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FM 34-80: Brigade And Battalion Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations



The nature and roles of the military services require communication skills that are most exacting. Faced with the need for extreme accuracy, absolute thoroughness, and attention to detail on one hand, and brevity, speed, and almost instantaneous response on the other, a highly specialized and stylized type of speech has evolved. This type of speech has been called the "military briefing". It requires specific techniques with respect to the role of the briefer, to the purpose it serves, and to the nature of the required response. As with the intelligence estimate and the OPORD, the military briefing is an operational tool of the trade.

Brigade and battalion S2s must communicate to the commander, primarily by means of the military briefing. The military briefing is used so extensively that it has become an accepted staff procedure technique. The primary reasons for frequent use of the military briefing are to save time for the senior officer; to enable him to question the briefer and to clarify points; and to facilitate rapid, coordinated response and thereby reduce reaction time.

The principles and techniques of effective speaking apply to the briefings just as to any other type of speech. The more concise the briefing, the better. It's usually limited to bare, unglossed facts and to the minimum amount of information needed for comprehension. Intelligence analysts and officers often will be required to brief on a very broad subject in a very limited time.

The intelligence briefing usually is a "one time only" presentation of unfamiliar facts, with reference to enough familiar material to establish the scope and content for the listeners, but it is always tailored to the user. There are no "attention-getters." Only the essentials are delivered in an objective manner. This is the significant difference between the military briefing and everyday public speaking techniques.

The term "briefing" has been loosely applied to almost every form of oral communication in which a military man is involved or in which a military subject is discussed. This usage is unfortunate because it tends to detract from the importance of the military briefing. Consequently, the briefer must understand precisely what is required of him in each situation.

The intelligence briefing is a specialized type of speech. Its purpose is to present selected information. The briefings are designed to accomplish a specific purpose: to impart information, to obtain a decision, to exchange information, or to review important details. The objective common to every briefing is that of facilitating a rapid, coordinated response.

Effective briefing cannot be learned by simply reading a book. Skill in presenting briefings requires knowledge of the principles of speech and experience gained by considerable practice. Even the most accomplished briefer will learn something new and pick up pointers every time he briefs.

First, know your user. "Just who is being briefed?" What is his official position? What are his personal likes and dislikes concerning briefings? What does the user expect of the briefer?

Each audience to be briefed is different. Each has its own particular needs (personal likes and dislikes). You should attempt to determine these needs and, on that basis, be guided by them in constructing the briefing. This procedure will lead to more effective planning and a more successful presentation.

The second step in analyzing the situation is to determine the purpose of the briefing. Is it merely to present the facts, or is a recommendation required? The purpose of the briefing is extremely important. It will form the basis of the presentation.

The third step is to survey the facilities. Where will the briefing be presented? What kind of aids might be used? If it is to be held in an office, it may be impossible to use equipment. If it is to be held in the field, there may be no electricity and no means of preparing transparencies. Will charts or graphs be placed on chalkboards? Are they available? Are draftsmen available with material to produce the necessary aids? Is time available to prepare aids? These and countless other questions must be answered in the survey step. When planning for, and preparing to use, aids, prepare a detailed presentation plan. Ensure that any assistants, if used, are familiar with what is expected of them. Consider the physical facilities available.

The fourth step is to schedule preparation to ensure that necessary actions are accomplished. Every intelligence officer should formulate a briefing checklist. (See sample, below.) This checklist provides an outline of the tasks to be accomplished. Fill in the outline as the briefing takes shape; as the tasks are accomplished, check off the items. Finally, make an initial estimate of the deadlines needed to accomplish each task. Schedule facilities for practice, and request critiques. Thorough preparation is essential to a successful briefing. A sample of a briefing checklist is shown below.



a. Audience

(1) Who and how many

(2) Official position

(3) Knowledge of subject

(4) Personal preferences

b. Purpose and type

c. Subject

d. Physical facilities

(1) Location

(2) Arrangements

(3) Visual aids


a. Complete analysis

b. Prepare outline

c. Determine requirements

d. Schedule rehearsals

e. Arrange for final review


a. Collect material

b. Prepare first draft

c. Revise and edit

d. Plan use of visual aids

e. Practice

(1) Rehearse

(2) Isolate key points

(3) Memorize outline

(4) Develop transitions

(5) Use of definitive words


a. Posture

(1) Military bearing

(2) Eye contact

(3) Gestures and mannerisms

b. Voice

(1) Pitch and volume

(2) Rate and variety

(3) Enunciation

c. Attitude

(1) Businesslike

(2) Confident

(3) Helpful


a. Ensure understanding

b. Record decision

c. Inform proper authorities

After analyzing the situation, the next task is to construct the briefing. The analysis helps to determine which type of briefing to make. An information briefing will, among other things, consist of assembling all available information, selecting key points, deciding how best to present these key points, and deciding what visual aids should be used. If it is to be a decision briefing, the problem must be stated, courses of action isolated and analyzed, conclusions reached, recommendations made, and an understandable decision received.

