Emerging IO Doctrine: A Trainer's Perspective

Posted By: Ira Credle Professional Content,

Emerging IO Doctrine: A Trainer’s Perspective

by MAJ (Ret) Ira O. Credle Ed.D.

    Knowing that you have trained your unit to the standard does more to build confidence in your junior officers, NCOs, and soldiers than anything else does.  As a young firing battery commander on the eve of my unit’s deployment for “Operation Desert Shield/Storm”, I can recall my fear of the unknown. I was bolstered by an overwhelming confidence as a result of maneuver training and gunnery rotation followed by an Army Readiness Test and Evaluation Plan (ARTEP) exercise.  It was further increased by the observation of competent leaders that guided us through fire support and maneuver synchronization rehearsals “Rock Drills” conducted while on the ground in Saudi Arabia.  I distinctly remember a letter that I wrote home to my mother after 3rd Armored Division’s command and control vehicle rehearsal (wedge formation).  She received a description of the awesome display of combat power tracking across the desert that made the Normandy invasion look small in comparison.  I had total trust and confidence in both the civilian and military leadership from the battalion commander to the POTUS.  I often respond to any conversation regarding the American soldier with the utmost pride in how well they performed under the rigors of a combat environment.

These fond memories could not be possible had I not had a clear understanding of “how we fight”.  Being a student of the old FM 100-5, Operations (now FM 3-0), and the 101-5, Staff Organizations and Operations (now FM 5-0 and FM 6-0) at the time, I monitored the command net with pride and confidence witnessing the masterful art of warfighting conducted by our brigade commander, then Colonel William Nash.  Ironically, he referred to 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division as the “Ready 1st Combat Team”.  As we organized for combat, he took a page from WWII history books and had coins minted with the “Combat Command A” inscription.  Today the modular Army’s principle tactical unit for executing battles and engagements is the brigade combat team or BCT.

Doctrine is the way we think about warfighting.  It establishes a common frame of reference that helps standardize operations and enhances the Army’s ability to accomplish its missions.  More importantly for the purpose of this proposition, it “forms the basis for curricula in the Army education system and the foundation for training standards”.  Information Operations doctrine has been with us since its inception in the August 1996 publication of FM 100-6 (now FM 3-13).  My first experience with the basic concepts of IO came in 1997 while participating in a Joint Warfighter Exercise at the Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk, VA.  The J3 instructed the JOC Chief, a Navy commander, to get a handle on the integration, synchronization and coordination of electronic warfare, psychological operations, fires, medical service, etc…  The JOC chief gathered this band of representatives into what he referred to as a “fusion cell”—today’s IO cell/IO Working Group.   Today, despite it being a part of Army doctrine vernacular for almost three decades, few are familiar with it and even fewer clearly understand its capabilities and how the Army conducts IO.  Here lies the crux of the matter.  As we continue to train the force, the emerging Information Advantage doctrine appears to be disconnected from current Army and Joint doctrine.  IO doctrine should be built upon historical experiences of those who actually employed information related capabilities in accordance with current doctrine and TTPs, not by think tanks consisting of individuals with limited knowledge of our field manuals.  Deploying in an IO billet and writing storyboards or talking points (PA function) for a six-month tour does not constitute conducting IO and neither does “this is the way we did it” mean that it was done correctly.  The Functional Area 30 course has been inconsistent over time—it can be said that no two courses have been the same.  Many FA30 graduates, since I have entered this field of study in 2003, have been slotted in an IO staff position during OEF and OIF where the authentic concepts of IO were not applied in some organizations.  This was through no fault of their own; however, it does not make one an authority as an IO planner/operator.  Feedback from former students of the Army Information Operations Planning Course (AIOPC) have proven that having a foundation in the basic fundamentals of IO allowed staffs to be innovative and creative in successfully accomplishing IO objectives.  Instead of fostering initiative and creative thinking, the continuous efforts to change IO doctrine is fostering confusion and generating a lack of confidence in leadership.  

The latest doctrine defines IO as ‘information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own (ATP 3-13.1 October 2018).” I would change the definition to read “the integrated employment, across the range of military operations, of information-related capabilities (IRCs) to achieve scalable effects against enemy and potential adversary decision-makers while protecting our own.” No problem here.  This once joint definition was adopted by the Army and is still very similar to the definition described in the current JP 3-04 (Information in Joint Operations) that superseded JP 3-13.  The JP 3-04 defines Operations in the Information Environment (OIE) as military actions involving the integrated employment of multiple information forces to affect drivers of behavior.  If I were to ask one of my students to define IO in his/her own words and if the response was the definition of OIE, I would say spot on. The following synopsis of the evolution of IO doctrine and issues are just some of the problems one instructor has identified as extremely difficult to train the force.

