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Liaison; Our Doctrinal Stepchild
CSC 1993
                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:  Liaison; Our Doctrinal Stepchild
Author: Lieutenant Colonel David H. Robinson, U.S. Army
Thesis: The Army's doctrine for the execution of liaison is
vague and incomplete.  As a result, different organizations
expect different competencies and capabilities from liaisons,
and inappropriately resource their liaison functions.
Background:  As a vital aspect of command and control, liaison is
universally employed by military forces worldwide to attain unity
of effort between various echelons of command.  Despite the
criticality of liaison, the U.S. Army's major field manuals offer
a paucity of guidance for commanders who must staff, equip, and
dispatch or receive liaisons.  Further, existing doctrine pro-
vides those who must perform liaison with little more than a page
of generalities in a single field manual.  This paper explores
the current state of U.S. Army doctrine concerning liaison, and
offers requirements and alternatives to address the shortcomings
Recommendation:  The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
should publish a doctrinal handbook for liaison.
Thesis: The Army's doctrine for the execution of liaison is
vague and incomplete.  As a result, different organizations
expect different competencies and capabilities from liaisons,
and inappropriately resource their liaison functions.
I.    Perspective
      A.  What is liaison?
      B.  Why is it important?
      C.  What is the role of doctrine?
II.   The current state of doctrine
      A.  FM 100-5, Operations
      B.  FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations
      C.  FM 100-10, Combat 8ervice Support
      D.  FM 100-15, Corps Operations
      E.  FM 71-100, Division Operations
      F.  Assessment of doctrine
III.  Where should we go?
      A.  Alternatives
      B.  Recommendations
    by Lieutenant Colonel David E. Robinson, United States Army
    Field Manual 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Symbols, defines
liaison as "that contact or intercommunication maintained between
elements of military forces to ensure mutual understanding and
unity of purpose and action." (6:1-41)  Organizations throughout
the Army--and the world--assemble, exchange, and employ liaisons
as a matter or routine, and all are dispatched to achieve the
goals contained in FM 101-5-1's definition.
    Almost all of the U.S. Army's manuals that discuss doctrine
for maneuver and warfighting contain a reference to liaison.  In
all cases these references state the need for liaison at many
levels of command, and one manual (FM 101-5, Staff Organization
and Operations) provides some detail concerning the selection of
personnel for liaison duties, their importance to organizations,
and broad procedures for their employment.  Yet while all of
these manuals voice a doctrinal need for liaison, none of them
address the techniques and procedures that liaison personnel
should use to discharge their duties.  As such, organizations
lack common guidance on how to select, train, equip, and employ
liaisons, and liaison personnel lack a doctrine from which to
develop the skills necessary for this critical function.
	In today's military environment of increased joint, multina-
tional, and coalition warfare, the importance of effective
liaison has grown accordingly.  Field Manual 101-5 provides the
following functions of liaison (5:4-5):
        -    Mutual understanding and unity of purpose and action
        -    Cooperation and understanding between commanders and
             staffs of headquarters or units working together,
        -    Tactical unity of and mutual support by adjacent
Since unity of purpose plies a common thread throughout this
list, we find that liaison facilitates one of the principles of
war; unity of command.  With the military environment attaining
new heights of complexity, successful attainment of unity of
command becomes more difficult, making the need for effective
liaison more essential.  As representatives of other commanders
and staffs, liaison personnel impart a vital human dimension to
the otherwise sterile transfer of information between commands:
they interpret the value of information for the members of other
staffs, and assist them in determining the relative importance of
particular actions.  This is a critical role that cannot be left
to half-hearted measures or last minute solutions, but rather
should be carefully anticipated and resourced prior to deployment
to a theater of operations.
    Organizations throughout the Army routinely send liaison
individuals or teams to other organizations for long (resident)
or short (periodic) terms.  Because they lack common Army refer-
ences, all of these liaisons must develop their own techniques
and procedures to discharge their duties.  By default, organiza-
tions must craft their own guidance for liaison in the form of
standing operating procedures (SOPs).  These SOPs are often
modeled on the SOPs of other organizations or evolve with the
organization's experience.  This ensures that each liaison will
be unique and tailored to the circumstances (a good thing), but
it also ensures that none of the liaisons will start with a
foundation of common understanding (a bad thing).  Much time and
energy are therefore wasted in developing the liaison's underly-
ing principles for operation.  This lack of common doctrine leads
organizations to create liaisons that are ill-suited to their
mission:  either too many or not enough soldiers are assigned,
too much or not enough equipment is provided, and too much or too
little is expected of them.
