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Synchronizing the Brigade Combat Team at the JRTC

by COL Scott Pritchett, Senior Brigade Command and Control O/C, and
LTC Steve Hawley, Brigade Operations O/C

"I announced the imminent offensive to the units and accordingly explained my thoughts and my battle plan to the commanders of the.battalions and in part to company commanders on the spot in daily briefings. As a result of these.talks, the unit leaders.were briefed thoroughly. I make the point of emphasizing this because the interaction of all weapons and supporting units functioned in such an exemplary manner; the only other place one could find an example of such cooperation would be in textbooks."

--Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel, Battle of Targul-Frumos, Russian Front, May 1944

Today's and tomorrow's technology affords our Army the capabilities and allows us the opportunities to dominate our adversaries with overwhelming combat power. No longer is the challenge to synchronize combat power limited to just orchestrating the seven Battlefield Operating Systems (BOSs). A host of new combat multipliers, concepts and capabilities, coupled with a wide spectrum of Army missions have made synchronization a much more sophisticated challenge. Experiences at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) are indicative of how well we are meeting it.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis is not good. Commanders' and staffs' training at the JRTC do not demonstrate a suitable level of understanding or proficiency with synchronization, the impact of which is that we concede far too many tactical successes to the opposing force due solely to a lack of synchronization. That is, we struggle to out-think the enemy and, thus, to bring the right combination of combat power to the right places at the right times. In short, we don't beat him as often as we can and should. Some of the most significant obstacles are rooted in the brigade's inability to develop synchronized plans. Not surprisingly, this fact lends itself toward weak synchronization in execution. In particular, the JRTC spotlights a trend in commanders of not fully exercising their role in the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) to structure and drive synchronization. Likewise, staff officers with even less experience than the commander are similarly challenged to synchronize operations which are founded upon an ineffective MDMP.

Repeated Observer/Controller (O/C) observations indicate that the challenge to synchronize lies within three general areas. In this regard, we first want to examine the intelligence operating system and the absolute necessity of developing and maintaining an integrated threat picture as the foundation of synchronization. Second, we will discuss the contributions the staff must make -- contributions that are vitally important to planning, coordinating, integrating and executing synchronization. Finally, we will discuss the brigade commander's responsibilities and ways he can improve building synchronization into plans so as to increase the chances of synchronization in execution. While the trends discussed are born out of the training experiences of light, airborne, and air assault brigades, and the Ranger Regiment at the JRTC, the points made are also appropriate to these kinds of battalions as well as the corresponding levels of command and staffs in heavy units. Throughout the presentation, readers should note a particular sharing, if not a redundancy, of the trends, analysis, impact and the fixes suggested. This fact serves to emphasize that our synchronization doctrine is founded upon all elements working in common toward a well-articulated and common objective.


"In fact, until the morning of the day of the attack, I had no idea where the focal point of the Russian attack was likely to be. The success of my battle plan depended on the accurate transmission of information obtained through reconnaissance and its transmission to the entire (unit)."

--Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel, Battle of Targul-Frumos, Russian Front, May 1944

The brigade intelligence officer/S-2 has a key staff role in setting the conditions for the brigade to achieve synchronization. Three areas of responsibility include developing and maintaining an integrated threat picture based on battlefield indicators, concisely and coherently communicating the analysis to the commander, and using an event template. The intelligence officer, therefore, must be an intelligence integrator. He and his staff must be attuned to the current fight to recognize opportunities that advantage or disadvantage friendly or enemy forces. Finally, his integrated threat analysis must be routinely provided to the commander so he can update his guidance and decision-making tools.

The integrated threat picture provides the means to make decisions about the enemy and friendly courses of action. It requires the BOS-specific intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) of each BOS element to be simultaneously overlayed and then analyzed, to form a comprehensive scheme of maneuver.a story of what the enemy will do. The integrated threat picture strives to make sense of current battlefield events, to predict future enemy schemes of maneuver, and recommend friendly courses of action that will leverage friendly capabilities against enemy vulnerabilities. In other words, it seeks to recognize opportunities.

If we knew the enemy scheme with certainty before he could execute it, we would also know with certainty the most effective option for employing the brigade's combat power to defeat that scheme. But this is an ideal situation with which units are rarely presented. Consequently, the intelligence officer must not only be able to predict the "who," "what," "where" and "when" of the enemy's plan but, most importantly, the "why." The trend we see at the JRTC is that S-2s are best at templating the "who," "what" and "where." This, of course, becomes the situation template (SITEMP), and it is usually all that operations are planned against. To the extent that the S-2 has also not integrated the BOS IPB into the SITEMP, it will be that much less useful. Some S-2s, however, do incorporate the "when" information, but it is usually not sufficiently detailed. If "when" information is reflected, it usually shows up as marginal information on the SITEMP. In other words, the portrayal will typically cover a general block of time, as if to freeze the enemy in place for a 24-hour period.

Time and space relationships of enemy activities should be shown on the event template. This template, the analysis resulting from combining the modified combined obstacle overlay (MCOO), doctrinal template and the situational template, should pictorially portray the enemy's scheme of maneuver. Much like a football coaches "Xs" and "Os" on a chalkboard, the event template arranges enemy activity in time and space based on doctrine and the effects of terrain and weather. While the event template may cover a more-or-less-than-24-hour period, it must reflect detailed battlefield activities as they relate in time and space. Predicting "why" the enemy is doing "what", "where" and "when" is a key ingredient to successfully developing an event template. If the S-2 fails to determine a prediction of the enemy scheme of maneuver, there is little left to do but fight his weapons. This result, often seen at the JRTC, has two immediate consequences for the brigade. First, the friendly plan results in an unsynchronized scheme of maneuver that fails to desynchronize the enemy's scheme of maneuver. Secondly, the plan seldom attacks enemy vulnerabilities, much less creates opportunities which friendly combat power can exploit.

