The official, approved definitions pertaining to the missions, tasks and activities conducted by Army special-operations forces, or ARSOF, are clear and unambiguous. They provide crisp and practical distillations that denote what ARSOF does. They provide a command azimuth for negotiating the hazards of a larger conceptual environment — an environment made more challenging by a dense conceptual fog.

Defining War 2011

By Jeffrey Hasler
Originally published in the January-February 2011 edition of Special Warfare

Doctrine is the "fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application."
— JP 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms 1

"I applaud the JFK Special Warfare Center's continued efforts to develop and define ARSOF doctrine. The United States Special Operations Command has a legislated responsibility to develop doctrine relating to special-operations activities, and the efforts of the Special Warfare Center's Directorate of Doctrine and Training are essential to providing the linkage from Army SOF doctrine to joint special-operations and service doctrine. While clarifying many of the often confused definitions, this article also provides an opportunity to remind our joint force about the application of doctrine during periods of prolonged conflict.

"Undoubtedly, doctrine is a valuable tool and our force needs to understand the terms and the implications of our words — especially in today's joint, interagency and multinational environment. Doctrine can also be restrictive if applied too strictly. Our operators must appreciate that there is no template for every situation they will encounter on the battlefield. Therefore, the greater imperative in the study of doctrine is for the force to recognize when and where to deviate from it to address a specific operational necessity. By doing so, we sustain the intellectual and tactical agility that is a hallmark of SOF operations."
— Admiral Eric T. Olson, Commander, USSOCOM

"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything." 3
— Confucius, Rectification of Names

The modern world is awash in information. The information available on any topic comes in varying degrees of content quality, with varying claims to authority and from every conceivable perspective. In earlier generations, a much smaller volume of information from a few relatively respected sources aided unity of understanding. Today, the volume of information and the number of sources has exploded. The honorable pursuit of warfighting insights, the habit of defending organizational prerogatives and the personal ambitions of some hoping to market "the next new thing" have all contributed to a glut of conceptual terms. The confusion resulting from such a surfeit of (often questionable) terms is then increased further by vague and misleading descriptions compounded by media amplification.

Bold, imaginative professional discussion of terms is healthy and should be encouraged in the professional and academic schoolhouses, editorials and blogs. However, there is also a value in organizations using terms correctly. As Aristotle told us, repetition of virtuous "lessons" in their correct form is a public good.4 By contrast, carelessly vague descriptions masquerading as "definitions" erode unity of understanding. The use of trendy — but unapproved — jargon pretending to represent the "progress" of insight or the institutional superiority of the claimant is better left in the unofficial blogosphere. It is a truism that a proper and professional discussion presupposes a prior common definition of terms. That being the case, ARSOF leaders at all levels have a duty to strengthen the organizational enterprise by the correct use of terminology.

Definition vs Description

To define is "to state the precise meaning."5 Whereas, to describe "is to give an account of; to convey an idea or impression of; to represent pictorially."6 Applied to doctrine, a definition focuses on what something is, while its description provides context and explains what it does within that context. A definition should be enduring and slow to change, while its description can evolve as context and circumstances change. Regardless of whether leaders are using written or spoken discourse, they must not mistake one for the other, nor ought reporters to carelessly relay the melodious or fashionable for the correct. A description is not a definition.

Denote vs Connote

This duality of denote/connote is similar to that of define/describe. "Denote means 'to signify directly or literally' and describes the relation between the word and the thing it conventionally names. Connote means 'to signify indirectly, suggest or imply' and describes the relation between the word and the images or associations it evokes. Thus, the word 'river' denotes a [linear] moving body of water [but] may connote such things as the relentlessness of time [or] the changing nature of life."7 Official definitions are specific; they are not poetry.

Official vs Service Specific or Multinational & Pending Inclusion

The highest joint authority for an official doctrinal term is the highest joint publication with proponent authority of the subject. For example, the authoritative doctrinal definition for "stability operations" is found in JP 3-0, Joint Operations. Approved joint definitions are then routinely compiled in JP 1-02. Sometimes there are other approved definitions — such as service specific or multinational — but they apply only within those constituencies and are therefore limited; when such definitions conflict, the joint version takes precedence. Sometimes, properly command-approved definitions may take months or years to appear in JP 1-02. For example, a revised definition for unconventional warfare was approved by the commander of the United States Special Operations Command, or USSOCOM, in May 2009 and is currently the approved definition within the command. This definition, however, is being vetted for inclusion in JP 1-02. During the transition, two distinct definitions may cause some confusion, but this should be temporary.

