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Getting a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Headquarters (HQ) to conduct the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) as a coordinated and synchronized team is a very tough thing to do. One key to integrating the whole staff as a unified planning team may start with Reverse Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Reverse IPB). Army Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (ATTP) No. 5-0.1 states clearly that under the S2’s direction, the entire staff should participate in IPB. Many commonly refer to this whole-of-staff effort as Reverse IPB, where each staff section conducts analysis on his respective counterpart on the opposing force.
There are three major benefits to employing Reverse IPB: first, it links the staff together in a unified cause right at the very beginning of the MDMP, providing a nesting of efforts, while simultaneously enhancing a shared understanding of the Operational Environment (OE); second, it helps the staff officer frame his own problem with respect to his war-fighting function (WfF), helping to ensure that his assets are utilized effectively during the Course of Action (COA) Development and Wargaming Phases; and third, it produces a much more comprehensive IPB product for use by the commander and staff during later stages of the MDMP. Ultimately the goal of not only IPB, but Mission Analysis (MA) as a whole, is achieving shared understanding. The commander and staff participate in an integrative process by which shared understanding of the mission variables is achieved. This process should eventually become continuous within the headquarters – so that as mission variables change, the relevant staff officers are updating their running estimates which include those applicable mission variables related to Reverse IPB.
Figures 1, 2 and 3 below show a possible format for a BCT staff officer or NCO to use when developing a Reverse IPB product for his WfF. (These PowerPoint (PPT) charts are only guides. Using Command Post of the Future (CPOF) for these Reverse IPB products would most likely be much more useful than using PPT.) At the center is a sketch showing in time and space how the applicable counterpart forces and threats will operate within the OE. It would be prudent for the S2 to provide a baseline threat template sketch, right at the very beginning of the process, for use by the entire staff participating in Reverse IPB -- this would allow for the generation of common and transferable sketches by each staff section.
Across the top of the sketch are the mission variables – Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time and Civilians (METT-TC). Cognizant of the fact that the achievement of shared understanding centers on the METT-TC mission variables, boxes atop the sketch are designed to assist the staff officer/NCO in drafting or refining his IPB. Green color coding signifies that that element of the mission variables has been addressed. Black signifies that the element was not addressed. Amber would be partially addressed. Red would signify significant gaps in knowledge which would prevent a reasonable analysis. The purpose of the mission variable graph is to remind the staff officer to continuously address all applicable elements of the mission variables during his analysis. It also shows the XO or Commander immediately what areas have and have not been addressed during the analysis.
Down the row on the right side of the template, the staff officer/NCO will start with listing the opposing force Assets or Threats and the corresponding Capabilities. Staffs should strive to provide information or knowledge rather than mere data when presenting this portion. Figure 4 is the “knowledge pyramid” displaying the levels of knowledge through which the staff officer conducting planning should strive to climb. For instance, the assumption that the enemy force likely will have a company(-) of engineers is not as good as describing what he can do with these engineer assets in terms of quantifiable/measurable mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability tasks over a given time period. As another example, providing information regarding the types and quantities of enemy surface-to-air missiles is mildly interesting; but laying out how and when they likely will employ these assets is much more useful for planning.
The next field on the right side row of the template calls for either Limitations or Risks related to the opposing force or threats. Limitations are the likely projected capability shortfall that the enemy may have during the upcoming operation. Risks are areas in time and space where the opposing commander may likely chose to expose a tactical weakness or vulnerability in order to achieve an advantage someplace else. Using the Engineer and Air Defense fields as examples again, an opposing force in the defense will require a certain amount of blade assets, Class IV materiel, and time to properly prepare a defense given the characteristics of the terrain and the composition of the forces available for the defense. Any element of shortage to establishing a proper defense may be considered a limitation. The Engineer Officer during Reverse IPB should note this limitation along with an assumption of specifically (where, when, and how) this limitation will affect the enemy commander’s defensive position. (Furthermore, the Engineer Officer should recommend Priority Information Requirements (PIR) related to this limitation, to confirm or deny the assumed vulnerability in the defense.
Regarding assumed Risk, an opposing force arraying his Air Defense assets will often attempt to weight or concentrate his firepower or radars to protect a certain asset or area rather than balance or spread out his firepower and radars to cover his entire Area of Operation (AO). Assuming Risk may provide for a tactical advantage in one place, while at the same time expose vulnerability somewhere else. Areas of Risk such as these are important elements of Reverse IPB and should be noted by the BCT’s Air Defense officer. (Likewise, the Air Defense officer conducting Reverse IPB should develop PIR related to likely Risks to confirm or deny the areas of assumed vulnerabilities.)
The Engineer Officer assessing enemy Risk may look at areas such as the prioritization of engineer assets over space and time. For instance, when templating a given enemy force in the defense, and based on calculations of assumed assets and time available, the Engineer Officer may predict that counter-mobility projects in the defense will mean a shortfall in survivability positions. Again, PIRs should relate to these assumptions and assessments, so that the enemy’s true disposition can be validated over time.
In the “Concept of” section the staff officer conducting Reverse IPB should provide a general concept or scheme for the employment of the enemy’s resources. This should at a minimum include the priorities of support of that given asset and also a general scheme detailing with when, where, how and why the assets will be employed.
The final two sections are reserved for recommending initial High Value Targets (HVTs) and PIRs. In the HVT section, the staff officer conducting Reverse IPB will list those enemy assets, or elements of another specified OE threat, which he thinks should be targeted by the BCT. In the PIR section, the staff officer should, as discussed above, attempt to define PIR which will support his commander’s mission by better defining the enemy and threat arrayed against it.
The formats discussed above and as outlined in Figures 1, 2 and 3 cannot be used as replacements for running estimates. Staff officers use running estimates to compile data related to their WfF. The accumulation of this data is essential and will become the base source for creating charts similar to Figures 1, 2 and 3. Remembering the Knowledge Pyramid, however, staff offices should not use running estimates as routine briefing products. Running estimates, filled with useful data, are bad briefing charts and usually poor products for MDMP collaboration. They are tools for creating proper briefing products, like Figures 1, 2, and 3.
Making Reverse IPB a part of routine MDMP within a headquarters will provide great dividends over time. To the extent that Reverse IPB is considered a novelty or an unpracticed skill within the headquarters is problematic on several levels. Remember ATTP 5-0.1 states that IPB is a process for the entire staff. Making it an “entire staff” process is critically important to achieve that shared understanding of the various mission variables. Routine use of Reverse IPB will get the staff cooperating better and earlier in the MDMP. Ultimately, and especially if used regularly as part of updating running estimates, Reverse IPB serves to better frame the problem for the commander, and to better allocate friendly assets and resources.