    As the Army's capstone manual, we would expect to find
information about the criticality of liaison in FM 100-5, Opera-
tions.  Of the two references to liaison in this manual, we find
one deals with doctrine and the other with technique.  The
doctrinal reference appears as a single sentence in a paragraph
entitled Ensure Unity of Effort, where we are admonished that
"Liaison among units must be automatic and effective." (2:23)
The reference to technique appears in the section Preparing the
Defense, where the authors advise that we establish liaison with
adjacent units, supporting organizations, and civilian officials.
(2:144)  Interestingly, no mention of liaison is made in the
section Preparing for Attacks. (2:124)  One would assume that if
liaison is essential for the defense, it should have no lesser
importance in the offense.
    Field Manual 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, pro-
vides the fullest treatment of this paper's topic.  Page 2 of
this paper lists the functions of liaison as defined by FM 101-5
(found in the section Common Procedures in Chapter 4, Staff
Activities).   When commanders and staffs select soldiers to
fulfill these functions, FM 101-5 offers this selection criteria
        ... experience, ability to communicate effectively (lan-
        guage capability), and other criteria which will enhance
        effective liaison activities.
This manual presents nearly a full page of vague and generic
techniques that liaisons should perform before, during, and after
their mission. (5:3-28)  This single page makes FM 101-5 the
single most authoritative source on the subject in Army doctrine.
And while this criteria may be of some use in choosing soldiers
to perform liaison, the FM gives no guidance about how an organi-
zation should structure a liaison team.  The size and composition
of a liaison team is driven by many factors (including the
relative sizes of the organizations and their staffs, the amount
of information to be exchanged, and hours of operation at the
host headquarters), but FM 101-5's criteria doesn't address how
to determine the number of soldiers required, nor does it address
selection criteria for other than the soldier charged with the
primary liaison duty.  Chapter 8, Control of Operations, de-
scribes the functions, roles, and structure of the Army's doc-
trinal command posts (CPs).  Although other manuals describe
liaison as located in the main CP, FM 101-5's description of the
main CP remarkably fails to mention liaison at all. (5:8-5)
Appendix A, Staff Relationships, gives the reader a set of
matrices that describe the information and coordination require-
ments of primary and special staff sections, yet it is devoid of
any reference to liaison. (5:A-1 to A-41)  This shortcoming is
regrettable, because here our doctrine writers missed an excel-
lent opportunity to describe the relationships between liaison
and a command's staff sections.
    Combat service support (CSS) is one battlefield function that
thrives on effective liaison.  The diverse units that provide
CSS--from Forward Support Battalions in divisions to organiza-
tions in Echelons Above Corps--use liaison extensively to coordi-
nate customer support, maintain communications with providers and
consumers, and oversee the proper employment of their resources.
Despite this vital aspect of effective CSS, FM 100-10, Combat
Service Support, contains not one reference to liaison.  It does
devote two paragraphs to command and control of CSS, leaving the
bulk of information for organizing and executing CPs to FM 101-5
and organizationally specific FMs for CSS units. (3:1-7)  One
might argue that FM 100-10 is to sustainment what FM 100-5 is to
operations.  Yet if liaison was at least accorded mention in
Operations, so should it's criticality be emphasized in Combat
Service Support.
    Corps Operations, FM 100-15, offers some specificity concern-
ing which organizations send liaison to the corps, where it's
located in the corps command and control system, and who is
responsible for hosting the liaison elements. (4:2-1)  Here we
find liaison doctrinally located in the main CP headquarters
cell, with the liaison elements placed under the chief of staff.