Official vs Unofficial Concepts & Theories

Everyone has the individual power to define strictly personal issues — such as personal values or religious meaning — for himself. Some have the authority to define for organizations beyond the scope of the individual; such as establishing specific standards of manufacturing quality at a business. For enormous organizations such as the Department of Defense, or DoD, the authority to approve doctrinal definitions is a command prerogative. However, this approval decision is the culmination of a lengthy process representing copious amounts of staff work and intellectual effort. By contrast, unofficial concepts and theories — no matter how trendy, regardless of media attention and repetition, and no matter the enthusiasm of any individual — are not official doctrine until they go through the vetting process of numerous staffs. Such processes provide an opportunity to examine the validity of "new" concepts and eliminate the half-baked and counterproductive. The power to define is the power to design a vision of organizational purpose. ARSOF leaders should sustain that power by staying on an azimuth of doctrinal clarity, accuracy and repetition.

Roles, Functions, Competencies, Mission (Areas), Activities, Tasks, Functional Areas and Missions8

Another example of terminology confusion results from the improper use of terms that define what our ARSOF organizations do.

Roles are the broad and enduring purposes for which the services and USSOCOM were established by law. QRM JAN09.9

Functions are the appropriate or assigned duties, responsibilities, missions or tasks of an individual, office or organization as defined in the National Security Act of 1947, including responsibilities of the Armed Forces as amended. The term "function" includes purpose, powers and duties. Specific functions of the services and USSOCOM are captured in Department of Defense Directives. JP 1-02 31JUL10.10

Core Competencies are groupings of functionally-organized capabilities associated with the performance of, or support for, a Department of Defense core mission area. The department's components perform tasks and activities that supply these functionally-organized capabilities. QRM JAN09.11

Core Mission Areas are broad Department of Defense military activities required to achieve strategic objectives of the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy. A core mission area is a mission for which the department is uniquely responsible, provides the preponderance of U.S. government capabilities, or is the U.S. government lead for achieving end states defined in national strategy documents. Each of the department's core mission areas is underpinned by a joint operating concept that visualizes future operations. QRM JAN0912

Activities are organizational units for performing specific functions. The term can also refer to the function or duties themselves.13

Core Activities of Special Operations Section 167 of Title 10, U.S. Code, gives USSOCOM responsibility for certain activities. Although most of these activities have been assigned to USSOCOM for more than 20 years, USSOCOM does not assert exclusivity or ownership over these areas. However, the activities do reflect tasks or skills peculiar to, or particularly characteristic of, special operations.14

Tasks A discrete event or action that enables a mission or function to be accomplished by individuals or organizations. Tasks are based upon doctrine, tactics, techniques or procedures or an organization's standard operating procedure, and are generated by mission analysis. CJCSM3400.04c Universal Joint Task List, 1 July 2002.15

Primary Core Task A component is fully organized, manned, trained and equipped to execute the task.

Secondary Core Task A component has some degree of organization, manning, training and equipment to execute the task.

Support Core Task A component supports within its organization capabilities. USSOCOM D 10-1cc 15 December 2009.16

Missions (1.) The task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore. (JP 3-0) (2.) In common usage, especially when applied to lower military units, a duty assigned to an individual or unit; a task. (JP 3-0) JP 1-02 15 December 2001.17

Finally, it is important to have a clear understanding of two concepts that are not ARSOF core activities but that frequently involve ARSOF operations: irregular warfare, or IW, and stability operations.

IW is defined in JP 1 as a violent struggle among state and nonstate actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations. Irregular warfare favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capabilities, in order to erode an adversary's power, influence and will.

There are five principal activities or operations that are undertaken in sequence, in parallel or in blended form in a coherent campaign to address irregular threats: counterterrorism, or CT; unconventional warfare, or UW; foreign internal defense, or FID; counterinsurgency, or COIN; and stability operations. IW is not synonymous with any of these activities. In addition to these five activities, there are a host of key related activities, including strategic communications, information operations, psychological operations (now MISO), civil-military operations and support to law-enforcement, intelligence and counterintelligence operations in which the joint force may engage to counter irregular threats. IW is also not synonymous with any of those activities.

