Drop Zone: Human Domain Series

By Julie Janson

The Human Domain exerts significant influence on operational maneuver in the global operating environment and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is due to a continuous shift from conflicts determined by technological superiority and attrition to population-centric conflict, where perceptions and behavior of relevant populations, groups, or even individuals affect the conduct and outcome of hostilities.  Regardless of the character of war, all domains—land, sea, air, space, electro-magnetic spectrum (including cyberspace)—have and will ultimately seek to achieve effects in the human domain.  Because war is a clash between opposing human wills, the Human Domain is, and always will be, central in war.

Unfortunately, while most military planners inherently understand there is a critical human aspect to all military operations, the human domain is not actually defined in any US Joint doctrine.  One of the few documents that defines and discusses the Human Domain at length is Special Operation Command’s Operating in the Human Domain. While this is a useful starting point, this document has a Land Domain focus and does not account for role of the Human Domain in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).  Without a central definition and taxonomy to pull from, each of the services has developed their own terms and concepts, resulting in a fractured and incomplete understanding of what the Human Domain is and the critical role it plays in military operations.

This year, Over the Horizon will present a broad series of articles on or related to the Human Domain in an effort to promote conversation about this critical, but often ignored, domain.  We understand that we are not the first to publish articles on this topic. We are simply looking to continue the discussion, particularly in the context of MDO.

A basic doctrine review reveals countless variations on the term “Human Domain.” Joint Publication 3-0 and 5-0 mention the human dimension and the cognitive dimension, but define neither. Other terms in various publications include information-centric operations, human qualities of operations, and human activities in military operations.  To begin, Over the Horizon will adopt the Human Domain definition used in Operating in the Human Domain:

“The Human Domain consists of the people (individuals, groups, and populations) in the environment, including their perceptions, decision-making, and behavior.”

We will also refer to the widely accepted “Information Environment” (IE) currently defined in JP 3-0 as:

“The aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information. The information environment is where humans and systems observe, orient, decide, and act upon information, and exists throughout the Joint Force Commander’s Operating Environment.”

Our first article, The Indirect Approach and Human Influence by COL (ret) Robert M. Schoenhaus, will be published next week and will highlight the importance of developing planners who are trained in multi-domain and human influence planning considerations through a discussion of the direct versus indirect approach.

Throughout the year, Over the Horizon will continue to provide various viewpoints on multiple aspects of human domain.  Future topics will include the future of Operations Security in an increasingly interconnected world, an Army viewpoint on how Information Operations (IO) should be utilized, a proposed strategy for the effective employment of multi-domain integration, an Air Force viewpoint on the evolving relationship between IO and Public Affairs, and how we are losing the Information War.

Our aim is to cover this topic from as many angles as possible.  This will include various service, civilian and international perspectives across a broad range of Information Related Capabilities, and an in-depth look at Information Operations (IO).  While all planners and operators should appreciate and understand the Human Domain, we expect IO professionals to be the military experts in this arena.

This exploration will culminate with a recommendation of a MDO definition and taxonomy of the Human Domain with proposed way ahead for integration and implementation.  We will also consider the relationship between the Human Domain and the Information Environment.

There is no way to accurately predict the projection of technology, and a dependence on any traditional or technological domain shows a complete lack of appreciation for human ingenuity. Adversaries will persist in exploring asymmetric ways to employ basic and advanced technologies to exploit friendly vulnerabilities. While it is through maneuver in all dimensions that an inferior force can achieve decisive superiority at the necessary time and place, no degree of technological development or scientific calculation will diminish the importance of the Human Domain in war. As such, we must continue the effort to understand and maneuver within this critical domain.

We welcome contributions to this series.  If you are interested in submitting an article regarding the Human Domain, please e-mail Major Julie Janson at humandomain@overthehorizonmdos.com

Julie “Pistol” Janson is part of the first group to earn the Information Operations Officers AF Specialty Code in the Air Force.  She has over ten years of experience in Information Operations and planning at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.  She is currently stationed at Maxwell AB as a student in Air Command Staff College. Her educational background includes psychology, criminal justice, law, and marketing.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the US government.

Leave a Reply