Military

COURSE-OF-ACTION DEVELOPMENT AND ANALYSIS


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COURSE-OF-ACTION DEVELOPMENT

OBSERVATION: During the estimate process, staffs must develop courses of action correctly.

DISCUSSION: One of the most difficult tasks for the staff is developing courses of action that are complete, feasible, unique, consistent with doctrine, and in compliance with the commander's guidance. There are different methods to develop courses of action. However, an effective and quick procedure must be used to develop courses of action that meet the above criteria under a time constraint.

A COMPLETE COURSE OF ACTION CONSISTS OF:

  • WHAT: TYPE OF ACTION
  • WHEN: TIME THE ACTION BEGINS
  • WHERE: LOCATION OF SECTOR OR ZONE
  • HOW: METHOD OF EMPLOYMENT (TACTICS)
  • WHY: COMMANDER'S INTENT

Course-of-action development is the foundation of the plan. Eliminating or inadequately conducting this step produces inferior estimates which impact on the remainder of the MDMP in the following ways. The commander, recognizing courses of action that do not adhere to his planning guidance or are not feasible, responds by having the staff do the work again, which wastes time. Or, in the absence of adequate planning time, the commander develops a course of action himself.

To develop a complete course of action, the staff must identify what, when, where, how, and why the unit will execute. A technique to quickly develop complete courses of action is for the XO to assemble the staff and follow the five-step method. The staff develops the courses of action together. While the S-3 develops the scheme of maneuver, the remainder of the staff integrates its assets within its functional area of responsibility.

COURSE-OF-ACTION DEVELOPMENT STEPS:

  1. ANALYZE RELATIVE COMBAT POWER
  2. ARRAY INITIAL FORCES
  3. DEVELOP THE SCHEME OF MANEUVER
  4. DETERMINE C2 MEANS AND MANEUVER CONTROL MEASURES
  5. PREPARE COURSE-OF-ACTION STATEMENT AND SKETCH

STEP 1 Development begins with the staff analyzing relative-force ratios. The relative-force ratio is a correlation of friendly combat power and enemy combat power determined by adding and comparing similar subordinate units. For example, an armor heavy task force organized with three armor and one mechanized company compared to a single enemy armor company would have a force ratio of 4:1, before considering any other combat multipliers. By comparing the relative-force ratio with historical planning ratios, the staff estimates whether it has an overwhelming force to be successful in its mission.

HISTORICAL PLANNING RATIOS FOR THE ARRAY OF
FRIENDLY UNITS AT THE POINT OF CONTACT
FRIENDLY MISSION FRIENDLY:ENEMY NOTES
Delay
1:6
Defend
1:3
Prepared defense
Defend
1:2.5
Hasty defense
Attack
3:1
Prepared defense
Attack
2.5:1
Hasty defense
Counterattack
1:1
Flank

STEP 2 Array initial forces, to calculate the amount of forces necessary to accomplish the mission. The array of ground forces is done two echelons down, with brigades arraying companies and battalions arraying platoons. Once the staff identifies the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) or line of departure/contact (LD/LC), it arrays forces at the expected point of initial contact. As the staff arrays forces, it considers force ratios for each task. During an attack the staff calculates the amount of forces required to support by fire, conduct a breach in stride, or assault the objective. However, units are not identified, and task organization is not done at this point. The staff does not assign missions to arrayed units but gains an appreciation for the amount of forces to allocate to accomplish the mission. Once the array is completed, the staff has an idea of the amount of forces required. If the amount of forces available is less than the amount required, the staff plans for shortfalls and the use of combat multipliers (close air support, smoke, command, control and communications countermeasures). If the amount of forces available exceeds the amount required, the staff uses the excess to weight the main effort or place them in reserve.

STEP 3 Develop the scheme of maneuver using the array of forces from Step 2. The scheme of maneuver is a narrative description of how the forces arrayed will accomplish the commander's intent. Ensure the scheme of maneuver addresses the elements of the battlefield framework (deep operations, covering force/security force, close operations, rear operations, and reserve).