Constructing military briefings is a five-step process.

  • First, know the subject thoroughly. Attempt to acquire as much knowledge of the subject as time and circumstances permit. A logical and thorough briefing is the result.
  • Second, isolate essential points to be presented. Be certain to present all essential facts. Even if a fact should prove detrimental to prepared conclusions, if it is a vital consideration, discuss it. If the users want to know more, they will ask questions, giving you an opportunity to provide additional background material.
  • Third, arrange facts in a normal and logical order for presentation. The order of arrangement will depend on the type of briefing, the subject, and the visual aids available.
  • Fourth, select only those visual aids that will illustrate the point. Aids should be simple, effective, and clear. Good titles or captions help. If the aids consist of charts, be certain the lettering is large enough to read. Ensure there are enough handouts for everyone in the room and have an assistant pass them out. Try to determine ahead of time if the users prefer to read the charts for themselves or have you read them. If the users read the charts, allow plenty of time for reading and comprehension. Watch the users; many commanders will signal when they are ready to continue. Even if the audience reads the charts, it may be helpful if you emphasize the especially significant points. Good visual aids, well handled, add to clarity; bad or poorly used aids are worse than none. If the aids are cumbersome or complicated, plan to have someone assist you.
  • The fifth step is to establish key words. Good briefers ensure that the words are understood. Use familiar terms, when possible, define the unfamiliar, and give warning when familiar words will be used in uncommon ways. Rehearse, if possible. Adequate practice within whatever time limits there may be, will pay dividends in familiarity with the subject, smoothness of presentation, impact on the audience, and success of the briefing.

Briefings are characterized by conciseness, objectivity, and accuracy. With certain exceptions, the basic rules for effective speaking also apply to the delivery of a briefing. The success of the briefing is directly affected by the manner in which it is presented. A confident and relaxed, but forceful delivery, clearly enunciated and obviously based on a full knowledge of the subject, helps convince the users that the briefing has merit.

Exhibit confidence, enthusiasm, and sincerity. Maintain a relaxed but military bearing. Use appropriate gestures, move about naturally, and avoid distracting mannerisms. These fundamental delivery principles, common in effective speaking, apply.

In a decision briefing, the presentation of all feasible courses of action, their advantages and disadvantages, and a discussion are required. Use logic to arrive at conclusions and recommendations. Reveal the reasons for arriving at the stated conclusion as the most logical course of action. Understand questions before attempting to answer them. If you do not know the answer, say so and offer to provide an answer later. If the person being briefed does not indicate otherwise, be sure to provide him with an answer later. Answer questions directly, briefly, and to the point. Answer the question and only the question, then stop. The intelligence officer is responsible for presenting the material and furnishing the user with comprehensive information.

Strive for a smooth, convincing, friendly, and effective delivery, with a proper military bearing. A pleasant, well-modulated voice, suited to the size of the area or room is a requisite. Be confident. Confidence is achieved through practice and a thorough knowledge of the subject.

Following the briefing, prepare a concise memorandum for record (MFR). It should record the subject, date, time, and place of the briefing; as well as ranks, names, and job titles of those present. The substance of the briefing may be recorded in very concise form; however, depending on local custom, this summary may be omitted. Recommendations and their approval, disapproval, or approval with modification, is recorded, as well as any instructions or directed action resulting from the briefing. If there is any doubt about the intent of the decision maker, a draft of the MFR should be submitted to him for approval or correction before it is prepared in final form and distributed.

There are four recognizable types of intelligence briefings: information briefing, decision briefing, staff briefing, and mission briefing. Although there are elements common to all, each type is distinct and is discussed separately.


The purpose of the information briefing is to inform the listener--to keep him abreast of the current situation or to supply specific requested information. It does not require a decision. The desired response is comprehension. Information briefings provide--

  • High priority information that requires the immediate attention of the commander.
  • Complex information, such as statistical charts, that requires detailed explanation.
  • Controversial information which requires elaboration for thorough understanding.