An example will illustrate the points of the previous discussion. Consider the issue of minefields on the JRTC battlefield. Brigade S-2s usually accurately template where the OPFOR will employ minefields. Sometimes the S-2's SITEMP also indicates where supply caches might be located. Brigades generally recognize that the enemy employs the fundamental of linking obstacles to observers and fires. Here is where the problem begins. The S-2's SITEMP cannot depict these relationships. There is more to the enemy's use of minefields on the JRTC battlefield. He fights mines as a system. This system not only includes caches, observers and direct and indirect fires, but also command and control and resupply, as well as a rationale for employing them when and where he does. In fact, the enemy attacks our vulnerabilities with his mine systems. Without an event template, it becomes difficult to see the enemy's minefield system scheme of maneuver. Furthermore, vulnerabilities also exist in the enemy's system. For example, the system must be sustained and supported with supplies to his caches, logistics to his observers and communications for orders. Without the predictive power of an event template, these opportunities go unseen. Most brigades seldom exploit these opportunities and end up fighting an unsynchronized battle to clear minefields rather than a synchronized battle to destroy the enemy's mine system.

One of the most important tools the intelligence officer has to sense the battlefield is the Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs). Divided in to the components of Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIRs), Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFIs), and Friendly Force Information Requirements (FFIRs), CCIRs are absolutely key in the synchronization process. Each component is important to the S-2, not just the PIR. There are two CCIR pitfalls for S-2s: improper development and exclusive focus on the PIR.

The PIRs may be the most important component of CCIRs. They should be the essence of what the commander needs to know to make the critical decisions to win the fight. FM 7-30, The Infantry Brigade, asserts that "the commander, not the staff officer, develops CCIR." An affirmation which FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, reinforces where it states that "the commander alone decides what information is critical, based on his experience, the mission, the higher commander's intent, and input from the staff." Repeated observations from JRTC rotations show that brigades seldom adhere to the stated doctrine. It is the staff's input that is germane to our present discussion, and, in particular, the S-2's contribution.

The S-2 must ensure that the PIRs are in the form of questions that directly relate to decisions the commander anticipates making. Unfortunately, most PIRs tend to be merely the S-2's most important intelligence indicators. Returning to the previous minefield example, a frequently developed PIR is: "Where are the enemy minefields?" This is an important piece of the S-2's puzzle, but it is not a PIR because, when answered, it does not directly lead to a commander's decision.

Appropriate PIRs link to a series of intelligence requirements (IRs) developed toward discerning a particular piece of the enemy commander's scheme of maneuver. This, in turn, develops opportunities or options for the commander to make decisions with respect to synchronizing combat power against the enemy's scheme. As an example, consider the following PIR as it might relate to our minefield scenario: "If the enemy mines Route Zinc, is this mine system a main effort to deny our force buildup or a supporting effort to interdict, harass and attrit our CSS?" When answered, this PIR is a decision-making tool and not just a piece of intelligence. For example, it may lead the commander to commit a certain size, type or combination of forces along Route Zinc. It may lead him to select another route altogether.

The other two components of CCIRs, EEFIs and FFIRs generally suffer the same treatment as PIR. They seldom receive any attention at all from the S-2 and are typically an afterthought drawn up by the S-3. In fact, the S-2 needs to be involved by recommending input, just as with the PIR. Here is why. Basically, EEFI are those things the enemy commander probably wants to know most about us. Said another way, our EEFIs are his PIRs. To effectively and efficiently synchronize combat power against the enemy scheme of maneuver, it is important to try to know what decisions the enemy commander must make. A way to define these decisions (and ultimately stay inside the enemy's decision loop) is through proper development of EEFIs.

Brigades seldom demonstrate this level of sophistication at the JRTC. What is often seen are EEFIs that take the following form: "The location of the BSA." This does not indicate an enemy decision in and of itself. Yet, every rotational brigade at the JRTC knows that the BSA is a likely high payoff target (HPT) and that its location cannot be concealed. So, how useful is this EEFI? Doctrinally, having stated this as an EEFI, the brigade is obliged to commit resources to deny the information to the enemy. There is nothing the brigade can reasonably do within its resources to deny this information to the enemy. Therefore, what does this EEFI contribute to synchronizing combat power?

The FFIRs, on the other hand, are those things the brigade needs to know about itself that are critical to maintaining synchronization. However, many units at the JRTC miss this significant distinction and tend to craft FFIRs more like IRs appropriate to serious incident reporting. The S-2 has a responsibility to check these, ensuring that they address those areas that the enemy can most easily exploit and desynchronize our effort. Again, a typical example of FFIR developed at the JRTC might be "Loss of a tank or Bradley." Instead, a proper FFIR might be, "Failure of the heavy reserve platoon to occupy BP 32 with at least two tanks." If CCIRs are to contribute to synchronizing the fight, it is important that the S-2 share in the ownership of all three components and ensure that they are properly focused intelligence requirements.


As noted previously, all staff sections in the brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC) have the responsibility of integrating into the intelligence operating system. Those staff sections that perform this responsibility fundamentally contribute to synchronizing intelligence within the brigade's plan. This same concept is applicable to all operating systems. To effectively synchronize, each brigade asset requires staff officers and noncommissioned officers knowledgeable and proficient in the processes that are key to synchronization. Two of the most significant processes are the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) and the Targeting Process, which is itself imbedded in the MDMP. O/C observations indicate a number of trends in this regard.