(4:4-8)  After offering this cursory information, the only other
reference to liaison functions is found in Appendix C, Command
Post (CP)/Cell Functions, where the authors state that "The major
functions of the [main CP] headquarters cell [is] provide
and accept command liaison elements." (4:C-0)  Field Manual
100-15 presents only one additional comment about liaison; in its
discussion of passage of lines/relief in place, Corps Operations
encourages the establishment and exchange of liaison between the
organizations performing these missions. (4:7-16)  As the major
source of doctrine for corps operations, we would expect FM
100-15 to discuss the creation of corps liaison teams, the
interaction of the corps staff with these teams, the corps'
reception and integration of liaisons from other organizations,
and the interaction of the corps staff with these teams.  Unfor-
tunately, Corps Operations has none of this information.
	Because the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College
produced both FM 100-15 and FM 71-100, Division Operations, it's
understandable that FM 71-100 should echo FM 100-15's shortcom-
ings in its description of liaison.  Once again (and appropriate-
ly so) we find command liaison located within the CP headquarters
cell. (1:3-7)  And we find exchange of liaison discussed as a
planning factor for relief in place and passage of lines. (1:6-22
and 6-25, respectively)  This is all FM 71-100 has to offer about
    Notably absent from these field manuals are expectations for
the liaison function; expectations of the sending organization,
the receiving organization, and the liaison soldiers themselves.
Before liaisons depart, commanders and staffs will prepare them
by defining their mission and giving guidance for mission accom-
plishment.  Again, because there is no common doctrine, liaisons
from several organizations will arrive at one headquarters with
different agendas, demands, attitudes, and levels of knowledge.
And since each liaison operates with unique expectations, none of
them will use common procedures to receive, process, record, and
distribute information.  The lack of published techniques and
procedures for the actual conduct of liaison activities reduces
the development of expectations to a trial-and-error process.
The tempo of future operations will not allow a breaking-in
period for liaisons, and the inefficiencies attendant to this
process may well result in poor coordination with reduced unity
of effort.
    A further problem relates to manpower; although all organiza-
tions acknowledge the need for liaison, few tables of organiza-
tion and equipment resource this function.  Organizations are
left to create liaisons out-of-hide, or seek augmentation person-
nel at the last minute.  The first approach usually produces a
soldier that the organization would rather do without, while the
second approach usually produces a soldier who is neither "accli-
matized" to the organization or knowledgeable of its current
status.  Both approaches result in poor representation at the
receiving organization, with the undesirable consequence of the
receiving staff developing poor perceptions of the sending unit.
Common sense will prevail in the absence of doctrine, yet the
presence of doctrine would ensure sending and receiving organiza-
tions consider these factors before liaison is established.
    The inadequacies of current liaison doctrine can only be
addressed by publishing specific guidance for all liaisons,
regardless of their organization or assignment.  Three courses of
action appear to present the most feasible solutions:
    -   Publish a separate field manual for liaison
    -   Expand existing doctrinal manuals to more fully address
    -   Publish a joint manual for liaison
    The first course of action--publishing a separate field
manual devoted to the liaison function--offers the most compre-
hensive solution to this problem.  A new field manual could
address long- and short-term liaisons, and liaisons in garrison
and the field.  This single-source document would serve as a
capstone manual for all soldiers assigned to liaison, and it
would clarify responsibilities and expectations for commanders
and staffs of organizations that send and receive them.  Produc-
ing a single field manual would ensure minimal differences in
interpretation between various levels and types of organizations.
For example, if a separate brigade sent a liaison to its corps
headquarters, both organizations would refer to one manual to
determine the liaison's composition, equipment, duties, and
requirements--instead of each level of command having to guess
which manual the other is using.  Having a single manual for
liaison would also provide a common reference for doctrine
writers as they revise or produce manuals throughout the Army.
A final advantage of this approach is its timeliness; a single
manual can be produced much faster and with less opportunity for
"evolving" doctrine and discontinuities than the second approach,
updating existing manuals.