While developing the scheme of maneuver, address all maneuver forces, using any that may have been left over from the array in Step 2. Identify forces by selecting the type (mechanized, armor, infantry) necessary for each task. However, do not identify the specific unit, unless the unit is organized and equipped to accomplish that specific task. The commander will identify specific units when he decides on the task organization.

STEP 4 Determine the command and control means and maneuver control measures. The S-3 selects subordinate commands by reviewing the array of forces and grouping the arrayed platoons into companies or companies into battalions. He organizes subordinate units containing between two and five units to provide adequate span of control. Once subordinate commands are determined, the S-3 adds the minimum graphic control measures to control the operation, achieve synchronization or minimize the force's exposure to fratricide. Together with the staff he identifies unit boundaries, axes of advance and fire control measures.

STEP 5 Complete the course of action by preparing a statement and sketch. The statement and sketch explain what, when, where, how and why as they relate to the operation. The statement explains the course of action from the beginning of the operation to mission completion. The sketch contains the minimum control measures, added during Step 4, to explain the scheme of maneuver. The S-3 has developed a possible course of action when he completes this step. He then repeats the procedure until he develops the number of courses of action specified by the commander.

LESSONS:

  • Staff: Develop courses of action together to integrate all battlefield operating systems.
  • Staff: Ensure the course of action is complete, consistent with doctrine, complies with the commander's guidance, feasible, and unique.
  • Staff: Develop courses of action that identify what, when, where, how, and why the unit will execute.
  • Commander: If time is short, remain with the staff and have it assist you in course-of-action development.

COURSE-OF-ACTION ANALYSIS

OBSERVATION: Commanders and staffs must war-game correctly during course-of-action analysis.

DISCUSSION: Wargaming is the most valuable step within the course-of-action analysis. Observations from the CTCs indicate that few staffs understand how to war-game effectively, and that many staff officers are not involved in the procedure. By wargaming, the staff takes a course of action and begins to develop a detailed plan. Additionally, it can better synchronize the course of action when the entire staff is involved in wargaming. Information recorded during the wargame provides the information for the development of paragraph three (execution) of the operations order, the execution or synchronization matrices, and the decision support template. Because of the importance of its results, and the time it requires, more time is allocated than for any other step. Wargaming results in the identification of tasks, combat power requirements, critical events and priority efforts, task organization and command and support relationships, decision points and possible fratricide locations.

WARGAMING RULES

  • REMAIN UNBIASED. WARGAMERS DO NOT ALLOW PERSONALITY OR THEIR SENSING OF "WHAT THE BOSS WANTS" TO INFLUENCE THEM.
  • ACCURATELY RECORD ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES AS THEY BECOME EVIDENT.
  • CONTINUALLY ASSESS FEASIBILITY. DURING THE WARGAME, IF A COURSE OF ACTION BECOMES INFEASIBLE, WARGAMERS MUST STOP, REJECT IT, AND BEGIN THE NEXT COURSE OF ACTION.
  • AVOID DRAWING PREMATURE CONCLUSIONS AND GATHERING FACTS TO SUPPORT SUCH CONCLUSIONS.
  • AVOID COMPARING ONE COURSE OF ACTION WITH ANOTHER DURING THE WARGAME. WAIT UNTIL THE COMPARISON PHASE.

WARGAMING SEQUENCE

  • GATHER THE TOOLS
  • LIST ALL FRIENDLY FORCES
  • LIST THE ASSUMPTIONS
  • LIST KNOWN CRITICAL EVENTS AND DECISION POINTS
  • SELECT THE WARGAMING METHOD
  • SELECT A TECHNIQUE TO RECORD AND DISPLAY THE RESULTS
  • WAR-GAME THE BATTLE AND ASSESS THE RESULTS

STEP 1 Wargaming begins by gathering the tools to be used by the staff. The first tool required is a planning map or sketch of the area of operations. An enlarged map or sketch works best because the entire staff can see the course of action. Post the situation template for the selected enemy course of action and friendly unit dispositions on overlays, then cover the map with acetate. Have the S-3 sketch the course of action on the acetate and revise the sketch during wargaming.