Most units at the JRTC struggle with the MDMP because of a lack of training proficiency. The lack of flexibility and inefficiency are two symptoms of this training deficiency. Units either apply the steps by rote, regardless of the time available, or omit steps (or.omit important parts of steps) when constrained by time. U.S. Army doctrine states that no step of the MDMP should be omitted. To omit a step is to ensure that synchronization will suffer. Additionally, a number of methodologies are imbedded within the steps of the MDMP that facilitate synchronization. If the brigade is inefficient in executing the MDMP, some of these methodologies will effectively contribute to synchronization, as they should. The targeting process is one example of these imbedded methodologies. O/C observations show that most units not only fail to imbed it within the MDMP, but also tend to approach targeting as the synchronization process, in and of itself.

While no step should be omitted, there are numerous efficiencies that can be employed in a time-constrained environment. Methods include parallel planning and using various types of rehearsals or the directed course of action. All of these can save time, but each carries with it factors that must be taken into account. Efficient use of time is critical to effective synchronization. Yet brigades seldom adequately analyze their use of time as it pertains to the MDMP steps. Each step is a tool that shapes and synchronizes the plan, and each mission requires flexibility in how these tools are applied to the task. For example, while units routinely apply the "one third-two thirds" rule, they tend to spend an inordinate amount of time wargaming. Their error may be compounded when they invariably insist on executing a brigade "rock drill" instead of another more efficient method of rehearsal, regardless of the impact on subordinates' time. They usually do these things because "it is standing operating procedures," which, in turn, is merely an indication of their level of training. In either case, these actions can end up being a poor use of time and a poor use of time makes synchronization more difficult to achieve.

Weak execution of the mission analysis step is a particularly notable adverse trend. Mission analysis may be the most important step of the MDMP since it constitutes the foundation upon which the plan depends. Thus, this step makes a significant and direct contribution to achieving synchronization. It constitutes the foundation upon which the plan and all changes to the operation depend. If mission analysis neither provides the commander with all of the critical information he requires for formulating a clear picture of the enemy and friendly forces nor is based on pertinent analysis of this information and its impact on battlefield developments, synchronization will likely flounder in subsequent MDMP steps.

The correct information and analysis the staff must develop during mission analysis can be best described in the terms of the difference between status and state.1The meaning and difference between the two contrasts markedly with what staffs usually present. Staffs usually give commanders only status, or discrete information rather than state, which is the impact discrete information has on future operations. State, therefore, is information plus analysis and the key to the commander's vision of the battlefield. Discrete information alone is insufficient for the commander to properly and rapidly develop a concept from. Status is merely a summary of what the commander can usually already find on the heads-up display charts in the TOC. This is the standard slant report information: how many tanks are up, the strength percentage of platoons or whether communications systems are "green, amber or red." State includes analysis such as force ratios, assessments of morale and welfare, and evaluation of key weapons' capabilities to function as systems. Without knowing both status and state, synchronization is challenged because the plan will not have adequately factored in changes to capabilities and limitations to the friendly and enemy concept or schemes of maneuver.

An example of this is illustrated by what O/Cs invariably observe when brigades transition between offense and defense. Usually, in the staff's haste, aggravated by the nature of continuous operations at JRTC, the mission analysis step becomes shortened and valuable information is not briefed or linked by analysis. Specifically, O/Cs seldom observe the S-1 brief the impact of recent personnel casualties on unit morale or the impact the pace replacement operations might have on future operations. Other combat multipliers seldom present analyzed information on where their units are on the battlefield and the impact on future operations, their state of supply or the completeness of systems and crews. Intelligence officers hardly ever provide an assessment of the effects of the battle on the enemy's personnel and equipment from these same perspectives. All of this analysis can prove important to synchronization because it provides indicators of changes in capabilities and vulnerabilities that the commander might desire to exploit, enhance or seek compensation. Without it, the commander and staff neither have the information they need to synchronize resources nor an adequate understanding of where, how or why to synchronize combat power.

Synchronizing combat power is a dynamic effort for the staff. The MDMP should be a dynamic process. It should be a continuous process in state of refinement and adjustment to changes occurring and predicted on the battlefield. This fact makes sense because the battlefield is continually changing. In every contact, the brigade learns something about the enemy and he learns something about the brigade. Enough of these indicators cause changes to occur in the enemy scheme of maneuver. Brigade task forces have the resources and capability to stay ahead of these changes. Unfortunately, most brigades approach the MDMP as a discrete event -- a process pulled off the shelf only when prompted by a new FRAGO from higher. They seldom use it as a basis of the brigade battle rhythm to continually analyze the mission predict future operations and develop plans to stay inside the enemy's decision cycle.

Indicative of the dynamic characteristic of the MDMP is the fact that it is built on a number of sub-processes, or methodologies, such as the wargame or IPB. If the staff properly performs these sub-processes, they will naturally perpetuate friendly decision cycles. Orders from higher also accommodate easily within this concept. It is largely from this continuous approach to the MDMP that brigades are able to "look 24 to 48 hours out" and stay within the enemy's decision loop. The sub-process or methodology that brigades almost universally have problems with is the "targeting process."

