Instructor Notes Lesson Script


a. Lesson Tie-in: This class is intended as a review of the Tactical Decision-Making Process as found in ST 101-5. You will use the information presented here during the remainder of BDE O&I, the practical exercises (PEs), the final examination, and most importantly in your future as MI officers.

b. Objective: After this review of the TDMP you will be able to use the procedures identified for the PEs and as All-Source Intelligence Officers.

c. Safety Statement: The risk assessment for this class is Low IV.

d. Purpose: To provide the MIOAC officer with a review of the Tactical Decision-Making Process per ST 101-5.

e. Procedure. During this class I will review the entire Decision-Making Process.


a. The Army has traditionally viewed military decision-making, or Battle Command, as both science and art. Battle Command is divided into two categories: Command and Control. The art of command is the arena of the commander. It is the commander's business to visualize the future, make decisions, and lead. Control is considered the science of Battle Command. It is the staffs business to compute requirements, apply the means to accomplish the commander's intent, and monitor the status of operations.

b. The foundation of the Tactical Decision-Making Process is the Decision-Making Process, which is a systematic approach which fosters effective analysis by enhancing the application of professional knowledge, logic, and judgment. This decision-making process has six broad steps and is used in many organizations.


c. All decision-making processes revolve around the decision-making cycle. First, information is gathered, this feeds the planning process and leads to a decision and execution.

d. The Tactical Decision-Making Process is the military version of the decision-making process tailored to the unique needs of the military. TDMP consists of four essential steps: Mission Analysis, Course of Action Development, Course of Action Analysis/Comparison, and Decision & Execution.
We will look at each step separately.

e. This slide illustrates in greater detail the steps and products of the TDMP.

f. All battlefields require commanders to make and execute decisions faster than the enemy. The commander must not allow the TDMP to become time consuming, therefore the TDMP must be:

  • Flexible - abbreviate or modify the process to accommodate the situation and time available.
  • Comprehensive - consider both quantifiable and intangible aspects of military operations. This requires the translation of friendly and enemy strengths, weapon systems, training, morale, and leadership into combat capabilities. It also requires a clear understanding or weather and terrain effects and the ability to visualize the possible flow of the battle.
  • Continuous - The TDMP is a continuous process. The commander and staff must constantly collect, process, and evaluate information.
  • Focused on the Future - doctrinal emphasis is on making decisions which influence the outcome of the battle and which result in seizing the initiative.

g. TDMP is broken down into three methodologies:

  • Deliberate decision-making - this is the preferred method to use before actual hostilities. It is characterized by maximum planning time and staff involvement and the opportunity to thoroughly examine numerous friendly and enemy courses of action.
  • Combat decision-making - this method is normally used by commanders during combat operations when time is constrained. This process is commander driven.
  • Quick decision-making - this method is used when the commander has no staff, the staff is not readily available, or only has a limited staff, or he faces unforeseen, imminent crises or emergency.

h. The TDMP begins with the receipt of the mission from higher headquarters. The first step, Mission Analysis, begins with the review of the commanders intent, one and two levels higher, and ends when the commander approves the restated mission. There are eleven steps in Mission Analysis.

  • Step 1: The commander must clearly understand the mission and intent of the two higher echelon commanders. For example, a Brigade commander must understand the intent of his division and corps commanders. This comes from direct contact or personal experience with his higher commanders.
  • Step 2: The staff reviews the area of operations, analyzes the concept of the operation from highers OPORD, and reviews task organization to understand higher headquarters mission and intent.
  • Step 3: The staff identifies specified and implied tasks from the higher headquarters OPORD.

- Specified Tasks - Tasks which the unit must perform to successfully perform the higher commander's mission. These could be found in the concept of the operation paragraph, tasks to subordinate units subparagraph, coordinating instructions, service support paragraphs, annexes and appendixes.

- Implied Tasks - Tasks not specified in the order but must be accomplished to accomplish specified tasks.

  • Step 4: After listing all specified and implied tasks, the staff identifies essential tasks and a preliminary restated mission statement.

- Essential Tasks - Tasks the unit must perform to successfully accomplish not only its mission but the higher commanders as well. These tasks define success and shape the restated mission statement.

  • Step 5: Review of available assists, including attachments and detachments, from the
current task organization. This allows the staff
to picture the means available with which to accomplish the preliminary restated mission statement.

  • Step 6: The staff determines any limitations to the commanders freedom of action which might influence task accomplishment. Limitations are broken into Restrictions and Constraints.

- Restrictions - Things the command prohibits the unit from doing. An example would be no reconnaissance beyond the Forward Line of Troops prior to H-Hour.

- Constraints - Things which limit the units freedom of action. An example would be that the unit maintain a battalion in reserve.

- Restrictions and constraints do not include doctrinal considerations. An example would be a unit must attack along a designated axis of advance.

