Winning before the War

A Case for Consolidation of Gains


Brig. Gen. Matthew N. Metzel, U.S. Army Reserve

Col. Jay Liddick, U.S. Army

Col. Heiva Hugh Kelley, U.S. Army Reserve

Lt. Col. (P) Robert T. Greiner, U.S. Army

Travis Bolio


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Photo by Rick Scavetta, 353rd Civial Affairs Command

In October 2022, the Army released its newest operational doctrine at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting. Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, heralded the first holistic revision of the Army’s warfighting methodology since AirLand Battle forty years prior. FM 3-0 is intended to be much more than an iterative outgrowth of legacy practices. Rather, it enshrines a new operational concept of warfighting and has initiated a top-to-bottom revision across the body of doctrine. The ambition long espoused by the Army’s top officer, Gen. James McConville, is to inspire a “transformational change” rather than incrementally improving the Army.1 To this end, FM 3-0 refocuses numerous familiar terms and constructs while proffering novel others to orchestrate the application of Army capabilities in support of the joint force.

Participants from Combined Forces Command (CFC), U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command, and subordinate component commands under CFC begin the Ulchi Freedom Shield exercise on 22 August 2022 at Camp Humpreys, South Korea

The central tenet of FM 3-0 is a concept called multidomain operations, defined as “the combined arms employment of joint and Army capabilities to create and exploit relative advantages.”2 This definition certainly appears intuitive on its surface. After all, the concerted employment of modern combined arms has been a principle of near-axiomatic status since well before the muddy trenches of World War I. But this belies the complexity inherent in the concept’s contemporary application and its potential impact in increasingly dynamic operating environments. Further, even though multidomain operations have been in the Army’s doctrinal vernacular for several years, its importance in the new FM 3-0 is more than an attempt to pass off “old wine in a new bottle.” It is not a variation of a legacy concept but rather reflects a maturation that codifies lessons acquired in tandem with the changing operational environment over the last four decades.

To be sure, this new doctrine is well designed and tempered by years of testing and evaluation. Yet despite its many strengths, FM 3-0 remains incomplete in articulating and analyzing one of the Army’s fundamental contributions—the consolidation of gains (CG). In fact, “consolidation of gains” is a term used so frequently and in various contexts throughout FM 3-0 that it defies singular meaning or clarity of purpose. It is a strategic role, an outcome of multidomain operations, an imperative, and a set of operational efforts.3 These inconsistencies undermine the crucial impact achieved through CG while obfuscating that this function is deeply ingrained in the Army’s DNA and organic to its mission.

Expanding upon FM 3-0 will further define the meaning and subsequent value in CG. Doing so will demonstrate why the Army is the service best postured to lead CG efforts on behalf of the joint force. To achieve these aims, the article will first define the purpose for consolidating gains before briefly describing the term’s evolution and inherent prominence in the Army’s mission. It will then apply examples from doctrine and recent experience to demonstrate the utility of consolidated gains in preparing for, deterring, and winning war as part of a whole-of-government strategy. The article will next discuss risk should gains be poorly consolidated and conclude by offering tools and approaches for planners to consider.

Consolidation of Gains: A Value Proposition

Unit-level commanders employ forces for specific tasks that provide physical or non-physical value. These might include possession of terrain, positional advantage, support of a population, moral standing, or the denial of any of these to an adversary. But battlefield actions, if appropriately designed and integrated into the sweep of strategic art, are rarely intended to be isolated events. These independent tactical actions are undertaken as part of a complex choreography and, holistically, are interwoven to form the tapestry of a given conflict. Each activity is intended to present additive dilemmas to the enemy, thus providing a position of advantage over one’s opponent to influence theater outcomes or end states. Therefore, CG is a value proposition for the joint force, as the sum of low-cost tactical investments are brought together under an operationally sound purpose to achieve a high-yield strategic effect.

