BACKGROUND OF DECISION-POINT TACTICS
This overview discusses various considerations common to the implementaion of decision-point tactics, regardless of mission. Additional considerations specific to the attack, meeting battle, and the defense are discussed, with examples, later in this bulletin.
DEVELOPMENT OF DECISION-POINT TACTICS
Something that has not ever changed in the OPFOR is its desire to win. Like Lt. Backsight Forethought in The Defense of Duffer's Drift, the OPFOR is able to remain battle-focused and learn from its mistakes. As the OPFOR studied its new doctrine and learned the nuances of the new systems upgrades, it became quickly apparent that the old way of doing business would no longer work. Extensive planning, experimentation, and simple trial and error became the focus of the OPFOR. This process led to tactics that relied more on maneuver and finesse than on firepower. The concept of decision-point tactics for the OPFOR was developed through this training and learning process.
Although not specifically titled decision-point tactics, the basic concept and technique of using decision points is embodied in our current Army doctrine. Decision-point tactics, as defined by the OPFOR, "is the art and science of employing available means at a specific point in space and/or time where the commander anticipates making a decision concerning a specific friendly course of action. This decision is directly associated with threat force activity (action/reaction) and/or the battlefield environment."
DECISION-POINT TACTICS IMPERATIVES
Conduct of decision-point tactics, like any other tactical technique, still requires good use of troop-leading procedures and proper execution. From the OPFOR perspective, there are four imperatives necessary to ensure the success of decision-point tactics. These imperatives are:
Successful Reconnaissance and Counter-Reconnaissance Operations
Well-Trained Crews and Platoons
- Effective Deception Operations
The commander and his staff must have a shared vision of the battlefield throughout the conduct of the engagement. Besides continual experience in realistic combat-like conditions, the primary means of gaining battlefield vision is through the use of the Deliberate Decision-Making Process (DDMP), 1especially the wargaming portion. From an OPFOR perspective, the DDMP is an absolute necessity to understanding and visualizing the battlefield. Through extensive wargaming, the OPFOR attempts to visualize all possible situations and subsequent reactions that it will face during an upcoming battle. Inclusion of all, or as many as possible, commanders and battlefield operating systems (BOSs) representatives is necessary to gain a shared vision at all levels. Because of our numerous rotations, the OPFOR gets to practice the DDMP repetitively. This familiarity with planning allows the OPFOR to go beyond the science and achieve the art of planning tactical operations. The key point is the OPFOR always executes the DDMP and we consider it to be the primary means of gaining shared battlefield vision. Summarized below are some of the more critical DDMP aspects.
A. MTETT ANALYSIS. Although a full intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process is necessary, this relatively simple tool can summarize some of the more important considerations for decision-point tactics. This analysis is critical for determining the basic conditions and norms used in the wargaming process. Obviously, inaccurate analysis leads to invalid results. Therefore, analysis should include several alternatives and options and they all should include the enemy perspective. Some of the critical OPFOR considerations for each factor include:
Offense: The critical factor is whether the mission is force or terrain oriented.
- isolate the point of penetration
- attack at the weakest point
- seal the flanks
- seize the objective
- isolate the point of penetration
Defense: Factors affecting decision points developed
- trigger repositioning of forces
- commit reserves
- reconstitute reserves
- use special munitions
- trigger repositioning of forces
the terrain at NTC does not change, the OPFOR learns something new every time
it fights. Therefore, it is very important to completely review the impact
of terrain on the battle, especially in terms of time and space. For unit S2s,
it is also important to note that from the new OPFOR perspective a one vehicle-wide
uncovered road over a mountain is a better maneuver corridor than a
15-km-wide valley covered by six-eight company teams. The OPFOR can overcome terrain limitations if unopposed by enemy ground forces.
Significant terrain factors examined by the OPFOR:
identification of all possible maneuver routes
identification of choke points
identification of intervisibility lines
- advantages and disadvantages of each course of action
The enemy is always considered when analyzing these factors.
