Intelligence Planning in the Digital Division 

by Major John E. Frame

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The Division XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment (DAWE) gave the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) (4ID(M)) a unique opportunity to improve tactical planning methods and products. Our division plans team experimented with promising technologies. Automated systems targeted improved visualization of the projected battlefield situation and more rapid parallel planning. We used these systems to improve the accuracy of our analysis and the speed of orders production. While the systems modified some of our intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) and collection planning (not discussed in this article) procedures, they did not change the basic planning sequence. We generally followed the military decisionmaking process (MDMP) outlined in FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations. As the G2 Planner for the division, I was an essential member of the plans team during the DAWE. This article briefly describes our digital planning tools and IPB products.

Intelligence Planning Tools

We used three systems to produce and disseminate enemy courses of action (COAs) and intelligence annexes. Each system provided unique capabilities. The Battlefield Planning and Visualization (BPV) system was the primary tool for templating enemy COAs. Our planning team used the Maneuver Control System Windows(MCS-WIN)1 to produce orders, annexes, synchronization matrices, and presentations. The All-Source Analysis System Remote Workstation (ASAS-RWS) gave us the capability to remotely communicate and share products with other members of the division intelligence team.

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The BPV workstation during the November 1997 DAWE.

BPV System. The BPV system is a Silicon Graphics workstation with graphical software. It allows planners to analyze and record a COA using capabilities unavailable on any other single system. The most used and useful capability is the animation of operations.

Animation illustrates the execution of actions over time and space. Animated scenarios were essential to a shared understanding of the many complex offensive actions considered during our planning. BPV allowed us to plan "Blue" against "Red" on a single platform, then modify and present our scenario to demonstrate wargame results.

MCS-WIN. The MCS-Win is a software package that includes the most used functions of the standard MCS workstation, loaded on laptop computers using the WINDOWS NTTM operating system. MCS-WIN gave us the capability to develop and disseminate the standard text portions of an order with presentation slides to highlight BPV scenarios and other information.

Its most useful tools were those that we developed for collaborative planning. We developed formats using Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheets for the synchronization matrix and for our short order format. Our individual laptops were networked for simultaneous entry and review of matrices. This greatly reduced the time required for the recording of our wargame and the development of orders.

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Planners working on MCS-WIN laptop computers.

ASAS-RWS. The ASAS-RWS was the tool used for maintaining an eye on the current situation and for sharing our products. We monitored the Distributed Digital Overlays (DDOs) maintained by the TAC1 (our division tactical command post) and the brigade combat teams. We also used the system to monitor the 24-, 48- and 72-hour forecasts from the Corps. These were all available on the III Corps Intelligence Tactical Internet Homepage. The homepage concept allowed us to share our planning products rapidly throughout the Corps.

The G2 Planners' products were posted on the 4ID(M) Intelligence Homepage and were therefore accessible by any Army Tactical Command and Control System (ATCCS) workstation. We posted a daily update to inform the staff and subordinate S2s of planning team developments and posted the text and images produced during the planning process. We posted the most likely enemy COA as either a map-registered graphics image for a defense, or an animated image depicting an attack.

Planning Products

Our two cornerstone products were digital BPV scenarios and traditional COA descriptions with annotated key enemy actions. Minimally, we produced at least these two products for every fragmentary order (FRAGO). The BPV scenarios were the more innovative of these two products.

BPV Scenarios. As in the analog planning process, the digital graphic representation of a COA was critical. Using the BPV animation, we depicted the enemy's actions over time and space. We continued to use graphics to highlight and explain the enemy COA. However, animation eliminated traditional timelines. The scenario with its clock function presented enemy movements more accurately.

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Figure 1. Example of COA Description from the 4ID(M) OPFORD.

