The Tactical Planning Process

A plan can be defined as ''any detailed method, formulated beforehand, for doing or making something" (Guralnik, 1986). More specifically, an activity plan (for doing something) usually begins with a system at some initial state, specifies some desired final or goal state, and identifies constraints on the allowable sequence of actions that will take the system from the initial to final state. A valid plan is one that specifies an allowable action sequence (formulated beforehand). If it does no more than this, it is sufficing; if it optimizes some utility function of the actions and the states, it is optimizing.

Planning, or the generation of a plan, is critical to successful operations—it plays a key role in the tactical decision making process across all services and throughout all echelons. Capturing the substance of the planning process in a realistic human behavior representation is therefore essential to developing behavioral models that realistically reflect actual tactical decision making behavior.

Because of the limited scope of the present study, the focus of this chapter is limited to the U.S. Army planning process. Based on brief reviews presented to the panel by the other services, we believe the basic activities comprising this process are similar across the services, although they have different names, so the findings presented here should be generalizable. We believe similar generalization holds across echelons, although we will have more to say about this below.

The vignette in Chapter 2 describing the planning and execution of a hasty defense operation by a tank platoon incorporates a planning process that closely follows the doctrinally specified process detailed in Army publication FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operation, and described more tutorially in Command and General Staff College publication ST 100-9, The Tactical Decision making Process. As described in the latter publication, planning is part of a five-stage process:

  1. Mission analysis

  2. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield

  3. Development of courses of action

  4. Analysis of courses of action

  5. Decision and execution

The paragraphs below provide a brief description of each of these stages. More complete descriptions can be found in FM 101-5 and ST 100-9.

The mission analysis stage begins with receipt of an order from the unit's command and proceeds to more complete definition of the initial state (or, equivalently, current situation), as well as a definition of the final goal state (or, equivalently, the mission objectives). Consideration is also given to operational constraints that will apply during the course of the operation. In the platoon-level vignette of Chapter 2, this process is formalized by expanding the mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time available (METT-T) process, which makes explicit the

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement