Defense Doctrine Offers Insight into Military Operations

04.02.13 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“Reconnaissance assets, like artillery assets, are never kept in reserve,” according to U.S. Army doctrine.

In other words, whatever means you may have to gather information about the activities and capabilities of an adversary should be fully deployed, not held back.

“Reconnaissance units report exactly what they see and, if appropriate, what they do not see…. Reports of no enemy activity are as important as reports of enemy activity. Failing to report tells the commander nothing.”

That bit of practical wisdom, which may indeed be relevant beyond the battlefield, is contained in a new Army field manual on the subject. See Reconnaissance, Security, and Tactical Enabling Tasks, Volume 2, Field Manual 3-90.2, March 2013. It is a companion to Offense and Defense, Volume 1, Field Manual 3-90.1, March 2013.

The vast corpus of U.S. military doctrine offers a point of entry into military thought that may be of interest even — or especially — to a reader who is not a member of “the profession of arms.” Some noteworthy doctrinal publications that have recently been published or updated are cited below.  While they have a tendency to be jargon heavy and pedestrian, they are never frivolous or less than professional. Occasionally they offer impressive subtlety and sophistication or unexpected literary merit.

The distinctive vocabulary of military affairs is presented with authoritative definitions in a 500-page Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1-02, updated March 15, 2013.

The conceptual framework of the U.S. military is outlined in Joint Publication 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, reissued on March 25.  It “provides overarching guidance and fundamental principles” for the employment of the U.S. military. “War is socially sanctioned violence to achieve a political purpose,” it explains. “The basic nature of war is immutable, although warfare evolves constantly.”

The various functions of the military in humanitarian assistance are elaborated in Multi-Service Techniques for Civil Affairs Support to Foreign Humanitarian Assistance, ATP 3-57.20, February 2013.

A reference guide for initial assessment and response to an accidental or deliberate release of biological pathogens, radioactive material or other hazardous substances is given in Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Reconnaissance and Surveillance, ATP 3-11.37, March 2013.

The potential use of biological agents in war and the diagnosis and treatment of the resulting casualties are described in Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Treatment of Biological Warfare Casualties, ATP 4-02.84, March 2013.

The intersection of law and Army operations is delineated in Legal Support to the Operational Army, Field Manual 1-04, updated March 2013.