TARGETING: Takes More Than Intelligence

By Straus Scantlin

2d Cavalry Regiment, participates in the targeting working group during Dragoon Ready at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 20, 2018. (Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen C. Brabo)

Targeting is not solely the work of the Intelligence community. Most targeting work relegated to the Intelligence community does not have the operational input needed. The work that is performed by the targeting community has also become more complex with the introduction of differences in what used to be kinetic and non-kinetic and is now lethal and non-lethal fires and effects. We in the Civil Affairs community have valuable information that can inform the targeting process and product.

Our value to the targeting process is lost in the sauce as disparate staffs, and functional groups vie for attention and relevance within the headquarters. By providing input into the targeting process, our Civil Affairs teams, battalions, brigades, and theater teams working at Echelons Above Brigade, Joint Task Forces, Joint Force Land Component Commands, and Combatant Commands can produce a better product for the commander and improve the lethality of the joint force through improved targeting and effects generation.

Early Joint Targeting was heavily focused specifically on kinetic mechanisms and implied lethal effects. Air Force Major Matt McKeon mentions "lethal" two times and "non-lethal" two times in his thesis, but it focuses three pages on the probability of destruction (Pd), weaponeering assessment, combat assessment, battle damage assessment, and bomb hit analysis.[1] In the same year McKeon completed his study, Joint Forces Command was working on a draft of Joint Publication 3-60, Targeting, that referred to both lethal and non-lethal targeting. Joint Publication 3-60 was the first joint targeting doctrine for the U.S. military. In 2007, most likely due to continued confusion and needing additional clarification, Joint Forces Command published a Joint Fires and Targeting Handbook, specifically discussing lethal fires as the norm for the employment of fires.[2]

Even today, there is contradictory usage of targeting and what the terms mean to allies. NATO and the U.S. military have a different implementation of the targeting process. The U.S. military does not target civilians; we define targets as adversary entities. NATO, with U.S. non-concurrence, defines targets as “a range of actors.”[3] Although NATO adheres to applicable humanitarian law, they apply the same methodology and process against all entities on the battlefield.[4] Additionally, within the U.S. military, we use the term target in contradictory ways. The Fires enterprise uses target as an adversary entity, and the Information Operations community, to include Civil Affairs, refers to target audiences. Although a part of our doctrine, the use of the term target audience continues to create negative impressions of the Information Operations community, to include Civil Affairs, within the Fires community.

Definitions are important, and to gain credibility with our fellow professionals, we need to understand their doctrine, words, and ways of contributing. The definition of a target is the baseline definition for us to understand. A target is "...An entity (person, place, or thing) considered for possible engagement or action to alter or neutralize the function it performs for the adversary. A target's importance derives from its potential contribution to achieving a commander's objective(s) or otherwise accomplishing assigned tasks."[5] A target can be a facility, individual or individuals, virtual, equipment, or an organization (also known as FIVE-O).

After we understand what a target can be, we need to describe the target’s characteristics. The characteristics describe the target in multiple ways. They include physical, functional, cognitive, environmental, and temporal.[6] Physical characteristics describe a target using the senses and include location, shape, size, or area covered and appearance. Functional characteristics describe what a target does and how it helps the adversary, and includes activity, status, role, and vulnerabilities. Cognitive characteristics describe how a target thinks and conducts control, and includes the decision cycle, inputs required, outputs, and cultural considerations. Environmental characteristics describe the environment’s effect on the target, and includes atmosphere, terrain, and dependencies. Temporal characteristics describe a target's vulnerability to engagement, and includes the time of appearance, dwell time, and identifiable time.

The Joint Targeting Cycle is a six-step process that is cyclical and does not have any time constraints. Step 1 is End State and Commander’s Objectives, step 2 is Target Development and Prioritization, step 3 is Capabilities Analysis, step 4 is Commander’s Decision and Force Assignment, step 5 is Mission Planning and Force Execution, and step 6 is Assessment.[7] Of particular interest to our community are No-Strike Entities (NSE), the Restricted Target List, Dual Use Facility (DUF), Civilian Casualty (CIVCAS), and Civilian Harm (CIVHARM).

NSEs are quite simply not targets and will not be attacked due to its protected status, for example, hospitals, churches, and schools. An NSE can lose its protected status if an adversary is using the NSE for a military function, for example, an adversary occupies a school for a military base of operation. A DUF is a target that provides a function to both the adversary and civilians, for example, a power plant that provides power to a neighborhood and a military installation. CIVCAS is an unfortunate product of war and combat that we minimize with various policies, procedures, and practices. CIVHARM is the overarching umbrella that CIVCAS belongs under. CIVCAS is routinely thought of as the death or injury of civilians, while CIVHARM is a more sweeping topic that includes harm to civilians, for example, psychological harm, and damage to civilian infrastructures and systems, e.g., power distribution and health care systems.

