Offensive Tasks

2-19. An offensive task is a task conducted to defeat and destroy enemy forces and seize terrain, resources, and population centers. Offensive tasks impose the commander’s will on the enemy. In combined arms maneuver, the offense is a task of decisive action. Against a capable, adaptive enemy, the offense is the most direct and a sure means of seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative to gain physical and psychological advantages and achieve definitive results. In the offense, the decisive operation is a sudden, shattering action against an enemy weakness that capitalizes on speed, surprise, and shock. If that operation does not destroy the enemy, operations continue until enemy forces disintegrate or retreat to where they no longer pose a threat. Executing offensive tasks compels the enemy to react, creating or revealing additional weaknesses that the attacking force can exploit. (See Army tactics doctrine for a detailed discussion on offensive tasks.)

Defensive Tasks

2-20. A defensive task is a task conducted to defeat an enemy attack, gain time, economize forces, and develop conditions favorable for offensive or stability tasks. Normally the defense alone cannot achieve a decision. However, it can set conditions for a counteroffensive or counterattack that enables Army forces to regain the initiative. Defensive tasks can also establish a shield behind which wide area security can progress. Defensive tasks are a counter to the enemy offense. They defeat attacks, destroying as much of the attacking enemy as possible. They also preserve and maintain control over land, resources, and populations. The purpose of defensive tasks is to retain terrain, guard populations, and protect critical capabilities against enemy attacks. Commanders can conduct defensive tasks to gain time and economize forces so offensive tasks can be executed elsewhere. (See Army tactics doctrine for a detailed discussion on defensive tasks.)

Stability Tasks

2-21. Stability is an overarching term encompassing various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief. (See JP 3-0.) Army forces conduct stability tasks during both combined arms maneuver and wide area security. These tasks support a host-nation or an interim government or part of a transitional military authority when no government exists. Stability tasks involve both coercive and constructive actions. They help to establish or maintain a safe and secure environment and facilitate reconciliation among local or regional adversaries. Stability tasks can also help establish political, legal, social, and economic institutions while supporting the transition to legitimate host-nation governance. Stability tasks cannot succeed if they only react to enemy initiatives. Stability tasks must maintain the initiative by pursuing objectives that resolve the causes of instability. (See Army doctrine on stability tasks.)

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement