In joint doctrine, the operational environment is the sum of factors, conditions, and circumstances that can influence a given military operation. To frame it means to define and analyze all relevant variables, actors, and the relationships between them. Without this step, a commander cannot determine what goals an operation must pursue, as well as what factors might assist or impede it. As a senior operations NCO, I will facilitate this process with information and expertise.
The operational environment includes all physical, informational, and societal variables that may impact operations. Planners must view the operational environment as a dynamic, interactive system, in which different actors and variables all influence each other in an ongoing fashion (Army Publishing Directorate, 2015). The environmental frame must reflect a situation in motion, including the context that shaped it and possible scenarios for its evolution. The process for framing the operational environment is not predefined. It should include conceptualizing the current state of the environment, the internal and external tendencies that might alter it, and the desired future states of other actors. Army Design Methodology recommends the use of brainstorming, researching, and mind-mapping to identify variables, investigate their characteristics, and chart relationships (Army Publishing Directorate, 2015). Additionally, planners must learn the perspective of higher authorities by studying instructions and clarifying points of ambiguity. The commander and staff should then be able to define their desired end state for the environment.
Operations NCOs facilitate the process of framing an operational environment by providing informational support and acting as subject matter experts. As a senior operations NCO, I will be directly involved in this process, while also coordinating the activities of other NCOs. Informational support must include providing up-to-date, factual information about the environment, including reports, maps, and other displays. While junior NCOs will likely gather much of this information, a senior operations NCO must compile and reconcile it and present it in a clear and accessible way. Coordinating the flow of information from intelligence and liaison NCOs is vital for assessing the roles and intentions of hostile and friendly actors. My expertise will be especially valuable at the research stage, enhancing the planners’ understanding of variables related to my experience, such as actor capabilities (Army Publishing Directorate, 2015). It will also be useful for a critical examination of the frame’s assumptions. I will also communicate planning outcomes to higher authorities and unified action partners, ensuring the unity of understanding.
Framing the operational environment is a critical stage in preparing an operation, as it involves determining its objective and assessing any influencing factors. Planners must analyze numerous variables and actors and their interrelationships in a complex, evolving system. The primary function of a senior operations NCO in this process is to provide informational support, coordinating the flow of information from junior NCOs and other sources. The senior operations NCO must also assist research teams by providing them with relevant expertise.
Army Publishing Directorate. (2015). ATP 5-0.1. Army techniques publications.