The information briefing deals only with facts. It usually does not include conclusions or recommendations. It should contain a brief introduction to indicate the area to which the briefing is addressed and to orient the listener. As with all briefings, presentation of the facts must be orderly, strictly objective, honest, clear, and concise. You should avoid presenting redundant information. Information must be tailored to the user.

Mastery of the techniques of the information briefing is most important. Mental discipline is required in order to present the essential facts objectively, without drawing conclusions. Information briefing elements form an essential part of each of the other three types of briefing techniques.


Greeting. Use military courtesy, address the person(s) being briefed, and identify yourself.

Classification. Announce the classification of your briefing.

Purpose. Explain the purpose and scope.

Procedure. Explain any special procedures such as demonstrations, displays, or tours.


Arrangement. Arrange main ideas in logical sequence.

Aids. Use visual aids correctly.

Transitions. Plan for effective transitions.

Questions. Be prepared to answer questions at any time.


Conclusions. Give a concluding statement.

Questions. Ask for questions.

Announcements. Announce the next briefer, if any.


Although the decision briefing contains elements of the information briefing, it is much broader and more comprehensive in scope, and it is presented for an entirely different purpose. The specific response to the decision briefing is an answer to a question or a decision to take a course of action.

The first requirement in preparing for a decision briefing is to isolate and define the problem. Never present problem-solving situations too complex for solution by any step-by-step logical reasoning process. The assumptions may be stated or not. Examples of proper assumptions might be "Adequate resources will be provided" or "The enemy will continue to defend." Assumptions must be both reasonable and supported.

The next step is to collect and present the facts bearing on the problem. This portion of the decision briefing is essentially the same as the information briefing, and the same rules generally apply, with the following exceptions.

  • If already known facts have a direct bearing on the problem they should be repeated. Since this briefing is presented to elicit a decision, the users may need to be reminded of pertinent facts directly related to the problem so they can arrive at a sound decision.
  • Facts previously unknown to the users should be limited to those that have a direct bearing on the problem and that might influence the outcome of the decision to be made or the subsequent action to be taken.

In presenting facts, you should strive for objectivity. All of the more pertinent positive and negative facts should be presented. All the important facts must be brought out accurately and fully. Facts may be substantiated by citing single authoritative sources, multiple supporting opinions or personal experiences, or by demonstrating their reasonableness. You should be familiar with the sources of your information. Wrong conclusions or recommendations can be more readily excused if they are a matter of incorrect judgement than if they are an improper or biased presentation of the facts. The facts must have a bearing on the problem.

Next, state the probable courses of action, and briefly point out the advantages and disadvantages of each. Prior to the presentation, you should analyze possible reactions to each of the courses of action and state concisely the potential dangers involved. This discussion is followed by the conclusions, which consist essentially of succinct statements of the acceptability or undesirability of each course of action and reasons why each should be so considered.

Both the discussion and conclusion portions of the briefing must be logically constructed. A logical presentation allows the commander to make correct conclusions from the facts presented. Throughout a presentation, you must be certain that conclusions flow reasonably from the facts presented. Each recommendation should be stated so that its words can be used to state the decision, whenever appropriate.

In your conclusions, list the possible courses of action in order of merit. If possible, prior to the actual briefing, solicit concurrences and nonconcurrence from interested staff sections. When presenting recommendations, you should be prepared to identify nonconcurrence and state from whom and for what reason they were made.

You must be prepared for interruptions and questions at any point during the briefing. When interruptions occur, questions should be answered completely before proceeding. At the same time, you should not be distracted from rapidly resuming the planned sequence of presentation. You must be able to support, by explanation, any part of the briefing. When preparing for the briefing, possible questions are anticipated and answers prepared.

A decision is the expected response of the decision briefing. At the outset of the briefing, you must announce clearly that you are seeking a decision. At the conclusion, if no decision is received, ask for it. You must be certain the decision given by the decision maker is understood. If you are uncertain, you should ask for clarification.

It is not always necessary to use the complete form of the decision briefing. For example, a battalion S3 might present his commander with one new facet of a current problem. He might explain the new aspect and its effect on current operation plans, recommend a course of action, and ask for a decision. At other headquarters, depending largely on the personality and desires of the commander, only portions of the briefing might be presented. However, the processes used to formulate the decision briefing remain essentially the same, regardless of the local peculiarities of presentation.

The decision briefing is designed to obtain an answer or a decision. It is comparable to an oral staff study and generally follows the same sequence.


Greeting. Use military courtesy, address persons being briefed, and identify yourself.

