The Exploitable Conditions Framework: Anticipating Exploitation of the Operational Environment

April 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Laster, N. (US Army TRADOC G-2, Global Cultural Knowledge Network (GCKN)); Johnson, A. (US Army TRADOC G-2, GCKN)

Date: 5 May 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Nicole M. Laster (Lead Social Scientist, US Army TRADOC G-2, Global Cultural Knowledge Network (GCKN)) and LTC (Ret) Andrew M. Johnson (Senior Sociocultural Analyst, U.S. Army TRADOC G-2, GCKN) as part of its SMA AFOE Speaker Series.

The world operates on a system of systems which actors can use to manipulate or influence the global geopolitical order. The Global Cultural Knowledge Network (GCKN) created the exploitable conditions framework (ECF), a model that allows these systems to be studied through socio-cultural analysis. Dr. Laster commented that the original ECF contained 24 conditions; however, in an updated model, the most important 12 conditions were used. These 12 conditions are being expanded and training programs for decision makers relating to these conditions is being created. These conditions include cross-border encroachment, mobilizing ideologies, economic inequality, and environmental threats. Three ways to use the ECF are as a sorting tool, an analytical tradecraft tool, and interpretive device. While the ECF is a tool, the methodology can change every time a new actor’s activities are examined.

When using ECF, identifying who is affected, who the exploiter is, their motivations, and the systems is important. LTC (Ret) Johnson stated that the GCKN team focused first on the exploiter—Russia was used as an example—before geographic case studies were used. Examples of conditions that Russia exploited were technification of society, resource scarcity, divided societies, and infrastructure deficits, among others. The team found that Russia consistently tried to exploit conflicts between state and non-state actors and tried to bolster strategic interests pragmatically by dominating the near abroad while avoiding open conflict. While China was not an area of focus for the presentation, the GCKN has examined China as an exploiter and believes that it will cooperate with Russia to thwart US interests. 

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


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