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Commander's Intent and CCIR

by LTC Roy Krueger, Brigade XO and S3 O/C, JRTC

The Survivability of the Field Artillery, M109A6
Table of Contents
BSA Maintenance Company NBC Protection Battle Drill

The key current doctrinal reference for definition of commander's intent is FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, specifically, page 5-9. The comments below come from the author's observations as the brigade XO and S3 observer/controller from the brigade command and control team, at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC).

The bottom line.

Commanders tend to give their intent statement considerable thought, but I believe they often think about intent from a pre-conceived angle instead of taking a more holistic approach. There are many defenders and opponents of the doctrinal endstate, key tasks, and optional expanded purpose versus the old "purpose, method endstate," yet what is the bottom line? The bottom line is that you have subordinates one and two levels down that know the general idea of what must be accomplished in the fight and why. They know what the battlefield should look like at the end of the engagement--how and where friendly forces are arrayed in regards to the enemy and the terrain. If the commander is able to articulate useful intent that answers these questions, he has a good intent statement.

The review.

After the commander puts out his intent after the mission analysis, it rarely gets reviewed and updated. For a short duration mission, such as a deliberate attack, the original statement may remain valid throughout planning. I do recommend the commander and selected staff officers review it one more time prior to conducting the wargame. This review would incorporate late-breaking analysis on the friendly, enemy, and terrain picture and could conceivably change some key tasks. During continuous operations, as discussed later in this article, I highly recommend that the commander conduct a daily review of his intent statement for the time period his staff is planning. This allows the "bottom line" mentioned in paragraph No. 2 to remain a valid statement. The commander may go so far as to direct that his key tasks be used as evaluation criteria if more than one COA is developed. When only one is developed, the S3 (or other briefers) should highlight how the key tasks will be achieved.

Intent Considerations.

Taking the Infantry School SGI philosophy of "We will teach you HOW to think, not WHAT to think," I offer the following considerations for a commander's intent statement:

a. Initial entry operations usually get an intent statement that is a mix between focusing on the entry mission and, in the case of a Republic of Cortina, the low intensity conflict (LIC) environment, the broad-based overview of where we want to go with the operation. This is a necessary mix, but it does not always help clarify the commander's vision with subordinate commanders once they get on the ground and get past the initial engagements. Following is an example of a forced entry intent statement, very similar to those usually found at JRTC.


  • Secure Flight Landing Strip (FLS) to facilitate force buildup by fixed-wing air.
  • Quickly open the ground convoy to build up combat power by ground.
  • Destroy Cortina Liberation Forces (CLF) in sector. This is an enemy-focused operation.
  • Deny enemy terrorists access to high payoff targets (HPTs).
  • Destroy enemy air prior before its arrival in sector.


  • Area of operations (AO) clear of CLF, no enemy indirect fires (IDF), air defense (AD), and he is unable to reconstitute greater than fire team level.
  • Friendly units have freedom of movement on and off roads.
  • Civilians in towns transition to being pro-government and are secure in where they live and in their livelihood with minimal collateral damage.

A commander could choose to add more to his intent statement, similar to the old "method" portion of the 1986 FM 100-5, Operations, (we have seen this with some rotational units):


Three Phases:

Phase 1 is the forced entry to secure the FLS and establish air-head line (AHL) around the FLS. Brigade reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) must be out early to identify priority intelligence requirements (PIRs) and named areas of interest (NAIs). Conditions must be met to ensure preservation of combat power on insertion. Insertion is fast and violent to quickly secure key objectives (OBJs) necessary for Phase 2, Operations. (Insertion will be into FLS AHL using forced-entry tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to quickly secure FLS and prepare it for fixed-wing aircraft to support our 0600 not later than (NLT) time to receive those assets).

Phase 2 is unimpeded buildup of combat power by air and ground. We will quickly punch the ground convoy open, cover enemy obstacles and conduct search and attack to find the rest of the triad (enemy, minefield, cache), and quickly build up combat power in sector. Command and control (C2) nodes must get set up quickly.

Phase 3 is expansion throughout the sector to find and destroy CLF and forces, gain control of towns and civilians, and maintain unimpeded trafficability of all friendly forces throughout sector.

b. Continuous operations requires continuous planning, hence the quote, "Every day is a military decision-making process (MDMP) day." This does not imply the entire day must be filled with planning meetings. Rather, the steps must be built into the day somehow, whether through a two-hour meeting or a more formalized planning process (remember the staff needs time to execute their staff supervisory functions as well as plan future operations!). For the commander's intent to really make a difference to subordinates, the commander's, overarching intent needs daily supplementation (BOS guidance, adjusted endstate for a given time period and the supporting key tasks) based on current mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T). What sounded great five days ago in the intermediate staging base (ISB) does not seem to mean so much to the company commanders now, so why not update the intent? As an example of an updated intent refined from actions "in-country" and a follow-on mission, one commander had a statement that looked similar to this:

