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Operations Planning

Successful civil disturbance operations depend on adequate plans and well-trained control forces. Planning for civil disturbance operations is a continuous process. Such planning involves coordination of personnel, logistics, and operational considerations. It provides for the actions to be taken before, during, and after civil disturbances. It is based on the assumption that federal military resources may be committed at any time, with or without warning, to assist local and state authorities or to enforce federal law. Such commitment may involve either limited or massive employment of forces.


When federal forces are requested to help civil authorities attempting to control a disturbance, coordination with local civil authorities is a must to prevent duplication of effort. The task force commander must know what civilian resources have been and will be committed to disturbance operations.



Civil agencies and their responsibilities, organization, and authority vary considerably from community to community. The task force commander must have an index of the various agencies, their responsibilities, lines of communication, and points of contact. Based on this index, he can plan for liaison needs and for joint civilian and military efforts. Local authorities and National Guard troops can supply valuable information. They know the area, the local agencies, and the population. Among the major areas requiring coordination are the following:

  • Preservation of law and order.
  • Custody of offenders.
  • Documentation of evidence.
  • News releases.
  • Traffic and circulation control.
  • Exchanges of situation information.
  • Care of the injured.
  • Evacuation, housing, and feeding.
  • Protection of key areas, facilities, and personnel.
  • Delineation of areas of responsibility and establishment of joint patrols.
  • Removal of debris that interferes with operations.
  • Explosive ordnance support.
  • Equipment.
  • Use of facilities.

Sometimes commanders must undertake joint civilian and military efforts with agencies that provide resources under "mutual aid" agreements. Mutual aid agreements and their legal considerations vary from community to community. Some states have more detailed agreements than others. Lines of responsibility and authority between state, county, and local authorities can be confusing. Civilian command is not clear cut. State laws and local ordinances vary widely on this point. The legal aspects of mutual aid agreements may affect the types of activities in which the agencies may become involved. Joint operational plans must be drawn up with due consideration to legal authority. Legal and jurisdictional boundaries also affect the process of controlling the disturbance, especially if the disturbance crosses these boundaries. Because control of a disturbance within a given jurisdiction is the responsibility of that jurisdiction, command and control of the disturbance may suddenly shift when the disturbance crosses boundaries. In some states, especially where mutual aid is not clearly defined, law enforcement personnel operating outside of their normal jurisdiction only have the power of citizens arrest. And the laws concerning citizens arrest also vary considerably from community to community. Early discussion of jurisdictions with the agencies involved can reduce possible confusion and provide for a smooth transfer of control.

Whenever practical, assigned unit boundaries should coincide with local police subdivisions. This simplifies coordination of activities in the area. Boundaries usually are located along streets or alleys, with coordinating points at intersections. When a street is designated as a boundary, responsibility for both sides of the street is given to one unit to ensure proper coverage. Arrangements should be made to have troops and civil police operate together. In addition to the joint patrols and posts, arrangements should be made to exchange liaison officers at each headquarters, from company through division, on a 24-hour basis.


Federal forces participate in civil disturbance operations as an unprogrammed-emergency requirement, and Army resources under DA control are loaned to state and local governments and law enforcement agencies as a temporary emergency measure. Therefore the costs incurred by the Army as a result of such operations are financed in accordance with AR 500-50. And the policies and procedures for equipment loans, including property issued to the National Guard are delineated by AR 500-50.

Army resources are classified in three groups. Requests are considered for approval in the following order:

  • Group One --Personnel, arms, ammunition, tank-automotive equipment, and aircraft. Requests for personnel to be used for direct law enforcement must be made by the state's legislature or governor. Requests for other Group One resources can only be granted by the Secretary of the Army or, when so designated, the Under Secretary of the Army.
  • Group Two --Riot control agents, concertina wire, and similar military equipment that is not included in Group One. Requests for these can only be granted by the Secretary of the Army, the Under Secretary of the Army, or the Director or Deputy Director of Military Support in coordination with the General Counsel of the Army. When authorized by the Secretary of the Army, the task force commander also may approve Group Two requests.
  • Group Three --Firefighting resources, including personnel; protective equipment and other equipment not included in Group One or Two; and the use of Army facilities. Requests for these resources may be granted by the Secretary or Under Secretary of the Army, major Army commanders, commanding generals of CONUS armies, the MDW commander, and commanders-in-chief of unified commands outside CONUS.

Commanders who have Group Three approval authority can approve requests for Group Three military resources, less active duty and reserve forces, to nonDOD federal agencies before or during civil disturbances. Commanders who have Group Three approval authority also can approve requests for Army resources less personnel, regardless of classification, to National Guard units in an active duty status. Loans of Army resources will be approved, if possible, when the National Guard is authorized such resources, but DA cannot provide them on a permanent basis.


Civil disturbance operations involve assets, regardless of ownership, that are special consideration of logistical needs. Logistics planning must provide for obtaining supplies, services, and facilities through local procurement. This includes food and beverages, laundry services, and sanitation facilities. When planners set up lines of supply, they should consider using nearby installations or National Guard and Reserve facilities. Logistics planners should visit the disturbance area to identify sources and to coordinate support. Authorities must identify all civil and military equipment and material available within a disturbance area to supplement military resources.


Supplies and equipment that will accompany a unit must be ready so the unit can respond rapidly in emergencies. Supply lists must be developed with unit integrity in mind. Units must be able to operate with self-sufficiency. Among the items that must be provided for are ammunition, food, water, gasoline, lubricants, spare parts, riot control agents, maps, and administrative supplies. A running inventory must be kept and complete inspections made as necessary. Procedures must be in place for the periodic replacement of certain items. Bulk riot control agents, ammunition, food, and gasoline deteriorate in prolonged storage. Retention of unserviceable materials can have grave consequences in an emergency. Ammunition must be segregated by type. That way, if there is a late notification of weapons restrictions, nonessential ammunition can be separated before shipment.

Some equipment or supply items that the task force may need are not organic to the unit or may not be transportable by the available means of transportation. If this situation should arise, commanders must advise the chain of command so that these items can be made available to the task force through special transportation arrangements, by drawing from pre-positioned stocks, or by borrowing them from units close to the objective area. For example, STANO equipment, which not all units may have, can be used to--

  • Locate and neutralize snipers.
  • Secure roadblocks and checkpoints.
  • Prevent ambushes or frontal attacks by crowds.
  • Augment security patrols of isolated areas.
  • Identify friendly and hostile elements.

Individual and organizational equipment prescribed in CTA and TOE for troops and units are often not sufficient for civil disturbance operations. Ways to obtain additional equipment must be considered when planning logistical support. For example, vehicle augmentation may be needed to meet mission requirements. Other additional equipment that may be needed includes:

  • Locally purchased or manufactured body shields.
  • Armored vehicles.
  • Riot batons.
  • Flexcuffs.
  • Riot control agent dispersers.
  • Floodlights, spotlights, and searchlights.
  • Night observation devices.
  • Communications equipment, particularly hand-held equipment.
  • Videotape and instant-developing film cameras.
  • Public address systems.
  • Heavy construction equipment.
  • Concertina wire.
  • Aircraft, especially helicopters.
  • Ambulances, first aid kits, and firefighting equipment.
  • Grappling hooks, ladders, and rope.
  • Special weapons.
  • Generators.
  • Personal protective equipment, such as faceshields and protective vests.

Planners should consider the need for extra tents, cots, and, perhaps, tent stoves. Plans also should provide for barricade and roadblock materials and equipment needed to build, set up, and remove barricades.

Procedures must be established for resupply in the disturbance area. Logistical contact teams can be set up in the disturbance area. Contact teams must have direct communications with support units so they can get critical supplies as soon as needed. Requisition priorities must be set to ensure a fast response to resupply requests.

Suggested supplies and equipment to accompany the task force are listed in Appendix 1 to Annex D of Garden Plot. The list of supplies contained in Garden Plot is the minimum needed to support a civil disturbance operation. Commanders and other planners should not rule out other items of equipment just because they are not on this list.


