Author: Kuznar , L. (NSI, Inc.)
The physical, social, political, economic, and cultural systems comprise the operational environment and
interact in complex ways. The Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) Anticipating the Future Operational
Environment (AFOE) project models this complexity with special relevance to US national security
concerns. The AFOE team constructed a generic Global Exploitable Conditions Model (GECM) that
captured this complexity as a system of nodes, or variables, and edges, which are the relationships
between nodes. The generic GECM was then tailored to the specifics of the USAFRICOM AOR to produce
the AFRICOM Exploitable Conditions Model (AECM). A subsystem of the AECM was extracted to align with
key USAFRICOM objectives in the greater Sahelian region: a part of the African continent encompassing
24 countries in the Western and Eastern African zones, and two countries from the Central African zone.
These countries generally occupy the area between the Sahara Desert and the tropical forest regions of
Africa and are the focus of a designated Sahelian system model.
The analytic approach, like the region itself, was multi-faceted. First, empirical data was collected to
provide quantitative measures representing the ways that conditions of the operational environment
impact USAFRICOM’s key concerns. These data provided key inputs into two types of models: network
analysis and system dynamics. Analyses of network models evaluate the potential of a node to influence
a system by virtue of its position in the system. System dynamics models simulate the flow of influence
throughout a system by virtue of positioning, the functional relationship of the edges that connect nodes,
and most important through feedbacks in the system.
It should be noted that the SMA team benefited significantly from close cooperation with its colleagues
at USAFRICOM. This report and the accompanying Quick Look describe how these conceptual models were used to provide insights into important conditions and dynamics that impact USAFRICOM’s mission objectives.