Security Studies Program Seminar

Military Adaptation of Red Teaming

Kevin Benson

November 14, 2007


Operations supporting the Global War on Terrorism and analysis of future complex operational environments confirm that the Army requires a capability, a “red team,” within its units to aid the commander and staff to identify and quickly adapt to new and unanticipated challenges and opportunities. Historically the military, government and industry have employed some form of Red Teaming; however, there has been no formal education or training program nor common red teaming doctrine, methodologies, or framework.

US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) established the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to provide the educational and training foundation to support the fielding of an Army-wide red team capability. The curriculum is designed to enable Red Teams to support decision making during planning and operations. Red teams identify potential weaknesses, vulnerabilities and unseen opportunities. Red teams also anticipate and account for the perceptions of partners, adversaries and others in our planning, and conduct independent and unbiased critical reviews and analysis of such items as concepts and experiments.

Red teams provide commanders an independent capability to fully explore alternatives in plans, operations, concepts, organizations, and capabilities in the context of the operational environment. They do this from the perspectives of our partners, adversaries, and others. Red Teaming is a function executed by trained and educated officers, senior warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and civilians to enhance staff planning and improve decision making in today's dynamic and uncertain environment.

In 2008, UFMCS projects to reach full operational capability to meet the education and training requirements to fill requirements for the Army's operating force. In the near term the Army and TRADOC will continue to institutionalize the concept of Red Teaming by adding Red Teams to existing force structure, adding the concept to doctrine, refining techniques and procedures, and continuing formal UFMCS conducted education and training programs at Fort Leavenworth and at unit locations.

UFMCS recommended teams or trained personnel be added to every echelon of command from the Brigade Combat Team through Army headquarters. Based on this recommendation, the Army approved the addition of a Red Team to division and corps headquarters. Beginning in 2008, we anticipate that two officers assigned to the brigade combat team headquarters will receive Red Team education and training at UFMCS. UFMCS will continue to develop and refine best practices, techniques and procedures and sharing these using an established reachback capability. This reachback capability provides access to subject matter experts, databases, and serves as a means to exchange lessons learned and information among Red Teams.

Yearly, two sessions of the 18 week Red Team leader course, taught at the graduate level, will be conducted for the Army, other service and joint organizations. To meet the needs of deploying units, UFMCS offers a quarterly nine week course for personnel in deploying units. Additionally, a six week Red Team Member course has been added. Based on the needs of units and organizations, UFMCS has and will continue to conduct focused mobile training in support of the joint community, service schools, and Army operational forces. Graduates of UFMCS will enhance mission planning by helping the staff to look at problems differently; account for the perspective of the adversary, multinational partners, and others; and to frame alternative strategies.

Effective Red Teaming helps ensure unit planning and operations staffs avoid group think, tunnel vision, cultural missteps, and mirror imaging. Red Teams will challenge the staff's planning assumptions and assessment systems, help the staff account for the complexity and relationships of the key variables found in the operational environment, identify the consequences of proposed actions, and provide timely critical insights to enable better decisions during planning and operations.

Colonel Kevin Benson, a retired US Army Colonel, served as Director of the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas from 2003 until 2007, before retiring after 30 years of service. From June 2002 to July 2003, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff C5 (Plans) Combined Forces Land Component Command and Third US Army, where he helped plan Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Cobra II. Prior to that, he was a military fellow in MIT's Security Studies Program.

Rapporteur: Benjamin Friedman

back to Wednesday Seminars, Fall 2007