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Intelligence, integration and synchronization, and operations security are the three cornerstones for the development of successful battlefield deception operations.


Battlefield deception operations rely extensively on timely and accurate intelligence. To ensure that our deception is seen by the enemy commander as plausible and authentic, we must know what information the enemy is likely to accept, what sources the enemy relies on to gather intelligence, what the enemy needs to confirm information, and what latitude is used in modifying or changing an ongoing or planned operation. In order to answer these questions, deception planners require extensive intelligence support during the planning, execution, and evaluation stages of an operation. The planners require constant feedback on the enemy acceptance of deception in order to modify the plan, if needed, and ensure that assets allocated to the plan are not wasted.

Synchronization and Integration

Once we determine where the enemy is susceptible to deception and what the objective of the deception will be, planners must begin to integrate and synchronize deception operations into combat operations.

Commanders must exercise centralized control to synchronize the timing, scheduling and execution of deception operations with the command's true operation. Battlefield deception operations can require the commitment of actual combat, combat support, combat service support, and leadership resources. Deceptions are a command and operational responsibility. To ensure integration, the commander must commit, and the G3 task, all the appropriate assets to make the deception plan work. The more realistic and doctrinally consistent the combined arms deception operation is, the greater the probability the enemy will perceive the plan as plausible.

Operations Security

OPSEC is an integral aspect of overall combat operations. It and deception are mutually supporting activities. OPSEC supports deception by eliminating or reducing the indicators that reflect real intentions or which display deceptive intent.


There are ten maxims which are relevant to deception. The maxims were derived by the intelligence community from game theory, historical evidence, social science, and decision analysis theory. They are the basis for the Army's recent deception revitalization effort.

1. "Magruder's Principle" -- It is generally easier to induce a target to maintain a pre-existing belief than to deceive him for the purpose of changing his belief. The Germans did this to us in their operation "Wacht am Rhine." Even the code name for their winter offensive in the Ardennes in 1944 connoted a defensive operation, which is what we believed would occur.

2. There are limitations to human information processing that are deceptively exploitable.

  • The "law of small number" means that you should not make conclusions based on a small set of data; there's no statistical certainty in doing so.

  • There is a frequent inability of targets to detect small changes in friendly indicators, even if the cumulative change over time is large. This is the basis for using conditioning (cry-wolf) as a deceptive technique.

3. "Multiple Forms of Surprise" -- You can achieve surprise in the following categories: size, activity, location, unit, time, equipment (SALUTE), intent, and style (the manner/intensity with which you execute missions).

4. "Jones' Dilemma" -- Deception generally becomes more difficult as the number of sources available to the target to confirm the "real" increases. HOWEVER, THE GREATER THE NUMBER OF SOURCES WHICH CAN BE DECEPTIVELY MANIPULATED, THE GREATER THE CHANCE THAT YOU CAN PROVIDE THE TARGET "CONFIRMING, ALL-SOURCE INTELLIGENCE."

5. "Choice of Types of Deception" -- Ambiguity-reducing deceptions can be employed to make the enemy quite certain, very decisive, and wrong. Ambiguity-enhancing deceptions can be employed to mask your efforts when the target already has in his possession some elements of "friendly indicator truth," thus creating "noise."

6. "Husbanding of Deception Assets" -- It may be wise to withhold the employment of deception capabilities until the stakes are high. The Soviets know we're revitalizing our deception capabilities, SO LET HIS INTELLIGENCE-COLLECTION AND DECISION-CYCLE FOLKS CONTINUALLY CONTEND WITH "OUR THREAT," WHILE FRIENDLY COMMANDERS EMPLOY IT AT THE TIME AND PLACE OF THEIR CHOOSING.

7. "Sequencing Rule" -- Deception activities should be sequenced to maximize the portrayal of the deception story for as long as possible. Unit activities indicating the true mission should be masked (OPSEC) to the last possible instant.

8. "Importance of Feedback" -- An intelligence collection scheme should be employed to determine if the deception is being adopted, rejected, or deceptively countered. Deception-related PIR/IRs should be nominated and NAI/TAIs established to facilitate feedback on and exploitation of the deception.

9. "The Monkey's Paw" -- Deception efforts may produce subtle, unwanted reactions from the target and friendly units. Effect proper coordination to ensure deceptions don't result in unit fratricide. Also, make sure the deception objective is framed in terms of what you want the target to do, rather than think. The 23rd Headquarters-Special Troops was a Top Secret Organization attached to the U.S. 12th Army Group Headquarters in World War II. This 1100-man unit conducted 21 deception operations from 1944-1945. In Operation BREST, it portrayed an armor attack build-up, which was apparently believed by the Germans, for, due to lack of coordination, an actual armored unit tried to attack in that area. In another similar operation, the weakened German division opposite the phony armor build-up believed the story. But the German commander, feeling he was about to be overrun by U.S. armor, launched a spoiling attack -- definitely not what we wanted him to do.

10. "Care in the Design of Planned Placement of Deceptive Material" -- Generally, if the target's intelligence collection system has to "work for" the deceptive indicators you want to portray, the greater the likelihood he'll accept them as "truth." You can't baldly "announce" what you're doing, or he'll be auspicious.

Why Deceptions Fail

There are generally two categories of deception failures: the intended target detects the deception, or the deceiver fails to design or implement his own plan carefully enough. These violate the key maxims of deception.

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