Displaying details of the operation order using terrain enlargements is more effective than using a 1:50,000 scale map. Two methods to develop an enlargement of the area of operations are to have an assistant sketch the significant terrain by free hand. Then add the situation template and cover the sketch with acetate. An easier, yet resource-dependent method, is to make a transparent slide of the area of operation, then project it onto butcher paper. The assistant traces the significant terrain to provide a terrain enlargement. The enlargements are also useful later when briefing the operations order.

STEP 2 The XO assembles the staff so it can provide its tactical and technical expertise. The staff begins by listing all friendly forces. The S-3 lists the friendly forces available, identified during mission analysis, while the staff assists him by listing all combat, combat support, and combat service support units. However, if time is short, the staff only considers the combat assets that have the highest probability of influencing the outcome of the battle.

STEP 3 List the assumptions necessary to help shape the course of action. The assumptions provided by the staff are those identified during the development of estimates. The most significant assumption is the situation template and enemy courses of action. When the S-2 presents the situation template, he is giving the commander what he believes is the probable enemy course of action. This remains an assumption until collected information confirms the template.

STEP 4 Identify the critical events and the information required by the commander to make decisions, for each course of action. Critical events are essential tasks within the course of action that require detailed analysis. Decision points identify where the commander must decide to initiate an activity (call for fire, displace a subordinate maneuver unit) to ensure synchronized execution. The staff uses various time and distance factors to estimate where the forward line of own troops (FLOT) or a portion of the FLOT will be when the commander must make a decision. These locations are known as decision points.

Although critical events are identified during this step, some are identified prior to wargaming. Examples of critical events that can be identified in advance for a defensive operation are reward passage of counter reconnaissance forces, commitment of the reserve, displacement of forces, and initiation of the counterattack. In the offense, critical events are forward passage of lines, obstacle breaching, assault on the objective, and consolidation.

STEP 5 Select the wargaming method based on time available and type of operation (offense or defense). There are three wargaming techniques to choose from: avenue in depth, belt, and box. Each technique has advantages depending on the type of operation.

The box technique is the easiest to use when little time is available. It analyzes selected critical events, those considered most important to the staff, given the available amount of time. The S-3 draws boxes around the critical events so the staff knows which will be analyzed. Each is then analyzed by the entire staff.

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The avenue-in-depth technique focuses the staff on one avenue of approach beginning with the main effort. The technique allows the staff to war-game the battle in sequence from the assembly area to the objective during the offense and throughout the main battle area during the defense. Even though this technique can be used for both offense and defense, it is suited better for the offense. Because all critical events along the avenue of approach are analyzed, the avenue-in-depth technique requires more time than the box technique.

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The most lengthy, but effective, technique for the whole force is the belt, because it enhances synchronization by analyzing all forces that affect specific events. The S-3 divides the area of operation into belts the width of the zone or sector. The belts are constructed along established phase lines or placed adjacent to each other covering specific phases. Overlap the belts and analyze them and the intersection for a more detailed analysis. The staff war-games all events within the belt simultaneously. This technique requires more time than the previous techniques, as it analyzes more critical events within the area of operation.

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STEP 6 Select a technique to record and display the results, to provide the staff information to compare courses of action. A quick and simple method is the sketch-note technique. As the staff war-games a critical event, an assistant writes notes about the specific actions, locations, and tasks taking place. These notes are recorded on a wargame worksheet, terrain sketch, execution or synchronization matrix.

STEP 7 War-gaming and assessing the results are the steps in which the wargame takes place. All previous steps prepare the staff for this one, which requires the staff to visualize the battle and determine what actions to accomplish to succeed in the mission. An effective technique is to have the entire staff participate, the S-2 serving as the uncooperative enemy commander. Staff officers analyze each critical event by determining how the tasks within the critical event occur and then advise the S-3 on the employment of assets within their functional area of responsibility. Each staff officer also assists the S-2 in determining how the enemy would respond to his action.

Analyzing critical events and associated tasks requires staff officers to understand the capabilities of their type of unit and equipment and like enemy units. A battalion engineer officer, analyzing an obstacle breach (critical event), identifies reducing the obstacle as the task for which he is responsible. Organized with two Mine-Clearing Line Charges (MICLICs) and two mine plows, he calculates the engineer company will breach two lanes through a wire and mine obstacle in 12 minutes. This information provides the S-3 and the Fire Support Officer (FSO) the planning factor for the amount of smoke necessary to obscure the enemy's observation of the obstacle. It also provides the S-3 a time to decide to move the assault element forward to the breach. Without an understanding of all the planning factors within a critical event, the staff will not provide the detail necessary to synchronize the plan.

