is no longer valid.[i] The means available to fighting troops today to execute the politicians will have changed the rules and principles of war so dramatically that they have to be reformulated and it is not enough to merely redefine the tools for solving military problems.[ii]

These rival theses are discussed and critiqued both overtly in journals and covertly in actual operational planning meetings. However, these discussions do not really contribute significantly to solving the issues relevant to the character of war and to its relevancy. The opposite is true – one notes considerable confusion over the relevance of using military force in all known mediums; air, sea and land, and also in new mediums; public media, diplomacy and cyber.

Given that humans will continue to fight wars in the foreseeable future, it is critical that we clarify the role of military confrontations in international relations. In our view, without a comprehensive approach that enables critical thinking on the phenomenon of war and the effective ways of building forces and using them, no military force will succeed in meeting the operational challenges facing it in the early 21st century. Furthermore, commanders will continue to fail their missions because the operational-level environment has merged into the strategic environment, and the political level directly influences not only the classic operational-level commanders, but also the tactical commanders.

Today, politicians demand to understand the strategic goals the military force is aiming to achieve. If the use of military force does not seem to be able to achieve a clear political result, the politician will not authorize it. This article attempts to find a way to enable the military force to achieve considerable strategic value while simultaneously provide it with freedom of action at the operational-level. We have named this approach: the ‘Operational Focus And Strategic Value Focus Approach’.

The Problem: The Conceptual Distortion Created by Precision Weapons

The Precision Weapons Revolution

It is commonly accepted that military problems are always set in a specific geographic and temporal location. Over thousands of years humans knew only one way of solving military problems in a specific geographic location: bringing ground forces there. The impact distance of a ground force depended on the range of its weaponry. For example, in early eras this was from a few meters (swords, spears) to a few hundred meters at most (bows, ballistae). When weapons are so short-ranged, every problem can be solved only by the physical presence of a ground force at the location of the problem. In other words, the solution is only to conquer or hold ground.

This situation did not change even after firearms increased the effective range to a few dozen kilometers (artillery) or even thousands of kilometers (aircraft). Thus, the problem of Nazi Germany was solved only when the Red Army conquered Berlin and hoisted their flag on the Reichstag.

However, it changed dramatically after the Precision Weapons Revolution. Precision weapons today include a large family of tools organized into a well-oiled and focused system. This family includes not only smart bombs and guided missiles, but also special-forces, focused defensive interception weapons, personal diplomacy, cyber-warfare and communications media.

It should be noted that it was the politicians rather than the soldiers who first identified the potential of precise weapons to achieve strategic results. These new weapons gave the politicians abilities they never had before; direct control of the military force at all levels; to predict with high certainty the probability of success of every action (or at least the collateral damage at each level); to achieve focused effectiveness with a small number of actions; high availability of forces from the moment they decided to act until the actual effect on the ground; reduction of the friction[iii] that had been a central phenomenon of using previous weapons.

The precision weapons revolution was made possible by two factors: technology and intelligence.

Technology enables achieving very accurate hits – to within a few meters or less from the target – and this requires accurate target acquisition intelligence. The Intelligence organs were compelled to quickly develop new fields of action – advanced VISINT, COMINT and Cyber OSINT. HUMINT was not cast aside – it too was improved. The fusion between Projectile Technology and Intelligence was natural because these are both technology-intensive systems that allow a high degree of mechanization both within themselves and between them.

Two decades passed from the development of precision weapons to the moment they achieved the critical mass required to make them felt in battlefields. Another three decades passed until the new technology was complemented by a new doctrine. This enabled maximizing the new capabilities and developing the complementary resources for exploiting them – especially in the intelligence field. Thus were born what became known as ‘The New Wars’ – wars in which the significance of territory is no longer strategic, only operational and translates merely into a precise map coordinate.

The new weaponry enables reaching the operational problem from all points of the compass with varying strengths and enhanced speed and achieving results that seem no less significant than those achieved by ground forces. Theoretically, the era of ‘The New Wars’ enables the creation of military tools whose operational value is greater than previous tools – tools that can achieve strategic goals. Ostensibly the use of force acquired greater strategic flexibility – a flexibility much needed for the discourse between the military and the political levels.