When possible, assembly and troop quartering areas should be on federal, state, or public property to reduce claims for property damages, contract costs, and the dissatisfaction over perceived inequities among the populace. Reserve centers and National Guard armories are ideal locations. As a general rule, assembly areas should be located away from the direct observation of disturbance crowds. This improves operations security and avoids direct harassment of the troops. Quartering areas are selected only after careful consideration of the physical security measures needed to protect the area and the troops. But assembly and quartering areas must be close enough to a disturb ante area to ensure that troops can be committed quickly. And there must be adequate main and alternate routes between the areas. Other factors to be considered when selecting quartering areas are:

  • Weather that is likely to be encountered.
  • Number of troops that are likely to be using the area.
  • Length of time that the troops will be using the area.
  • Availability of sanitation facilities and recreation areas.


Movement to and within disturbance areas must be considered when developing operational plans. The means of movement is critical to the success of the operation because of the time factor involved. Usually, troops are committed to civil disturbance missions on extremely short notice. They must arrive promptly if the disturbance is to be contained with minimal injuries and property damage. Troops must be moved to the objective area in a mission-ready status, while minimizing the cost to DOD and to the military departments concerned.

Because rioters can use tactics that will delay the arrival of troops, the commander selects the most direct routes that are least vulnerable. Close coordination with the movements officer is vital. The commander plans reconnaissance patrols for security en route and at arrival points. The main body must be preceded by a party of sufficient strength to prevent interference with the main body's arrival. The commander also plans alternate routes and arrival points.

Coordination with transportation units must be a part of task force development. Each mode of transportation must be carefully developed during logistics planning. The final plans must be able to be executed quickly. Foot, rail, water, air, and motor movements all offer certain advantages and disadvantages. Some modes require more coordination and earlier preparation than others. Rail movements usually involve the use of special trains, the selection of entraining and detraining points, and the calculation of departure and arrival schedules. Coordination with railroad officials, therefore, is an important planning step. When selecting air travel, task force planners must determine the characteristics of available aircraft to facilitate proper loading. In motor moves, provisions must be made for supplies of gasoline and repair parts. When forces are to be airlifted into a disturbance area, planning must include provisions for sufficient ground transportation and communications equipment in the disturbance area.

Planners must also consider transportation for use within the disturbance area. They consider the use of commercial buses and rental cars. The buses could be used for mass transportation in the disturbance area. Unit vehicles can be augmented with additional vehicles to provide sufficient flexibility and mobility for operational and support elements and mobile cordons. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft also should be included in transport planning for use within a disturbance area. Whenever possible, helicopters are employed to provide command and control, surveillance, medical evacuation, troop lift, and supply lift capabilities. Planning also must address the selection of landing zones and the use of air traffic control measures in the disturbance area.

All units with civil disturbance missions must maintain qualified personnel for preparing load plans and certifying special handling data forms. Load plans must be developed for each mode of transportation. Personnel and equipment load plans must be based on unit integrity to ensure that the control force arrives in the disturbance area prepared for immediate employment. Except for limitations in handling hazardous equipment, each element of the force should take its required equipment and a small reserve of ammunition, riot control agents, and basic supplies. Load plans must be rehearsed and made a part of unit SOPs.


Civil disturbance operations require adequate and versatile communications equipment. Communications must be maintained at the disturbance scene and between the scene and the operations headquarters. Planners must consider using every means of communication available, including:

  • Telephones.
  • Hand-carried and vehicle-mounted public address systems.
  • Commercial radio and television stations.
  • Teletype machines.
  • Taxicab radio nets.
  • Military and civilian police radios.

Civilian communications systems should be used as much as possible, but they must be supported by an independent military system. And the military system must be able to sustain all essential communications. If military equipment is not compatible with the civilian equipment, plans must be made to collocate stations, exchange equipment, allocate frequencies, or set up net radio interface/phone patches. (Net radio interface stations connect mobile radios to switching systems. From there, the routing goes to telephone subscribers.) Signal security measures, including authentication systems, are used during disturbance operations. Radio operators working close to rioters use headsets to receive messages and a low voice to send messages to keep rioters from hearing the messages. And troops must know emergency procedures for clearing the radio nets.