COMMANDER'S INTENT: Endstate of D+5 is the brigade that has preserved combat power with Mechanized Infantry, Armor and Infantry assets to conduct follow-on combat operations vicinity area of operations (AO) Shield. Maneuver units will conduct search and attack operations to destroy all enemy that can interdict the brigade as it consolidates and prepares for follow-on operations. We will destroy all enemy aviation assets to protect brigade high value targets (HVTs) and secure pick-up zones (PZs) used for follow-on operations. At the end of D+5, we will have cleared route (RT) HONDA and eliminated CLF minefield caches to prevent reseed capability. We will have inserted the brigade reconnaissance package into AO Shield NET D+4 and have air-assaulted the brigade's supporting effort to isolate the Shughart-Gordon military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT) site.

Although the commander did not define written key tasks, the S3 did incorporate them into the concept statement that was issued in the fragmentary order (FRAGO). In this case, the FRAGO was issued for a time period that started two days after issue. By tracking the desired endstate of a given time period, the staff had a measurable, quantitative means of briefing the commander on the status of current operations. The staff could also better predict where they would fall short of, or exceed, expectations. This analysis allows the commander and staff to adjust operations as needed and is a gauge to judge success.

c. Think through the endstate for where you want to be in a given time period. During continuous operations, planning is a daily affair. If you can determine how you want your friendly forces to look in relation to terrain and enemy (endstate), you have given your staff a major advantage in being able to develop a daily concept of operations/scheme of maneuver that is an integrated, synchronized whole. Once you determine endstate, think through the key tasks that must be accomplished to allow your command to get from here to there. An easy and effective way to expand upon these intent statement key tasks is to include the purpose behind the task into the statement. This much more clearly defines what must be accomplished and why. Sounds simple, but we often see vague endstates and key tasks that are specific to a concept of the operation, versus being adaptable to a number of courses of action (COAs). Key tasks with no associated purposes do not lend themselves to subordinate initiative (i.e., "seize ground on the far side of the river by 102300" or "seize ground on the river's west bank NLT 102300 so I can get an armor company/team across it to retain the road junction by dawn" tells two different stories).

d. Once you think through endstate and key tasks, you are ready to address high payoff targets (HPTs), which you probably have already been concurrently thinking about. Based on where you want to go, determine what enemy you must destroy, neutralize, or deny. This enemy picture will neatly tie into specific PIR you want to attack with your brigade scheme of maneuver for a given time period. It also forms the basis for allocating collection assets. Refined intelligence on the enemy is where the brigade can fight a "deep fight" (deep in terms of time, not just space).

e. With endstate, key tasks, and HPTs under your belt, you and your S2 have a real focus for PIR that will impact on decisions that you as a brigade commander must make for the brigade. There is a big difference in the information required for a brigade vs a lower headquarters commander, and both staff and commander should keep this difference in mind. A company commander's mission may revolve around destroying a specific piece of equipment, so the actual location of it may be his PIR. We typically see that "hard location" (i.e., a mortar) as a brigade commander's PIR also. Is it really a priority intelligence requirement at brigade? What do you need to know to develop your brigade fight and to combat the enemy commander's scheme of maneuver?

The commander envisions that he will take the initiative away from the enemy if he prevents the enemy's reinforcing platoon from infiltrating in the first 36 hours. By accomplishing this, he can then mass-on already engaged enemy forces. Thus, "Where is the enemy platoon?" is not a PIR, it is an intelligence requirement. The PIR could be better stated as, "Have we prevented infiltration of the enemy platoon to the east of phase line (PL) DOG?"

f. Commander critical information requirement (CCIR) is designed to feed important, time-sensitive information to the commander so he can make a decision that should dramatically affect the fight. Does a brigade commander truly make decisions based on knowing the exact location of a mortar that is likely to "shoot and scoot" anyway? Or should the brigade commander make a decision based on information that leads him to believe that the enemy will attack in "X" area 24 hours from now? Where can you really influence the fight at your level? Once you determine the influence, you should be able to refine the PIR and you need to act on that influence.

g. After determining PIR, you have a sound basis on which to select friendly force information requirement (FFIR) and essential elements of friendly information (EEFI)/force protection requirements. Do you really need to know if you lose an armored vehicle? A platoon leader or company commander would want to know that, but what decision does the loss of one vehicle require a brigade commander to make? Most likely, the commander will respond with something like, "Darn! We lost a tank!" and drive on with whatever he was doing. Does a brigade commander need to know if a unit designated to do a key mission falls below minimum acceptable combat power? Yes, because he may be able to divert combat power from somewhere else to support that unit. That makes it an FFIR. EEFI might now tie in with how to protect those assets critical to success and focuse any required deception efforts to hide certain knowledge from the enemy. If an "EE"FI is not worthy enough to dedicate resources to protect or prevent, then maybe it is just an "FI." By identifying things that are truly important to your decisions and the success of your plan, you have just given your entire staff a focus for how their battlefield operating system (BOS) can and must plan/prepare for the future time period. Specific CSS priorities to get men or equipment or maintenance to a specific unit, priority of specific CL V to a unit, survivability position requirements, air defense coverage, and deception guidance all come into focus with the commander's central vision of endstate, key tasks, HPTs, and CCIR.

h. What we have just discussed is essentially the "decide" of decide, detect, deliver and assess (D3A). How much you get into the rest of the plan is up to you. If you, the commander, do not really think through the intent statement (endstate and key tasks plus expanded purpose), HPTs, and CCIR, you have missed a golden opportunity to give your staff and your subordinate commanders the things they need to know for mission-oriented C2.