However, accumulated experience showed that the expected flexibility had not been achieved. The opposite: the balance between precise fire and ground maneuver had been disrupted. A disruption that led to operational problems (some argue severe problems) in all dimensions of combat.

The Conceptual Revolution Changed The Balance Between Attrition And Maneuver

The problem facing armies today is a severe mismatch between the politicians’ expectations and reality. When the politician decides to apply “other means”,[iv] strategy and operational solutions designed by the military repeatedly fail to achieve the results they wish for. This is especially true in regards to operations of the ground forces.

Applying force by shooting precision weapons from a distance, without troops crossing the sovereign borders, seems simpler and more promising to the politician because it reduces the political signature, thus allowing some deniability and reducing escalation.

The enormous expectations from precision weapons created a creeping deviation from balance, to allocation of resources primarily, to a Strategy of Attrition based on these weapons and avoiding maneuver. To clarify how this systemic problem occurred one must discuss in depth the two theoretical doctrinal approaches to the use of military force: the Attritional Aproach and the Maneuver Approach.[v]

The Attritional Approach focuses on the inflicting of as many casualties as possible to enemy manpower and equipment in order to achieve the strategic goal – deterrence or total defeat. Conversely, the Maneuver Approach sees actual combat as only one military means to gaining the strategic goal.[vi] Furthermore, according to the Maneuver Approach, the key to success is initiative, and all strategic results are achieved by physical surprise – maneuver being an interaction between mass, time and space on land, sea and air.

If so, attrition in the context of this article, means the weakening of the enemy by constant harassment until he is strategically disabled, whereas maneuver means the use of movement and ruses to achieve the strategic goal.[vii] From this, follows that achieving attrition is explainable by maneuver and vice versa. Moreover, the discourse between the two approaches is central to designing the operational context of the use of a military force. Prior to commencement of operations these two approaches oppose each other, just as the status quo is opposed to the action aimed at achieving an advantage.[viii] However, once operations commence they complement each other. So applying only one creates a systemic problem in using the military force and will necessarily severely damage the ability to achieve the strategic goals.

The gradual deviation in Israel and the world at large from a balanced merging of attrition and maneuver towards a paradigmatic preference for attrition alone has frozen military thinking. This freezing has occurred because of the military ethos that when solving operational problems, military men have a geostrategic understanding which is based on experience gleaned from the past. Unfortunately, knowledge of the past does not necessarily help in explaining the present or the future. Thus, reliance only on experience creates the conception that combat has not changed and will not change in the future. This misconception has two negative effects:

  1. Many forces have frozen their development based on the working assumption that a day will come and history will indeed provide them this nostalgic encounter.
  2. A Single Service approach to force-building that rests on the notion that the solution is merely one more piece of hardware away – one more bomb, or one more piece of intelligence and we will win.

The imbalance towards Attrition is a strategic threat because it has created the expectation that it alone can solve any problem, whereas time and again reality shows that despite their technological and quantitative superiority, armies that focus only on attriting the enemy do not achieve the clear strategic decision they seek.

The revolution created a doctrinal shock wave that has resulted, among other things, in a situation in which any weapon that is not precise will not be used. This, in turn threatens to destabilize both ability to Maneuver and to Attrit.

Like any other phenomenon that peaks we are today witnessing a new battlefield friction – collateral damage – that does not allow exploiting the Attrition Approach to the full. Fighting in civilian-saturated environments has become commonplace and this situation will not change in the foreseeable future. This difficulty to distinguish between military and civilian targets applies in aerial, naval and ground combat and creates restrictions on actual use of weapons – especially non-precise weapons such as artillery. The friction exists also in the new combat-media – cyber warfare, with its potential of disrupting all computer and electricity dependent civilian infrastructure such as water supplies, traffic control of ground and aerial transportation and financial systems.


Focusing operations on strategic value is an approach that attempts to minimize effort to the minimum required – thus saving resources. Focusing is a cognitive process that facilitates understanding between people in the same manner as turning the focusing apparatus of a camera lens sharpens the picture being viewed. It is based on acquiring information from all the relevant external environments – the more relevant information acquired, the sharper the focus. The sharpness of the photograph is determined by the human operator. Even if he is using an automatic camera he chooses what to observe and what to photograph: on what to focus.