Public address systems are useful in issuing proclamations and psychological pronouncements or persuasions. They can drown out vocal demonstrations. They help prevent vocal communications between crowd leaders and crowd members. And they can be used by commanders to direct and control troops. Control force leaders wearing protective masks can use megaphones with battery-operated loudspeakers to convey instructions to troops.

Visual signals also can be useful. Flares can signal the beginning and ending of operational phases. Hand and arm signals and messengers also can be used.


Civil disturbance operations are demanding, both mentally and physically. Troops need relief if efficiency and discipline are to be maintained. During civil disturbance operations, units assigned an area control mission may be totally committed, preventing relief operations within the unit. Relief must be provided by a higher echelon retaining uncommitted units. Ready reserve forces should not be used for relief because they may become actively involved in operations. Relief must be accomplished in place to ensure that the relieving unit physically occupies assigned facilities and the area of operation. Relief during civil disturbance operations must be conducted during the least critical times. Relief priorities must be set to ensure that forces employed at the most vulnerable facilities and in the most riot-prone areas are relieved first. The relief units may have more or fewer troops than the units being relieved, depending on the situation.

Relief operations must be coordinated with civil police, fire departments, and other agencies operating in the disturbance area. Civilian relief operations must be conducted in such a way that they do not conflict with military relief operations. Any time that unit capabilities or the task force commander change, the incoming commander reviews the joint control and support agreements. If it is necessary, he coordinates new agreements. This action helps ensure available resources are used in the most effective manner possible.

Commanders at each echelon should be present at the field CP of the outgoing unit to facilitate command and control. The commander of the outgoing unit directs the relief procedures. He usually remains responsible for the area of operations until most of the relieving unit is in position and communications and control have been established by the incoming commander. The exchange of responsibility is agreed upon by the commanders concerned and is verified by the concurrence of the next higher commander. If riotous activity occurs before the incoming commander assumes responsibility, he assists the outgoing commander with all means available.

Commanders at each level must conduct a thorough reconnaissance of their operational areas. All unit leaders must receive a complete briefing from the outgoing unit. Routes into the areas must be reconnoitered. Critical facilities, barricades and roadblocks, patrol routes, and other items of operational importance must be identified. And unit leaders must familiarize themselves with their assigned area and establish a rapport with the law-abiding citizens in the area.

Commanders of the incoming and out-going units must arrange for the exchange of special equipment items essential to the mission that may be in short supply. Vehicles and radios may be exchanged because the need for them in civil disturbance operations usually exceeds the TOE issue authority. Other items, such as barricade and roadblock material, wirelines, switchboards, extra ammunition, and riot control agent munitions, can be left with the relief unit. Equipment exchanges are based on the authority included in the relief order of the next higher commander. Equipment exchange must be made using proper accountability procedures.


  • Time of the relief to begin and end.
  • The time or the condition for exchanging responsibility for the operational area.
  • Routes to be used by the incoming and outgoing units.
  • Civil authorities who are operating in the area.
  • Locations of critical facilities and barricades and roadblocks.
  • Patrol routes, guard posts, and other security measures that are in place.
  • Any requirements for periodic reports by subordinate leaders during the relief effort.


Plans and administrative procedures must be developed to handle personnel actions resulting from the commitment of forces to civil disturbance duty. Personnel plans must provide for care of dependents and personal property left at home station, indebtedness, emergency leave, sickness, and injury. To ensure personnel matters are properly handled in the disturbance area, members of unit personnel sections must accompany the task force.


Directives must be published that clearly set the standards of conduct and appearance expected of the troops in the performance of their missions. Troop relationships with, and attitudes toward, civilians must be stressed. The provost marshal can provide helpful advice on matters of discipline, law, and order. Troops must refrain from acts that could be damaging to the high standards of personal conduct and discipline of the Army.

Appearance and discipline of federal forces have a psychological impact on the populace and facilitate mission accomplishment. Leaders must ensure that subordinates are clean, well-groomed, neat, and conduct themselves in the highest standards of military courtesy and discipline. The importance of strict adherence to prescribed standards of conduct and fair treatment of civilians must be stressed continuously.


