The Carver Matrix


The CARVER matrix was developed by the United States Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War. CARVER is an acronym that stands for Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability and is a system to identify and rank specific targets so that attack resources can be efficiently used. CARVER was developed in World War II by the OSS for the French field agents as a simple, uniformly and somewhat quantifiable means of selecting targets for possible interdiction. CARVER can be used from an offensive (what to attack) or defensive (what to protect) perspective.


During the Vietnam war the US Army Special Forces required a system of target acquisition that would rank potential targets according to a scale. During the war the CARVER matrix system was developed to fulfil those needs.[1] It has been recently used in targeting terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiyah.[2]

Using the system

This system has been developed in order to aid Special Operations Forces (SOF) and more recently Department of Energy (DOE), Department of State (DOS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and various private and commercial security assets, in target selection and Risk/Vulnerability assessments by calculating the value of a given potential target and the ease with which such a target could be neutralized. Or in other words, it's a logical way of looking at what one might want to do and whether or not it is possible, based on the resources one has to work with. These factors are also the acronym of the system name CARVER: Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability.[3][4][5] In the offensive, employing the Carver matrix can help identify targets that are vulnerable to attack and for defensive purposes the Carver matrix can indicate "High Risk" targets that require additional security assets allotted to them to prevent the degradation of said assets via enemy assault or terrorist action .[4] In the below table is an example of such a matrix that uses the CARVER system for striking a Water sanitation center:

In the book Unleash the Warrior Within, Richard Machowicz identified that for most situations in life, simply grading one's choices by Criticality & Effect-on-goal/happiness is enough: one needn't do the entire matrix, as these 2 elements are the most significant.

The CARVER matrix has also formed the basis of other risk and vulnerability assessment systems including the SCALE system.

Source: Wikipedia

CARVER in Detail


This appendix explains CARVER, which is an SOF term. CARVER is used by ARSOF SIOs and operational personnel throughout the ARSOF targeting and mission planning process to assess mission, validity, and requirements. It is also used in technical appreciation and target analysis. This appendix provides a step-by- step example of how to use CARVER.


The CARVER selection factors assist in selecting the best targets or components to attack. As the factors are considered, they are given a numerical value. This value represents the desirability of attacking the target. The values are then placed in a decision matrix. After CARVER values for each target or component are assigned, the sum of the values indicate the highest value target or component to be attacked within the limits of the statement of requirements and commander's intent.


Criticality means target value. This is the primary consideration in targeting. A target is critical when its destruction or damage has a significant impact on military, political, or economic operations.

Targets within a system must be considered in relation to other elements of the target system. The value of a target will change as the situation develops, requiring the use of the time-sensitive methods which respond to changing situations. For example, when one has few locomotives, railroad bridges may be less critical as targets; however, safeguarding bridges may be critical to maneuvering conventional forces which require use of such bridges. Criticality depends on several factors:

Table D-1 shows how criticality values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-1. Assigning criticality values.



Immediate halt in output, production, or service; target cannot function without it


Halt within 1 day, or 66% curtailment in output, production, or service


Halt within 1 week, or 33% curtailment in output, production, or service


Halt within 10 days, or 10% curtailment in output, production, or service


No significant effect on output, production, or service



A target is accessible when an operational element can reach the target with sufficient personnel and equipment to accomplish its mission. A target can be accessible even if it requires the assistance of knowledgeable insiders. This assessment entails identifying and studying critical paths that the operational element must take to achieve its objectives, and measuring those things that aid or impede access. SOF must not only be able to reach the target but must also remain there for an extended period. The four basic steps identifying accessibility are-

Factors considered when evaluating accessibility include but are not limited to-

The analysis along each critical path to the target should measure the time it would take for the action element to bypass, neutralize, or penetrate barriers and obstacles along the way. Accessibility is measured in terms of relative ease or difficulty of movement for the operational element and the likelihood of detection. The use of standoff weapons should always be considered in such evaluations. Table D-2 shows how accessibility values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-2. Assigning accessibility values.



Easily accessible, standoff weapons can be employed


Inside a perimeter fence but outdoors


Inside a building but on ground floor


Inside a building but on second floor or in basement; climbing or lowering required


Not accessible or inaccessible without extreme difficulty



A target's recuperability is measured in time; that is, how long will it take to replace, repair, or bypass the destructionof or damage to the target? Recuperability varies with the sources and type of targeted components and the availability of spare parts availability. Factors which should be considered when assessing recuperability include, but are not limited to, the availability of-

Table D-3 shows how recuperability values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-3. Assigning recuperability values.



Replacement, repair, or substitution requires 1 month or more


Replacement, repair, or substitution requires 1 week to 1 month


Replacement, repair, or substitution requires 72 hours to 1 week


Replacement, repair, or substitution requires 24 to 72 hours


Same day replacement, repair, or substitution



A target is vulnerable if the operational element has the means and expertise to successfully attack the target. When determining the vulnerability of a target, the scale of the critical component needs to be compared with the capability of the attacking element to destroy or damage it. In general, the attacking element may tend to-

Specifically, vulnerability depends on-

Table D-4 shows how vulnerability values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-4. Assigning vulnerability values.