Targeting enjoys little success because staff officers, warrant officers and NCOs either do not understand their individual contribution, are not integrated into the process, do not know enough about how the process works, or have little practical experience at targeting. As already indicated, targeting is a sub-process within the MDMP and, therefore, makes an important contribution to achieving synchronization. However, the targeting "meeting" is often approached as the synchronization process in and of itself. In fact, the targeting meeting should be the culminating event of a methodology that involves several steps, each of which is properly part of the steps of the MDMP. Two of the most important of these are developing an integrated threat picture and the commander's decide.

True to the methodology, the two are inextricably linked. However, most staffs, as already discussed above in the examination of the intelligence operating system, do not produce or maintain the first, and, as a consequence, seldom force the second to be clearly defined. So, once every 24 hours, parts of the brigade typically settle into a lengthy meeting that attempts to accomplish everything from threat analysis to wargaming, task-organizing and assigning tasks and purposes without focused commander's guidance. This practice almost always ensures a lack of battlefield focus and guarantees that the brigade will only stay inside subordinate unit decision cycles.

Prior to the targeting meeting, the staff has to have produced an updated predictive integrated threat picture as to the enemy's most probable and most dangerous course of action for the upcoming targeting period. This analysis must explicitly answer the question of why the enemy might elect these courses of action. The integrated threat picture must also receive the commander's approval. This decision is the commander's decide and the first step of the decide-detect-deliver-assess (D3A) targeting methodology. It is the only way the first step of the methodology should be determined because this acceptance constitutes the commander's vision of the battlefield, that is, what enemy vulnerabilities he will attack next and why he will attack them. To do this, he also needs to envision the enemy's scheme of maneuver options. Without articulating these, a synchronized operation is in jeopardy, for the staff may end up focusing on a different fight than the commander envisions. Lacking a common, commander vision -- or "decide" - of the enemy scheme of maneuver usually has the unfortunate result of causing the staff to target only the enemy's weapons systems with little knowledge of the enemy's intended use of the same. If the staff does not target or synchronize against an enemy plan, as directed by the commander, there is little left to do but target weapons. Staffs at the JRTC almost never engage the commander in the targeting process to this extent. They operate absent the commander and present him the results of their targeting deliberations after the fact. The proper development and presentation of the commander's decide takes time, coordination, integration and preparation to work correctly for synchronization. A clear, common understanding of the enemy scheme of maneuver thus constitutes a necessary step in synchronizing the brigade.

How does each staff section approach the targeting or synchronization process so as to ensure that they are making the correct contribution? What should brigade executive officers and operations officers do to ensure integration? One clear answer to these questions can be found in an article in the September-October 1998 Field Artillery, Integrating Fires into the Brigade Battle Plan, by LTC Art Bartell, MAJ Glenn Harp and SFC Phillip Serrano. While written primarily for a fire support audience, the methodology is superb tactics, technique, and procedures (TTP) that easily translate into the language of any combat multiplier.

The article describes how the fire support world's practices in targeting are imbedded or integrated in the first four of steps of the MDMP. The mission analysis step yields the usual specified and implied tasks. However, with respect to targeting, these tasks are further analyzed to determine essential fire support tasks. Essential fire support tasks could just as easily be essential air defense tasks, or essential civil affairs tasks. This step, therefore, produces two key targeting products. The first result yields the elements necessary for the commander's concept of fires, but this could just as easily be the commander's concept for psychological "fires." The second result yields the high value (Air Defense/Civil Affairs) targets (HVTs). Important to this step is both rationalizing these targets to the commander as well as graphically portraying the locations and activities of the HVTs on the S-2's event template.

During course-of-action (COA) development, and following the commander's guidance, the essential tasks are used to develop the concept of fires. Here is where fire supporters use the methodology of task, purpose, method, and effects (TPMEs). Again, any combat multiplier can develop TPMEs with respect to their particular capabilities. Substantial emphasis should be placed on developing and articulating the effects and ensuring that the purposes are nested within the COA maneuver concept.

Next, the COA is wargamed and it is during this process that the scheme of fires is developed. The scheme sequences HPTs and specifies sensors, triggers, shooters and assessors. The targeting synchronization matrix (TSM), one of the targeting products, both requires input from all of the fire supporters and provides a concise visual means to represent the coordination and integration of resources in time and space. Hence the synchronization. Using this matrix, fire supporters develop a fire support execution matrix (FSEM). These products: the scheme of fires, the HPT list, the allocation of resources toward fire support tasks and the "FSEM" are analyzed for each of the action-reaction-counteraction steps of the wargame. Thus, there is a simple TTP for integrating all combat multipliers into the targeting or synchronization process as well as TTPs to ensure that targeting falls out of the MDMP. Staffs at the JRTC do not demonstrate this level of sophistication.

Therefore, an overarching solution to better synchronization begins with linking the "targeting" meeting with the D3A methodology as it relates to the MDMP and recognizing it as a synchronization methodology. This is more than semantics. It is a mindset that the brigade commander has a significant role in developing in his staff.


"As I could predict with a probability bordering on certainty that the enemy would attack with strong armored forces in conjunction with strong artillery aided by good observation, I decided to repulse the attack through the use of the massed panzer regiment employing a mobile style of warfare. In my comments I left no doubt whatsoever that the.regiments would have to defend themselves, for our Panzers could not be everywhere. Various types of reconaissance would be the basis for making the initial determination as to where the enemy would attack with strong armored forces."

--Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel, Battle of Targul-Frumos, Russian Front, May 1944

The pre-eminent responsibility for synchronization belongs to the commander. As implied earlier, the staff's actions can significantly facilitate his effort. However, brigade commanders rotating through the JRTC demonstrate either a lack of understanding of how to achieve synchronization or a lack of involvement in the planning synchronization. The remainder of this article focuses on steps commanders can take to effectively synchronize combat power. These include better formulation of the commander's intent, involvement in the decide step of the D3A targeting methodology, and improving the quality and use of the Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs).