ENEMY: This is the most important factor and the hardest one to analyze. Although the basic organization of the enemy force and some information on the enemy commanders and the enemy's training level can be determined before the wargame, most of our analysis of the enemy starts with the wargame and is then verified/denied on the battlefield. The OPFOR never intentionally underestimates any unit or commander. It also adjusts its tactics and decision points based on the conduct of the unit during a previous battle and/or rotation. For example, some units will move slowly and deliberately. Other units will move at a cavalry charge pace. Some units make an effort to dismount their infantry; others do not. Some units have killer crews, platoons and companies. The unit training level, like its ability to execute battle drills, is also another critical factor that must be analyzed. When identified, these factors are fed into the decision-point determination process; normally the OPFOR will try and fix or maneuver away from more capable units. The NTC observer/controllers (O/Cs) do a good job of coaching units during the rotation so they do get better, and, as such, they will fight differently every battle. So the OPFOR never stops analyzing and adjusting to our enemy.
TIME: Analysis on different aspects of time is absolutely critical to proper decision-point determination.
Key OPFOR considerations:
movement times for both enemy and friendly forces on specific routes
the impact of weather on the employment of special munitions such as smoke
and chemical agents
- a realization of how long it takes to actually conduct a battle
Example: Most meeting battles take 5-8 hours, therefore giving units more than enough time for deliberate envelopment options.
Tactical patience is a key concept for the OPFOR.
TROOPS: OPFOR units go through changes in personnel, training levels and equipment like any other unit. Additionally, the OPFOR is augmented by many different types of units that vary in training levels and expertise. Consequently, the OPFOR must take into consideration the capabilities and limitations of the units involved. Upgrades to OPFOR and BLUFOR battlefield training systems (e.g., MILES, SAWE) are in a state of flux and units are still attempting to determine the limitations and capabilities of these new systems. Future training system upgrades will continue to change this analysis. Therefore, units must fully understand the system that they are fighting. They also must remember that these new systems do not fully replicate the actual system's capabilities and limitations.
B. WARGAMING. This is the most important step of the DDMP. Regardless of the number of battles the OPFOR fights, the next one will always be different. Therefore, extensive time and effort is placed into wargaming.
Example: During one operation, OPFOR reconnaissance determined the enemy was defending completely differently than in any of the wargamed scenarios. The command group and TOC personnel promptly conducted a hasty wargame to determine the impact of these new dispositions on current courses of actions and decision points. Once changes were determined, it was easy to communicate these changes because the participating commanders had an initial point of reference from which to adjust their new plans. The battle was highly successful due to these adjustments, but more importantly from the full understanding and shared vision the subordinate commanders had of the changed battlefield.
a. preferred maneuver routes
b. use of special munitions
c. use of deception and commitment of forces to achieve it
d. acceptable risk placing artillery forward to reach a specific target
e. acceptable risk going through specific choke point, etc.
The wargame will examine the initial guidance and risks and determine if they need to be changed.
a. using FASCAM/persistent chemical agents to shape the battlefield
b. sending a fixing force to free up the main effort to maneuver, etc.
c. Harmonize other BOSs with maneuver plan. Given all the potentially different courses of action, branches, and sequels, it is very difficult to synchronize all BOS options. Instead, the wargaming process attempts to maximize the use of other BOSs to cover more than one option.
Example: Placement of the persistent chemical agent to isolate two maneuver corridors supports options in both corridors. That way if the OPFOR attacks down one or the other, forces on either side will be isolated. In some cases, several BOSs may not be used because the risk to use them would outweigh their benefit for that particular COA.
Example: A decision to execute a COA to attack along the south wall of the central corridor has to meet the following conditions:
the enveloping detachment has to be successful in securing Hill 760
no more than three enemy company teams are in a prepared defense on the south
John Wayne Pass is held or blocked by enemy forces
- more than one company team is positioned to influence Alpha and Bravo passes in the Northern Corridor.
Identification of the conditions necessary to execute a decision point is the essence of decision-point tactics.
C. PLANNING PROCESS PRODUCTS. From an OPFOR perspective, OPORDs, synchronization matrixes, decision matrixes (including decision-point conditions), and other staff organization tools are necessary evils. They capture the wargaming data and put it into a recognizable form that can be communicated to those not in attendance at the wargame. They also are very useful tools for the rehearsal process.
OPFOR orders are one or two pages long, are matrix in design, and have a cartoon sketch.
