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Managing Complexity During Military Urban Operations: Visualizing the Elephant

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Publication Date: January 2004

Publisher(s): RAND Corporation

Author(s): Russell W. Glenn

Funder(s): United States. Army

Funder(s): United States. Army

Topic: Military and defense (Military planning, strategy, and operations)

Type: Brief


The complexity that characterizes modern urban operations combines with a perceived intolerance of military casualties to make actions in cities among the most difficult missions that U.S. armed forces will undertake. This study proposes a new planning approach that employs identification of critical points--the essential elements of the urban area’s physical and demographic terrain--along with the notion of density--the quantity of elements and activities within the urban space--to aid military personnel in their efforts to overcome the complexity. Integrating this approach with the traditional command estimate process should assist the planner in determining how best to allocate a command's ever-scarce resources.