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.

Again, The Moron Answers

ExUrbanKevin, from the ExUrbanLeague commented below with the question:

I came across this article a few years ago, on the three schools of thought within the Pentagon.

With the success of General Petraeus and the surge in the intervening few years since this was written, it’s pretty obvious the snake-eaters have won, and planning inside the Pentagon will focus on asymmetrical warfare for the foreseeable future.

Your thoughts?

Well, I’m always willing to give my opinion. I highly recommend you go read the Westhawk article in full, but as a brief synopsis, it argues that there are three schools of thought regarding the doctrine of the Army going forward. The first argues for a large, legacy force that is designed to face a peer competitor and then adapts down to lesser forces, such as we see in Iraq. The second school of thought is the Hi-tech crowd that wants to substitute technology for flesh and blood, as promoted by Rumsfeld, and the third is the “All special ops, all the time” crowd.

Doctrine is nothing more than the intellectual background and shared frame of reference for the way we fight. Every army has a doctrine, even if they don’t think about it. We put a lot of thought into ours, but just because it has been published doesn’t mean there aren’t heretics out there in the field who disagree. It is more of a consensus than a decree.

To a considerable degree, technology drives acquisition, which drives doctrine. But the reverse is true too, in that doctrine drives technology and thence acquisition. So in addition to an argument over what is the best way to meet current and future threats, it becomes an argument over money, which can’t take place in a vacuum, but must content with Congress, which adds a whole ‘nother layer of complexity. It is even worse for the Navy and Air Force, but I’ll let others fight THAT battle.

The school of thought, whom the article calls The Angry Generals, has lost the argument. We may get a larger army, but we are not going to see the old Cold War Army version 2.0 focused on holding the Russian behind the Iron Curtain.

The second group, The Transformationalists, won’t win either. Their dream of an all seeing, all knowing Army turned to ashes when faced with the decidedly low tech insurgencies  in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not all the sensors in the world will tell you what is in the human heart. There is no night vision device that will tell you which guy on the street is a bad guy and which is just a guy going about his business.

The third school of thought, the Introspective School, says the Army must give up on its focus on large scale conventional war and shift to a force focused on small scale insurgencies. They argue that until we do, we will not be successful in wars like Iraq or other examples of asymmetric warfare. Our current success in Iraq shows this argument is not wholly compelling and ignores the reality that there are in fact conventional armies that we could face.

So what is the answer? It will be what is has been. No one school offers a compelling argument for a fundamental shift in Army doctrine and procurement. Instead, we are to some extent seeing doctrine driven by  events on the ground. Even as GEN Patreaeus changed the employment of forces in Iraq from a “bastion defense” to a more active presence in communities as a core function of the surge, local subordinate commanders were doing the same thing. The most visible of these commanders was COL H.R. McMaster (now Brigadier General select), but he was hardly the only one. Their efforts showed what worked versus what didn’t and in large part were a driving force in changing the operations in Iraq and showing that such a change would make the surge worthwhile. McMaster would seem to be an Introspective School guy, but he commanded an old school Cavalry regiment, straight out of the Cold War. The changes in that regiment were mostly gifts from the Transformationalists in terms of better sensors and command and control systems. These were great aids, but were not a substitute for fundamental soldier skills. McMaster’s regiment also borrowed from the Introspective school in learning how to be more sensitive to the needs of the local population and not to just “run and gun” while still retaining the ability to bring the fight to the enemy.

In the end, our doctrine in Iraq, while by no means perfect, has proven remarkably flexible and adaptive without making a fundamental or revolutionary change to the service.

Given that the Army and the other services must equip and train their forces for the full spectrum of warfare from high intensity conventional war through low intensity insurgencies to peacekeeping and humanitarian  missions, don’t expect to see too radical a change in the way the services look. They will evolve instead of undergoing revolution.