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Threat Support Directorate
TRADOC DCSINT
1
UNCLASSIFIED
THREATS
IN THE
CONTEMPORARY
OPERATIONAL
ENVIRONMENT
UNCLASSIFIED
2
OBJECTIVES
• Describe the contemporary
operational environment (COE).
• Describe the kinds of threats the
US Army may face in the COE.
3
OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT
.
A composite of all the conditions,
circumstances, and influences that
affect the employment of military
forces and bear on the decisions of
the unit commander.
IN SHORT: The factors and variables
that affect where soldiers will live,
work, and fight.
4
THREAT
Any specific foreign nation or
organization with intentions and
military capabilities that suggest it
could be adversarial or challenge
the security interests of the United
States, its friends, or allies.
IN SHORT: A potential adversary to
the United States.
5
.
COLD WAR
OPPOSING FORCE (OPFOR)
An organized force created by and
from U.S. army units to portray a unit
of a potential adversary armed force.
AR 350-2 (1976)
6
HOW THE ARMY HAS EVOLVED
Cold War
Army
Today’s
Army
 Mission Focused on
Soviet-Bloc Threat:
 Many Possible Threats
Soviet Union
 CONUS-Based Forces
Warsaw Pact
 Capability to Move
Our Forces
North Korea
 Broad Range of
Missions Worldwide
 Mobile and Lethal
Forces
Cuba
 Forward-Deployed
Forces Overseas
 But We Fought
Elsewhere
?
Bosnia
Desert Storm
Panama
The Army
of 2010
and Beyond
?
Haiti
Somalia
Kosovo
7
.
CONTEMPORARY
OPPOSING FORCE (OPFOR)
A plausible, flexible military and/or
nonmilitary force representing a
composite of varying capabilities
of actual worldwide forces, used in
lieu of a specific threat force, for
training and developing US forces.
8
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT
RUSSIA
EU
UNITED STATES
MEXICO
PANAMA
CUBA
HAITI
COLOMBIA
BRAZIL
BOSNIA
CHECHNYA
KOREA
CHINA
TURKEY
JAPAN
INDIAALGERIA
EGYPT
PAKISTAN
IRAQ
SUDAN
TAIWAN
IRAN
SOMALIA
LIBERIA
RWANDA
SOUTH
AFRICA
INDONESIA
AUSTRALIA
9
ACTORS
• Who are the actors (participants)?
– Nation-states (countries).
– Non-nation actors.
10
NATION-STATE ACTORS
• Core states (major powers).
• Transition states (want-to-be).
• Rogue states (hostile).
• Failed or failing states (instability).
• Countries can switch categories.
• Multinational alliances and coalitions.
11
NON-NATION ACTORS
• Rogue actors:
– Terrorist.
– Drug-trafficking.
– Criminal.
12
NON-NATION ACTORS (Cont)
• Third-party actors:
– Civilians on the
battlefield.
– International
humanitarian
relief
organizations.
C.A.R.E.

13
NON-NATION ACTORS (Cont)
• Media agencies.
– Information.
– Manipulation.
• Multinational corporations:
– Help transition states build infrastructure.
– Influence regional affairs for economic gain.
–Concern about collateral damage.
– Armed security forces.
14
FOREIGN VIEWS OF THE US
• Major power with
overall technological
advantage.
• Avoid direct fighting
and rely on air
campaign and standoff
technology.
• Depend on high
technology.
• Depend on information
dominance.
15
FOREIGN VIEWS OF THE US (Cont)
• Unwilling to accept
heavy losses.
• Sensitive to domestic
and world opinion.
• Lack of commitment
over time.
• Lack of cultural
awareness.
• Conduct predictable military operations.
16
FOREIGN VIEWS OF THE US (Cont)
• Vulnerability of coalitions.
• Vulnerability of force projection.
• Depend on robust
logistics.
• Rely on contractor
support.
• Downsize after
conflict.
17
ASYMMETRIC WARFARE
• Avoid your opponent’s strengths.
• Use whatever advantages
you may have against
his weaknesses.
• Our enemies are
not going to fight
“our kind of war.”
18
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT
TERRORISM
AND RISING
CRIME
TECHNOLOGY/
INFORMATION
AGE
GLOBAL
VILLAGE
PHENOMENA
ECONOMIC
DETERMINISM & DEMOGRAPHIC
TENSION
ROGUE
STATES
SUB-NATIONAL
GROUPS
THREATENING
CONDITIONS
STRATEGIC
ENVIRONMENT
ALLIANCES AND
TRANSNATIONAL
GROUPS
CRITICAL
UNCERTAINTIES
ADVANCED
TECHNOLOGY/
WEAPONS
PROLIFERATION
POLITICAL
DECONFLICTION
ETHNOLINGUISTIC
PAN-NATIONALISM
DIMINISHED
EFFECTS
OF TIME
AND SPACE
CULTURAL/
SOCIETAL
CONCERNS
INCREASED
RISK
MULTIPOLAR
REGIONAL
POWER
CENTERS
19
CRITICAL VARIABLES
Operational
Environment
Information
Nature &
Stability of
the State
Economics
Technology
Makeup of
Population
Alliances &
Coalitions
Military
Capabilities
Time
National Will
Physical
Environment
External
Organizations
20
PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
• Military forces are
optimized for certain
environments.