In pursuit of national aims, civilian and military strategists must look for all such circumstances or opportunities favorable to attaining the desired end. These outcomes, whether achieved intentionally or otherwise, can be considered as “gains.” While gains are often referred to by category, such as “security gains” or “political gains,” all provide value even if isolated within their respective typology. “Consolidation” involves integrating these gains under a strategic purpose. The resulting synergy of consolidating these gains combine to present multiple dilemmas to the enemy. In short, we define CG as the deliberate recognition of outcomes that benefit desired ends, and the appreciation of these gains within a framework that accounts for their cumulative effects.

Understanding the value of consolidated gains requires that the Army unlearn several misnomers associated to the term’s historical usage. Contrary to prior interpretations where gains would be consolidated on the objective as part of reorganization and preparation for the next operation, the contemporary application is not limited to matters of a tactical or kinetic nature. Rather, it now enables leaders at all levels to achieve better results by integrating the full array of relevant efforts and actors spanning military, civilian, allies, and partner activities. The advantages achieved in any one of these can have a cumulative effect upon the others across the conflict continuum. CG—when done well—serves as a binding agent that transcends strategic contexts (competition, crisis, or conflict) to cohere disparate activities undertaken within the Army’s other strategic roles (see figure 1).


The Army increasingly recognizes the importance of CG as evinced by its burgeoning presence within doctrine. However, the institution seemingly continues to underappreciate the fullness of its contribution to the effort. As the premier landpower service, the Army is capable of leading discreet partners and priorities together across time and space to maximize their value to the joint force. Consolidating gains involves contributions from across the joint force to build upon the Army’s access, capabilities, and capacity. At the strategic level, consolidating gains involves carefully orchestrating diplomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME) instruments of national power.

More than Postconflict Actions in the Assembly Area

Following the experiences of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, CG activities have remained closely associated with stability operations at the tactical level, and primarily as a follow-on phase to combat operations. The new FM 3-0 does an admirable job reframing this narrative, but the connotation can still be found elsewhere in doctrine. For example, Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations, discusses CG exclusively under “Stability” and as a means to “capitalize on operational success and set conditions for a stable environment and eventual transition to legitimate authorities.”4 In fact, CG includes activities that permeate the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war, and span across the competition, crisis, and conflict continuum. Figure 2 provides a broad depiction of the breadth of CG activities, leading to important insights about the concept.

The U.S. Army undertakes a leading role in the preponderance of CG activities at the tactical level, given its multidomain capabilities at scale, staying power in austere conditions, and strong presence within the land domain where humans reside. Conversely, consolidating gains at the operational level, requires greater coordination, resources, and effects that demand contributions from across the joint force to build upon the Army’s access, capabilities, and capacity. At the strategic level, achieving gains depends upon the coordination and application of DIME instruments.


Optimal CG employment builds upon nested activities at each level of war to yield increasingly greater synergistic effects. For example, CG activities at the tactical level may involve an Army civil affairs team that works with a small village to understand and address a grievance. At the operational level, CG may combine to impact larger societal groups, such as a joint task force that brings together many foreign humanitarian assistance activities to reduce human suffering and help bring stability to a given nation or region. At the strategic level, CG may leverage the relationships that were built through the aforementioned activities to gain military access to critical ports and airfields within the host nation’s borders.

When CG efforts are organized along the conflict continuum, distinct purposes emerge for competition, crisis, and conflict activities. In competition, CG contributes to setting the theater and reducing “latent risk” through actions, such as improving living conditions and physical infrastructure that help to build goodwill and good governance with partner nations. In a crisis, CG activities aim to leverage relationships to gain access to critical airfields, ports, and staging areas that impose costs and deter potential adversaries. Finally, in a conflict, CG serves the joint force by helping to secure lines of communication, defeating enemy remnants behind forward lines, and setting the stage for transition to a focus on stabilization activities. Accordingly, the preponderance of CG investments should occur during competition to best posture the joint force during crisis and conflict. Envisioning CG activities in this way may assist the joint force in gaining a better appreciation for its potential impact across the conflict continuum and at all levels of war.

