Friday, September 26, 2014

Don’t box in the red team

Don’t box in the red team
Lt. Col. Brendan S. Mulvaney

Lt. Col. Brendan S. Mulvaney’s 2012 article concludes that red teams should assist professionals, not replace them. Red teams help military organizations by challenging their policies, training exercises and operations. Teams may also focus on physical intrusions, projections, or emulations and help explain points of view from enemies, partners, and allies.

According to Mulvaney, red teaming is in danger because it is unhelpfully described as a tool best used to understand an operating environment and its human terrain. Mulvaney believes this understanding could cause termination of red teams. Instead, red teams need to challenge blue teams and serve commanders.

Mulvaney’s two reasons why red teams will no longer remain the operating leaders are as follows:
Until the military makes operating-environment red teaming a full time academic and experiential expertise, officers and members cannot become skillful in a specific area to provide expert-level advice on cultural issues. If a member does not have expert knowledge, then the tools in the Red Team Handbook will not be able to describe the operating-environment. In addition, the tools presented in the Red Team Handbook are only analytic tools, therefore, organizations should teach the experts these tools. Analytic tools that prove to be effective in helping members will “inevitably be incorporated into the organization’s intelligence and planning functions at some point in the not-too-distant future.”

Even though more and more people are using analytic techniques to face problems, groupthink and other standardized processes still lead to complications. Therefore, red teams need to move beyond the operating-environment and provide “alternative analysis and independent review of their organizations.” For example, NATO is using Alta (alternative analysis) to emphasize the review process of red teaming.

Although, red teamers are able to determine logic flows, errors, and uncover biases, these skills do not make them cultural experts, or qualify them as a shadow staff. Instead, red teams should provide insight to tactics, techniques, and procedures. They can interact with other red teams across agencies and organizations to evaluate plans and policies and learn new trends in the service. In addition, Mulvaney notes, “red teams need to work within the staff primaries and with the chief of staff to provide the commander the opportunity to hear the alternative and him to decide whether to explore it.” Red teams need to focus on challenging organizations and providing alternative options for commanders to hear.

While Mulvaney does a notable job explaining red teams and how they should be functioning within organizations, I wish he further explored the concept and interaction of blue teams. Subsequently, I do agree that organizations should make red teaming a full time academic and experiential expertise. Learning to interact with different organizations while providing additional analytic processes is extremely important to the intelligence community as a whole.


Mulvaney, B. S. (2012, November). Don’t box in the red team. Armed Forces Journal, 150(4), 22–33.

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