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FM 90-2: Battlefield Deception

Chapter 7

Deception In Joint, Combined, And Contingency Operations

Although deceit is detestable in all other things, yet in the conduct of war it is laudable and honorable; and a commander who vanquishes an enemy by stratagem is equally praised with one who gains victory by force.

-Machiavelli, The Discourses

> Airland Battle Doctrine, as set forth in FM 100-5, provides guidance for operational and tactical employment of Army forces on a worldwide basis. Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 provide guidance on conducting operational and tactical deceptions on a worldwide basis. AirLand Battle and Army deception doctrine is based on the assumption that other service participation in Army operations will be routine. It is further assumed that Army deployments in mid- to high-intensity conflicts will result in routine combined operations as well.


Joint forces include-

  • Unified commands.

  • Specified commands.

  • Joint task forces (JTF).

The Army provides contingents-service (Army) components-to unified and specified commands. Army forces are normally ASSIGNED to unified or specified commands and ATTACHED to JTFs.

Joint forces operate within two distinct gains of command, one for operations and one for administrative and logistic matters. The operational and administrative and logistic chains of command are displayed in Army terms in Figure 7-1

Both wartime strategic and departmental-level deception plans impact on how Army contingents, to specified and unified commands as well as JTFs, plan their respective wartime operational-level deceptions. This is done in one of two ways:

  • As campaigns and deceptions conducted to support strategic operational requirements.

  • As independent campaigns and deceptions to support the outcomes of battles and engagements conducted by subordinate tactical commands.

Figure 7-1. Chain of command

For the following reasons, a conscious, concerted effort should be made to harmonize strategic, departmental, and operational deception plans:

  • Army EAC sustainment-oriented portions of deception plans are preconditioned on sustainment capabilities provided to EAC commanders from headquarters, DA.

  • Army operational deception plan requirements are preconditioned on mission taskings directed by unified or specified commands or JTFs.

The optimum organizational location to coordinate or harmonize wartime strategic-departmental-operational deception plans is found in emerging joint tactical deception doctrine: the tactical deception support element (TDSE) operating in J3. Designated C3CM personnel should be routinely consulted as well.

Joint force commanders should establish deception objectives in all major exercises to ensure that wartime planning and execution requirements are identified and practiced as part of the normal mission planning process.


Army forces must be prepared for combined operations with land, air, and naval forces of our Allies. Operational-level deception planning in combined theaters imposes these special considerations for the deception planner:

  • Combined military effectiveness and cohesion are functions of the political will of all nations involved in maintaining the coalition. (There may exist political proscriptions against, or constraints on, the employment of deception.)

  • Political and military objectives among the Allies may differ. This directly impacts on-

      - Who can be targets of deception?

      - What deception objectives are politically affordable?

      - What deception perceptions can be created?

      - What channels can be used to portray the story to the enemy?

      - What means can be used to execute deception plans?

  • Differences in deception capabilities (concepts, doctrine, training, force structure, materiel) will require tailored planning, coordination, and liaison.

  • Complex host-nation and organic sustainment systems, or combinations thereof, will stretch the creative and imaginative capabilities of the deception planner to the limit.

Wherever the US Army has been employed in a combined context, special efforts have been necessary to coordinate operations and deceptions. Continuation of such efforts is necessary to facilitate future combined operations. As with regular operations, the following are the chief considerations in planning and conducting combined deceptions:

  • Command and control.

  • Intelligence.

  • Operational procedures.

  • CSS.


Unity of command is essential in all wartime operations. The commander responsible for the operation is also responsible for its accompanying deceptions. When command relationships are established between US units and superior, subordinate, or adjacent Allied headquarters, special deception liaison arrangements are required through operations channels.

Specialist (deception) liaison officers should be exchanged when Allied or US forces employ deception personnel with which either army is unfamiliar.

During World War II, the British in the Middle East were the Allied deception experts. However, through the process of personnel assignments, this expertise naturally moved to, and matured within, other theaters and units. US Army deception planners should be willing to learn from our allies who demonstrate that expertise. They should also be willing to transfer our expertise when opportunities to do so are presented.