IW differs from conventional operations dramatically in two aspects. First, it is warfare among and within the people. The conflict is waged not for military supremacy but for political power. Military power can contribute to the resolution of this form of warfare, but it is not decisive. The effective application of military forces can create the conditions for the other instruments of national power to exert their influence. Second, IW differs from conventional warfare by its emphasis on the indirect approach. Although it is not approved as joint doctrine, the Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept, version 2.0, dated 17 May 2010, is the reference most directly focused on IW. IW is addressed in JP 3-0 as a strategic context and in FM 3-0 as an operational theme.

Stability Operations is defined in JP 3-0 as an overarching term encompassing various military missions, tasks and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or re-establish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction and humanitarian relief.

Through a comprehensive approach to stability operations, military forces establish conditions that enable the efforts of the other instruments of national and international power. Those efforts build a foundation for transitioning to civilian control by providing the requisite security and control to stabilize an operational area.

Stability operations are typically lengthy endeavors conducted within an environment of political ambiguity. As a result, the potentially slow development process of government reconstruction and stabilization policy may frustrate flexible military plans that adapt to the lethal dynamics of combat operations. Thus, integrating the planning efforts of all the agencies and organizations involved in a stability operation is essential to long-term peace and stability. Any ARSOF core activity could be employed in support of stability operations. However, CAO is the ARSOF core activity most essential to stability operations, and the most closely-focused reference is FM 3-05.40, Civil Affairs.

ARSOF Core Activities

ARSOF possess unique capabilities to support USSOCOM's roles, missions and functions as directed by Congress in Section 164, Title 10, United States Code (10 USC 164) and Section 167, Title 10, United States Code (10 USC 167). ARSOF plan, conduct and support special operations throughout the range of military operations. ARSOF missions are normally joint or interagency in nature. ARSOF can conduct these missions unilaterally, with allied forces, as part of a coalition force or with indigenous assets. Mission priorities vary from one theater of operations to another. ARSOF missions are dynamic because they are directly affected by politico-military considerations. A change in national-security strategy or policy may add, delete or radically alter the nature of an ARSOF mission. The president, the secretary of defense, or a joint-force commander may task an ARSOF element to perform missions for which it is the best suited among available forces or perhaps the only force available. ARSOF are organized, trained and equipped specifically to accomplish the core activities.

UW is a core activity for ARSOF and a core IW activity. By order of the commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC, UW is the core [activity] and organizing principle for Army Special Forces. The USSOCOM definition of UW was approved in May 2009 — Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla force in a denied area.18 From this definition, it is clear that UW is not the opposite of some loosely understood, nondoctrinal concept such as "conventional warfare." The current, longstanding joint UW definition found in JP 1-02 is "a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, normally of long duration, predominantly conducted through, with or by indigenous or surrogate forces who are organized, trained, equipped, supported and directed in varying degrees by an external source. It includes, but is not limited to, guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence activities and unconventional assisted recovery." The USSOCOM version is being proposed as the replacement term for inclusion in JP 1-02 through JP 3-05, Special Operations, which is currently in revision.

The current UW product is TC 18-01, Special Forces Unconventional Warfare, which will be available electronically from the Reimer Training and Doctrine Digital Library in 2011. TC 18-01 will fill the doctrinal void for UW while the new Army UW tactics, techniques and procedures manual, ATTP 3-18.01 Special Forces Unconventional Warfare, is under development using the updated Army doctrine hierarchy of ATTP publications. There is no joint doctrine for UW, and when ATTP 3-18.01 is complete, it will be the authoritative UW reference.

FID is a core activity for ARSOF and a core IW activity. JP 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense, defines FID as participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism and other threats to its security. Its primary intent is to help the legitimate governing body address internal threats and their underlying causes through a host-nation, or HN, program of internal defense and development. FID is not restricted to times of conflict. Like UW, FID is an umbrella concept that covers a broad range of activities, potentially including the conduct of all other ARSOF core activities. FID is a whole-of-U.S. government effort based in law and is not a subordinate activity to COIN.

