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FM 90-2 Chapter 4 Deception Planning Considerations


Deception Planning Considerations

Deceptions are not ends in and of themselves. One does not conduct deceptions merely to deceive. Deception is used to support the operational or tactical mission.

The operations officer (G3/S3) is the primary staff officer responsible for deception planning within the command. This duty falls to him, as the executor for operations, for the following reasons:


A unit will use its normal staff organization and mission planning techniques to plan for and supervise the execution of deception operations. The battlefield deception elements are activated within corps and divisions. They are critical elements in accomplishing the deception mission of the unit. They reinforce the G3 with the necessary expertise to perform the planning, target selection, and coordination needed for deception success. The deception elements deploy and operate as integral parts of the G3 staff. However, when security is essential, other organizational techniques may be considered. Three other techniques used in conducting deception planning are-

Planning techniques can be different each time, depending on existing conditions. For example, if the battlefield is fluid and fast moving, the control required will be less than in a stable situation where opponents can continuously observe one another. Time available, location of the unit, security posture, the nature of the true operation, and the action selected as the primary deception vehicle will also affect the selection of the technique. Each organizational technique has different advantages.

In the commander only technique, a commander elects to conduct deception, issues direct orders, and reserves to himself (alone) all details of the plan. The deception may be his own concept or may be directed by his superior. None of his staff is fully aware of his true intentions. The advantage of this technique is a high degree of secrecy. However, its potential dangers are obvious. In this technique, the commander's deceptive intent is not made known to the staff or subordinate units; and by not employing the expertise of the staff, a serious error might occur that normal staff planning would have identified. Also, errors could possibly be made by subordinates trying to follow the commander's intent.

In the close-hold technique, officers from staff sections and units are detailed to the operations element to assist in the planning effort. When the plan is completed, it is coordinated with those staff office chiefs and supporting units represented. It then goes to the chief of staff or directly to the commander for approval. The advantages of this method are expediency and OPSEC. This technique can be used to maintain secrecy when a unit is in an assembly or marshalling area, since a group of planners can be isolated from their sections or units for several hours to conduct rapid deception planning under secure conditions. The danger is that other staff actions may be neglected.

In planning deception for small-scale (brigade and battalion) operations, the organization usually chosen is the ad hoc staff, and the operations officer exercises staff supervision over the ad hoc staff.


The sequence of actions in making and executing decisions involves a series of separate actions or steps performed concurrently by the commander and his staff. Knowing this process will help to understand the function of the estimates, their relationship within the decision-making process, and the coordination that occurs between a commander and his staff before a decision is reached.

The commander decides how elements of his command will accomplish missions. He issues timely orders to control the operations of his forces. The staff assists the commander in arriving at and executing decisions. Operational decisions are usually of such fundamental importance that the commander personally influences the preparation of orders directing their execution.

The sequence of actions followed by the commander and his staff upon receipt of a mission describes a logical and systematic process for solving major problems and arriving at properly considered decisions. Keep in mind, however, that this sequence is flexible and that the actions of individual staff members will overlap, be accomplished concurrently, or even omitted. The important point to remember is that the actions within the process will produce the best results when followed logically and sequentially whenever faced with a mission-oriented decision.


Figure 4-1 outlines the tactical deception planning process. Figure 4-2 and Appendix F show how this process fits into the military decision-making process. (See Appendix B for a deception planning worksheet and FM 101-5 for more details.) A discussion of the inter-relationship between the two processes follows.

Though estimating and planning are continuous, they are put more into focus upon receipt of a mission. Normally, higher headquarters assigns the mission but the commander may develop or deduce it. The mission or task to be accomplished initiates the decision-making process. The commander may initiate his mission analysis at this point.

Based on knowledge of the latest facts and current situation, the staff provides the commander with all information available.

Using this information, the commander completes his mission analysis, restates the mission, and issues his planning guidance.

Mission analysis ensures that the commander fully understands his mission, its purpose, and any constraints to its accomplishment and allows him to develop those tasks that are essential for its success. The commander, assisted by his staff, performs mission analysis to identify the specified and implied tasks essential to mission accomplishment.

The restated mission and planning guidance are the results of mission analysis. To guide the staff along common lines of investigation in the search for the best possible way to accomplish the mission, the commander restates the mission and issues planning guidance. This provides the necessary staff direction for concurrent planning by providing a framework for making studies and estimates. The amount of planning guidance given varies with each mission, the volume and validity of information available, the situation, and the experience of the commander and staff. Planning guidance does not occur at one specific time in the planning process. However, initial guidance should precede the preparation of the staff estimates. In order for the staff to properly include deception planning in their staff estimates, the commander needs to consider the following when developing his initial guidance:


    • Current and projected friendly situation.

    • Current and projected enemy situation.

    • Target analysis.

    • Analysis of friendly and enemy projected situation.

    • Stated desired situation.


    • Deception objective: enemy action or nonaction which causes desired situation.

    • Mission objective: what friendly forces must accomplish.


    • What the enemy must think to make him act.

    • Deriving suitable perception:

        (1) Estimate enemy's current perception.