    The second course of action would see existing, key field
manuals (such as FM 105-1, and the manuals that cover theater,
corps, division, and regimental/brigade operations) expanded to
include an annex that discusses liaison.  This approach offers a
two-fold advantage:  the liaison function would be precisely
defined for the level of organization that the manual covers, and
the manual's users would always have information about liaison
readily available with their primary reference.  One disadvantage
of this approach would be the lengthy promulgation of liaison
doctrine, as almost a decade would pass before all major doctrin-
al manuals could be revised.  Another disadvantage is the poten-
tial for several manuals (notably in combat support and combat
service support doctrine) to fall through the net and be revised
without the inclusion of a liaison section.  A final disadvantage
would be--as discussed above--the potential for the initial
liaison doctrine to distort through evolution as different
doctrine writers revise subsequent manuals, resulting in discon-
tinuities in liaison doctrine between manuals published over
several years.  All of these factors weigh heavily against this
    The universality of the liaison duty suggests a joint publi-
cation may be appropriate.  Creating a joint manual appears
attractive as a third course of action.   The advantage of
liaison doctrine common for all the services has definite appeal,
particularly for those serving on joint staffs.  But this ap-
proach might not work for all branches, because each service has
unique operating environments, personnel and equipment con-
straints, and organizational needs.  Considering this approach
does suggest the utility of a joint liaison manual, with the
justification for this publication being essentially the same as
the original need for an Army doctrine.  As a solution to fill a
void in our joint doctrine, this course of action has merit.  As
a solution to the Army's dilemma, however, it has little appeal.
    Regardless of which course of action we choose, each approach
should include these key elements:
    -   The doctrine should catalog the skills, knowl-
        edge, and attitudes (SKA, collectively known as
        competencies) required of the liaison soldier.
        These SKA (similar to the ones found in TC 22-6,
        The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide) would
        give soldiers a ready reference to develop and
        perform the individual tasks required in liaison
        duties.  It would also clarify the expectations
        of sending and receiving commands, and provide
        the liaison's rater/senior rater with objective
        measures against which to compare the liaison's
        performance of duty. (7:46 to 73)
    -   The doctrine should provide example structures
        for liaison teams sent by various, generic levels
        of command (battalion/squadron, brigade/regi-
        ment/group, division, corps, support command,
        etc.).  These objective "tables of organization
        and equipment" would give commanders and staffs a
        starting point for the creation of their own
    -   The doctrine should address the physical require-
        ments of liaison at each level of command.  This
        information would encompass billeting, communica-
        tions, transportation, and administrative/logis-
        tic support provided by the receiving organiza-
    -   The doctrine should describe the interrelation-
        ship between the liaison elements and the staffs
        of the sending and receiving organizations.  This
        would clarify the roles and responsibilities of
        all personnel involved in this aspect of command
        and control.
    -   Related to the subparagraph above, the doctrine
        should also list the collective tasks performed
        by liaison teams.  This would define the roles of
        each soldier assigned as part of a team, and
        enable evaluation of the liaison function during
        training exercises and actual missions.
    Each of the three courses of action would solve the problem,
but the first approach clearly offers the best alternative.
Until a solution is found and applied, liaison officers will
continue to operate with doctrinal guidance that is completely
inadequate to their needs; organizations will continue to rely on
SOPs, trial-and-error, and a "hey, you" staffing procedure; and
commanders will continue experiencing difficulty establishing
unity of command through the liaison function.  The Combined Arms
Center at Fort Leavenworth should take the lead and begin produc-
tion of an Army publication for liaison, offering it as a model
for the Armed Forces Staff College to consider for their produc-
tion of a joint liaison manual.  This single document, published
as field manual or a liaison handbook, would provide those who
revise Army manuals--and employ liaison--with a foundation of
common doctrine to perform this necessary aspect of effective and
unified command and control.
1.  FM 71-100, Division Operations, U.S. Army Command and
    General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, November
2.  FM 100-5, Operations, U.S. Army Command and General Staff
    College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, May 1986.
3.  FM 100-10, Combat Service Support, U.S. Army Logistics
    Center, Fort Lee, Virginia, February 1988.
4.  FM 100-15, Corps Operations, U.S. Army Command and Gener-
    al Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, September
5.  FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, U.S. Army
    Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth,
    Kansas, May 1984.
6.  FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Symbols, U.S. Army
    Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, October
7.  TC 22-6, The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide, U.S.
    Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, November

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