Daily synchronization meetings.

a. A few years ago, JRTC became a proponent for the targeting meeting. The meeting usually produces useful, necessary products, but it is not a substitute for MDMP. Using continuous operations as the conditions for this discussion, I will lay out a TTP for daily planning that should result in a better integrated and synchronized operation.

b. First, it is important to understand that targeting, by doctrinal definition, FM 101-5 and FM 6-20-10, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Targeting Process, should come out of wargaming. The synchronization meeting is a modified approach (TTP) to wargaming that compresses mission analysis (MA), COA development (you may want to consider how you prepare these steps prior to the synchronization meeting) and wargaming, resulting in a FRAGO with various pre-determined products that promptly go to subordinates. CDR's/XO's spotcheck hint: If you see your staff huddled around a Attack Guidance Matrix, filling in D3A blanks, you are not developing a scheme of maneuver for the given time period. You are witnessing a bunch of guys filling in blanks who will turn those generic "X BN destroys a templated mortar in zone" into taskers that usually are not tied together across the battlefield. There is no one answer to how long this planning should last nor exactly how information should be presented. Remember: do not forget the steps of decisionmaking.

c. Ideally, your staff has your "decide" criteria before they go into the synchronization meeting. Time constraints may not allow for this, so the worst case is that you give your guidance at the start of the meeting, stay if you can, or go on battlefield circulation. A recommended solution is to sit with a few key staff members several hours before planning starts and develop your criteria early. Get it out to the staff so they have some time to digest it and work it before they are thrown into a quick planning session.

d. There are numerous ways to run this meeting, but there are some core criteria I think essential to do it well.

(1) You need representatives from all of your staff sections, or at least someone designated and capable to speak for a missing member. Do not forget CSS and CHS!

(2) Either the commander, the XO, or the S3 must give some guidance to the staff as soon as possible so they have a feel where you want them to focus their energies. Similar to the commander's guidance worksheet as taught at our Leader's Training Program, although probably shorter in length, each BOS/functional area should receive refined missions or concepts of employment, critical specified tasks, and any other specific guidance the commander requires in terms of products for the FRAGO and execution.

(3) Although a difficult problem, you must have a feel for your combat power projections (see yourself) for the designated time period. A TTP for this is to treat shift changes or commander update briefs the same as mission analysis briefs (with minor modifications as needed). This keeps the staff in the comfort zone of working within an agenda they and you know, plus it puts the staff in a mental frame of mind to do mission ANALYSIS, versus standard last 12, next 12 information dumps.

(4) The staff must start with at least a rough draft COA for the time period; worst case is the S3 develops one before their eyes. If this is the case, it is important to give staff not directly involved in the initial COA draft work some guidance so they can parallel-plan.

(5) You or the XO must identify up front what products you expect to be produced or updated based on this meeting.

(6) It is critical that throughout the synchronization meeting or targeting meeting (if you choose to do a very focused meeting) you always consider D3A in terms of how your assets will be integrated and synchronized on the battlefield. A key end product of this meeting should be a brigade scheme of maneuver that does not have battalions and separate companies doing their own individual battles. There should be a designated main effort, direct or indirect supporting efforts, and there should be that over-riding commander's vision of how the brigade will fight as one combined arms force for that time period.

e. A useful TTP is to have the targeting warrant sit in on these meetings with his air guidance matrix (AGM). He fills in the blanks as the D3A are addressed in the meeting. He is also a reality check if the staff forgets to address one of the D3A issues when talking HPTs--he asks a question to get the answer for his AGM.

All of the information discussed above is based on doctrine -- there are no new doctrinal ideas in this paper. What is different for some is the way information is reviewed, the emphasis placed on certain types of information, and how the staff should respond to that information. I have merely offered techniques that support a doctrinal guideline, which is that the commander's intent statement and CCIR really are important. If they are so important, much thought should go into them. When articulated clearly, and with some other supplemental guidance, the staff should all understand how the commander sees the battlefield unfolding during the designated time period. More importantly, this information gives subordinate commanders better insight into their integrated mission on the battlefield.

The Survivability of the Field Artillery, M109A6
Table of Contents
BSA Maintenance Company NBC Protection Battle Drill

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