Going back as far as 2008, the Army first introduced “The Five IO Tasks in that year’s edition of the FM 3-0.  It described Army IO capabilities in terms of five IO tasks: information engagement; command and control warfare; military deception; operations security; and information protection.  This caused the authors of the FM 3-13 at that time to advance publication that was due in December 08 to Fall 10.  They had their work cut out for them because at that time and currently  IO tasks are defined as those tasks performed by IRCs and support one or more IO objectives.  The 2008 FM 3-0 also introduced a fourth contributor (knowledge management) to the three existing contributors (ISR, IM, and IO) to achieving information superiority.  It  stated, “successful IM includes knowledge management. Identifying, requesting, receiving, tracking, and sharing knowledge learned ensures that decision makers make informed, timely decisions”.  Information Management is the provision of relevant information to the right person at the right time in a usable form to facilitate situational understanding and decision-making.  My point is simply this,  although it is a great idea to define it, did we really need another “buzz word” for an intuitive process that is essentially similar in nature by making it a fourth contributor?   

The Army has taken Civil Military Operations (CMO) out of the IRC arsenal and put it back over the years. The IO Annex is now an appendix and has gone from appendix 15 to 14.  Since the publication of the 2003 version of FM 3-13, the Army has wasted valuable time trying to change a concept that is not broken.  Actually, we could make changes, corrections, and update the 2003 FM 3-13 and be in perfect shape.  The 2008 FM 3-0 introduced flawed doctrine for the IO community.  The interesting thing is that 1st IO Command pushed back during the review process (I actually wrote many of the comments rejecting the construct).  The proponent started drafting another flawed construct and finally forced the Inform and Influence Activities (IIA) idea onto the force in the form of the January 2013 version of the FM 3-13 entitled IIA.  Inform and Influence Activities was defined as the integration of designated IRCs in order to synchronize themes, messages, and actions with operations to inform US and global audiences, influence foreign audiences, and affect adversary and enemy decision-making.  Other than changing the definition from happy to glad, the proponent could not figure out how to conduct IIA without usurping the role of the PAO and PSYOP officer.    Fortunately, our mission allowed us to ignore the manual, because we were training Field Support Teams to support the Joint Force, which at that time was still conducting IO.  One year later, the Combined Arms Center eliminated the term IIA in Doctrine Update 2-14 dated 4 April 2014.  Today no one can answer the question, “what the Joint concept of OIE does that IO did not or could not do?”  Nor can the new construct of Information Advantage, a condition, presented in the new FM 3-0 show how it is different from IO as the doctrine authors try to figure out how to make it sound better and look different from IO in the highly anticipated draft of the new FM 3-13. These arguments along with others detailed in many comment matrixes over the years have been all but ignored.

 Advocates of this new construct claim that it goes beyond IO and opponents say it only addresses limited aspects of IO.  

This emerging doctrine (for OIE and IA) has never been properly vetted. Dominating personalities without historical knowledge or experience made cases for these concepts and pushed them through.  I personally attended the initial series of Capability Based Assessments for OIE held at the Booze Allen Headquarters and expressed my opinions on how they were inventing definitions of terms that already existed.  The Joint response was to rescind the term IO, Information Superiority, Information Related Capabilities, etc…  Recently the Marines have decided to rescind the use of OIE because their version of the term was quite different from what the Joint community had developed.  The Corps will not replace or substitute OIE with another equivalent term.  Instead, they will focus on the Information WfF and the four functions of information (generate, preserve, deny, and project). .  

Our challenge is simply this.  Instructors will teach current doctrine IAW the latest FM 3-13 and ATP 3-13.1.  They will then share new doctrine IAW FM 3-0, FM 5-0, and JP 3-04 with their students.  In the case of IO, the result is an empty feeling among students  regarding “this is what I taught you, now forget everything that I taught you—most of it will change in the next few months.”  While we wait with great anticipation for the new FM 3-13 to clarify in detail the changes, commanders and staffs in the field will continue to be innovative and creative because there will be the perception that IO doctrine is not sound.  Thus, they will be re-writing the doctrine as they go which will perpetuate the iterative cycle of never learning doctrine and then executing it, rather changing doctrine before the force ever learns the current doctrine.  The changes in turn are never fully integrated before someone develops a new flavor of the week.