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Unlike the Navy and Air Force, the Army has struggled with targeting at the operational levels. The Field Artillery and Intelligence branches have the best grasp of targeting and, specifically, Joint Targeting, but we as a community must get more involved. We can get involved by first understanding targeting, the targeting process, and then apply our knowledge and understanding of the human terrain to the Army and Combatant Command's targeting process. There are four principles of targeting that are used throughout the targeting cycle. Targeting is:

1. Focused on the commander's objectives through target constraints and restraints in the CONOPS, plans and orders, the rules of engagement, the law of war, and agreements with partners and allies. Targets nominated will contribute to achieving the commander’s objectives.[8]

2. Effects-based contributes to achieving the commander's objectives and identifies critical nodes. When the right effect is generated on the target, it achieves the desired objectives. Target analysis is conducted using specialists from all available capabilities.

3. Interdisciplinary and a command function. All staff elements, other agencies, departments, organizations, and multinational partners participate in creating a viable target list.

4. Systematic and rational, as well as iterative. Target analysis, prioritization, and assignment of assets happens during the cycle and allows for reconsideration of engagement.[9]

To move forward and support the commander's operational objectives, we need to use Civil Reconnaissance (CR) and Civil Information Management (CIM).[10] Our observation of the environment, human terrain, and civil infrastructures produce civil considerations that will improve targeting. Working with and through the Information Operations sections, we can provide valuable insight with civil considerations for the prevention of CIVCAS and CIVHARM and fill in the information gaps in the physical, functional, cognitive, environmental, and temporal characteristics.[11]

Using CR and CIM, we can identify critical nodes and functions in civilian systems and networks that improve the preservation of the civilian infrastructure. The same analysis can also be applied to DUFs with specific information to improve the efficiency and application of force to achieve an effect while minimizing CIVHARM. The greatest importance of a target or NSE is in its relation to other targets or NSE within the system.[12] We must also work with the various Intelligence Targeting branches to support basic, intermediate, and advanced target development and combat assessment[13] and with Fires branches to support the development of fire support coordination measures.[14]

Community improvement will come first, with the application of our collective and individual knowledge of civil considerations combined with the knowledge we will gain by training ourselves in Joint Fires and Targeting. Two courses available to train the Civil Affairs community about Fires and Targeting are the Joint Targeting Staff course, taught by The Joint Staff[15] and the Joint Operational Fires & Effects course, taught by the Army Multi-Domain Targeting Center.[16] Second, with finding the intersection of adversary networks and systems with the human domain, providing this analysis to the fires and targeting enterprise, we will provide valuable information currently lacking in many targeting enterprises.[17] Finally, we need to understand combat assessment and develop applications of CR to assist with a commander’s combat assessment and articulate the impacts of fires on the human terrain and civilian systems.

We are underutilizing our capabilities to support lethal, large scale combat operations. Through support for targeting, we can directly support the commander's objectives. Our support to targeting is the application of CR and CIM to identify key nodes that can create effects on our adversaries or protect civilians. We need to engage the Fires and Targeting Elements in our headquarters to improve targeting and lethality in the Joint Force by providing our unique expertise and knowledge sharpened by training in targeting and fires. End Notes

[1] Matt McKeon, “Joint Targeting: What’s Still Broke?” (master’s thesis, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Air University, 1999),, accessed 28 May 2020. [2] U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Forces Command, Joint Fires and Targeting Handbook, 2007, I-1. [3] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Standard AJP-3.9, Allied Joint Doctrine for Joint Targeting, edition A, version 1 (Brussels: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2016), preface.

[4] Ibid, 1-2, para 0105.

[5] U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Staff, Joint Publication 3-60, Targeting, 2013, I-1.

[6] Ibid, I-2 - I-5.

[7] Ibid, II-3.

[8] Joint Publication 3-60, Targeting, says that targets should contribute, I believe that targets will contribute is a better statement. If a target does not contribute to achieving objectives, we have wasted precious resources.

[9] Joint Publication 3-60, Targeting, I-7 - I-8.

[10] Department of Army, Headquarters, Field Manual 3-57, Civil Affairs Operations, 2019, 1-3 - 1-4.

[11] Joint Publication 3-60, Targeting, I-2 - I-5.

[12] Ibid, II-5.

[13] Ibid, B-4.

[14] Ibid, II-28.

[15] Course, and quota request information is at

[16] Course information is at

[17] See Adam Scarisbrick’s Holistic Thinking: Mapping Unknowns of the Human Domain at for a good overview of improving CIM organization and utilization.

About the Author

Straus Scantlin is an Active Guard and Reserve Civil Affairs Officer in the United States Army Reserve. He has been the Chief, Dynamic Fires Branch, Joint Fires Element, J35, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, for the last three years.

The views expressed are the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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