Commander's intent has undergone numerous changes over time. Each change has sought to provide a better way for commanders to concisely express their vision -- the essence of what is required for mission success -- what must happen to win. Intent is also the foundation upon which the synchronization of the brigade's combat power is built. The difficulty has always been to express the "vision" of an upcoming battle in concise and simple terms for subordinates. This may be an art within itself. The current method of "key tasks - endstate" is yet one more evolutionary way to express intent and contribute to synchronized execution. As already noted, however, many commanders are not effective in their use of intent.

Commanders have become more involved in writing their intent rather than delegating the task to a subordinate. This is positive trend. Regardless, in all but exceptional cases, the resulting intent statement is merely a summary of OPORD paragraph 3, Concept of the Operation. As such, there is little, if any, value added to synchronization. If merely summarizing the scheme of maneuver tasks was all that was necessary to guide subordinates in battle, then we might also expect that every plan would work without a hitch. But execution always differs from the plan. Consequently, to ensure synchronization, commanders must have a means to both script key elements of the initial plan as well as focus subordinates through the "fog and friction" as the battle develops. Thus, intent goes beyond stating the tasks of paragraph 3, and describes the effects synchronization must achieve to win under any circumstances. These effects are fundamental to success of any plan. Taken together, they paint a picture for subordinates and guide their decision-making. These effects must be expressed relative to the enemy force, the friendly force or the terrain. Additionally, the commander's intent must organize these effects in time and space. This is difficult to do in a concise format, but is absolutely key to the effective and efficient synchronization of combat power.

KEY TASKS: Seize the Fullerton flight landing strip.

Secure Route Zinc.

Rapidly build up combat power.

Interdict the enemy's infiltration.

ENDSTATE: The FLS secured, Route Zinc secured, the enemy destroyed and the brigade postured for follow-on operations.

Figure 1: Typical Commander's Intent.

A generic example based on rotational trends illustrates the difference between the JTRC norm and this concept of meaningful commander's intent. Additionally, it highlights the benefits between an intent that restates paragraph 3, and one that expresses the commander's vision for the synchronization of combat power. A commander's intent for an initial entry mission (forced or non-forced) usually looks like the example shown in Figure 1 above. At first glance, it is concise and most might find it acceptable. We do not.

A typical JRTC scenario for this phase of operations generally portrays an indigenous insurgent force vying for influence over the population with a goal of destabilizing the government. The guerrillas receive support from a third party country who has its own designs on the desired fall of the neighboring government which is the gaining of its territory. U.S. forces, under a Joint Task Force (JTF), enter in support of the embattled government. Outnumbered about 10:1, the guerillas seek to eject the U.S. forces by controlling the population, undermining the government, inflicting U.S. casualties and embarrassing the United States.

The intent in Figure 1 conveys little in terms of synchronizing the fight. The only visionary aspect of this intent that would be particularly useful in terms of synchronization, and might not be found in paragraph 3a, Scheme of Maneuver, is the word "rapidly." It does, however, somewhat organize the task of building up combat power in time and space. In this case, whatever happens in execution, subordinates two levels down would understand that they must seek to get all resources in the fight quickly. Aside from this exception, the intent does not adequately focus subordinates on what effect they are to achieve regardless of the path the battle takes. Seizing the flight landing strip (FLS) is an objective, not an effect. For example, what ideas guide subordinates when the enemy airfield denial force is stronger than expected, or Route Zinc cannot be secured in its entirety or continuously, or the enemy infiltration is missed? Initiative needs to be directed toward a desired effect as well as a desired objective. Objectives can be found in paragraph 2, Mission, and paragraph 3, Tasks to Subordinate Units. In fact, this example of commander's intent ties subordinates to accomplishing the stated tasks regardless of battlefield developments. The intent essentially removes the option of not accomplishing these tasks. It also does not focus subordinates on synchronizing a desired effect on enemy operations, regardless of how the enemy reacts to the friendly plan. Consequently, it does not answer the question, "What effect must my forces have on the enemy to win?" To further aggravate the matter, commanders almost never change or focus these kinds of intent statements once the enemy casts his vote, the battlefield changes, and objectives are won or lost. For example, what if the commander, based upon information and analysis, sees that the enemy effort at the flight landing strip and along Route Zinc might be a supporting effort to tie down U.S. forces and prevent their maneuver against him in the southern part of the area of operations? Suppose the enemy can operate for 72 hours on caches and aerial re-supply. Additionally suppose that, given freedom of action to the south where the best enemy re-supply landing zones are, and given access to key villages for food and water, the enemy will make more efficient use of aerial re-supply for munitions. And suppose analysis concludes that this effort can result in sustaining his force an additional 48 hours, and eventually permit massing of forces against a particular high payoff target. One can readily see that the intent in this example provides little guidance beyond initial objectives.

Figure 2 illustrates a more effective commander's intent. It better guides synchronization by articulating purpose, organizing tasks and describing effects. It comes closer to answering the question of "What effect must my forces have on the enemy to win?" and provides guidance in depth to subordinates two levels down.


1. Convince the enemy, the government and the population that U.S. forces are superior, vastly capable, determined, professional and that they will win.

2. Do not commit forces to a tactical operation without thorough predictive intelligence analysis to find and fix the enemy.

3. Finishing the enemy must be on our terms by ensuring that units receive the time to fully execute Troop-Leading Procedures, so as to enable small unit leaders to fight combined arms.

