Center of Gravity Analysis
Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier, U.S. Army
ILITARY STUDENTS defining the concept of the center of gravity (COG) are like blind men describing an elephant. They know a definition exists, but they describe it according to their own experiences, and invariably someone will define COG as “the will of the people.” The center of gravity is too important a concept to guess at. Joint Publication (JP) 5-0 (Draft 2), Doctrine for Joint Planning Operations, clearly states the critical role of COG analysis: “The most important task confronting campaign planners in this process is being able to identify friendly and adversary strategic centers of gravity; that is, the sources of strength, power, and resistance.”1 The reason identifying centers of gravity is the most important task is because a “faulty analysis of friendly or adversary centers of gravity can have very serious consequences; specifically, the inability to accomplish the military objectives at an acceptable cost and the unconscionable expenditure of lives, time, and materiel in efforts that do not produce decisive strategic or operational results.”2 There are two reasons why centers of gravity are so difficult to identify or define. First, the armed services suffer from years of conflicting definitions for center of gravity. Not until 1997 did they agree to the current joint definition.3 Second, the services teach a COG theory without a practical framework to make the theory useful. Fixing the problem is easy; the joint community must agree on a simple definition and provide a framework.
What are Centers of Gravity?
Centers of gravity are sources of power. Joseph Strange of the U.S. Marine Corps War College defines centers of gravity as the “primary sources of moral or physical strength, power, and resistance.”4 A center of gravity is the source of power that creates a force or a critical capability that allows an entity to act or accomplish a task or purpose. Ignore the joint...