Best Defense

A response to Kilcullen: Here are 10 ways to think about combat metrics

Here are some thoughts about my Kilcullen-on-counterinsurgency-metrics series last week from Army Reserve Lt. Col. Chad Storlie, who over 19 years of active and reserve time in the infantry and Special Forces has served in Iraq, Bosnia, Europe, and elsewhere. He is the author of the forthcoming Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to ...

MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images
MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images

Here are some thoughts about my Kilcullen-on-counterinsurgency-metrics series last week from Army Reserve Lt. Col. Chad Storlie, who over 19 years of active and reserve time in the infantry and Special Forces has served in Iraq, Bosnia, Europe, and elsewhere. He is the author of the forthcoming Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career.

Lt. Col. Storlie’s comments are of particular interest because he teaches a class titled "Combat Analytics" to deploying Army and Marine Corps units to help them better understand and assess the effectiveness of their counter-insurgency operations. Of course, these are his own views, and not those Defense Department.

David Kilcullen represents some intriguing concepts how to employ metrics in assessing and understanding both the environment of the insurgency as well as a unit assessing their effectiveness in defeating the insurgency.  Like all systems, the use of metrics is potentially extremely helpful and potentially harmful if misapplied or misrepresented.

1. How Will Metrics Help You? Establish up front how you plan to use metrics in your operations. Metrics are used to help understand an environment and guide operations. All metrics must be based from the perspective of the population. 

2. Measure to Your Mission. Use discussions with the Commander, the Commander’s Intent, and Concept of the Operation to create metrics that reflect a successful mission. 

3. Scorecard Design.  Select 3-6 metrics that reflect mission success.  Make sure that the higher, adjacent, and lower commands know, understand, and agree with these metrics.  Each unit using its own definitions of success leads to confusion and misuse. 

4. Good Data. Each metric must have a precise, easily understood definition, its own format for collection, and it must be coordinated / de-conflicted with the intelligence collection plan. Plan to collect 30-40 readings of a metric/week to ensure a robust data set for analysis. 

5. Establish a Base Line. Once you have metrics, and a collection plan, then collect for 3-4 weeks. You cannot start to act until your understand the base line of performance.

6. Incorporate Opinion. Metrics systems by themselves can become disconnected from reality when there is no opinion to support them. Use e-mail based surveys of your frontline troops.  If your metrics say the economy is improving and your Marine’s opinion does not, then you have a data disconnect.

7. Get Everyone Involved. The Host Nation security forces, NGO’s, PRT, and local government are all involved. Make sure they understand the metrics and that their actions focus on activities that will improve the metrics.

8. Design Checks to Your Scorecard. Be skeptical. Metrics must be mutually supported by intell, HUMINT, operations reports, population surveys, and soldier opinion. Metrics and Scorecards are Descriptive, Not Predictive.  A formulaic approach driven by metrics will not work in counter insurgency. Security + 2 schools + 1 health clinic does not necessarily equal success. Metrics tell where you are, but you must use frequent fusion meetings to gather all relevant information to make a decision.

10. Use the Metrics to Drive Change. The entire use of counterinsurgency metrics is to see where you are, understand the situation better, and then do something. Seldom if ever will the way be clear. You will have to employ pilot projects to test solutions and see if they work before large scale, broad implementation. 

10. What works in one location may not work in another. When employed properly, metrics can be a great additional tool for the Commander to better understand their operational environment and effects. The 10 steps are a quick checklist to ensure the unit is using counter insurgency metrics properly.

 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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