Simply put, Constraints limit what the commander can do, Restrictions are things he cannot do.

  • Step 7: The staff determines C2W considerations. These allow the commander to make the most effective use of all lethal and nonlethal weapons systems. These considerations can include how the commander can exercise leadership and control as expressed by where will he be on the battlefield, how he will communicate with his subordinates and higher, how will he communicate his decisions and how will he receive and send intelligence in support of his decisions.
  • Step 8: The staff proposes acceptable risks and identify the enemy's center of gravity.

- Acceptable Risk - The level of risk the commander is willing to take in order to accomplish the mission. An example would be bypassing company sized elements in a deliberate attack.

- Center of Gravity - The hub of all power and movement on which everything depends and is the characteristic which enemy forces derive their freedom of action, physical strength or will to fight.

  • Step 9: The staff determines critical facts and assumptions which can and will directly affect successful accomplishment of the mission.
  • Step 10: The staff conducts time analysis continuously until mission accomplishment. The commander and staff must balance time for detailed planning with time for operations.
  • Step 11: After considering all 10 steps the staff and XO or S3 prepares the restated mission statement for the commander's approval. The restated mission contains all elements of the mission statement: who, what, when, where, and why. These elements define both tasks and purpose. An example is: "3d Brigade (WHO) attacks in zone at 180500 Nov (WHEN) to seize (WHAT) OBJ DOG (WHERE) to allow 2d Brigade to continue the division's main attack north (WHY)."

I. Commander's Guidance: After the commander approves the restated mission, he must give his staff initial guidance. This guidance is essential in the development of Courses of Action. The commander must not be too broad or detailed in his guidance. Very broad guidance does not give the staff focus and to detailed guidance may restrict the staffs initiative. The commander's guidance is his vision for the upcoming battle. The commander's guidance should contain the following nine elements:
  • Enemy courses of action
  • The restated mission
  • Intent
  • Concept of the operation
  • The deception objective
  • Priorities of support (CS & CSS)
  • The time plan
  • Type order to issue
  • Type of rehearsal to conduct

j. Course of Action Development (COAD): After receiving the commander's guidance, the entire staff, usually led by the XO, develops courses of action to identify and retain for analysis to achieve the mission. Each COA must meet several tests, suitability, feasibility, acceptability, distinguishibility, an completeness.

  • Suitability: Each COA must not only actually accomplish the mission, but must also comply with the commander's guidance.
  • Feasibility: Each COA must be feasible considering the units capability to accomplish the mission successfully in terms of time, space, and means available.
  • Acceptability: Each COA must be acceptable in that the cost (expressed in terms of time, soldiers, equipment, or position losses) justifies the tactical or operational advantage gained by executing the COA.
  • Distinguishability: Each COA must be significantly different from any others. Differences such as using reserves, task organizations, main effort, or scheme of maneuver can make COAs significantly different. Also conducting operations during hours of darkness versus daylight can distinguish one COA form another.
  • Completeness: To be complete a COA includes:

- Who - (what forces) will execute the action.

- What - (the type of action--attack, defend) is contemplated.

- When - (the time the action will begin--on order, D-Day, H-Hour) a specified time.

- Where - (sectors or zones and objectives) operations will take place.

- How - (method by which the commander will employ available assets) this should include probable employment of maneuver units two echelons down. For example, Brigades will employ companies.

k. Course of Action Analysis/Comparison: Once COAs are developed, the staff must further analyze each COA and compare them to identify the best COA to recommend to the commander. COAD and Comparison consists of:

  • War-gaming - determine each COAs strengths and weaknesses.
  • Operational analysis and risk assessment - determine ways to minimize loss of personnel and equipment.
  • Comparison of COAs - compare each COA to each other to determine which best accomplishes the mission.

1. War-gaming - a war game is a disciplined process for visualizing how a battle might unfold. The war-gaming process has several rules:

- Remain unbiased - do not allow personalities or the sense of "what the boss wants" influence you.

- Accurately record advantages and disadvantages.

- Continue to assess the feasibility of each COA. If a COA becomes infeasible during the war game stop and reject it.

- Avoid drawing premature conclusions and gathering of facts that support these conclusions.

- Avoid the comparison of COAs to one another during the war game.