There are three categories of support in FID: indirect support, direct support not involving combat and combat operations. ARSOF may be employed in any of the three categories. However, ARSOF's primary role in FID is to assess, train, advise and assist HN military and paramilitary forces with tasks that require the unique capabilities of ARSOF. The goal is to enable these HN forces to maintain internal stability, to counter subversion and violence in their country, and to address the causes of instability. The current authoritative reference on ARSOF's role is FM 3-05.137, Army Special Operations Forces Foreign Internal Defense. The Army's new FID manual is scheduled for publication in September 2011 as ATTP 3-05.22, Foreign Internal Defense.

SFA is a core activity for ARSOF. SFA and FID overlap without being subsets of each other. JP 3-22 defines SFA as the Department of Defense activities that contribute to unified action by the U.S. government to support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions. SFA is DoD's contribution to unified action to develop the capacity and capability of foreign security forces, or FSF, from the ministerial level down to units of those forces. FSF include but are not limited to the military; police; border police, coast guard and customs officials; paramilitary forces; forces peculiar to specific nations, states, tribes or ethnic groups; prison, correctional and penal services; infrastructure-protection forces; and the governmental ministries and departments responsible for FSF. At operational and strategic levels, both SFA and FID focus on developing an FSF's internal capacity and capability. However, SFA also prepares FSF to defend against external threats and to perform as part of an international coalition. FID and SFA are similar at the tactical level where advisory skills are applicable to both.

USSOCOM is the designated joint proponent and will lead development of joint doctrine for SFA, and it has the responsibility to lead the collaborative development, coordination and integration of the SFA capability across DoD. That includes development of SFA in joint doctrine; training and education for individuals and units; joint capabilities; joint mission-essential task lists; and identification of critical individual skills, training and experience. Additionally, in collaboration with the Joint Staff and U.S. Joint Forces Command, and in coordination with the services and geographic combatant commanders, USSOCOM is tasked with developing global joint-sourcing solutions that recommend the most appropriate forces (conventional forces and/or SOF) for validated SFA requirements referred to the global force management process. The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Directorate of Training and Doctrine collaborates with the Army Training and Doctrine Command's Combined Arms Center — the Army's designated proponent for SFA — in development of Army service doctrine for SFA. Although pertinent to most ARSOF activities, TC 31-73, Special Forces Advisor Guide, (July 2008) is a practical guide directly relevant to SF's conduct of SFA. TC 31-73 will be reviewed, updated and redesignated TC 18-02 sometime in 2011. The authoritative Army reference for SFA is FM 3-07.1, Security Force Assistance.

COIN is a core activity for ARSOF and a core IW activity. JP 3-24, Counterinsurgency Operations, defines COIN as comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances. Military operations in support of COIN fall into three broad categories: civil-military operations, combat operations and information operations. ARSOF are particularly valuable in COIN because of their specialized capabilities in CAO; MISO; intelligence; language skills; and region-specific knowledge.

ARSOF committed to COIN have a dual mission. First, they must assist the HN forces to defeat or neutralize the insurgent militarily. That allows the HN government to start or resume functioning in once-contested or insurgent-controlled areas. Second, ARSOF support the overall COIN program by conducting operations, such as SFA, military information support, training, intelligence and tactical support. This provides an environment in which the HN government can win the trust and support of its people and become self-sustaining. Both aspects of the COIN mission are of equal importance and must be conducted at the same time. The authoritative reference on the Army's role is FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency. When published in mid-2011, TC 18-05, Special Forces Counterinsurgency; Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, will highlight SF participation in COIN.

DA is a core activity for ARSOF. JP 3-05, Doctrine for Joint Special Operations, defines DA as short-duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied or politically sensitive environments and which employ specialized military capabilities to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover or damage designated targets. Direct action differs from conventional offensive actions in the level of physical and political risk, operational techniques and the degree of discriminate and precise use of force to achieve specific objectives.

In the conduct of these operations, ARSOF may employ raid, ambush or assault tactics (including close-quarters battle); emplace mines and other munitions; conduct standoff attacks by fire from air, ground or maritime platforms; provide terminal guidance for precision-guided munitions; conduct independent sabotage; conduct anti-ship operations; or recover or capture personnel or material. DA operations are normally limited in scope and duration, but they may provide specific, well-defined and often time-sensitive results of strategic and operationally critical significance. ARSOF conduct DA operations independently or as part of larger conventional or unconventional operations or campaigns. The authoritative reference on SF's role in DA is ATTP 3-18.03, (C) Special Forces Direct Action Operations (U).