        (2) Determine what enemy should perceive.


    • Information conveyed to the target which will cause him to form a desired perception.

    • Develop options.

    • Analyze options.


      How we plan to convey the story.

Figure 4-1. Deception planning process

Figure 4-2 Relationship of the deception planning process to the military decision-making process

Having received the commander's planning guidance, staff members are prepared to focus their individual efforts on the problem to be solved. This involves a consideration of all circumstances affecting the situation and a systematic analysis and evaluation of possible ways to accomplish the task or mission. Staff officers furnish information, conclusions, and recommendations through preparation of an estimate. The development of individual estimates requires staff officers to consult with each other to ensure coordination of all factors affecting the situation. The operations officer's estimate is the key staff estimate and incorporates the conclusions of the other staff estimates. When completed, it then becomes the coordinated staff recommendation. The operations officer is responsible for the preparation of the deception estimate.

The following is a sample of a commander's planning guidance for deception: "I want the staff to consider the use of deception to support our mission. I want at least one deception course of action for each actual course of action. For planning purposes, we can commit one armor task force to support deception, with the normal artillery and logistic support slice. want them to be able to stop deception operations and support the main attack within four hours of the order to do so.

Deception should be considered in each course of action. Deception estimates need to be integrated into each course of action. For each course of action, a separate deception staff estimate needs to be prepared. In analyzing the courses of action for presentation to the commander, the course of action which presents the greatest opportunity for success will be chosen. Deception operations have a greater potential for success if they are planned in depth as an integral part of the decision-making process. By understanding from the start the potential of deception, in addition to understanding the costs involved, the deception mission has a greater possibility of successfully supporting the actual mission.


Using the deception process, the planner needs to do a situation analysis and tentative deception objective formulation at this time. It is important to remember that this process is in support of an actual course of action, Following is a discussion of the five steps in the deception planning process.

Current and Projected Friendly Situation

Write down the military objective the deception plan is intended to support. Look at available forces and operational plans of the basic plan. List friendly assumptions.

NOTE: To facilitate data gathering, the battlefield deception element officer in charge (OIC) or planner should be an integrated element of the planning staff.

Current and Projected Enemy Situation

The following intelligence data must be gathered and provided by the intelligence officer:

A typical example of a desired situation statement is: "To have out-numbered friendly forces cross one of two red controlled bridges while encountering minimal enemy defenses."

In formulating the deception objective, it is critical to know the time involved in running a deception operation. Figure 4-3 illustrates the deception time cycle. If after using this objective formulation checklist you determine that you don't have enough time, planning of this deception concept must stop. You must begin formulating an alternate deception objective.


This is the most important element of the deception planning process. In developing the deception objective statement, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between it and a mission objective statement. A mission objective statement states what friendly forces are tasked to accomplish. A deception objective statement states the action or nonaction that the target must take to bring about the desired situation.


The following are elements of a deception objective statement:


The following are qualities of a deception objective statement:


A typical example of a deception objective statement is: "I want the enemy regimental commander to move his reserve forces from Hill 456 to Hill 123 NLT H-2."


    When should this occur: tomorrow, next week, or next month? Obviously the scope of the deception operation will be limited by the amount of time available for its planning and execution.


    How long will the enemy tactical forces need to perform the desired action? For example, If the deception objective is movement of an enemy squadron to some distant point, time must be allowed for appropriate enemy commanders to issue orders and for enemy forces to execute them.


    Is the enemy commander cautious or bold? Will he react to initial indicators, or will he demand extensive confirmation through other intelligence sources before reaching a decision? Once the decision is made, how long will he need to formulate and issue orders? Be sure to include an estimate of the time required by the enemy communications system to move the order to subordinate commanders.


    How much time should be allowed for the enemy to produce intelligence as a result of the deception efforts? How long will it take to convey this intelligence to the enemy commander? The key is the level at which the decision will be made. Certain types of information (such as, photographic intelligence) is frequently more readily available to senior headquarters. We must estimate the time required to move the information we are presenting to that particular enemy level we want to affect.

Figure 4-3. Deception time cycle


    When should displays, demonstrations, or feints begin to be observed by the enemy intelligence system? How long should each last? Which unit or units will do what? Where will it be done? When and possibly how will it be done? Since you have not yet planned all your tasks (story and plan) at this point, you may have to estimate this now and adjust it later when those details are firm.


    How long will it take to publish the deception plan? Usually of necessity, the details of a deception plan are close hold, and therefore, distributed to a limited number of people. This might imply the use of couriers, instead of electrical means to disseminate the plan. Consequently the planner should expect dissemination of the deception plan to be more time consuming than dissemination of a standard operations order and must allocate time accordingly.


    Having worked backwards to this point, anytime left between the time at which the plan must be disseminated and the present is available for planning. Prior deception training and contingency planning allow a unit to use this time for preparation of the deception plan.

Figure 4-3. Deception time cycle (continued)

Evaluation Criteria

The following are the evaluation criteria of a deception objective:

As the operations officer determines the possible courses of action, he passes them to the other staff officers. The intelligence officer refines the intelligence estimate in light of the courses of action and plans for support of deception operations.