Morale and welfare are areas of particular concern in civil disturbance planning because of the restrictions and demands imposed on the troops. Because control forces must perform very sensitive duties under great physical and mental stress, the following services are extremely important:

  • Rest and recreational facilities, such as free movies, special service activities, TVs in barracks, and athletic equipment and facilities.
  • Assistance to dependents and access to American Red Cross and Army Emergency Relief services.
  • Post exchange facilities, including barber shop and laundry facilities.
  • Financial services and access to a bank.
  • Medical and dental services.
  • Postal services.
  • Leave and passes.
  • Religious services.
  • Legal assistance.
  • Decorations and awards.

These services are necessary to maintain high morale and to allow soldiers to concentrate on the complex, sensitive, and stressful tasks that they must perform during civil disturbance operations.


Emergency medical attention must be available for military and civilians. Medical support for civilians, however, should be provided by civilian medical facilities. Military facilities should be used by civilians only to prevent undue suffering or loss of life or limb. Plans must provide for qualified medical personnel, air and ground ambulance service, medical facilities, medical supplies, medical evacuations, and casualty reporting. Casualty notification procedures are prescribed in AR 600-10. Factors to consider for medical facilities include location, sources of power and water, and sanitation facilities. Existing medical facilities, military and civilian, can be used whenever practical.


Whenever federal forces are committed to a disorder, media interest is generated. In a disturbance area the public is directly affected by actions taken individually and collectively by military personnel. Similarly, the public outside the area has an intense interest in events taking place within the area. Press interest in most cases will be high. Unless timely, accurate information is furnished, the press will be forced to rely on speculation and rumor.

Soldier responsibilities with regard to media contact must be made clear. Soldiers must be informed that they must treat media members with courtesy and respect. They also must be cautioned not to make any comments concerning upcoming or active civil disturbances and unit missions, even if told their remarks will be "off the record." Soldiers, when approached, refer media members to superiors or the PAO.

The task force commander must anticipate media contact. Plans must include the clearance of all news releases with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, the on-site public affairs chief, or a higher authority, whichever is appropriate. Procedures must be established for confiscating film and videotape of prohibited areas. Both the PAO and the SJA must review the procedures to ensure that the ability of the media to gather and report news is not unduly restricted. To help maintain media relations, plans also must include:

  • Procedures for furnishing accredited media members with press passes to facilitate their passage through police lines and military checkpoints. News media members must be allowed freedom of movement as long as they do not interfere with control force operations.
  • SOPs for coordinating press requests to cover operations in the disturbance area, including furnishing military escorts.
  • Establishment of a newsroom by the task force PAO. The newsroom can be used for periodic press briefings and for furnishing the media with fact sheets and other background data concerning the operation.
  • Regular news conferences and periodic briefings. They should beheld by senior civilian and military officials who can provide timely, accurate information and the opportunity for the media to question senior commanders. When it is practical, the task force commander should consider allowing the media to accompany senior officials on tours of the affected area.
  • Making news releases concerning civil disturbance operations and instructions for public cooperation. These releases must comply with AR 360-5.
  • Liaison and coordination with local civilian public affairs officials and information agencies. This simplifies the exchange of information, ensures the information's accuracy, and generally aids the news-gathering effort.
  • Setting up a rumor control center. A rumor control center helps reduce the adverse effects of misinformation.

DA public affairs policy is to provide the public, through cooperation with the news media, prompt, responsive, and accurate information. Emphasis must be placed on the fact that the Secretary of the Army has been assigned a mission, assisted by DOD components, to help civil authorities in restoring and/or maintaining law and order. It also must be pointed out that the mission will be accomplished using the minimum force needed. Maximum disclosure of accurate information on the situation in the disturbance area with minimum delay is the governing principle, subject only to security and operational needs. Annex F of Garden Plot provides the commander with guidance on the responsibilities for disseminating public information. Annex F also provides guidance that can aid in planning for personnel and equipment to conduct information activities in the disturbance area.

