Operational Aesthetics: Briefing Script

As an alternative way out of dominant strictures of thought, Art, as reframed historicism, may yet have some of the answers where the methodology of Science is silent.
– MAJ Irvin Lim Fang Jau (Pointer – A Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces. V27 N4)

Operational aesthetic frameworks can be provisionally defined as re-imagined contexts or systems enacting transformative scripts. Such contexts may either be found, deliberately constructed or both. In the case of the found context (necessity often dictates operation within an existing system or environment – infiltration is another possibility), the operative may attempt to transform the given parameters and purpose of a job, routine, service or profession. “Operational design is not new. Joint doctrine defines operational design as ‘the key considerations used as a framework in the course of planning for a campaign or major operation. Doctrine also lists ‘elements of operational design,’ but nowhere does doctrine describe the design process or how to perform it. ‘”1

An operational process mediates between high-level or strategic process and the tactical. In the military context, the operational reconciles strategy and tactics (Strategic, Operational, Tactical) involved with actual delivery and execution of processes and procedures. Tactics alone cannot accomplish strategic objectives in a theater and the results of tactical actions are useful only when linked together as a part of some larger design orchestrated by operational concerns.

Operational art requires broad vision, the ability to anticipate, a careful understanding of the relationship of means to ends, an understanding of the inherent risks that are under them, and effective joint and combined cooperation.2

The human involved in purely operational processes undertakes unskilled, semi-skilled or trades-based tasks. The object is considered “operational” when fit for use or service. As such, the person or object is a servant – presumably of those strategies and tactics delivered from above. Yet it is precisely the operational concern that is invoked when an official entity seeks to evade difficult questions or maintain secrecy (eg. ‘this is an operational matter on which we will not comment’. In refusing to comment on such base procedures, the dominant order reveals them to be the hidden kernel of concern.

An operational aesthetic is perceptual capacity in movement. Rather than seeking the productive end (communism), it seeks the procedural dynamic (communization). In doing so, it moves its focus to systemic functionality without fetishizing design. This dynamic is, by necessity, located within a system of exchange. When the operative threatens the circulation of existing goods, services and/or values, (s)he risks losing a position within that system. Although such operations are sisyphean gestures, they do perform the function of dynamic critique – potentially destabilizing dominant systems. A deliberately constructed context or system has a more sustainable potential for generative operations.

It’s important to understand the phrase “operational aesthetic” as a deadpan invocation of the extraordinary – or armed hope through embedded infiltration. It attempts to design, organize, integrate, and conduct strategies, campaigns and major operations. Operational art translates the joint force’s strategy into operational design and, ultimately, tactical action, by integrating the key activities at all levels of engagement.

The way to deal with a complex operational situation is to carry out a heuristic operational design to provide a logical foundation for all planning and execution, and continuously to assess and revise the design over time in response to changes in the situation.3

In the future, information will increasingly affect the factors of space, time and force deployment. new technological advances will continue to compress the very space and time separating the various levels and forms of operation. New methods of “joint force” deployment will emerge. Insurrections will replace engagements, while major operations will become the main method to accomplish objectives in a given part of the theater.

1 Schmitt, John F., A Systemic Concept for Operational Design. p2
2 Department of the Army, Field Manual 100-5, Washington, DC, 14 June 1993, p64
3 Schmitt, John F., A Systemic Concept for Operational Design. p15

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