Classification. Announce the classification of your briefing.

Purpose. State that the purpose of the briefing is to obtain a decision. Announce the problem statement.

Procedure. Explain any special procedures such as additional briefers.

Coordination. Indicate what coordination has been accomplished.


Assumption. Must be valid, relevant and necessary. Omit if there is none.

Facts Bearing on the Problem. Must be supportable, relevant, and necessary.

Discussion. Analyze courses of action. Plan for smooth transition.

Conclusion. Degree of acceptance or the order of merit for each course of action.

Recommendation. State actions recommended. Be specific. Do not solicit opinion.


Questions. Ask for questions.

Decisions. Request a decision.


Inform. Following the briefing, if the chief of staff or executive officer is not present, the briefer must inform him or the staff secretary of the commander's decision.


The staff briefing is the most widely used type of military briefing. It is designed for the rapid oral dissemination of information to a group of people and is similar to the information briefing. Although it is not commonly used for planning purposes or for solving problems, it bears a similarity to the decision briefing whenever it leads to a command decision. It is used at every military echelon to keep the commander and his staff informed of the current situation. The anticipated response is a coordinated or unified effort.

In headquarters of larger units, staff briefings are normally scheduled periodically. Unscheduled staff briefings are called as the need arises. In combat, briefings are held as often as the situation requires. Such briefings are especially valuable in operational conditions when a general awareness of the situation is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve by any other means. Therefore, the staff briefing is an effective tool employed by the commander to ensure unity of command.

In the staff briefing, each staff representative may be called on to present information pertinent to his particular activity. The staff briefing is usually presided over by the immediate superior of the general staff or coordinating staff officers. He usually calls on staff representatives to present matters that might pertain to, or require coordinated action by, other staff sections. Each headquarters usually has an established order of staff presentation. The staff presentation might be preceded or followed by remarks from the chief of staff or XO and by the commander if he is in attendance.

Staff briefings are the commander's tool for developing coordinated, unified staff action. The commander's personality and the needs of movement will lead him to use his staff as he sees fit in the exercise of command.

The nature of the information presented at the staff briefing varies at each level of command. At lower levels, the information will pertain only to the immediate unit and its activities. At higher levels, information will be of a more general nature and will deal with policies instead of particular actions. In field operations, information will emphasize tactical matters and will tend to take on fewer characteristics of the information briefing and more of the decision briefing.

The staff briefing is a valuable and flexible instrument available to the commander or chief of staff at every level of command. It is used to achieve a unified, coordinated effort in accomplishing the mission of the command.


The mission briefing is designed especially for use during combat operations. It is used to emphasize information, give specific instructions, or instill an appreciation of the mission. The desired response is a thorough understanding and appreciation of operational conditions that will lead to the successful execution of the mission. It is closely related to the information briefing.

The intelligence portion of the mission briefing is usually conducted by the G2 or S2, depending on the nature of the mission to be performed, or the level of the headquarters involved.

The first step in accomplishing a mission--informing those involved of their tasks--is taken by issuing oral or written orders. When a situation is unique or the mission is of a critical nature, particularly as it relates to the actions of individual participants, the mission briefing will provide individuals or small units with very specific mission data. The mission briefing reinforces previously issued orders. It also provides a more detailed list of requirements and particular instructions for individuals, often explaining the overall significance of their roles. This type of briefing must be prepared and presented with great care to ensure that it neither confuses mission or objectives nor conflicts with previously issued orders.

A good example of the use of the mission briefing in larger operations comes from World War II, prior to the invasion of Normandy. The 101st Airborne Division had received its mission: Conduct an airborne assault into Normandy on the night of 5-6 June 1944. Because each smaller unit and even each individual had a vital role to play, mission briefings were used to inform each man of his critical role in the operation. First, the men were told of the general situation and mission of the division. Then each individual was informed of the specific mission of his unit and was given detailed instructions for accomplishing it. Using photographs and terrain mock-ups, the briefers made certain that each man was intimately familiar with his job and his particular AO. Each man learned to recognize distinguishing landmarks, how to orient himself no matter how far he missed his drop zone (DZ), where he was to go once on the ground, the situation he might expect to find, and how to deal with them. Finally, he was told of the significance of his role, and how it would contribute to the successful accomplishment of the division mission and, even more, to the success of the Allied invasion.

The purpose of the mission briefing can be summarized as the final review of a forthcoming military action that is designed to ensure that those taking part are certain of their objectives and the particular problems that may confront them.

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