The Evolution of Doctrine

Earlier this week, before family obligations tore me away, I read the Army’s newest capstone doctrine publication, ADP 3.0, Unified Land Operations.  ULO clearly builds upon previous doctrine, and shows the influence of the last 10 years of war on the Army’s consensus view on how it will fight wars.

First, a note on OpSec. ALL the information I discuss is in the public domain. I don’t have any access to classified information, and if I did, I sure as heck wouldn’t share it with you. Further, I tend to shy away from more detailed information regarding Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) that, while in the public domain, may best be left less visible. Discussing the broad strokes of the Army’s warfighting doctrine, however, is a pretty safe topic.

When the Army in 1982 published AirLand Battle  (FM 100-5, Operations) as its capstone doctrine, it was two things. It was a fairly specific “how to” manual for brigade, division, corps, and higher officers detailing the methods the Army would use to defeat the Warsaw Pact in World War III in Western Europe. It was also, like the contemporaneous Maritime Strategy, a political document, which articulated both to a domestic political audience and the the USSR the commitment of the Army to the defense of Western Europe. The fact that the 1982 version of ALB placed heavy emphasis on nuclear fires was a clear signal to the Soviets that the US would not let Europe go without a fight. After the Carter era hollow force, the Army was making a loud statement that we were back and meant business. 

Based on feedback from the field, and later, after operations such as Operation Just Cause in Panama, and Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the Gulf, later versions of FM 100-5 reflected that the Army would likely be faced with a great number of what were then known as Operations Other Than War or OOTW. Serving as peacekeepers in the Balkans, operations in Somalia, disaster relief, training partner nations, and a whole host of other jobs were at hand. Previously, commanders pretty much had to make up their responses to these missions on the fly. With the updates, the Army finally began to give guidance and an intellectual framework to commanders faced with these missions.  Like the title of this post says, doctrine was evolving.

The Rumsfeld Revolution in Military Affairs also came to have an impact on doctrine. The underlying concept was that networked forces could operate over larger areas, with total information dominance, and using smaller forces. To some degree, that’s pretty plausible in a conventional force-on-force scenario. We haven’t much discussed John Boyd’s OODA loop hypothesis, but it certainly fits in with that world view.

But reality tends to intrude upon military theory. ADP 3.0 is a reflection of the reality of the last 10 years, and it is also something of a new approach to writing doctrine.

Where earlier doctrine publications were quite detailed, giving specific guidance on such things as synchronization of fires and maneuver, and tended to be quite lengthy publications, ADP 3.0 is, in fact, a 28 page pamphlet. It is little more than a statement of the Army’s mission, a description of how the Army is likely to fit into a larger command structure during operations, and a brief overview of the operational terms to provide a common intellectual framework.

Current doctrine describes four main mission sets for the Army:

  1. Attack
  2. Defense
  3. Stability Operations
  4. Defense Support of Civilian Authorities

ADP 3.0 recognizes that the Army will rarely be faced with a simple force-on-force scenario like that of Desert Storm. Deployed forces will face an entire spectrum of threats, from regular, uniformed, and well equipped mechanized forces, to guerrilla forces, to insurgents and transnational/non-state terrorist organizations, and communities and even entire countries with no civil authority. Forces will likely have to conduct attack, defense, and stability operations simultaneously across an entire theater of operations. Thus, the Army tells its commanders they will have to conduct both Combined Arms Maneuver (think traditional military action) and Wide Area Security (providing security to the population) at the same time.  A prime example of this would be the second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. While the Army was conducting a full scale attack on Fallujah, it was also conduction defensive operations to prevent Al Qaeda attacks elsewhere, and providing security to the population elsewhere.

Unified Land Operations also recognizes that the Army won’t be going it alone. After the invasion of Grenada in 1983, there was a great deal of emphasis on “joint” operations- reducing the friction between the services when they operated together. Now, in addition to joint operations, an Army commander in the field will also have to work closely with the military and civilian authorities of our partner nations, as well as with civilian agencies of our own government such as the State Department, Treasury, and Department of Agriculture. Army commanders, used to deciding upon a course of action and giving orders, now have to build consensus with these partners, and strive to achieve a unity of purpose and ensure that all actions taken are harmonized to achieve an agreed upon goal. ADP 3.0 describes this environment, but recognizes that leaders will have to find their own solution to these problems, as each instance is unique.

Behind ADP 3.0, there are reference pamphlets which act somewhat like indexes to guide commanders and staff to the appropriate doctrinal publications that provide specifics of implementing these tasks and missions. Since the Army is highly unlikely to operate in a vacuum, these publications are often Joint Publications by DoD covering all services.

Currently, the Army has  a field manual for just about every organization, mission, and operational environment, and even a simple rifle company needs to have dozens of Field Manuals on hand. That doesn’t even get into the Technical Manuals that support equipment.

Under the Doctrine 2015 initiative, many of these FMs will be superseded. ADP 3.0 is the first of about 15 doctrinal pamphlets that will be circulated among the force. Each will also have a reference pamphlet that supports it. Behind that, the Army wants to go to a “wiki” system to provide the doctrinal TTPs that the end users can quickly reference, and more importantly, can quickly be updated to reflect the most recent lessons learned on the ground.

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of Doctrine”

  1. Good summary. You are now on a par with my students’ understanding of current doctrine; and few of them have an understanding of the previous army operating concepts.

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