Unit SOPs cover most of the other administrative and operational areas. At the command post level, the most significant piece of information is the conditions identified to execute each COA. These are annotated on the TOC data boards and, as conditions are met, they are checked off. The TAC and Command Group also maintain this data. Synchronization/Decision matrixes are more detailed but are primarily used to assist other BOS representatives who need the detail to support maneuver operations. Note: These matrixes must be as flexible as the maneuver plan.
D. REHEARSALS. More emphasis is placed on rehearsals than on the actual order itself, because most of the participants have an enhanced vision of the battle that was derived from the wargame.
Technique: As a decision point is reached during the rehearsal, the commander checks the conditions and makes a decision that generates the next phase of the rehearsal. The process is repeated for each COA.
(Maintaining Battlefield Vision)
Without good reconnaissance, it would be impossible to execute decision-point tactics.
- the operational concept, the decision-point criteria for their NAI.
- the commander's overall intent.
- the operational concept, the decision-point criteria for their NAI.
Result: Many OPFOR options occur based on how the enemy forces react either to OPFOR maneuver or deception operations. Clear identification of enemy reactions is critical to the execution of decision-point tactics. Therefore, OPFOR reconnaissance assets must be in-depth and reporting must be continuous.
Technique: Decision-point tactics require decentralized execution, conducted by crews and platoons that can
OPFOR platoons gain full understanding, from the OPORD and subsequent rehearsal, of their role in each of the different maneuver options.
Without trained crews, platoons and companies: No plan will be successful, and it will be impossible to execute decison point tactics.
Many, if not all, BLUFOR units have excellent commanders and staffs that develop plans that match or even rival the OPFOR's. The key difference in performance is the training level, which results in limited effectiveness of the crews, platoons and companies tasked to execute these plans.
The OPFOR must maximize it use of deception operations to give it that slight tactical edge necessary to be successful.
Technique: to achieve its deception goals
Example: of how the OPFOR deceives the BLUFOR
a. Commit up to an MRB maneuver force, artillery, CAS, EW and smoke assets to the deception effort.
b. During wargaming, the S2 highlights how BLUFOR dispositions correspond to possible OPFOR maneuver options.
c. Offensive operations:
-- OPFOR reconnaissance confirms or denies BLUFOR dispositions, and, therefore, determines what the BLUFOR thinks is the most likely OPFOR COA.
-- ALL OPFOR offensive COAs have options designed to specifically reinforce possible BLUFOR perceptions on OPFOR COAs.
d. Defensive operations:
-- Establish false/deception positions to portray a possible BLUFOR S2's Threat COA.
-- Establish an alternate defense: the real defense.
The concept of decision-point tactics is comparable to a football team that runs the wishbone offense. For example, with the quarterback equaling the commander, when the QB first comes up to the line of scrimmage and reads the defense, this is his equivalent of reconnaissance. Then, after receiving the snap, the QB begins executing the play, with a series of inherent decisions points - knowing that the defense will change in reaction to the offensive maneuver.
Each segment of the play's execution, against a dynamic enemy, requires the commander, the QB, to make decisions on the move. The success or failure of these decisions is critical to the success or failure of the play.
RISKS OF DECISION-POINT TACTICS
There are always inherent risks when conducting operations against a potentially superior force.
Decision-point tactics increase these risks substantially because of decentralized execution, but then the chances of success are also enhanced. Although training and battlefield experience can reduce these risks, the enemy is always the unknown factor and the most difficult to anticipate. Therefore, OPFOR risk assessment focuses mainly on the enemy. Some of the most significant risks include:
- Poor Decentralized Execution.
Poor BOS Synchronization.
Failure of the Enemy to React as Planned.
Invalid Decision-Point Conditions.
Rapid and flexible BLUFOR reaction.
- Well-Trained BLUFOR Crews and Platoons.
1 OPFOR receives its initial warning order 45 days prior to execution. The warning order comes in the form of combat battle instructions (CBIs). The CBI outlines OPFOR missions, forces available and area of operations for every mission. This allows the OPFOR to do a full DDMP for each mission. Back
Table of Contents
Chapter II: Applying Decision-Point Tactics to the Offense
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