Mission Command is Not Enough — WarCouncil.org

No West Point cadet will attend academic classes today due to the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic’s “Mission Command Conference.” “Mission command” is a fairly massive initiative in the Army, defined as “the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.” In short, this is how the Army educates and inspires junior officers to take the initiative when on mission (avoiding constant need for supervision and guidance). This is both useful and critical on today’s battlefield.

Yet mission command is inherently constrained by the word, “mission.” The US Army doesn’t fight missions, it fights wars. Missions are designed to support war efforts, therefore, thinking about how one’s mission fits into the war’s context is not just helpful, but necessary. War is about much more than the tactical fight.

via Mission Command is Not Enough — WarCouncil.org.

I don’t know. Do we really need to teach a 2nd Lieutenant how tactics ties to strategy, which in turn is tied to national policy? Heck, one of the constraints on coherent strategic thinking in the services is that there has been, for the last 20 years, a lack of coherent national policy.

We should, of course, give young leaders a solid grounding in the history of warfare, and strategic thought. But a new graduate of West Point is a platoon leader, focused on the tactical fight. And he or she has an awful lot to master at just that level.

1 thought on “Mission Command is Not Enough — WarCouncil.org”

  1. Mission command is not for the strategic or operational level alone. Mission command is at all levels.
    Mission Command:
    “Red 1, this is Black 6. move your platoon to the north and establish a blocking position oriented north in order to deny enemy freedom of movement to attack our flank. Be established by 0615 and ensure that you set far enough out to prevent direct fires hitting the BN main body. Block until the BN main body crosses Phase Line Iron. Once you are established, coordinate for mortar support. Report set, over.” Note in this example, the commander (Black 6) has assigned a task to the platoon leader (Red 1) to block enemy forces in order to protect the BN’s flank. He assumes that the platoon leader knows how to get there, understands the nature of the terrain such that he can select the best place to block from, as as well as understanding enemy forces’ capabilities, and can plan mortar fires in support. The CDR assumes that the platoon leader can backwards plan when to move, as well as what formations and movement techniques to use.

    Not mission command: (Formerly called “Detailed Planning”)
    Red 1, this is Black 6. FRAGO Follows: Enemy forces in company strength are massing 10 km to the north. I am concerned about them attacking into our exposed flank when we initiate our attack. You are to move to MR 1234 5678 and establish a platoon battle position oriented on a 0200 mill azimuth. I need you to block the high speed avenue of approach running north to south. Upon identifying enemy forces, you will initate initially with indirect fires and then transition to section and finally platoon volleys. Coordinate with me for displacement criteria; I will control your movement through subsequent or supplementary BPs. Ensure that you position one tank at MR 1234 5578 in order to get “key hole” shots on the enemy’s approach. Establish TRPs at (grid) (grid) and (grid). Targets follow: AG1111 blah blah blah; AG1112 blah blah blah; AG1113 blah blah blah. Initiate movement at 0545 and report every 500m of advance. Execute movement in platoon column until you pass CP 1 and transition to a platoon wedge.

    Mission command is based on having subordinates that are well enough trained that they understand all of the implied tasks that go unsaid as the commander issues his intent and tasks and purposes to his subordinates. When the subordinates don’t have the experience to fill in the gaps it makes for poor training because the subordinates suck, or frustration with echelons of command that then resort to detailed planning to accomplish the mission. Also, subordinates don’t want to admit that sometimes more than intent, task and purpose are required based on either the senior guy’s greater experience, or more likely, when the higher plan requires specific elements of the plan, such as “Establish the OP right here” because it is syncrhonized with other elements of the plan, such as fires or sustainment.

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