Unlike camera focusing mechanisms, which are fairly similar in all cameras, humans do not have a common cognitive focusing mechanism. The physical mechanisms of humans are similar, but the cognitive mechanisms vary. Human focus enables the observer to identify an object and to interpret the situation. The observation is based on human intelligence which varies from person to person. Situation interpretation is therefore always subjective.

People need much information to widen their understanding of the close and distant environment. Each individual interprets his environment differently so that on average all see the situation subjectively and blurred. Thus each commander and each staff officer at each level interprets situations with small or great differences. The gap between the objective situation and the subjective varies with each individual. Historical experience shows that military organizations can create a fairly similar situational interpretation among their members, but it must be remembered that in war one needs constant adjustment to cope with inaccurate interpretations. The better the intelligence, the lower the probability of making mistakes. The Intelligence strategic and tactical estimate, the operational capability to exploit it and the commanders’ leadership skills will determine the operational focus.

In other words, operational focus is, like with the camera, a commander’s decision. That decision is the product of a situation assessment. The procedure for conducting that assessment must assist in producing focus. The chosen operational focus must have strategic value.

To present the Operational Focus Approach and Value Focused Action we must first define two supporting concepts: ‘Combat Worth’ and ‘Strategic Value’.

Combat Worth[ix]

Operational momentum is a concept often used to explain the interaction between mass, time and space. Momentum is a quantitative concept that expresses the mass multiplied by the speed multiplied by the operational tempo. The concept is relevant for operating air, sea or ground forces. Before the campaign begins, momentum is a potential that must be expressed in operational planning. Converting the potential during the campaign expresses the actual ability of using the force.

Combat Worth of a particular aerial, naval or ground force mass is its overall military capability to achieve its operational missions. Thus for example, the combat worth of an aerial ground attack force is the number of targets it can attack within a specific time-frame – for example, in 24 hours. The combat worth of an intelligence force, in the context of the above aerial force, is its ability to provide the required targeting data. This is a critical component of that aerial force’s mass.

Ground forces are required to take over and hold ground within the operations zone, to attack objectives of strategic value and return to their bases. The combat worth of such a force is the overall capability of its mass to assemble (including mobilization of reserve forces) deploy, rapidly move to attack the objectives, take ground and destroy enemies, break contact and withdraw back to its bases. The more real time and accurate the intelligence available to it, the greater the combat worth of the ground force mass.

The combat worth of a naval force is its ability to sortie a mass of naval units continuously from its ports, neutralize or destroy naval threats and to attack targets on land. Again, availability of accurate real-time intelligence provides a crucial multiplier to its combat worth.

In cyber warfare malicious programs are employed to disrupt the enemy’s information systems and thus the command and control procedures of his weapons and the supporting infrastructures that enable the state or non-state actor to employ his forces. The combat worth of a cyber warfare unit is, for example, its ability to prevent or disrupt the enemy’s decision making procedures, create uncertainty and disrupt supporting systems – without physically attriting the military force. Combat mass in cyber warfare is the product of manpower quality, the capabilities of the malware and the flexibility of its ability to exploit the cyber domain for varying uses.

Strategic Value

The strategic value of using military force is determined according to the political benefit accrued from this use: if the force achieves the goals set for it by the statesman then the strategic value was high. The strategic value, therefore, is determined by the goals set by the statesman for the conflict.

The strategic value of a specific enemy asset or force is an assessment, by the commander, of the expected strategic result of acting against that asset or force by military means.

Thus, conquering territory that is critical to the enemy and destroying the enemy forces on that territory has high strategic value if doing so will highly affect the enemy’s strategic or operational-level functioning. When fighting non-state organizations, critical territories could be their base of operations: villages or urban neighborhoods where their leadership resides, where they have hidden their logistic facilities or have their base of popular support. The infrastructure of non-functioning states which is often exploited by non-state organizations residing in that state could also be a worthwhile target when fighting them.