Using information received from other staff members, personnel and logistic officers complete their estimates. They determine what major problems exist in providing the required support. They decide which of the proposed courses of action can be supported from a personnel and logistic viewpoint. The conduct of deception activities by logistic units can greatly increase the burden placed on CSS assets and personnel. Those planning the deceptions must know the limits of the CSS assets available, as well as the personnel and maintenance factors which might affect participation in the deception.

Meanwhile, the operations officer completes his operations estimate. The result will determine that course of action which offers the greatest probability of success. The operations officer coordinates with other staff members and considers any advantages or limitations developed as a result of their estimates. Then the recommendation developed in the operation estimate becomes the coordinated staff recommendation.

The operations officer normally presents the coordinated staff recommendation to the commander as a statement of the general scheme of maneuver to be adopted. The operations officer should comment on any significant problems and elaborate on the recommendation to ensure that the commander is fully informed.

Commander's Estimate

While staff members are completing their estimates, the commander is concurrently making his own. His estimate prepares him to receive and evaluate the staff recommendation and to make a decision.

When he receives the staff recommendation, the commander completes his estimate and states his decision. Even if the effectiveness of deception is beyond question, the cost of applying it should not be underestimated. Every attempt at deception costs in terms of manpower, time, equipment, training for specific skills required, and the logistic effort needed to support it. As the commander comes to a decision, he must realize the support required for the success of the deception effort, as well as the potential payoff.

Preparation of plans and orders

With the commander's decision for employment of the unit, the staff plans can be finalized. The staff must finalize all of the operational details by continuing to plan and prepare the orders necessary to implement the commander's decision. At this point in the deception planning process, the deception objective can be finalized. Using the situation analysis for the particular course of action chosen, the desired deception perception can be completed. In conjunction with the mission order, the deception story and the deception plan can be completed.


In general, perceptions are based on an individual view of reality and the current situation, as well as a lifetime of experiences. One's perceptions of the world drive one's actions. However, truths consistent with one theory may also be consistent with other theories.

Desired perceptions are the view the target must hold to execute the action stated in the deception objective. A desired perception should present a threat or opportunity to the target. Desired perception statements have three elements:

The following methods are used to generate desired perceptions:

The following questions must be considered when evaluating desired perception choices:

A typical example of a deception perception is: "The enemy regimental commander must believe that when blue forces attach, they will mass and use bridge A to secure their primary objective-hill 123. He must believe this not later than 72 hours prior to commencement of blue offensive and must retain this belief until commencement of blue offensive."


The deception story is that information conveyed to the target which will cause him to form a desired perception. It is coordinated between the operations officer and the intelligence officer. Points of coordination include-

Operations officer (G3/S3) plans the deception tasks. With assistance from the OPSEC staff element, he must-

The intelligence officers (G2/S2)-


The deception plan will-

Operations officer (G3/S3)-

Intelligence officer (G2/S2)-

Logistic officer (G4/S4) -

  • Prepares a logistic estimate for the commander analyzing logistic factors affecting the accomplishment of the overall operation and the deception operation.

  • Provides the operations officer with advice concerning the feasibility of various friendly courses of action dealing with deception operations, as well as the burden that will be placed on logistic personnel and equipment.

    Personnel officer (G1/S1)-


    After the OPLAN or OPORD is prepared in final form, it is presented to the commander for approval. This is omitted if the urgency of the situation so warrants, and if the commander has previously delegated the authority to have it prepared and issued without his personal approval.


    After approval, the operations officer supervises the final preparation of the plan or order, authenticates copies, and ensures proper distribution if issued in written form. After the plan has been published, he will assist subordinate units in completing their plan and in rehearsing the plan. Instructions to subordinate units to execute the deception plan are contained in paragraph 3 of the basic OPLAN or OPORD and the appropriate functional annexes supporting it. As many deception instructions as practical should be included in functional annexes to the OPLAN or OPORD. This could ensure that deception is fully integrated into the planning for the actual operation. During deception operations, the operations officer must coordinate the functions of the subordinate units to ensure integrity of the deception story projection.


    It is important for the operations officer to supervise and look for flaws in the deception. Remembering that the desired result is for the enemy to see the deception and take action, he must ensure that the deception operation is implemented on schedule. He must make adjustments or changes as needed during the operation.

    The intelligence officer monitors the execution of the deception plan. He ensures that the deception plan is working and that the enemy is not conducting a counterdeception operation. He must determine which enemy collection assets can or cannot collect the deception story. He recommends whether or not the deception operation should be continued, modified, or terminated.

    Once a deception operation has been terminated, the results must be evaluated (see Appendix E for an evaluation checklist). Analyzing the success or failure of a deception operation will assist in the planning and execution of future operations. This also provides a further analysis of the friendly OPSEC posture.

    In terminating a deception operation, care must be taken not to end it too soon, or unrealistically. Just as care and timing went into the buildup of the deception plan, all deception operations must have a plausible ending. They must terminate in a manner similar to the way it would in an actual operation.

    05-28-1996; 15:18:15