This problem is not limited to IO doctrine.  Let us review briefly Effects Based Operations.  This was a joint concept that the Army adopted during the early stages of OIF and OEF later introduced it to the Army formally in FM 3-0 only to say the Army does not do EBO.  Try explaining that to company and junior field grades fresh from their second tour in the box in 2006 when the Army was trying to get the word out.  In short, USJFCOM defined EBO as the employment of lethal and non-lethal capabilities to achieve an effect.  The result of those effects produces a change in the adversary’s behavior and compels one to submit to our will.  The bottom line is this is exactly what IO is all about.  No, we do not use EBO as a process and as of June 2008 neither does USJFCOM.  Our operations, targeting, IPB, and risk management processes are sound and have been proven over time, but they are all combined to achieve effects.   

Another example in the FMI 5-0.1 (FM 3-0 replaced this manual) was under the Full Spectrum Operations Section.  Note paragraph 1-18 on page 1-3.  It defined Stability and Reconstruction Operations.  Now read the small print denoted by an asterisk at the bottom of the page directly beneath paragraph 1-18.  It stated that “Stability and reconstruction operations will be re-designated stability operations when FM 3-0 is republished to comply with DOD Directive 3000.05.”  Keep in mind most platform instructors covering the subject matter had not changed from the original term “Stability Operations” but were now receiving the FMI 5-0.1 that said here is a new version of the term that includes reconstruction, but it will return to its original version when the FM 3-0 is updated (the current FM 3-0 uses the term Stability Operations also).

So, what is the solution?  The Army replaced the battlefield operating systems with the warfighting functions: intelligence, movement and maneuver, fire support, protection, sustainment, and command and control (command and control was replaced by the term mission command. In recent years, we have returned to C2 as a WfF).  The elements of combat power are now the warfighting functions multiplied by leadership and complimented by information.  Everything rises and falls on leadership so naturally this is the first part of my two-part solution.  It is incumbent that Army leaders in the field, at a minimum, ensure their junior leaders know when they are deviating from doctrine.  It is after all a guide; however, some juniors assume some TTPs established by commanders are in fact doctrine.  When they are selected to rewrite an FM there is a delta e.g. We no longer use the term criteria of success in the Army.  This term and the original joint definition for measure of effectiveness made perfect mates.  The former was the established evaluation criteria while the later, MOE was the tool or metric used to measure whether effects met the criteria.  We then went to MOE and measure of performance (MOP) minus the discussion of a metric in either definition.  We fixed the problem by making MOEs simple criteria that had to be informed by indicators.  Today MOEs and MOPs are defined as indicators.  The new IO concept was vetted across the Army staff sections and the USMC.  Experts in the field from 1st Information Operations Command and the subject matter experts from the USMC submitted opposition to both new concepts, yet they somehow moved forward.  Could this perhaps be a leadership issue?  Finally, the second part of the solution may be found in the Bible verse “study to show thyself approved”.  In other words, make it your business to know your business.  IO doctrine in its current state is not perfect, but it is tactically sound.  With informed tweaking from proven historical experiences (lessons learned and TTP); testing and evaluation through practical exercising; and modeling and simulations; the Army can make significant strides in preparing for future missions as well as adjusting to current challenges.  Send the Army trainers a product that shows improvement and enhancement of the current doctrine, not simply new buzzwords for functions, responsibilities and processes that were staples of the past just for the sake of change.    

About the Author:

Dr. Ira “Ike” O. Credle

Ike was born and raised in historic New Bern (James City community), North Carolina.  In 1979, he enrolled in Elon College (now university as a History major and participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps.  In 1983, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.

He served as an Army Officer for 20 years in a variety of assignments that include: Commander, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait; Professor of Military Science and American Military History professor, Virginia State University; and culminating his career in the Office of G2 (Intelligence), Pentagon.  Some of his awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Jump Master Certification.  His military education includes being a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.  Upon his retirement from military service on 1 August 2003, he began serving in his current position as an Army Civilian performing duties as a Senior Training Specialist at the 1st Information Operations Command, Fort Belvoir, VA.  His education as an Army civilian includes completing the Personnel Management for Executives course and the Executive Development: Leading Change course.

Ike has a Master’s degree in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with emphasis in Christian ministry from Grand Canyon University.