  • The process for conducting the war game consists of:
- Gather tools
- List all friendly forces
- List assumptions
- List known critical events and decision points (Dps)
- List significant factors
- Select war-game method (belt, box, or avenue-in-depth)
- Select technique to record and display results
- War-game the battle (action, reaction, and counteraction) and assess the results

War-game results might include:
- A modified COA
- Insights to flow of battle
- Requirements for deception and surprise
- NBC effects
- Prospective task organizations
- Identification of subordinate units tasks and priorities
- Assessment of CS and CSS implications

2. Operational Analysis and Risk Assessment: The purpose of operational analysis and risk assessment is to determine where loss of personnel and equipment might occur in the operation and to manage loss to minimum levels. The staff then develops a combination of positive and procedural (P2) controls to balance the COA's strengths against its risks. Operational risk assessment follows these four steps:

  • Step 1 - Identify risks and major events.
  • Step 2 - Assess risks, subdivide the operation into its major events to identify where risks can be eliminated or reduced.
  • Step 3 - Examine events by location, conditions, and potential magnitude of risk and make risk decision recommendations on acceptability of risk or necessity of risk mitigation with controls. Then identify where and when P2 controls would be appropriate for synchronization and protecting the force.
  • Step 4 - Develop P2 controls an balance a COA's benefits with its potential risks.
These controls are recommended to the commander for his decision and are develop by focusing on critical events first, eliminating unnecessary risks, and reducing the magnitude of mission-essential and prudent risks.

l. Course Action Comparison: After the staff war-games each feasible friendly COA against each feasible enemy COA, the staff will compare the results. They then determine the most probable friendly COA against the enemy COA that most concerns the commander. A tool the staff can use to compare each COA is the decision matrix with weighted criteria. The decision matrix usually compares the COAs to the Battlefield Operating Systems, relative to each staff officers area of expertise, and compared to each COA.

m. Decision and Execution: After the staff analyzes all COAs they brief the commander, the commander selects the COA he feels is most advantageous.

  • Brief the Commander - The staffs briefing must not be prejudice to any COA considered. The staff must address any unresolved issues and be able to any of the commander's questions. At the end of the briefing, the XO or S3 will announce the staffs recommended COA.
  • Selecting the COA - The commander selects the COA that best accomplishes the mission and intent. He may also make modifications or present a new COA. There is risk in doing this because the staff has not had the chance to analyze the modifications or new COA. The commander's decision is based on:

- His experience
- His trust and confidence in his command
- His estimate of the situation
- The COA's inherent flexibility
- The COA's compatibility w/ his deception objective

  • Mission Execution: Mission execution is decentralized. The commander only restricts his subordinate commanders' freedom of action to synchronize the operation or to minimize the forces exposure to fratricide. In order to accomplish this the commander:

- Assigns missions to subordinate commanders
- Holds subordinate commanders responsible for their actions
- Gives subordinates the assets and authority they need for mission accomplishment
- Allows subordinates maximum freedom of action to accomplish the mission
- Gives sufficient time to complete the DDMP to synchronize operations

n. Combat Decision Making: The Combat Decision Making Process is an extension of the Deliberate Decision Making Process. It is similar to the DDMP in that:

  • Both processes represent the coherent, mental activities that support sound decision making.
  • The commander is the prime mover in both processes.
  • Both processes allow for adjustment to the reality of the situation. Neither process is a rigid lock-step approach to decision making.

Differences are:

  • Time is relatively unconstrained in the DDMP where multiple COAs can be analyzed. In the CDMP time is constrained and only select COAs can be analyzed.
  • Staff has more latitude in the DDMP than in the CDMP.
  • The DDMP results in a thorough, detailed plan and serves as an effective starting point before entering operations. The CDMP feeds off the DDMP detailed plan and adjustments are made as operations unfold.

o. Quick Decision Making Process: The Quick Decision-Making Process is used when time is limited and for commanders without staffs or limited staffs. The steps of the QDMP at the Troop Leading Procedures:

  • Receive the mission
  • Issue the warning order
  • Make a tentative plan
  • Start movement
  • Conduct reconnaissance
  • Complete the plan
  • Issue the order
  • Supervise and refine the plan

The Troop Leading Procedures can be as complex or as simple as time permits. The commanders bases his decision on his analysis of METT-T factors, comparison of feasible COAs, and his personal judgment.

3. Conclusion:

a. Review of Main Points: During the last hour we reviewed the Tactical Decision-Making Process as shown in ST 101-5. We covered:

  • Battle Command
  • The three types of Tactical Decision-Making Methodologies: Deliberate, Combat, and Quick
  • The four steps of the Tactical Decision-Making Process: Mission Analysis, Course of Action Development, Course of Action Analysis and Comparison, and Decision and Execution
  • The similarities and differences of the DDMP and the CDMP
  • The Quick Decision-Making Process

Use the steps identified in ST 101-5 to obtain a better understanding of the Tactical Decision-Making Process in order to develop you OPORD.

b. Questions and Comments: Are there any questions or comments concerning the material we have covered?

c. Tie-in: You, as Military Intelligence Officers must understand the Tactical Decision-Making Process and be able the demonstrate your proficiency both orally and in writing. Understanding the TDMP is essential for all of you no matter what echelon or type of unit you are assigned to.