It should be noted that holding onto conquered territory over extended periods of time could become more harmful than beneficial, so that cost of holding such territory must be weighed against its strategic value.

The Correlation Of Combat Worth And Strategic Value

Understanding the concepts of Combat Worth and Strategic Value enables us to employ them while planning and conducting military campaigns: achieving the sought after strategic decision requires directing a mass of high combat worth towards objectives assessed to be of high strategic value.

To do so requires asking questions on the probable contribution of specific military assets to achieving the overall strategic value. For example:

• What is the strategic value of employing air power in this specific campaign?

The combat worth equals the number of targets attacked in each 24 hour period multiplied by the average speed of attack operations against those operations. This multiplication will create the operational-level momentum that achieves the strategic goal of deterrence or defeat of the enemy. This combat worth represents the strategic ability to extensively damage the enemy’s infrastructure and ability to function and from there his will to continue fighting. However, to maintain a positive strategic value one must ensure minimal collateral damage while attacking targets assessed to be of high operational quality.

• What is the strategic value of employing naval forces in this specific campaign?

The combat value equals the series of quality targets attacked at sea and on the shore multiplied by the tempo of operations against high quality targets. The result is the operational momentum that drives the achieving of the strategic goal. This combat worth expresses the ability to attack a wide variety of state-owned strategic objectives such as sea-lanes, on which more than 90% of all civilian and military merchandise are transported. Maintaining a high level of naval strategic value requires acquiring the freedom to perservere in these naval actions and integration of these actions with aerial and land operations. Without these, the strategic value might become negative.

• What is the strategic value of employing ground forces in this specific campaign?

The combat worth is equal to the number of quality objectives attacked multiplied by the tempo of operations against objectives with high strategic value. This multiplication creates the operational momentum towards severely damaging the enemy’s ability to function effectively and continuously by striking his commanders and disrupting his command and control systems.

Achieving and maintaining high strategic value requires knowing what are the human or territorial objectives against which continuous physical pressure by the ground forces will create the operational-level momentum that will force our will on the enemy. Without this knowledge the ground forces’ operations might have a negative strategic value.

• What is the strategic value of using cyber weapons in this specific campaign?

The combat worth of cyber weapons is, for example, striking the enemy’s ability to decide and disrupting the activity of ancillary systems without physically attriting the enemy’s military strength. Used covertly this can achieve strategic benefits without using kinetic efforts. Used overtly it serves as a force multiplier to kinetic efforts, reducing friction with enemy forces even in areas that are considered to be densely defended.


The Situation Assessment Procedure For Planning And Conducting Operations

Historical experience shows that commanders need a compass to guide their actions. Command concepts such as Mission Oriented Commands, Auftragstaktik[x] and Directive Control[xi] were developed for this purpose. These are tools that facilitate clarification of the context and create a common understanding of the purpose of the action. This common understanding rests on a number of pillars, such as common terminology along the hierarchy of command and major operational procedures and an understanding of the relationship between headquarters.

These pillars enable different commanders to interpret similarly the operational situation ‘on the ground’. It enables headquarters to reach similar conclusions and direct operations accordingly. The situation interpretation process includes both the detection of opportunities and the detection of threats on the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

Assessing the situation is a cognitive process. It begins by observing and studying the situation. The first phase is collecting information and this too requires common terminology. Learning begins after the facts have been processed. Learning means interpreting and interpretation is always subjective. Reducing the subjectivity is achieved by disseminating information universally to all individuals involved, a common understanding of the circumstances of environment being studied and an unmediated contact with that environment and creating a common terminology for the facts.

The learning/interpretation phase is complex and differs from individual to individual. The assessor’s culture will influence his interpretation of the facts, of the required actions and possible results. The personal previous experience of the assessor will also affect his interpretation. It is in this phase, while interpreting the situation, that the operational focus is determined.

The decision on what to focus is the commander’s. We advise him to adopt one simple guidance: interpret the situation according to the strategic context of the entire problem. Doing this will greatly increase the harmony between his interpretation and the strategic goal he has been directed to achieve.