Winning before the War

Winning before the war requires much more than U.S. military forces conducting CG activities in a vacuum. At the grand strategic level, the Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) drive diplomatic and development efforts with other nations across the competition continuum. When combined with support from the Department of Defense (DOD), they collectively impact local populations, partner-nation governance, and civil society systems to win in competition and avoid escalation to crisis or conflict.

A soldier questions a young Communist woman in a prisoner-of-war camp in Gurijae, South Korea, circa 1951. (Photo by Cpl. Paul E. Stout via the National Archives)

Within the DOD, the size and mission of the Army makes it uniquely capable of leading CG efforts within the joint force. As a service, the Army maintains a force structure that allows it to engage directly and integrate closely with local populations, international partners, allies, the interagency, and the joint force. This advantage helps establish lasting gains in ways that better position the joint force to respond if escalation to crisis or conflict occurs.

Security cooperation (SC) is a great example of CG prior to conflict. SC enables the joint force to leverage the capabilities of our partners and allies to meet strategic objectives by building combat power, maintaining freedom of action, increasing understanding of the operational environment, and increasing the commander’s decision space. SC provides an example of a whole-of-government approach to strategic leadership. The DOS leads the whole-of-government approach and provides oversight to SC; most activities are carried out and coordinated by, with, or through the theater Army. SC occurs under the broader umbrella of foreign assistance. The Office of Foreign Assistance is responsible for the supervision and overall strategic direction of foreign assistance programs administered by the DOS and the USAID. When all efforts are brought together in a coherent, deliberate manner the U.S. government efforts are more effective and impactful.5

Security force assistance (SFA) assists in the setting of conditions for future gains, helping to integrate and reinforce partnerships and shared understanding of the strategic competitive environment and realistic objectives. SFA enables the right capabilities, in the right place, at the right time, to support and shape joint and multinational security and diplomatic efforts; in short, SFA is foundational to later consolidating gains. SFA forces must be prepared to adjust and expand SFA activities to CG made in competition. SFA, when implemented and utilized correctly, will provide a critical step in consolidating gains at the regional level.

When trying to simplify and generalize CG, it must be recognized that, at minimum, there must be a safe and secure environment to achieve strategic goals. The complexity comes into CG as practitioners try to understand the interplay of factors that must be considered to consolidate all the actions that are required to realize this. To consolidate gains, practitioners must establish the security conditions necessary to support: civil security, civil control, essential services, governance, economic, and infrastructure development.6 Understanding these functions within the proper CG context is crucial to achieving strategic goals. For example, SC and SFA activities in modern-day Iraq may help the joint force deter in crisis, and if necessary, win in conflict during a future fight with a regional opponent.

A Case Study for Early Investment

The U.S. approach to CG and how it was (or was not) implemented to achieve overall success and strategic goals are examined by the fourth report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Stabilization: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan. This report highlights the need for a cohesive, planned, tailored, and consolidated response to Afghanistan, thus underscoring the need for planners to have a thorough understanding of CG as part of a whole-of-government approach to achieve the political aim.7

Maj. Keith M. Shively, 11th Military Police Brigade, chairs a battle update brief with Lt. Gen. Dato Tengku Fauzi, commander of the Malaysian Army Western Field Command, and staff during Keris Strike 2023, 14 July–9 August 2023, in Malaysia

Stabilization, in most cases, has been seen as just the reconstruction or calming down of factors exacerbated during the conflict. This, however, is only part of the problem when looking at regions with a longer, more pragmatic view. “Even under the best circumstances, stabilization takes time. Without the patience and political will for a planned and prolonged effort, large-scale stabilization missions are likely to fail.”8 A deliberate CG focus during competition may, at best, deter opponents from conflict, and at minimum, set advantageous conditions if crisis or conflict ensues. CG helps inform leaders to better understand the conditions, players, and dynamics within the operational environment. Military stabilization activities contribute to CG through the deliberate integration of efforts into a coherent, comprehensive approach to achieve and overall objectives of partners, allies and the interagency.

