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FM 71-3
The Armored and Mechanized Infantry Brigade


TRADOC Pam 525-5 states "future technology will require the Army to reassess time honored means of battle command to recognize that in the future, military operations will involve the coexistence of both hierarchical and internetted, nonhierarchical processes." The deliberate decision-making process (DDMP) is not easily used in a rapid, crisis situation where time is critical. Once operations have commenced, circumstances may make it difficult or impossible to always use the DDMP. The most detailed estimates cannot anticipate every possible branch or sequel, every action of the enemy, or changes in mission directed from higher headquarters. Even the most successful operations may "outrun" the initial plan under continuous operations.

The goal of the commander and staff is to maintain the initiative and anticipate the outcome of the current operation in order to determine the future requirements and set conditions for success. The brigade commanders position on the battlefield and the continuous focused information (CCIR) from his staff allow the commander to assess the operations and adjust as necessary. In addition, the commander must ensure he maintains control of the decision-making process.

Section I. Deliberate Decision-making Process
Section II. Abbreviated or Accelerated Decision-making Process


Military decision making revolves around an established proven procedure called the DDMP. The relationship among the TLPs, decision making, and the estimate of the situation is depicted at Figure I-1. A more detailed discussion of the DDMP is found in FM 101-5.

The brigade commander is key to conceptualizing, planning, preparing, and executing operations - this is his personal responsibility. The commander participates in and propels the process. From the start of the process to the final product, the personal role of the commander is central. The role of the staff is defined and focused by the direction provided by the commander.

The DDMP is a continuous and sequential process, allowing the commander and his staff to examine possibilities of the battlefield and reach logical decisions. The key elements of the DDMP are -

  • Information gathering (estimates).
  • Mission analysis.
    • Restated mission.
    • Commanders guidance.
  • COA development, analysis, comparison, and recommendation.
  • COA approval.
  • Preparation, approval, issuance of plans, orders, and FRAGOs.
  • Execution.

The DDMP can require substantial time to develop the detail required to arrive at a good military decision. The commander routinely uses this method when adequate planning time and sufficient staff support are available and there is opportunity to thoroughly examine numerous friendly and enemy COAs. The DDMP, because of limited staff, is best utilized before operations commence. The key component is the commander participating in and controlling the entire process. He provides adequate guidance, and continual analysis of his mission and his units tasks, while receiving staff input at relevant intervals.

In DDMP, the commander uses the entire staff with its functional orientation and actively participates, guiding and making decisions as the staff works through the procedure. The staff has time to explore the full range of probable and likely enemy COAs as well as to develop, analyze, and compare its own COAs. The XO is the primary staff officer who ensures the staff is accomplishing their requirements throughout the DDMP, to include providing pertinent information to the commander.

The DDMP increases the commander time to perform critical troop-leading tasks while at the same time makes optimum use of the talents of his staff. The commander uses formal and informal briefings to further maneuver the staff through this procedure more efficiently. Such interaction helps the staff resolve questions they uncover and ensures the entire staff is involved in the total process. Regardless of the time available, the agreed upon solution (COA) is still directly linked to how well both commander and staff accomplish each phase.

The DDMP provides a firm basis for continued decision-making during continuous operations. It is extremely important that the deliberate process be used initially, returned to whenever operations tempo allows, and practiced during all training events.

Figure I-1. Planning and execution.


Any abbreviated or accelerated planning process requires the commander to have a high level of expertise, intuition, creativity, and battlefield awareness. He and his staff must quickly decide on feasible COAs, use existing information on METT-T and detailed estimates, and arrive at a COA that meets the mission requirements. This COA may not be optimal. Obviously, as time for the decision-making process decreases, the commanders personal involvement in performing the process increases, either with the staff or by himself. The commander has several options he may choose to abbreviate the process. He may save time by shortening or foregoing an in-depth estimate, other than what has been accomplished previously. The commander may limit the number of COAs for development and subsequent analysis; and he may choose to prescribe an abbreviated method in the unit SOP. Under extreme time constraints the commander will perform the mission analysis himself and provide the staff with the restated mission and his intent. The commander must ensure the process is under his control and steps within the process are not arbitrarily ignored. The XO must have a thorough understanding of the on-going operation, the commanders guidance and intent, and continually exercise the staff in all critical steps of the decision-making process, as time and conditions permit. The staff will continue to provide guidance as necessary, coordinate actions, and implement the commanders decisions.

To a varying extent, staff members are always assessing the current operation and updating their estimates. Detailed planning prior to operations provides the commander and staff with components of information they need to make knowledgeable choices and decisions as operations continue.

Deliberate process productions (such as weather analysis, terrain analysis, enemy order of battle, and general situation analysis) usually do not change significantly during the initial stage of combat operations if estimates are kept current. Modifications are much simpler than returning to a zero base. These products, such as DSTs and event templates, identify critical points in the plan that require decisions and commanders consideration. Staff members should maintain sufficient, updated information on the changes from their initial estimates to be able to give the commander an indication of their ability to support new mission requirements.

Regardless of how the commander chooses to abbreviate the decision-making process, two areas he should always include are wargaming and risk assessment. Wargaming provides the opportunity to synchronize the BOS across the COA. It may be the only time the staff and subordinates test the suitability, feasibility, and acceptability of the COA. Risk assessment must be done to ensure a solution to a task or set of tasks will not render the force incapable of anticipating operations or lower the units combat effectiveness below acceptable levels.

Forward to the Glossary.
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