This means that actions of high strategic value will be defined as opportunities, whereas actions that have low or negative strategic value will be defined as threats. The chosen course of action will be that which the commander assesses will have the greatest strategic value. Actions without a strategic benefit will not be discussed. Commanders who understand the overall strategy will interpret the situation in that context and will define operational missions that are highly beneficial strategically.

Commanders differ, among other things, in their ability to understand the strategic situation and to derive from it the operational and tactical implications. A commander able to discern the strategic essence of a tactical decision will interpret the situation correctly and make more beneficial decisions. This commander will be focused – i.e. applying the operational focus approach. Cutting through the chaos of battle, the missions he assigns his forces and the directions he launches them will be of greater strategic value.

Intelligence is the essential but not a sufficient precondition for applying the operational focus approach. Another essential precondition is a combat force appropriate in capabilities, structure and organization to undertake the required operations. Meeting these preconditions enables strategic, value focused situation assessments and operations. Understanding the strategic goal and the threats will enable the commander to define what he wishes to achieve, whereas understanding the forces at hand will enable him to decide how to achieve it.

The process is not static – it requires continued discourse between the hierarchic levels. In the complex political (national and international) and military environments in which operations are conducted, the strategic value of objectives changes frequently. The operational focus process begins with the situation assessment, but today needs to be more didactic and precise. Precision is achieved by choosing the strategic goals. Analysis of the enemy and territorial objectives leads the situation assessment process as follows:

  1. The strategic relevance of each tactical objective must be determined according to its assessed strategic value.
  2. Determine the shortest route to the ultimate objective, i.e. the route needing the fewest number of interim tactical objectives to be achieved.
  3. Analyzing the enemy’s possible courses of action is an essential tool. This analysis must be conducted in the context of the strategic value of one’s own objectives and the enemy’s tactics.
  4. Whereas in the operational-level era, a deep understanding of the intelligence information and interpretation was deemed a requirement only for the operational-level commanders, today it is required of even the most junior tactical commanders. The intelligence summary must enable even junior tactical commanders to think of the strategic value of their actions and focus appropriately. A major component of this intelligence, no less important than knowing and understanding the geographical terrain, is knowing and understanding the human terrain facing the commander.
  5. Assessments of threats to the possible courses of action must consider not only possible enemy responses but also the choosing of incorrect objectives. Operations against objectives lacking strategic value can threaten the ability to achieve the strategic goals.

The entire analysis described above must be kept simple. Simplicity will be achieved by maintaining the traditional methods of assessment while changing only some of the emphasis to achieve the required focus. This facilitates discussing the strategic value of each tactical action and the combat worth of each tactical force at any moment and at every level of the hierarchy.

So how does one measure the relative combat worth of any operational force? According to the Operational Focus Approach – determining the advantages of each relative force in achieving objectives of strategic value.

The Contribution Of The Operational Focus Approach To The Ground Forces Problems

As noted above, the ground forces face a two-pronged problem: on the one prong – the inherent complexity of ground operations relative to that of precision weapons, and on the other prong – the reduction of strategic worth of territory. In contemporary wars ground operations rapidly lose their effectiveness. This was learned by the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq and by the Israelis in Operation ‘Cast Lead’.

This stems from the lack of focus of ground force operations resulting in a divergence of the separate actions so they lose strategic coherence. Territory can be analyzed in two aspects: on what objectives should we focus and how to complete our operation as rapidly as possible. Speed, a distinctly tactical requirement, has become today a strategic requirement. However, in ground operations it is a very difficult requirement to achieve.

Achieving tactical and strategic speed in ground operations is not only a matter of technological improvements. The technology of ground combat vehicles has peaked and is no longer the limiting factor. Therefore the way to increase the tactical and strategic speed of ground operations is to focus operational planning on minimizing the number of territorial objectives the ground forces must acquire or hold in order to attain strategic value.

Changing Emphasis In Ground Force Situation Assessments

The traditional emphases of ground force situation assessments must be changed. Thus, assembly and concentration areas must be reduced in space and time; force deployment should be conducted on the move; analysis of movement to objectives of strategic value should focus on speed and operational tempo and their effect on the strategic goal; when planning the battle on the objectives we must analyze their strategic value as well as their tactical value; sequencing the mopping-up phase will be planned according to priorities ensuing from the strategic value of each objective; the breaking of contact phase and returning to the assembly areas will be planned in advance according to the strategic understanding that there is no intention to hold the captured territory for a long period of time.

