Secrecy News

Military Terms and Symbols

The U.S. Army has updated and doubled the size of its lexicon of military terminology. This is a fluid and rapidly evolving field. In fact, “changes to terminology occur more frequently than traditional publication media can be updated.”

The new Army publication extends beyond words to the use of symbols, including “hand drawn and computer-generated military symbols for situation maps, overlays, and annotated aerial photographs for all types of military operations.”

Though intended primarily for military personnel, this work is also useful for others who are seeking to understand and interpret Army records and military culture.

A “clandestine operation,” the Army document explains, is “an operation sponsored or conducted by governmental departments or agencies in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment. A clandestine operation differs from a covert operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the operation rather than on concealment of the identity of the sponsor.”

However, “In special operations, an activity may be both covert and clandestine and may focus equally on operational considerations and intelligence-related activities.”

An “unauthorized commitment,” which surprisingly merits its own entry, is defined as “An agreement that is not binding solely because the United States Government representative who made it lacked the authority to enter into that agreement on behalf of the United States Government.”

See Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 1-02, Terms and Military Symbols, February 2, 2015.