The military has long championed the requirement for physical security as amplified in the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report, which calls “physical security … the bedrock of stabilization.”9 Additionally, security and governance must be considered simultaneously from the tactical to strategic levels.10 These findings reinforce the idea that CG efforts cannot be relegated to post-conflict activities. Instead, CG should be a deliberately targeted set of preconditions, actions, and effects to defeat security threats across the conflict continuum. The Army is structured and missioned to set and improve security as part of overall U.S. government efforts across the continuum, thus, enabling broader efforts to address challenges within all other sectors. In turn, it reinforces the need for constant collaborative planning across the conflict continuum to achieve results that advance and are informed by ally, partners, and interagency equities.  

Empowering the Joint Force to Deter and Win

The National Security Strategy defines integrated deterrence as “the seamless combination of capabilities to convince potential adversaries that the costs of their hostile activities outweigh the benefits.”11 Integrated deterrence imposes sustained effects on capable competitors across the DIME elements of national power. It synchronizes joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational activities, while operating in all theaters and across all domains. The Army supports integrated deterrence through CG by providing the joint force with positional (multidomain capability, posture, presence), preparational (interoperability, theater-setting), and strategic advantage (influence), while presenting multiple dilemmas to potential adversaries.

Spcs. Kelly Klarissa and Jedidah Shaver of the 493rd Military Police Company teach a restraints course during the subject-matter expert exchange portion of Keris Strike 2023, 14 July–9 August 2023, in Malaysia

Historically, the joint force has recognized the Army as the service lead for consolidating joint force gains and supporting positional integrated deterrence within the land domain.12 Even so, some leaders underestimate many of the Army’s capabilities that operate in nontraditional air, maritime, cyber, and space domains.13 As the joint force looks for low-cost options that provide high-impact results, Army posture and presence provides both psychological and physical effects to help deter potential adversaries and, when necessary, to fight and prevail in large-scale combat operations.14 Furthermore, the service supports integration of joint, multidomain effects to seamlessly seize and secure key terrain across the conflict continuum.15 As political leaders face growing threats within the operational environment, the Army offers both large and small-footprint capabilities that present multiple dilemmas to potential adversaries and draw from a total Army inventory of more than one million Active Component, National Guard, and Reserve soldiers.16 Army posture and presence has and continues to support combatant command requirements across the globe by providing measurable deterrence effects on potential adversaries, while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. commitment in key regions of the globe.17

In addition, the Army provides the joint force with preparatory support to integrated deterrence. Preparation includes bilateral and multilateral training exercises at echelon to build readiness while improving human, procedural, and technical interoperability. The Army also provides critical theater-setting and sustainment capabilities to consolidate gains well before a crisis or conflict surfaces. Every day, the Army is helping to lay a firm architectural framework of sustainment that enables the joint force to fight and win during large-scale combat operations. Future Army sustainment efforts are under development that will include “webs” of protection, communication, and sustainment capabilities, thus providing joint force commanders with a position of advantage over potential adversaries.18

Finally, the Army strengthens integrated deterrence by consolidating gains through the influence of leaders within the security apparatus of partner and allied nations. Many training activities and security engagements with partners and allies at the tactical level plant the seeds of trust, which produce a harvest of strategic commitment for years to come.19 As nation-states often rely on ground force commanders to provide advice concerning security agreements, Army leader relationships with host-nation counterparts can provide a decisive advantage. From longstanding U.S. Army presence in NATO-member nation-states, to remote security cooperation activities in lesser-known islands across the Pacific, the Army’s ability to consolidate gains through the influence of partners and allies plays a vital role in supporting integrated deterrence.