SR is a core activity of ARSOF. JP 3-05 defines SR as reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied or politically sensitive environments to collect or verify information of strategic or operational significance, employing military capabilities not normally found in conventional forces. These actions provide an additive capability for commanders and supplement other conventional reconnaissance and surveillance actions.

SR may include information on activities of an actual or potential enemy or secure data on the meteorological, hydrographic or geographic characteristics of a particular area. SR may also include assessment of chemical, biological, residual nuclear or environmental hazards in a denied area. SR includes target acquisition, area assessment and post-strike reconnaissance. It may complement other collection methods constrained by weather, terrain-masking or hostile countermeasures. Selected ARSOF conduct SR as a HUMINT activity that places U.S. or U.S.-controlled "eyes on target," when authorized, in hostile, denied or politically sensitive territory. ARSOF SR support of conventional forces may create an additional and unique capability to achieve objectives that may not be otherwise attainable. However, such use does not mean that ARSOF will become dedicated reconnaissance assets for conventional forces. ARSOF may also employ advanced reconnaissance and surveillance sensors and collection methods that utilize indigenous assets. When received and passed to users, SR intelligence is considered reliable and accurate, and it normally does not require secondary confirmation. The authoritative reference on SF's role in SR is ATTP 3-18.04, (C) Special Forces Special Reconnaissance Operations (U).

CT is a core activity of ARSOF and a core IW activity. JP 3-26, Counterterrorism, defines CT as actions taken directly against terrorist networks and indirectly to influence and render global environments inhospitable to terrorist networks. Department of Justice and Department of State have lead-agency authority. Legal and political restrictions, and appropriate DoD directives limit ARSOF involvement in CT. However, ARSOF possess the capability to conduct these operations in environments that may be denied to conventional forces because of political or threat conditions. ARSOF's role and added capability is to conduct offensive measures within DoD's overall combating-terrorism efforts. ARSOF conduct CT missions as SO by covert, clandestine or low-visibility means.

ARSOF activities within CT include, but are not limited to: intelligence operations to collect, exploit and report information on terrorist organizations, personnel, assets and activities; network and infrastructure attacks to execute pre-emptive strikes against terrorist organizations; hostage or sensitive-materiel recovery that require capabilities not normally found in conventional military units; and nonlethal activities to defeat the ideologies or motivations that spawn terrorism by nonlethal means. These activities could include, but are not limited to, MISO, IO, CAO, UW and FID. Most CT activities are classified.

MISO are both an ARSOF core activity and a capability. MISO are also a key related activity of IW. According to FM 3-05, as a core activity, MISO [PO] support all of the other core activities by increasing the psychological effects inherent in their application. It is important not to confuse psychological impact with planned psychological effects as part of MISO. While all military activities can have degrees of psychological impact on the enemy and civilian population, unless they are planned and executed specifically to influence the perceptions and subsequent behavior of a target audience, they are not MISO.

As a capability, MISO [PO] are conducted across the strategic, operational and tactical levels of conflict as part of interagency activities to achieve U.S. national objectives. One important aspect of MIS as a capability is the role of MIS specialists as advisers on psychological effects. MISO can support other capabilities or can be the supported capability in some situations. MISO are the primary ARSOF information capability that: achieves information objectives; analyzes and addresses psychological factors in the operational environment; provides support to IO as a core capability; constitutes information activities across the range of military operations; supports other agencies' information activities (military information support); conducts domestic U.S. information-dissemination activities (during federal and local relief efforts in response to a natural or man-made disaster and as coordinated with ongoing military and lead federal agency PA efforts); supports the countering of adversary information; and provides an important nonlethal fire under the fires warfighting function. MISO were formerly known as psychological operations; the name was changed in June 2010 by order of the commander of USSOCOM, with the concurrence of the chief of staff of the Army. While doctrine is being updated to reflect the nuances of the change, the most authoritative current references remain JP 3-13.2 and FM 3-05.30, Psychological Operations.