Appropriate operating procedures and command guidance must be issued in writing to prevent the release of information potentially harmful to the military mission. Members of the news media must be clearly informed of the location of prohibited areas that may not be photographed or videotaped and restricted areas where they must have a proper escort. If soldiers must detain or apprehend members of the media for entering restricted areas without proper authorization or for trying to film or videotape prohibited areas, the soldiers notify their leaders immediately. Operating procedures should include the locations of newsrooms and the access control procedures for restricted areas. In most instances, the media will not be furnished communications or transportation, nor will a press center be set up in the disturbance area. But a newsroom should be set up. The media should be afforded the use of tables, chairs, typewriters, and other equipment associated with a newsroom operation when this use does not interfere with control force operations. If the military is the only source capable of providing communications and transportation support, such support will be provided, if possible. However, prior arrangements must be made for reimbursement.


Detailed plans for civil disturbance operations at each level of command implement the plans of the next higher echelon. Contingency plans are prepared based on a reconnaissance of the disturbance area and a comprehensive review of after-action reports of similar operations. Each plan shows an assembly area, routes and alternate routes to the assembly area, tentative locations of roadblocks and OPs, and temporary facilities for billeting, feeding, and detention. Maps, overlays, aerial photographs, and sketches of the area should be obtained. Plans for distribution and reserve stockpiling are developed. Usually, contingency plans are not implemented exactly as written. Their value is not in rigid application, but as a firm base from which to mount flexible tactics in response to developing situations.

Operational plans provide for the main tasks to be accomplished in controlling a civil disturbance. The plans include:

  • A plan to isolate the affected area.
  • A patrol plan.
  • Plans for crowd control.
  • Plans for the neutralization of special threats and for rescue operations.
  • Plans for deployment.
  • Plans for withdrawing after order is restored.
  • Plans for medical care and for evacuation operations.
  • A security plan for priority facilities that are vulnerable to dissident activity, that are critical to the community's wellbeing, and that have value to the dissidents.

Operations plans must also provide for establishing and maintaining command posts. Locations for the EOC and tactical command posts should be selected in advance. Collocation of command posts and establishment of joint operations centers facilitate liaison and coordination between military and civil authorities. Plans must be made for staffing and equipping the CPs with a minimum of delay.

The EOC must have security. Key personnel can become targets for terrorists. An alternate EOC, and people to staff it, also must be considered. The primary EOC could be overrun by the disturbance. The need for an alternate EOC can be determined by threat analysis. If an alternate EOC is needed, procedures for evacuating the primary EOC or for passing command and control must be in place.

The EOC must have extensive radio and wire communications. Sufficient phone lines must be installed to facilitate coordination and information dissemination with outside agencies and operational forces. If a particular agency must be able to communicate without delays, some lines may have to be dedicated. And the EOC must have sufficient radio equipment to monitor all civilian and military operational frequencies. The EOC also must have space for individual work areas and for conference rooms for meetings and briefings. An overcrowded EOC is noisy and raises the stress level of EOC members. Distracters have an adverse impact on the decision-making process.

Planning considerations must cover both the main CP and the tactical CPs in the various areas where rioting is most likely to occur. Security measures must be taken to ensure that CPs are not penetrated or overrun by riotous elements. Each CP must have an evacuation/relocation plan.

Plans must include the collecting of data for reports and lessons learned. Task force personnel must keep detailed records and journals during and after operations. An important part of the termination process is preparing and submitting an after-action report. The after-action report is as detailed as the commander feels is necessary. Or it is based on higher headquarters requirements. National Guard Regulation 500-50 sets the format for submitting National Guard after-action reports. The report's contents are not limited to just the findings of the commander and his staff. The report may include materials or lessons learned contributed by subordinates or other sources that the commander feels are valuable.

In the aftermath of civil disturbance operations, many claims and investigations are likely to occur. There must be accurate and timely information for processing claims and conducting investigations. Legal matters are a service responsibility and all third party tort claims must be processed according to AR 27-20. Plans also must include provisions for resolving legal problems of task force personnel.

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