Even though, tactically the operation is not a raid, the planner must consider the need to evacuate the area to allow other efforts, such as aerial operations or long-range fire to proceed. These can strike strategic value targets detected as a result of the ground operation.

The Contribution Of The Operational Focus Approach To Conceptual And Operational Flexibility

Operational flexibility is the ability to efficiently transit between operational situations on the battlefield, for example from defense to attack or from defense to retreat, etc. The last is considered particularly difficult because it is conducted under enemy pressure. Operational flexibility requires that the force understands the operational problem it is facing and that it can adapt itself to the type of combat required.

Operational flexibility is required not only in combat, but also in all the preparations for combat: beginning in the planning phase, through organizing the ad hoc battle-group suited for the specific operational problem and finishing with the battle itself, when multi-service and often multi-agency forces are employed. When the tactical commander has a multiplicity of capabilities and a good working relationship with the senior command, he can create tactical achievements that have, at very least, operational-level value. Achieving this is possible with proper preparations to meet the operational requirements.

Operational planning must consider both the strategic goal and the combat worth of the basic multi-arm ground formation (in the IDF today – the division) the aerial mission commander and the naval task force commander. The Operational Focus Approach facilitates the ability of commanders to create flexibility in each operational-level or strategic context.


Our vision is that the employment of every force in the future will be focused. The focus will be on both the combat worth of the specific force and to the highest strategic value of its operation. This is a conceptual and practical vision for organizing an army for war, based on an operational logic that integrates the services, the departments and civilian security agencies. Employing forces according to the operational focus on high strategic value will facilitate the building of an ad hoc force with enhanced combat worth and using it effectively so as to gain maximum benefit in solving the problem that instigated its employment. An operation planned in this manner will have a better chance of gaining public support internally and globally. Thus the force will succeed more in its purpose: being a tool for acquiring political objectives that cannot be acquired via diplomacy.

It is apparent that no aerial, naval or ground formation can be created or maintained that includes within it all the required operational capabilities. Every proposal for reform needs to address the practical issues of structure, organization and functioning of the operational forces. This is because the nature of these organizations is to discuss allocation of resources rather than concepts and long-term designing of the force.

On this issue, the US military is without doubt a model for repeated experimentation. Its experiments often focused on the desire to redefine the measure of operational independence of the operational forces (especially the ground forces) to achieve improved combat worth appropriate to the strategic needs. These experiments suggested almost conclusively that the era of the permanent basic formation is over. It seems that it is no longer possible to create or maintain any single formation; ground, air or sea that contains within it all the required operational capabilities.

All military forces face the question of where to draw the line between an operational structure that facilitates functioning in a closed, multi-arm system and an open multi-service system. Reality shows that there are always capabilities that are outside the purview of a specific service’s capabilities. In fact, the concepts of multi-arm and multi-service cooperation are the same in all services. For example, a naval commander is expected to integrate the actions of the various arms of his service; surface ships, submarines, naval commandos and naval air forces. Additionally, he is expected to know how to employ for his needs air forces and ground forces from the other services. An air force commander must integrate manned and unmanned aircraft, combat aircraft, intelligence aircraft, logisitic aircraft, combat and transport helicopters, anti-air defenses, air force rescue and special operations forces in addition to employing ground forces and naval forces to assist him in fulfilling his missions.

Many armies across the world maintain permanent multi-service basic formations. The IDF does not – it is organized in single service formations that cooperate ad hoc. This must be changed. The IDF must be reorganized so that its formations are not organized by service, but rather by mission. The air force and navy seem to be better organized for multi-service operations – they are always organized and employed ad hoc on a mission by mission basis and placed under a unified commander for concentration of effort. The ground forces belief that the ground maneuver is the main effort in any campaign and that its purpose is to conquer territory and destroy the enemy in that territory prevents them from developing a similar structure.

We believe there are two ways to overcome the difficulty of employing ground forces in multi-service formations. We have termed them the ‘small vision’ and the ‘grand vision’.