• Less complex and open
environments favor the
US.
• Enemies will try to use
urban environments and
other complex terrain to
their advantage.
21
NATURE AND STABILITY
OF THE STATE
• How strong or how shaky.
• Where the real strength is.
• Who is in charge.
• Nature and aims of military campaign.
• Kinds of threat present.
22
MAKEUP OF POPULATION
• Cultural, religious, ethnic.
• Failed and failing states.
• Devotion to a cause.
• Refugees and displaced persons.
• Urban environments (cities).
23
ALLIANCES AND COALITIONS
• Political, economic, military, or cultural.
• Regional or global.
• Opponents can influence our coalitions.
• Add to military capability and broaden
scale of military operations.
• Unpredictability.
• Nonaligned states.
24
MILITARY CAPABILITIES
• The most critical and most complex factor.
• Foreign views:
– US has overall technological advantage.
– Others use this as guide to optimizing their
own capabilities and negating ours.
• Conventional against local or regional actors.
• Adaptive (asymmetric) when US becomes
involved.
25
MILITARY CAPABILITIES (Cont)
• Conventional:
– US has significant advantage.
– Head-to-head fight unlikely until they develop …
– High-end forces may have equality or temporary
superiority.
• Adaptive (Asymmetric):
– Exploit US weaknesses.
– Technological surprise.
– Deliberate or opportunity-driven.
26
INFORMATION
• Information-based society and
information technology.
– Computers.
– Other information systems.
• Information warfare.
– Information systems attack.
– Psychological warfare.
– Deception.
?
27
INFORMATION (Cont)
• Media and global information flow.
– Transparency (access to data).
– Sway public and political
opinion.
• Situational awareness.
– Home field advantage.
– Commercial systems.
– Human networks.
28
TECHNOLOGY
• Symmetric capabilities.
– Level the playing field.
– A few systems that are
more advanced.
29
TECHNOLOGY (Cont)
• Asymmetric counters to
our high-tech systems.
– Less advanced systems in
complex/urban settings.
– Selected niche areas.
– Low-cost, high-payoff new
technologies.
– Upgrades and hybrids.
– Precision munitions.
• Technological surprise.
30
EXTERNAL ORGANIZATIONS
• International humanitarian assistance.
– Manmade and natural disasters.
– Disease, hunger, and poverty.
31
EXTERNAL ORGANIZATIONS
(Cont)
• Growing in influence and power.
• Willingness to become involved in crisis
situations.
• Stated and hidden interests/objectives.
– Favorable to US and provide assistance.
– Adverse to US or create conflict.
– Make mistakes.
32
NATIONAL WILL
• People, government, and military.
• Objectives and duration of a conflict.
• Victory often depends on will.
• Attack the opponent’s national will and
try to preserve your own.
• US national will as a vulnerability—a
strategic center of gravity.
33
TIME
• Time drives decision making and
operations.
• Opponents see time as being in their
advantage.
– Adjust the nature of the conflict.
–Control US entry.
–Dictate the tempo.
–Outlast the US will to continue.
34
ECONOMICS
• “Haves” and “have-nots.”
• Economic vs military superiority.
• Ability to buy military technology or to
conduct prolonged operations.
• Regional and global relationships can
result in military or political assistance.
35
OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT
Operational
Environment
• Critical variables in operational
environment.
• Foreign views of the United States.
• Military capabilities and threats.
36
THREATS
Threat: A potential adversary
to the United States.
• Capabilities.
• Intentions.
Nation-State
Non-Nation
Adaptive
(Asymmetric)
37
THREATS IN TODAY’S OPERATIONAL
ENVIRONMENT
Libya
The
RUSSIA
Unknown
?
The
Transition
BOSNIA
CUBA
KOSOVO
CENTRAL
ASIAN
REPUBLICS
IRAQ
Immediate
Problem
HAITI
Information
Warfare
AFRICA
NEW
ALLIANCES
IRAN
Terrorism
Counter
Drugs
KOREA
Worst
Case
?
Proliferation
CHINA
What
Next…?
(Taiwan)
INDIA
PAKISTAN
IsraelPalestinianSyrian
Dynamic
38
BOTTOM LINE
Operational
Environment
Nation-state
Non-nation
Adaptive
(Asymmetric)
Third-party actors
The U.S. Army must be prepared to—
• Go into any of these operational environments.
• Perform its full range of missions.
• In the face of a wide variety of possible threats.
• At same time, deal with third-party actors.
39
Questions?
40