Isolated Gains: Reducing the Risk of Poor Consolidation

The U.S. military must systematically employ CG activities in all operations, across the conflict continuum because: competitors are actively competing to secure gains now; if the United States does not consolidate gains, a competitor will; and, successfully implementing CG reduces risk to force and risk to mission in later phases of the conflict continuum.

Dr. Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, greets Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of defense, 6 July 2021 at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Over 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu remarked, “Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.”20 More so than any other near-peer competitor, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) leverages whole-of-nation CG to establish footholds across the globe without fighting. The PRC displays a pattern of behavior in international relations that has proven effective in creating conditions favorable for strategic advantage. Through diplomatic engagements, the PRC recognizes nations that (in many cases) initially seek minimal engagement while hedging against or altogether avoiding the great power politics at play. The PRC effectively converts economic investments into access and influence through the Belt and Road Initiative. Concurrently, private Chinese companies normalize Chinese activities and further create leverage for follow-on national objectives. A final example lies in the PRC’s use of the People’s Liberation Army to expand China’s borders through the military construction on disputed reefs and atolls throughout the South China Sea.21

While hard to quantitatively demonstrate causality between the contributions of CG and the achievement of strategic goals, it is clear the absence of deliberate integration of gains creates a geo-strategic vacuum. This, in turn, provides competitors and potential adversaries with the time and space necessary to shore up their own interests in the region. To compete and win in these environments, the United States must wisely engage other nations by providing a proposition of equal or greater value that includes traditional democratic values, personal freedoms, and a free market economy. In addition, the United States has benefited by offering Army-led CG initiatives on the ground that provide tangible improvements to the security and stability of participating partner nations.

The benefits achieved through Army-led CG activities undoubtedly help steward our Nation’s finite resources for influence abroad. In addition, these relatively low-cost investments reduce risk to force and risk to mission by imposing substantial costs to potential adversaries. If the United States leverages these additive advantages during periods of cooperation or normalized competition, it may provide leaders with a position of advantage needed to deter in crisis, and if necessary, win in conflict.

Approaches and Considerations for Effective Consolidation

Attempting to achieve CG will remain a difficult endeavor with many different facets that must be accounted for. As a starting point in contending with these inherent challenges, Army and joint force planners should understand the relevant doctrine and policy that provides guidance. Since 2017, doctrine has made great strides in codifying the value of Army-led CG activities in support of the joint force. Additional insights for CG are contained in the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability; the Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR); the Global Fragility Act (GFA); DOD Instruction 3000.05, Stabilization; and JP 3-07, Joint Stabilization Activities.22

Orphaned Korean children receive money, clothing, food, and toys contributed by thousands of Americans

The SAR was jointly promulgated by the secretaries of defense and state and the USAID administrator to codify the responsibilities of the three agencies. Congress recently passed the GFA to enforce many of the SAR’s principles and lessons learned through congressional and presidential endorsement. This act marks stabilization as an essential national security function and requires implementing a stabilization strategy in select countries. These strategies clearly articulate the plan for stabilization and, ultimately, CG in highly fragile locations. While the GFA is focused on specific countries not in the midst of armed conflict, it provides insight into how the effort to CG can and should work in competition. The SAR and GFA provide policy and strategic-level guidance for the design of country or regionally specific strategies. They provide principles that must be applied when developing country or theater-specific goals linked to interagency processes, such as integrated country strategies, theater campaign plans, or country development cooperation strategies.

DOD Instruction 3000.05 and JP 3-07 are the DOD’s policy and doctrine, on stabilization and are foundational for understanding, planning, and executing Army and joint force stabilization activities to consolidate gains and achieve overarching U.S. government objectives. JP 3-07 specifically provides key concepts and a coherent approach to stabilization harmonized with the policy governing how DOS and USAID approach and execute stabilization and seek to consolidate U.S. government gains.23

The U.S. Army Peacekeeping Stability Operations Institute’s Defense Support to Stabilization (DSS): A Guide for Stabilization Practitioners is a comprehensive reference guide on how DOD supports U.S. government stabilization efforts, missions, and activities.24 This tool consolidates law, policy, strategy, and information on relevant organizations and entities into one document. It will enable Army and joint force planners and practitioners to understand and access the resources required to ensure military operations lead to consolidated gains.