• The ‘small vision’ of multi-service employment of ground forces:

In this vision the forces will organize ad hoc in multi-arm and multi-service formations to solve specific tactical problems within operational-level and strategic contexts. Each ad hoc organization will be designed to have high combat worth and the ability to rapidly initiate battle. Because of the two above-mentioned inherent problems of ground forces the emphasis of the ad hoc organization will be around them, but they will include strengthened niche-capabilities designed to overcome specific operational challenges as well as aerial and naval assets under command.

Multi-service mission-oriented formations will need active involvement of senior headquarters in preparing the forces for battle. The main challenge is to ensure high combat worth of small forces by properly integrating the various units from each service in direct relation to the operational problem according to the Operational Focus On Strategic Value Approach.

To enable this systemic approach requires:

  1. Determining the command structure – where passes the control line between the multi-service basic formation headquarters and the superior headquarters required to achieve expertise in multi-service capabilities.
  2. Changing the ethos of current service and arm headquarters – these headquarters are the driving force behind the current tendency to conduct single service and single arm operations. They are the leading impediment to developing integrated multi-arm and multi-service operations.

The ‘grand vision’ proposes the forming of permanent multi-service and multi-arm basic formations of high combat worth, directly under the command of superior operational headquarters who will thus be able to rapidly organize specifically tailored problem-solving task forces operating at high tempo. Each of these superior headquarters will be capable of independently conducting complete multi-service operations on land and sea and in the air. The consideration, which senior headquarters to activate and which operational-level commander to appoint to a specific mission, will be only according to their individual relative capabilities.

A military force built of multi-service formations will enjoy increased organizational flexibility that will enable it to rapidly organize task forces tailored for each operational problem. Operational focus will be an inherent component of constructing the task force, directing it a priori towards missions of high strategic value.

This structure will require a different organization of superior headquarters. They themselves will have to be mission-oriented in design, adapting to each operational problem. Our hope is that this vision will be the first conceptual and practical milestone in a long process of change. Fulfilling the vision will facilitate the conduct, in rapid continuous succession, of focused actions against objectives of high strategic value.


Despite the presumptuousness we believe that our vision meets the test of relevant application of military force in most contemporary nation-states and especially the democratic states. Operational focus and value-focused actions provide the statesman with a tool suited to achieving his political goals. For the commander it means the direction of a high combat worth mass to fight for objectives of high strategic value. This will improve the coordination and the cooperation between the political and the military levels, improve the ability to fulfill the strategy authorized by the political leadership and provide the military leadership more freedom of action. This approach is expected to create decisive strategic results and thus promote the political goal for which the military action was initiated. In our understanding, this is the political and strategic purpose needed today for employment of the military force and from this derives the guidance needed to build that force.


[i] Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, Zenith press, 2004, pp. 224-245
[ii] David Kilkullen, The Accidental Guerrila, Oxford University Press 2009, pp. 1-38
[iii] Friction, for this article, is as described by Clausewitz. Carl Von Clauswitz, On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princton University Press, Book one: Friction in War, pp. 119
[iv] On War, pp. 87
[v] Yehoshafat Harkaby, War and Strategy(Hebrew), Maarachot, Tel-Aviv, 1993, pp. 433 – 438, 454 – 455.
[vi] Richard Simpkin, Race to the Swift, Brassey’s, London & Washington, 1985, pp. 22
[vii] Ibid, pp. 21
[viii] Ibid, pp.19-37
[ix] We have adopted this concept from Richard Simpkin, one of the important thinkers of the Maneuver Approach. Richard Simpkin, Race to the Swift, Brassey’s, London & Washington, 1985, pp. 22
[x] Franz Uhle-Wettler, “Auftragstaktik: Mission Orders and the German Experience“, in Richard D. Hooker (ed.), Manuever Warfare, Presidio Press, CA, 1993, pp. 236-247
[xi] Franz Uhle-Wettler, “Auftragstaktik: Mission Orders and the German Experience“, in Richard D. Hooker (ed.), Manuever Warfare, Presidio Press, CA, 1993, pp. 236-247