CAO is an ARSOF core activity and a key related activity of IW. JP 3-57, Civil-Military Operations, defines CAO as those military operations conducted by Civil Affairs forces that: (1) enhance the relationship between military forces and civil authorities in localities where military forces are present; (2) require coordination with other interagency organizations, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, indigenous populations and institutions and the private sector; and (3) involve application of functional specialty skills that normally are the responsibility of civil government to enhance the conduct of civil-military operations. CAO are conducted by the designated conventional Army and the U.S. Army Reserve. CA forces are organized, trained and equipped to provide specialized support to commanders.

Commanders conduct CMO to establish, maintain, influence or exploit relations between military forces and civil authorities (government and nongovernment) and the civilian populace in friendly, neutral or hostile areas of operation to facilitate military operations and to consolidate operational objectives. CMO may occur at the strategic, operational and tactical levels and across the full range of military operations. They may also occur, if directed, in the absence of other military operations. While CA forces can be found within the Navy and Marines, most CA units reside in the Regular Army and the Army Reserve. USSOCOM is the joint proponent for CA, but SWCS is the force-modernization proponent for Army CA. The authoritative reference on CAO is FM 3-05.40, Civil Affairs Operations.

CP is an ARSOF secondary core activity. JP 3-40, Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, defines CP as actions taken to defeat the threat and/or use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, our forces, allies and partners. JP 3 40 defines WMD as "chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties and excludes the means of transporting or propelling the weapon where such means is a separable and divisible part from the weapon." The preponderance of activities conducted by ARSOF in CP is a combination of the other ARSOF core activities. The authoritative reference on ARSOF's role in CP is FM 3-05.132, Army Special Operations Forces Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Operations.

IO is an ARSOF secondary core activity and a key related activity of IW. JP 3-13, Information Operations, defines IO as the integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations [now MISO], military deception and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision-making while protecting our own.

Two ARSOF capabilities, MISO and CAO, provide primary support to IO. Note that the IO definition does not yet reflect the recent name change from psychological operations to MISO. As one of the core capabilities of IO, MISO are the primary means of influencing foreign target audiences. Although FM 3-05.30 and FM 3-05.40 are authoritative references for MISO and CA respectively, there is no direct ARSOF reference for IO.

ARSOF's conduct of the IO activity affects the information environment to achieve information superiority over an adversary. Information superiority is the operational advantage gained through improved, fully synchronized, integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; knowledge management; and information management (FM 3-0). The ultimate targets of all IO are the human decision-making processes and the attainment of information superiority, which enables friendly forces to understand and act first. As appropriate, IO target or protect information, information-transfer links, information-gathering and information-processing nodes, and the human decision-making process through core, supporting and related capabilities.

The Hazard of Nondoctrinal Terms

"This is this. This isn't something else. This is this."19
— The Deerhunter

Regular review and restatement of approved definitions and their descriptions are necessary as sources of doctrine (e.g., policy, concepts, lessons learned, training, military education, operations planning and strategy) naturally evolve and doctrine is routinely updated. However, further complicating the goal of establishing and reinforcing up-to-date, authoritative and clearly articulated doctrine are other, currently influential, nondoctrinal terms. Incorrect usage of doctrinal terms sows confusion and hinders mission accomplishment; incorrect usage of unapproved terms does so exponentially. Unapproved, nondoctrinal terms are so widely (and often incorrectly) used throughout government, academia and the press that they demand a brief summary. Space limitations prevent a full discussion of such terms. However, a list of the most current and/or influential nondoctrinal terms has been summarized in a quick-reference guide of terms including: Asymmetric Warfare (AW); Compound Warfare (CW); Conventional Warfare; Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) and derivative/similar concepts; Global Way of War; Holistic Warfare; Hybrid Warfare; Information Warfare; Legacy Warfare; Matrix Warfare; Netwar; Network-Centric Warfare (NCW); Nonconventional Warfare; Partisan Warfare; Post-Heroic Warfare; Unrestricted Warfare (URW); and the Whole-of-Government Approach (as it applies to warfare).20 This guide is in the center spread of this article and can be pulled out for readers to use and instruct others.


Generally speaking, our Soldiers are not English teachers, and our senior leaders are not terminologists or walking dictionaries. However, it is important that properly-approved definitions should be adhered to and repeated often and accurately by leaders at every echelon. Such official definitions can provide continuity, unity and clarity, and they may therefore be relied upon for effective professional discussion. By contrast, the unofficial terms and theories that beguile the policy, doctrinal and operational discourse are ultimately unhelpful. Regardless of good intentions or patronage, when such concepts restate the obvious or can't survive scrutiny, they become counterproductive; they deepen the swamp of misunderstanding and thicken the conceptual fog. ARSOF's correct usage of doctrinal definitions provides a reliable azimuth through them.

Jeffrey L. Hasler is a doctrine writer and analyst in the Special Forces Doctrine Division, Directorate of Training and Doctrine, JFK Special Warfare Center and School. Before retiring from the Army in 2010 as a chief warrant officer 4, he served more than 28 years in a variety of Special Forces assignments. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif.


1. JP 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, July 2010.

2. COL David Witty, "The Great UW Debate," Special Warfare, March-April 2010, 9; LTC Mark Grdovic, "Ramping Up to face the Challenge of Irregular Warfare," Special Warfare, September-October 2009, 14; LTC John Mulbury, "ARSOF, General Purpose Forces and FID," Special Warfare, January-February 2008, 16; CWO 4 Jeffrey Hasler, "Defining War," Special Warfare, March-April 2007, 23; MAJ D. Jones, "UW/FID and Why Words Matter," Special Warfare, July-August 2006, 20.

3. Confucius, The Analects of Confucius, Book 13, Verse 3, James R. Ware, tr. 1980. Downloaded 22OCT10 from

4. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2 Section 4, paras 4-5. Although misattributed as a direct quote, these passages are often summarized as "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Downloaded 04NOV10 from

5. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Accessed through the free dictionary 25OCT10 from

6. American Heritage Dictionary.

7. American Heritage Dictionary.

8. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), FEB10, p 10; Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 5100.1, 01AUG02; Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report (QRM), JAN09, Roles and Missions Framework, pp 3-7; Title 10 USC Sec 167, 01FEB10; FM 3-05, Army Special Operations Forces (Draft), 06OCT10.

9. QRM, 4.

10. JP 1-02.

11. QRM, 4.

12. QRM, 3.

13. Merriam-Webster 2010. Accessed 28OCT10 from

14. M. Malvesti, "To Serve the Nation; U.S. Special Operations Forces in an Era of Persistent Conflict," June 2010, 7.

15. CJCSM 3500.04C, Universal Joint Task List, 01JUL01, GL-II-3.

16. USSOCOM Directive 10-1cc, 15DEC09.

17. JP 3-0, Joint Operations, 22 March 2010.

18. ADM Olson, CG USSOCOM MAY09. LTG Mulholland, CG USASOC.

19. Internet Movie Script Database. Downloaded 01NOV10 from,-The.html

20. Sources necessary for a broad understanding of the unofficial terms analyzed in this article are numerous. The references listed here are incomplete and representative – not comprehensive – and only cover some of the largest, most influential and most recent schools of thought as judged by the author. Listed alphabetically by author: Arquilla, "The New Rules of War," Foreign Policy, FEB10; Echevarria, "Fourth-Generation Warfare and other Myths," NOV05; Faculty of History Oxford, Strategic Studies Institute [Link], "Post-heroic Warfare,"2011 Downloaded 02NOV10 from; Hasler, "The Sling and the Stone" [Book Review], Special Warfare, Vol. 20 No. 3, May07; Hoffman, "Hybrid vs. Compound War the Janus Choice: Defining Today's Multifaceted Conflict," Joint Forces Quarterly, OCT09; Huber (ed.), Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot, 2002; Lind, et. al., "The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation," Marine Corps Gazette, OCT89; Luttwak, "Toward Post-Heroic Warfare," Foreign Affairs, MAY95; McCullar, "The Rising Dominance of the Information Revolution within RMA Thought," Small Wars Journal, OCT10; Qiao and Wang, "Unrestricted Warfare,"FEB99.

This issue

January-February 2011
Volume 24 | Issue 1

Special Warfare, January-February 2011

Special Warfare

Special Warfare is an authorized, official bimonthly publication of the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. Its mission is to promote the professional development of special-operations forces by providing a forum for the examination of established doctrine and new ideas.

Views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official Army position. This publication does not supersede any information presented in other official Army publications.