Doctrine is a product of theory and experience that affords a handrail to guide the collective efforts of complex organizations against adaptive threats. Therefore, it is never complete and rarely comprehensive enough to address all scenarios. So rather than deconstructing FM 3-0 to find fault or criticism, this article has sought to amplify the document’s utility by clarifying a central but overshadowed aspect within its pages. Despite the often-unrecognized prominence of CG in everyday efforts as well as its latent potential as an operational and strategic multiplier, the military maintains a languid appreciation for CG and a turbid understanding of its value.

There is a certain irony that an institution transfixed on integrating kinetic effects in operations would leave so much on the table by not capitalizing on countless investments found elsewhere across the conflict continuum. Such a disaggregated approach—whether by design or disregard—fails to fully realize the potential that collective efforts might engender. This directly impacts the military’s ability to create and sustain the competitive advantage necessary for decisive victory. Though less visceral and harder to quantify, such isolated efforts can also render associated costs in terms of lost opportunity or idle investments during competition and crisis.25

The first step toward rectifying this shortfall is further elevating joint force appreciation for CG from its historic relegation as a post-operation tactical task list. Effective CG is fundamental throughout the competition continuum. Treating this function as simply the fourth and last in a series of strategic roles or as a postscript to operational endeavors is not sufficient. Rather, CG is an integral and inseparable component that must manifest in very deliberate measures throughout activities occurring during competition, crisis, and conflict. Though this paradigm shift is slowly occurring in theory and doctrine, such as the improvements found within FM 3-0, the value of CG must become equally visible in practice.

The next step is to recognize the Army’s prominent role in orchestrating this function and to leverage this relationship to its fullest. No other branch of service has the forces, footprint, or focus to undertake this responsibility so effectively on behalf of the joint force. Army capabilities are attuned and balanced to operate in the human dimension—not just to win wars but to positively engage other nations through security cooperation and partner-building. In addition, the Army has a global presence that is not beholden to platforms or restricted to domains removed from the societies we seek to influence. Lastly, the Army has a mission that explicitly accommodates a focus on CG by leveraging all relevant U.S. government efforts to engender influence and exploit advantage on land.

Consolidation of gains presents an opportunity to aggregate the common utility of disparate activities, while maximizing the value of whole-of-government efforts and interactions with allies and partners abroad. While such opportunities abound, however, inverse vulnerabilities born of indifference lurk just over the horizon. The void where advantages remain unpressed will be filled by other actors with interests perhaps inimical to our own. This does not need to be the case since the recourse already resides within the Army’s DNA. The institution only needs to reframe how it understands its full contributions to the joint force and harness its existing means for CG. In doing so, the Army will continue to play a pivotal role in creating the conditions necessary to deter or defeat our Nation’s enemies.26


