Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The “Red Team” Forging a Well-Conceived Contingency Plan

Editorial Abstract: Independent peer review by recognized experts is crucial to the production of any quality product, whether a professional journal or war plan. Colonel Malone and Major Schaupp discuss evolving efforts to use “Red Teams” to incorporate this kind of review into the crisis-action planning process. Employing such teams at critical phases during both the planning itself and the mission rehearsal of completed plans will yield more robust and vetted war plans.

Throughout the lengthy planning effort for Operation Allied Force in 1998–99, allied leaders and planners widely adhered to a significant assumption. When the order arrived to execute the operation- on the very eve of hostilities- that assumption continued to prevail.

What if an enemy, “Red,” announced his intended reaction to a “Blue” campaign plan before Blue executed it? What if Red obligingly pointed out the flaws in Blue’s plan that he intended to exploit and revealed several hidden weaknesses of his own? Surely, once Blue optimized his strengths and protected his vulnerabilities, the operation would stand a much greater chance of success.

Furthermore, what if representatives of the press and the public confided to Blue planners the elements of the operation that concerned them most as well as those with which they might take issue? What if national leadership explained in advance some of the “wrenches” they might throw into the works during execution? What if senior war-fighting commanders and higher headquarters staffs worked alongside the planners to ensure correct understanding of every facet of their guidance and answered the planners’ key questions? If all these pieces of information were synthesized into the plan during the planning process, the plan would have a better chance of surviving any contingency.

For example, Gen Gregory S. Martin, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe (COMUSAFE), tasked his command’s first Red Team to assess an offensive air and space campaign. After analyzing requirements and considering the restrictions imposed by the “need to know,” the Red Team leader formed the team with SMEs from the following areas:

• air operations and strategy
• command and control (C2)
• joint operations
• logistics
• space operations and strategy
• intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)
• combat search and rescue
• information operations and information warfare
• law
• politics

When possible, the commander should draw Red Team members from sources external to the Blue planning organization. Although this may seem intuitive, it is not always easy to accomplish. Most organizations that have the necessary experts are usually fully employed- indeed, the Blue planning orga-nization itself is a perfect example. A commander may be tempted to dual-hat his or her own Blue planners as Red Team members; after all, what better people to assess a plan than the ones most intimately familiar with it? But this seemingly workable solution is fatally flawed: one of the prime benefits of Red Teaming is an independent review of Blue products and reasoning- a second set of eyes on the plan. Try as it might, even the most talented planning group cannot discern its own oversights- if it could, those oversights would not occur in the first place. As concerned as Blue planners must inevitably be with the details, it is sometimes difficult for them to stand back and see the big picture.

When one considers the overall mission of the Red Team- generating a more effective plan- it becomes clear that the team is not consistently “red.” At times, rather than challenging Blue reasoning, its members will provide assistance to the planners, offering another perspective or additional information. This is especially true of the senior mentor, a vital participant in the process although not technically a member of the Red Team. This periodic functional shift on the part of the Red Team- from devil’s advocate to planning partner- does not detract from the overall effort. On the contrary, it broadens the range of thinking and contributions of the entire group, enhancing the planning effort.

Red Team Rules of Engagement
As the Red Team prepares to integrate into the planning effort, it must acknowledge a simple fact: very few people perceive a review and assessment of their efforts as benign. Even assistance, which is ultimately what the Red Team provides, is often not welcome, especially when it comes from people unknown and external to the Blue planning team. To mitigate this friction, the Red Team should meet with the Blue planners as early as possible to explain a number of critical points about a Red Teaming effort. The following ROEs should apply to every Red Teaming event throughout the process:

• The commander’s perceived intent should not limit innovation (e.g., drive certain COAs).
• Red Teaming events are meant to be interactive, candid discussions reminiscent of the flight debrief after a mission.
• The principle of nonattribution is in effect.
• Participants should remain objective in their contributions to the effort; personal agendas or personality conflicts are not welcome.
• Participants should stay professional- no fighting in public.

The first item in this list addresses a problem that can be insidious and deadly to a well-developed plan: the natural tendency to favor a war-fighting commander’s perceived intent in developing COAs. Too often, a planning staff presents the commander with several COAs, knowing full well that all but the perceived favorite are throwaways. As a result, staffers sometimes spend little time seriously developing the COAs.

As the Red Team moves into action, its ability to gain the confidence and trust of the Blue planners is absolutely critical. Failure in this area will lead to Red Team failure. One cannot overstate the importance of avoiding an “us against them” relationship between Blue and Red. Again, the commander’s early buy-in and influence in this area, as well as adherence to the ROEs outlined above, will pay large dividends to the process. When this groundwork is laid successfully, the Blue team will understand why the OPFOR, for instance, is doing its utmost to simulate a realistic, hostile enemy.

USAFE’s early Red Teaming efforts will continue to evolve. Development of the commander’s Red Team becomes more focused with each effort. One thing is already clear- Red Teaming adds great value to contingency planning. It would likely do the same for deliberate planning. Air and space staffs should consider the doctrine already in place, as well as the ideas expounded here, with a view toward making Red Teaming a staple of the planning process.

Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke’s adage “no plan survives contact with the enemy” is true. But through Red Teaming, a plan can be refined after each contact with a Red Team. This process is valuable because it brings a contingency plan, together with the reasoning and information behind it, under the scrutiny of a well-simulated enemy. Better still, the Red Team can imitate outside agencies, higher headquarters, and even “Murphy’s Law.” A plan that survives this kind of treatment should be healthy indeed. To modify Gen George S. Patton’s famous quotation, “A good plan, well rehearsed, is better than a perfect plan unrehearsed.”

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