Secrecy News

Red Teams Needed to Critique Military Operations

U.S. military commanders would do well to make use of “red teams” composed of independent experts to evaluate and critique U.S. military operations as they are being planned, according to a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Red teams can “help commanders and staffs think critically and creatively; challenge assumptions; mitigate groupthink; reduce risks by serving as a check against complacency and surprise; and increase opportunities by helping the staff see situations, problems, and potential solutions from alternative perspectives.” See Command Red Team, Joint Doctrine Note 1-16, 16 May 2016.

This may seem like a common sense approach, and it’s not hard to think of current or past military operations that would have benefited from “alternative perspectives.” But deliberately soliciting a critical evaluation of one’s own efforts is not very common at all, inside or outside of military organizations.

A prerequisite to a successful red team effort is the independence of the red team from the primary planners and from the intelligence staff, said the non-binding Joint Doctrine Note.

“Red teams should be organizationally, physically, and intellectually separate from the intelligence function in order to ensure that products are not shaped by the same institutional factors that influence the output of the intelligence analysts. Even when the red team and the intelligence staff examine the same problem set, their products should be reviewed and approved through different product approval chains,” the Note said.

The theory and practice of red teams were explored last year in the book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko.

Other noteworthy new military doctrinal publications include:

Implementation of, and Compliance with, the Treaty on Open Skies, Air Force Instruction 16-604, updated 31 May 2016

Implementation of, and Compliance with, the New START Treaty, Air Force Instruction 16-608, updated 31 May 2016