During war, national intelligence products relating to deceptions must be shared. Deception-specific PIR and IR must be coordinated. Combined feedback mechanisms and procedures should be established.

Arrangements must be made to ensure the rapid dissemination of intelligence for the use of multinational assets and capabilities which may be used to portray the deception story. Some of those are-

  • Rumors.

  • Newspapers.

  • Military communications and noncommunications emissions.

  • Public radio.

  • Diplomats.

  • False documents.

  • Agents.

Combined intelligence staffs, or the use of liaison and exchange officers, facilitate the contributions that intelligence systems of all nations must make to the deception effort.


The design process for combined deception should maximize the use of US and Allied capabilities and minimize individual and collective deficiencies.

SOPs should be established to integrate deception planning into the combined mission planning process.

The planning of campaigns and major operations include branches and sequels, which are deceptive in nature. This requires particular attention to the organic and improvisation capabilities of US and Allied units to display, demonstrate, and feign. The disparities that combined deception planners must take into account include-

  • Dissimilar deception control measures.

  • Dissimilar operational styles and tactics.

  • Dissimilar deception-specific organizations and equipment.

  • Differences in the multispectral (technical) signatures
resulting from different weapons, radios, vehicles, and other materiel, and the different operational procedures which give operational fidelity to technically-based replications.

The use of deception-specific liaisons, equipment exchanges, and combined deception training programs can minimize these kinds of problems before war breaks out.


Although logistic support is normally a national responsibility, combined commanders will have to take those measures necessary to preserve the robustness and survivability of supporting sustainment systems.

The sustainment system supporting combined commanders will be a mix of-

  • Host nation.

  • United States.

  • Other-army capabilities.

Deceptive uses and protection of these capabilities should be arranged early in any combined operation. Chapter 2 addresses sustainment considerations that are equally applicable to combined military settings.


The use of Army assets to satisfy contingency requirements which are inherently strategic must be addressed despite the battlefield focus of this manual.

Contingency operations are National Command Authority (NCA)-directed military actions requiring rapid deployment to perform military tasks in support of national policy objectives. Contingency operations are normally undertaken-

  • When vital national interests are at stake.

  • When direct or indirect diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation have been exhausted or need to be supplemented militarily.

Contingency operations are usually executed to-

  • Rapidly show force to support a threatened ally.

  • Blunt the invasion of a friendly country.

  • Protect the property of US nationals.

  • Evacuate endangered US nationals from hostile environments.

  • Rescue hostages.

  • Execute other NCA taskings.

Planning to support contingencies places the deception planner squarely between the horns of the time-surprise dilemma.

Time becomes a critical factor in terms of-

  • Capabilities and limitations to develop deception targets, objectives, perceptions, stories, and plans.

  • Letting the story unfold to have the desired effect in relevant time frames.

  • Intelligence community capabilities to quickly clarify the situation and produce the necessary products to support deception.

  • Justifiable political (NCA) inclinations to terminate the contingency situation at the lowest level of political (domestic/international) risk.

  • Justifiable military (Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander-in-chief) inclinations to terminate the contingency situation at the lowest level of military violence to prevent the threat from developing the situation on favorable terms.

Surprise becomes a critical factor because of-

  • Justifiable predispositions to use military force as a last resort.

  • Its potential contribution to minimizing the level of political risk-taking and military violence to the force, the target, and noncombatants.

  • The fact that strategic, operational, and tactical distinctions collapse and blur into a set of contingency indicators for which the deception planner, depending upon his position in the chain of command, may or may hot have an opportunity to manipulate for surprise purposes.

  • Domestic and international media predispositions to collect and report the story, particularly the response option aspects.

  • Potential targets can logically conclude that military and political options to resolve the situation are proceeding in parallel.

  • Potential political constraints on using every means available to portray the deception story.

The above considerations are formidable obstacles for the Army operational deception planner; but they can be overcome. First, deception planners at all echelons in the contingency chain of command must realize that strategic, operational, and tactical deception considerations rapidly collapse. This happens to the point that no meaningful distinctions among the three levels exist. Second, the contingency chain of command must predispose itself to deceive-

  • To facilitate winning militarily at the lowest political and military cost.

  • To keep the full range of options open-political, economic, and military.

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