The sequence of the wargame begins with friendly action followed by enemy reaction followed by friendly counteraction. The S-3 selects the technique (box, avenue in depth, or belt) and the starting point. If the box technique is used, the starting point is the most important critical event. If the belt or avenue-in-depth technique is used, the starting point is the unit location (defensive positions or assembly area).

Using a task force attack against a motorized rifle company (MRC), an example of the staff participation of the action-reaction-counteraction sequence is:

ACTION The S-3, S-2, and FSO identify the first critical event war-gamed to be the assault against the MRC. The first friendly action is suppression of the MRC with indirect fire.
REACTION The S-2 reacts with enemy indirect fire against the task force while it moves into the firesack.
COUNTERACTION The S-3 counteracts with an armor company moving to an attack by fire position and suppressing a flank motorized rifle platoon.
REACTION The S-2 reacts by shifting indirect fire to the attack by fire position and the main effort of the task force.
COUNTERACTION The S-3 and FSO counteract by using counter- battery fires against the enemy's artillery and and electronic warfare to disrupt communications while continuing the assault against the MRC.
REACTION As indirect fires are lifted, the S-2 reacts with direct fire against the main effort as it assaults his position.

This sequence is continued until the critical event and all others are completed. This staff interaction is key to detailed planning. One staff officer cannot war-game alone.

LESSONS:

  • Commander and staff: Use the war-gaming sequence to develop and begin synchronizing the operation.
  • Commander and staff: Follow the war-gaming rules to conduct the wargame.
  • XO: Have the entire staff involved in the wargame.

COURSE-OF-ACTION COMPARISON

OBSERVATION: Staffs must compare courses of action correctly to provide viable recommendations to the commander.

DISCUSSION: Often a course-of-action comparison is reduced to a vote by staff officers rather than by an actual comparison. A vote for the course of action the staff likes best does not always result in what will be the most successful course of action. Detailed analysis during comparison identifies a course of action that satisfies the criteria better than one the staff believed was best.

After courses of action are war-gamed, the staff determines which one to recommend to the commander. This requires the staff to continue to analyze and compare each course of action. A quick and effective method to do this is to use a decision matrix. The staff develops criteria for comparison using commanders' guidance, critical events, and other significant factors pertaining to the mission. The staff uses criteria to determine advantages and disadvantages of each course of action. It is the comparison of the advantages and disadvantages that helps the staff determine the course of action with the highest probability of success.

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THE DECISION MATRIX WILL HELP THE STAFF RECOMMEND
THE COURSE OF ACTION WITH THE HIGHEST PROBABILITY FOR SUCCESS.

To speed the comparison, prepare blank matrices and identify the criteria for the operation. Place the matrices on poster board and cover them with acetate (to be used again), or place them on butcher board. Make the matrices large enough to be seen by the entire staff and also so they can be used again during the decision brief to the commander. The S-3 then lists the criteria under the factors column and sketches the course of action in the space provided.

With the matrices prepared, the XO assembles the staff and it determines which course of action best satisfies each criterion. The quickest method to determine which course of action best meets the criteria is to quantify them ranking each one. The course of action that best meets the criterion is ranked No.1, the next supportive, a No. 2, and the one that least meets the criterion, a No. 3. Once all courses of action are ranked against the criteria, the ranks are totaled. The lowest score identifies the course of action that best fulfills the criteria and will be recommended to the commander.

LESSONS:

  • Staff: Conduct a detailed analysis with the entire staff to determine the recommended course of action.
  • Staff: Use a decision matrix with criteria developed from commanders' guidance, critical events, and other significant factors pertaining to the mission to analyze the courses of action.
  • Staff: Quantify each course of action by ranking them for each criterion.

Table of Contents
Mission Analysis, Restated Mission And Commander's Guidance
Prepare Plan/Order/Frago



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