  1. James McConville, “General James McConville on Army Operations and Priorities” (remarks, Association of the U.S. Army Breakfast Series, Fort Belvoir, VA, 21 January 2020), accessed 2 August 2023,
  2. Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], 2022), 1-2.
  3. For context on the Army’s strategic roles, see FM 3-0, Operations, 1-1; outcomes of multidomain operations, 1-2; imperatives, 3-8; and examples of operational efforts, 6-20.
  4. Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010), V-7.
  5. JP 3-20, Security Cooperation (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 2017), accessed 2 August 2023,
  6. U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2009), 2–8.
  7. John F. Sopko et al., Stabilization: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan (Arlington, VA: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, 2018), accessed 2 August 2023,
  8. Ibid., xii.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid., 171.
  11. The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: The White House, 2022), 22, accessed 2 August 2023,
  12. JP 3-31, Joint Land Operations, IV-2.
  13. Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 12–15. Pape argues that deterrence is the attempt to persuade a nation-state not to initiate action by convincing them that the perceived gains do not justify the costs involved. Pape separately describes coercion by denial as the use of military means to prevent an adversary from attaining their political objective(s).
  14. Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 196–99. Luttwak explains that military power efficiency is measured by its psychological influence and inversely proportional to a nation-state’s reliance on force that require human and material means.
  15. James McConville, Army Multidomain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1 (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 16 March 2021), 9, accessed 2 August 2023,
  16. The Army fiscal year 2022 end-strength targets include “485,000 in the Active Component, 336,000 in the Army National Guard, and 189,500 in the Army Reserve.” Mark Cancian, U.S. Military Forces in 2022: Peering into the Abyss (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Institutional Studies, March 2022), vi.
  17. Sir Michael Howard, “Lessons of the Cold War,” Survival 36, no. 4 (1994): 161, 166,
  18. McConville, Army Multidomain Transformation, 6.
  19. Ibid., 13.
  20. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ed. and trans. Ralph Sawyer (New York: Fall River Press, 1994), 177.
  21. Kapil Bhatia, “Coercive Gradualism through Gray Zone Statecraft in the South China Seas: China’s Strategy and Potential U.S. Options,” Joint Force Quarterly 91 (October 2018), accessed 2 August 2023,
  22. Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, United States Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability (Washington, DC: Department of State, April 2022), accessed 3 August 2023,; Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Department of Defense, Stabilization Assistance Review: A Framework for Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Government Efforts to Stabilize Conflict-Affected Areas (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 2018), accessed 2 August 2023,; Global Fragility Act of 2019, Pub. L. No. 116-94, 133 Stat. 3060 (2019); Department of Defense Instruction 3000.05, Stability Operations (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2009); JP 3-07, Joint Stability Activities (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 2022).
  23. JP 3-07, Joint Stability Activities.
  24. Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI), Defense Support to Stabilization (DSS): A Guide for Stabilization Practitioners (Carlisle Barracks, PA: PKSOI, November 2022), accessed 2 August 2023,
  25. The history of U.S. military interventions is replete with examples on the impact of uncoordinated activities and unleveraged gains. See Carter Malkasian’s The American War in Afghanistan: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021); Emma Sky’s observations on the Iraq War in The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (New York: PublicAffairs, 2015); and contemporary analysis on competing with China for influence and relative advantage in the Asia-Pacific.
  26. Eric M. Burke and Donald P. Wright, eds., Enduring Success: Consolidation of Gains in Large-Scale Combat Operations (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Army University Press, 2018), accessed 2 August 2023,


Brig. Gen. Matthew N. Metzel is an Army strategist serving as the deputy commanding general (operations) for the 200th Military Police Command. He is a Georgetown Fellow with three master’s degrees in military history, organizational management, and theater operations.

Col. Jay Liddick is an Army civil affairs officer serving as the director of the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He is a 2017 Army War College graduate.

Col. Heiva H. Kelley is an Army strategist serving as the director of Strategic Initiatives for the United States Army Reserve. Heiva graduated from the National War College in 2021.

Lt. Col. (P) Robert T. Greiner is an Army strategist assigned to the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Formally an assistant professor at the U.S. Army War College and its Strategic Studies Institute. Greiner is an alumnus of Ohio University, Yale University, and the U.S. Army War College class of 2022.

Travis Bolio is a joint proponent analyst for humanitarian assistance, economic, and infrastructure at the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. He is the custodian for NATO Allied Joint Publication-3.28, Allied Joint Doctrine for the Military Contribution to Stabilization, and the course director for the Joint Interagency Stabilization Course. Bolio has experience as a civil affairs officer, government military specialist in economics, and in private sector finance and banking. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in business administration, concentrating in leadership.


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November-December 2023