4. Deny the enemy easy tactical successes by adhering to centralized CS and CSS planning, resourcing, preparation and execution. This is a brigade fight.

ENDSTATE: The enemy abandons the battlefield because we defeat him tactically in every effort and encounter; the government and population are a U.S. combat multiplier because they are convinced they are backing the winner; brigade soldiers' stamina is maximized and preserved because CS and CSS systems support, supply and strengthen the soldiers in every operation.

Figure 2: Example of Commander's Intent.

The intent in Figure 2 provides better scope to the operation. The guidance given in the statement transcends initial entry operations and indicates more clearly what is to be synchronized to beat the enemy and how it is to be done. It is still easily understood at the company commander level, and, in fact, allows these subordinate commanders initiative while characterizing what they must achieve. It can compliment the subordinate unit tasks and purposes stated elsewhere in paragraph 3. Finally, it indicates the effect that the brigade's collective combat power must have on the enemy to win.

Another way that brigade commanders can improve synchronization is through the level, form and quality of their participation in the targeting process. As already noted, this process is an integral product of the MDMP. Targeting should not be a sub-process of synchronization, but a parallel, almost unified process with it. Targeting is the methodology that plans, coordinates and integrates the full available range of the brigade's combat power. It facilitates the synchronization of combat power effects to occur at the right times, the right places and the right combinations against identified enemy vulnerabilities. To achieve all this, therefore, must be based on anticipation of the effects current operations will have on the enemy's next move.

Commanders should drive the targeting effort. Many do not because they either do not understand their role in targeting, they operate on the periphery of the MDMP, they choose not to participate, or they fail to establish and enforce a decision-based brigade battle rhythm. The impact of the latter problem is the least obvious of the four and will be elaborated upon further.

Units at JRTC always structure their battle rhythm around an information-management routine. Yet, staffs exist and should function to aid the commander in making decisions. Information management tasks, while important and necessary, are not sufficient to base decision-making upon. It is through the MDMP and not information management tasks that commanders can best accomplish this central function of decision-making. From any number of perspectives that one might attempt to view the validity of a decision-based battle rhythm, the conclusion is inescapable. The only effective way successful targeting or synchronization occurs is if the process is imbedded in the MDMP and the MDMP is the basis of the brigade's battle rhythm.

An information management routine usually organizes activities such as Tactical Operations Center (TOC) "huddles," battlefield update briefs (BUBs), commander's conference calls, and shift changes in a 24-hour period. All of these are important events. But, when the routine of the commander and staff are built exclusively around this structure, decision-making suffers. The MDMP at the JRTC is typically only triggered by a fragmentary order (FRAGO) from higher and much less frequently by battlefield changes. Consequently, the commander and staff tend to execute the MDMP by exception. But, daily changes on the battlefield frequently require commanders to make decisions independent of higher orders. Information management-based battle rhythms make it difficult to even recognize these battlefield opportunities much less sustain the preparations required to execute the MDMP in support of decision-making. As a result, either decisions not vetted by the MDMP get made or the staff or MDMP must compete to overcome the inertia of a routine overly focused on administration. In either case, synchronization is not well served.

As previously noted, the staff's participation through both information presentation and information analysis is important to synchronizing the brigade's combat power. Both are indispensable to the commander's need to make decisions. Discrete information management presentation alone does not effectively facilitate decision-making. Analysis is needed to make decisions and the MDMP, as an analytical based process, serves this need well. Additionally, all information management functions can easily be integrated in to the seven steps of the MDMP. Since staffs spend a significant amount of time preparing for and executing these routine information chores, and since analysis of information is key to decision-making, it should also makes sense from an efficiency viewpoint that the MDMP ought to provide the structure for the brigade's battle rhythm. It is also a fact that most information presentation occurs somewhere within the seven MDMP steps.

When one considers the correlation between tactical success and thinking ahead of an enemy, the point of a decision-based battle rhythm makes yet more sense. In practical terms, the rationale is to stay inside the enemy's decision-making cycle. Every time the brigade makes contact with the enemy, the brigade learns something about the enemy's scheme of maneuver. The enemy also learns something about the brigade's. As the enemy learns things about the brigade, he makes decisions and adjusts his scheme of maneuver. The brigade must do the same thing and do it faster than the enemy. Our doctrine provides the structure to accomplish this. In essence, enemy activity yields indicators and a number of indicators tend to answer priority intelligence requirements (PIRs). PIRs, in turn, directly assist the commander in making decisions because they answer the questions that form the basis of his decision options. It is only through the MDMP that battlefield indicators and information are analyzed and effective PIR are developed.

Lastly, let us look at the superiority of an MDMP-based battle rhythm from the staff's perspective. A frequent complaint made by brigade staffs is that on the 24-hour-a-day, 360-degree, stressful battlefield there is not adequate time to properly do every step of the MDMP. Instead, ostensibly for the sake of efficiency, staffs focus on an information management routine and "surge" for an MDMP, if and when required. Nothing could be a bigger impediment to synchronization. Staffs invariably cut the wrong corners with the MDMP using this approach. The result is compartmentalized information, which tends to become overlooked by the commander. This leads to insufficient analysis, which leads to insufficiently detailed courses of action (friendly or enemy) which, in turn, almost always guarantees synchronization problems.