Vulnerable to long-range laser target designation, small arms fire, or charges of 5 pounds or less


Vulnerable to light antiarmor weapons fire or charges of 5 to 10 pounds


Vulnerable to medium antiarmor weapons fire, bulk charges of 10 to 30 pounds, or very careful placement of smaller charges


Vulnerable to heavy antiarmor fire, bulk charges of 30 to 50 pounds, or requires special weapons


Invulnerable to all but the most extreme targeting measures



The effect of a target attack is a measure of possible military, political, economic, psychological, and sociological impacts at the target and beyond. This is closely related to the measure of target criticality. The type and magnitude of given effects desired will help planners select targets and target components for attack. Effect in this context addresses all significant effects, whether desired or not, that may result once the selected target component is attacked. Traditionally, this element has addressed the effect on the local population, but now there are broader considerations. Effect is frequently neutral at the tactical (ODA) level.

For example, the primary effect of the destruction of two adjacent long-range radar sites in an early warning system may be to open a hole in the system that is of sufficient size and duration to permit the attacker to launch a successful air or missile nuclear strike against the defender. Effects can also include-

Possible effects can be speculative and should be labelled as such. Effects of the same attack may be quite different at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. For example, the destruction of a substation may not affect local power supply but cuts off all power to an adjacent region. Table D-5 shows how effect values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-5. Assigning effect values.



Overwhelmingly positive effects; no significant negative effects


Moderately positive effects; few significant negative effects


No significant effects; neutral


Moderately negative effects; few significant positive effects


Overwhelmingly negative effects; no significant positive effects



A target's recognizability is the degree to which it can be recognized by an operational element and/or intelligence collection and reconnaissance assets under varying conditions. Weather has an obvious and significant impact on visibility. Rain, snow, and ground fog may obscure observation. Road segments with sparse vegetation and adjacent high ground provide excellent conditions for good observation. Distance, light, and season must also be considered.

Other factors which influence recognizability include the size and complexity of the target, the existence of distinctive target signatures, the presence of masking or camouflage, and the technical sophistication and training of the attackers. Table D-6 shows how recognizability values are assigned on CARVER matrixes.

Table D-6. Assigning recognizability values.



The target is clearly recognizable under all conditions and from a distance; it requires little or no training for recognition 3-4


The target is easily recognizable at small-arms range and requires a small amount of training for recognition


The target is difficult to recognize at night or in bad weather, or might be confused with other targets or target components; it requires some training for recognition


The target is difficult to recognize at night or in bad weather, even within small-arms range; it is easily confused with other targets or components, it requires extensive training for recognition


The target cannot be recognized under any conditions, except by experts

1 -2


These CARVER factors and their assigned values are used to construct a CARVER matrix. This is a tool for rating the desirability of potential targets and wisely allocating attack resources.

To construct the matrix, list the potential targets in the left column. For strategic level analysis, list the enemy's systems or subsystems (electric power supply, rail system). For tactical level analysis, list the complexes or components of the subsystems or complexes selected for attack by your higher headquarters. (Figure D-1 shows a sample matrix for a bulk electric power supply facility.)

As each potential target is evaluated for each CARVER factor, enter the appropriate value into the matrix. Once all the potential targets have been evaluated, add the values for each potential target. . The sums represent the relative desirability of each potential target; this constitutes a prioritized list of targets. Attack those targets with the highest totals first.

If additional men and/or munitions are available, allocate these resources to the remaining potential targets in descending numerical order. This allocation scheme will maximize the use of limited resources. The SIO can use the CARVER matrix to present operation planners with a variety of attack options. With the matrix he can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each COA against the target. Having arrived at conclusions through the rigorous evaluation process, the SIO can comfortably defend his choices.


During target systems analysis, it is advantageous (in a permissive environment) to have a reconnaissance element perform a site survey. This reconnaissance can take place at the specific target site or at a similar site in a more accessible location.

Preparation for reconnaissance and analysis of an industrial establishment or other technically sophisticated complex is one of the more difficult missions for the ARSOF SIO. Reconnaissance could be done in support of DA missions or to assist a host nation to defend a potential target in a FID environment. Target analysis is a cooperative effort between the operational element and intelligence personnel. This analysis seeks to answer PIR, IR, and SIR in the categories of CARVER.

Target analysis is the responsibility of the SIO, but a reconnaissance team can often be used to answer SIR that cannot be satisfied by any other means. Preparation for a site reconnaissance requires review and understanding of the following process. Site reconnaissance-


The first step is a joint SIO and reconnaissance team review of the commander's guidance and stated requirements. This sets out what is to be accomplished regarding the target. In a FID environment, this includes an evaluation of the threat to the target.


The second step is to gather, organize, and evaluate available information about the target; and to identify gaps in the data. Maps, photographs, flow charts, blueprints, diagrams, and other data are provided by the SIO and are examined, as appropriate, in light of the mission and the PIR and IR.

An initial CARVER report and targeting folder that highlights gaps in the data may be prepared at this step. The folder is used to develop a detailed collection and reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) plan.


The third step is a survey of the target by the reconnaissance team. The team-

If the survey is overt and with the cooperation of personnel working at the site, the operational element follows these basic rules:


The fourth step is to complete the reconnaissance report and transmit it to the SIO. The following are minimum recommended data requirements for a reconnaissance report prepared by a reconnaissance team:


Since target analysis is the responsibility of the SIO, the SIO trains reconnaissance teams or surrogates in technical appreciation and CARVER analysis. When training, consider the following:


Photos credited to SMI Consultancy