The BPV scenarios illustrated the enemy's COA at any time or over any period. The G2 planners input the enemy's organization and a route and march rate of each unit. Our rear-projection large-screen display showed the scenarios during briefings to demonstrate how I visualized the enemy's actions. Then we used file transfer protocol (FTP) to disseminate the scenarios to subordinate units that had a BPV system. For those that did not, we produced time-/map-registered snapshots and posted them to the home page as still images (defense) or animated images (offense).

The G3 planners used the initial scenarios I advanced during COA development. Once we completed the Blue COA, we merged the enemy and friendly scenarios for the wargame. The plans team reviewed the merged scenario and modified it during the wargame to incorporate the expected battlefield actions and outcomes. This updated COA gave our division leadership a digital and graphic record of each wargame. Once the scenario was approved, we again disseminated it to subordinate units as an animated representation of the order.

COA and Key Actions. To explain each of our BPV scenarios, it was still necessary to produce text that described our perception of the enemy commander's concept of the operation. These traditional products focused on the task and purpose of each subordinate unit. We highlighted in parentheses the associated BPV scenario or snapshots within each COA description.

Throughout our wargame, we identified the key enemy events or actions that we wanted to highlight to the command. We also included these in the matrix portion of the operations orders (OPORDs) and fragmentary orders (FRAGOs) to illustrate when we expected them to take place during the operation. This also supported initial collection planning and targeting.

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Figure 2. Example of Enemy Actions from 4ID(M) OPFORD.


Our precision improved. We were able to conduct nearly all planning on a scaleable digital map. This alleviated the inaccuracies common in developing COAs using maps, acetate, and sketches. The map forces us to always consider the impacts of terrain and realistic spatial relationships. The animation tools in BPV allowed us to more easily complete an analysis and comparison of time during the operation. These tools were exceptional because they allowed us to rapidly analyze and modify our actions based on a more realistic representation of the battlefield.

We gained speed in production through our collaborative systems. MCS-WIN allowed the staff to simultaneously plan and input to the order. We found it easier to conduct parallel planning. The digital dissemination of warning orders, FRAGOs, and templates was the key. The MCS and ASAS gave us platforms through which to share information rapidly and remotely. Without the ability to communicate digitally in a compatible format, our planning system would have slowed tremendously and required the use of couriers and less accurate products.


Rapid and accurate planning was critical to the division. It gave us agility and the initiative. Using the described tools, the G2 Planner consistently produced more precise products for the commander. While our improvements in accuracy were initially at the expense of timeliness, during the DAWE we produced and disseminated orders faster than ever.


AA  avenue of approach HP  high powered (e.g. 17th HP Brigade, an artillery unit)
AAG  army artillery group HVA  high-value asset
AASLT  air assault Inf  infantry
AG  army group MRD  motorized rifle division
AGRA  army group of rockets & artillery MRB  motorized rufle battalion
ART  artillery MRL  multiple rocket launcher
AT  anti-tank MRR  motorized rofle regiment
BDE  brigade PL  phase line
C2  command and control Rgt  regiment
CAA  combined arms army SPF  special purpose forces
Div  division SSM  surface-to-surface missile
Ech  echelon TB  tank battalion
FD  forward detachment

In five months we developed and implemented new digital methods and products. It was a tough and frustrating path to develop effective digital plans. Predictably, we were tempted to revert to known and traditional analog techniques to finish our plans. However, we consistently pursued digital solutions that in the end rewarded us with a faster and more accurate planning system.


1. Microsoft Office 97 MS WordTM, and MS PowerPointTM are trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation. Several Companies have trademarks on portions of Excel. MCS-WIN is a Windows program.

Major John Frame is the G2 Plans Officer for the 4ID(M). His previous assignments include Brigade S2 and Company Commander in the 24ID(M), and Observer/Controller at the National Training Center. MAJ Frame has a Master of Military Arts and Science degree through the School for Advanced Military Studies and a master of science degree from Central Michigan University. Readers can contact the author via E-mail at [email protected] and telephonically at (254) 287-2744 and DSN 737-2744.