Step 1. Analyze the higher headquarters' order.
Step 2. Conduct initial intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB).
Step 3. Determine specified, implied, and essential tasks.
Step 4. Review available assets.
Step 5. Determine constraints.
Step 6. Identify critical facts and assumptions.
Step 7. Conduct risk assessment.
Step 8. Determine initial Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs).
Step 9. Determine the initial reconnaissance annex.
Step 10. Plan use of available time.
Step 11. Write the restated mission.
Step 12. Conduct a mission analysis briefing.
Step 13. Approve the restated mission.
Step 14. Develop the initial commander's intent.
Step 15. Issue the commander's guidance.
Step 16. Issue a warning order.
Step 17. Review facts and assumptions.

Figure 3: The Steps of the Mission Analysis.

On the other hand, if the battle rhythm were structured around the MDMP, then the structure for staff integration to occur would also be present, time would be used more effectively, and staffs would continually be in a state of formulating and briefing analysis to the commander. Thus, the commander would be better supported in decision-making. FM 101-5, page 5-27, states that in a time-constrained environment, "anticipation, organization and preparation" are keys to success. These conditions cannot properly be achieved using a typical information management routine as the basis for battle rhythm. Anticipation, organization, and preparation maximize the results of the MDMP.

Figure 3, taken from FM 101-5, illustrates the 17 tasks required in just the first of seven doctrinal MDMP steps, that is, the mission analysis step. Both information presentation and information analysis tasks are included. The importance of the mission analysis step to decision-making has already been noted. Many of these steps could be prepared or accomplished by any TOC shift or shared between shifts prior to the typical morning battlefield update brief to the commander. In fact, Step 12, Conduct a mission analysis briefing, could entirely replace the morning staff update to the commander. The remaining five sub-steps could also be accomplished before the commander departed the TOC for battlefield circulation (assuming that this was his practice) or during a mid-day return. Regardless, the concept requires the brigade commander's engagement and improves efficient use of time. Planning at all echelons is more effective based on a foundation of commander involvement, thorough mission analysis and an ability to execute parallel planning. All seven MDMP steps can provide the requisite structure for a brigade's battle rhythm. If so structured, the targeting challenge that most brigades confront at the JRTC will also become easier to handle.

In the D3A targeting methodology, "decide" is the first step. The end product of the "decide" step must be an expression of the commander's vision of how current battlefield events have shaped what he must do to the enemy next. Few commanders at the JRTC are providing sufficient "decide" guidance to assist the targeting process. Three significant reasons are responsible for this.

First, as already noted, an information management-based battle rhythm does not provide appropriate and adequate time for the commander to receive integrated analysis of the progress and state of the mission. That is, commanders are not getting recurring mission analysis that allows him to answer four general questions: how is our plan working and why; what is the enemy doing and why; what will the enemy do next and why; and, finally, what must we do next and why? Furthermore, most commanders do not demonstrate that they recognize the "decide" is no different than commander's guidance at the end of mission analysis.

The second reason can be inferred from the first. Commanders do not expect nor are they demanding an integrated picture of the battlefield from the staff. This point is the heart of the commander's responsibilities in the synchronization process. The saying "commanders drive intelligence and intelligence drives operations" expresses the impact of this shortcoming. Brigade commanders at the JRTC routinely accept situation templates over event templates from their intelligence officers. Just like a winning football coach wants to know what his opponent will try to do in the upcoming game, and relies on his coaching staff to develop that opponent's game plan, so the commander must demand the right level of resolution from his staff. If the coaching staff tells the head coach that the other team will likely run the ball, pass the ball, kick some and try to get the ball in to the end zone, he would be hard-pressed to formulate a successful game plan for the home team. Just like the coach who wants to know specifically which way his opponent will likely run or pass in short yardage situations, and why he is likely to use a particular play. So too the brigade commander needs the same educated guess, in the form of the integrated threat event template, to tell him what the enemy will likely do.

The last reason commanders are not effectively guiding the targeting process is that they are not full participants themselves. Some commanders "sit in" on the initial minutes of the targeting meeting, but this is the exception. Often the meeting is held at a time that is not conducive to having the commander present or when it is at odds with his personal battle rhythm. Most commanders do require approval of the resulting FRAGO. But this approval is usually more form than substance since they have excluded themselves from the process. We seldom see a commander receive a brief on the results of the targeting meeting. Properly imbedded in the MDMP, the results of the targeting meeting look a lot like the COA decision briefing. Consequently, at virtually every step of the targeting process, we observe a lack of required commander's guidance and a failure to adhere to the MDMP as the targeting methodology. Without this guidance and approach, the staff in not adequately focused or structured. Without focus and structure, synchronization suffers in proportion as the staff produces plans that, at best, coincidentally support the commander's vision -- if, in fact, the overall process has assisted him in developing one -- and not vetted through the MDMP for the commander.

One of the best ways a brigade commander can guide the targeting process is to focus the staff on operations ahead of the battalions' operations to shape the battlefield. Doing this will tend to keep the brigade staff from interfering with the battalions' fight. In a figurative sense, we say that companies plan and fight today's fight, that battalions plan for tomorrow's company fights and brigades plan for the battalions' fights the day after tomorrow. Seldom do brigade commanders at the JRTC demonstrate that they have mastery of this skill.

Finally, commanders can improve synchronization by improving how they formulate and use Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs). "Commander" is the first "C" in CCIR. When properly developed and employed CCIRs are the gauges that monitor synchronization. Much like control panel lights, CCIRs assist, aid control, and provide warning and diagnostic indicators. In other words, CCIRs are part of a synchronized plan that should govern the effectiveness of synchronization in execution. Consequently, brigade commanders should give them special attention. For purposes of this discussion, we will only concentrate on the PIR component of CCIRs, but the points are equally applicable to the FFIR and EEFI components. The reader is reminded of the earlier discussion of these components from Section II.

We see two significant trends with respect to PIRs. Commanders do not "own" their PIRs and PIRs, therefore, seldom directly relate to decisions that commanders anticipate having to make. Both of these trends detract from the brigade's ability to synchronize its effort.

Commanders should drive PIR development. If they placed more emphasis here, they would establish true ownership of the PIR. Developing ownership begins with initial guidance detailing the brigade commander's enemy focus during the mission analysis step of the MDMP. Answering questions such as: What enemy vulnerabilities can I exploit? What is the enemy's scheme of maneuver? What do I need to know to do to gain an advantage? are just some generic examples of ways commanders can begin to form PIR guidance for the staff. Few commanders give this type of guidance. The trend we see at the JRTC is that staffs (usually the S-2, but maybe the S-3 or XO) must interpolate these kinds of questions from the commander's guidance rather than the commander stating what he needs to know about the enemy. As a result, the PIRs that usually result are merely a set of intelligence indicators for the S-2, and fall short of being true commander's PIR.

Authentic commander's PIRs are questions that, when answered, directly relate to the commander's anticipated decision options. These decisions seldom arise directly from a single, routine battlefield intelligence indicator. They are key decisions the commander himself must make to exploit opportunities. They typically arise from the analysis of several indicators and allow opportunities to be recognized. These opportunities can be created from the success of friendly operations or offered by the lack of friendly success in a particular area. A specific example from a JRTC rotation illustrates the difference.

For an attack against an urban builtup area, the brigade faces the following tactical challenge. The enemy defends in reinforced company strength. His defense has to account for essentially two battalion-sized ground or mounted avenues of approach: a northern and southern approach. The northern approach consists of two parallel high-speed routes. The southern route has a single high-speed route. One of the northern routes and the southern route could each divert to a central route, forming somewhat of a third mounted avenue of approach. Dismounted avenues of approach generally follow the mounted avenues, but the terrain offers wider dismounted avenues of approach. The enemy also has to contend with the possibility of at least three-company to battalion-sized air avenues of approach, only one of which would require them to orient in a different direction in the case of an air assault. The depth of the enemy defensive zone extends about 17 km from the line of departure (LD) to the objective. To defend, he has four platoons reinforced with mortars, SA-8s, mines and barrier material, a mechanized or armor platoon and a squad of reconnaissance.

Figure 4.

In an actual rotation, the friendly forces elected to show a deception from the north, using a heavy company team feint and a false air assault to the option to cause the enemy to reorient. Simultaneously, the main attack would execute an infiltration attack with two battalions from the south. The commander needed to make at least four key decisions to support the synchronization or execution, although these were not specifically stated. First, would the enemy believe the deception? Second, would the enemy react to the deception by reorienting forces north? Third, what was the best southern dismounted route that avoided the enemy's strength? Fourth, when and where would the enemy counter attack?

The PIRs developed to govern this operation were as follows.

A. Where are enemy counter-reconnaissance forces?
B. Where are civilians within Shugart-Gordon? Are there any innocents?
C. What is the disposition of enemy forces in Shugart-Gordon?
D. Where are counterattack forces?
E. Where are the enemy mortars?
F. Where are the enemy minefields and obstacle belts?

A closer analysis of these PIRs reveal several weaknesses. They do not, in and of themselves, directly answer the commander's key questions. At best, they are intelligence requirements that take the situational read one step closer to answering the commander's questions, but require additional analysis. Based on the four key questions stated earlier, better PIRs might be similar to the following:

A. What will cause the enemy to counterattack?
B. Has the enemy drawn his security forces away from our main effort?
C. Is the enemy commander convinced by our deception?
D. Which is the most secure route to the objective?
E. Where is the best point in the enemy's defenses to breach?

These PIRs contribute to synchronization. When answered, they assist the commander in executing decision options. A collection plan can be developed to answer these PIRs that would very likely include the intelligence requirements that the brigade actually presented as PIRs. Notice also that the latter PIRs pose a variety of interrogatives for the commander. Taken together, they tend to answer "why" and "when" the enemy will do "what." These answers are significantly more useful to the commander's decision-making. However, the former intelligence requirements are all "where" and "what" interrogatives. When answered, the commander and staff still must formulate the other interrogatives through analysis -- a difficult task in the heat of battle.


"We contend that success was based on the following factors:

1. The accurate assessment of the situation in general.
2. The detailed defensive preparations, carried out diligently and reliably, which assured the closest cooperation of all arms within the (unit), and in which each weapon was able to exploit its technical and tactical characteristics to the full.The accurate assessment of the situation in the various phases of the battle and terrain...."

--Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel, Battle of Targul-Frumos, Russian Front, May 1994

When "synchronization" appeared in the 1980s as a tenet of AirLand Battle Doctrine, it was initially concerned with orchestrating the more traditional elements of combat power. As doctrine responded to technological capabilities and changing missions, the elements of combat power, grouped into the seven battlefield operating systems (BOSs), became a synchronization building block. These concepts remain part of the foundation of doctrinal development today. However, today's operating systems and Army missions are much more sophisticated. The increased sophistication in the technology we can now bring to complex battlefields, and that which we seek to bring to future battlefields, place a tremendous challenge in front of brigade commanders and their staffs. Units that will train at the Joint Readiness Training Center in the future should consider the ideas presented as recommendations on how better to meet the demanding challenge of battlefield synchronization.



1. This concept was articulated by COL Lloyd Austin, Commander of the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, during his second rotation as a brigade commander to the JRTC, November 1998.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias