'Understanding First' in the Contemporary Operational Environment   [open pdf - 384KB]

From the thesis abstract: " The United States Army has predicated its ability to dominate the full spectrum of military operations on the ability to 'See First, Understand First, Act First and Finish Decisively.' During recent conventional operations, including Operation DESERT STORM and the major combat operations phase of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the U.S. Army has demonstrated an unmatched capability to combine advanced technology with superior training, leadership, organization and planning. The result is that the U.S. Army currently and for the foreseeable future enjoys an unassailable tactical overmatch against any conventional threat. The U.S. military's preeminence has, in effect, forced potential adversaries to adapt their approach to warfare if they are to succeed against U.S. forces. The result is the contemporary operational environment, such as the U.S. Army and its joint and coalition partners face in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM today. This environment is characterized by complexity, ambiguity, dynamism and uncertainty. The enemy takes full advantage of such an environment in order to exploit the asymmetric opportunities inherent in the COE [Contemporary Operational Environment] and to obviate the conventional strengths of the U.S. military. It can be reasonably argued that in such an environment, success for the U.S. Army hinges on its ability to 'understand first'. At issue is whether the U.S. Army's current approach to 'understanding first', developed to support situational understanding during conventional warfare, is effective in the COE. This study examines the concept of understand first and how this approach was applied to the major combat phase of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. This study then examines whether this approach is proving effective in the COE as reflected in Iraq today and the implications for how the future force will 'understand first' as recent combat experiences influence the U.S. Army's efforts at transformation. From this analysis, the study identifies areas in which the U.S. Army must change its approach to 'understanding first' if it is to be effective in the COE."

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