JP 3-55


1. Purpose. This publication sets forth principles and doctrine to govern the joint activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders and prescribes doctrine for joint operations and training. It provides military guidance for use by armed forces in preparing their appropriate plans with regard to reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) support in joint operations.

2. Application

  1. Doctrine and guidance established in this publication apply to the commanders of combatant commands, subunified commands, joint task forces, and subordinate components of these commands. These principles and guidance also may apply when significant forces of one Service are attached to forces of another Service or when significant forces of one Service support forces of another Service.

  2. In applying the doctrine set forth in this publication, care must be taken to distinguish between distinct but related responsibilities in the two channels of authority to forces assigned to combatant commands. The Military Departments and Services recruit, organize, train, equip, and provide forces for assignment to combatant commands and administer and support these forces. Commanders of unified and specified commands exercise combatant command (command authority) over these assigned forces. Service component commanders are responsible both to joint force commanders in the operational chain of command and to the Military Departments and Services in the chain of command for matters that the joint force commander has not been assigned authority.

  3. This publication is authoritative but not directive. Commanders will exercise judgment in applying the procedures herein to accomplish their missions. This doctrine should be followed except when, in the judgment of the commander, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise. If conflicts arise between the contents of this publication and the contents of Service publications, this publication will take precedence for the activities of joint forces unless the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, normally in coordination with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has provided more current and specific guidance.

3. Scope. The principles, guidelines and conceptual framework described in Joint Pub 3-55 are provided for the Services, combatant commands, subunified commands, joint task forces, and subordinate units of these organizations. They are written for those who:

  1. Provide strategic direction of RSTA operations.

  2. Employ joint forces involving RSTA operations.

  3. Support or are supported by RSTA operations.

  4. Prepare joint forces for RSTA operations.

RSTA doctrine as promulgated in Joint Pub 3-55 does not focus on specific collection systems, acquisition programs, or tactical procedures. Its focus is on the planning, prioritizing, tasking, coordinating, and executing of RSTA operations to support joint US military forces across the operational continuum. It also addresses the architecture for planning, prioritizing, tasking, coordinating, and executing RSTA operations. RSTA doctrine is intended to assist the joint force commander (JFC) in accomplishing the assigned mission by supporting the JFC's ability to obtain information necessary for plans and operations. RSTA assets are force multipliers. Effective use of these assets enables commanders to maximize the effectiveness of their combat forces by optimizing strengths, exploiting enemy weaknesses, and countering enemy strengths. Whether planning for aerial or aerospace reconnaissance, sea surveillance, or ground reconnaissance, the availability of assets and their capabilities are critical to mission success. All RSTA assets have innate characteristics that make each uniquely suited to their own special mission. Commanders must be aware of these capabilities and limitations and thoroughly weigh each against the mission objectives. They must consider the survivability of the RSTA assets and determine the risk at which they place them to obtain the intelligence information necessary to accomplish the mission.

4. Basis. Joint Pub 3-55 is based on the sources listed in Appendix A.

12-26-1996; 11:32:26