Academic journal article Military Review

Producing Strategic Value through Deliberate War Planning

Academic journal article Military Review

Producing Strategic Value through Deliberate War Planning

Article excerpt

The U.S. military invests sizable resources in deliberate war planning to prepare for future operations in defined crisis conditions. However, the actual value of current deliberate war planning to military readiness and future combat performance is questionable. This article starts with a brief assessment of the modern U.S. war planning system, then addresses two factors that would enable the deliberate war planning community to deliver greater strategic value.

The first factor, oriented toward prospective planners, is promoting awareness of tensions in both bureaucratic politics and civil--military relations that pervade the process and influence the outcomes. Failure to understand and respect the power of these two tensions equates to letting them become the dominant forces in deliberate war planning to the detriment of any operational or strategic value planning is supposed to provide.

The second factor is the construction of a theoretical framework to understand the actual and potential value added by deliberate war planning. This theoretical framework consists of seven dimensions of planning utility that are sorely needed to counteract the bureaucratic politics and civil-military relations tensions that currently pervade the process and curb its effectiveness. The potential advantage of these planning factors is that they can be applied empirically to gauge the value of a given deliberate planning effort.

This is not the first attempt to undertake empirical research on war planning. (1)

The new contribution sought here is greater understanding of the utility of the activity. Such an understanding could set conditions for increasing effectiveness in future practice. Based on the presumption that deliberate war planning positively influences the manner in which the United States applies military force, this matter is vital to U.S. national security.

The Modern U.S. War Planning System

The United States is the only country in the world that currently professes to "underwrite international security... uphold our commitments to allies and partners, and address threats that are truly global." (2) Under these guiding principles, the U.S. military's role is to "ensure, by timely and effective military action, the security of the United States and areas vital to its interest." (3) This is a tall order.

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One of the military's key enabling mechanisms to carrying out its role is deliberate war planning, a function intended to "enable understanding and facilitate the development of options to effectively meet the complex challenges facing joint forces throughout the world." (4) This intellectually resource-intensive mechanism seems as though it would naturally contribute strategic value. However, the utility derived from deliberate war planning has been widely debated. Some contend that military doctrine and education are ill suited to deal with unfamiliar problems or to satisfy civilian policy-makers' needs. (5) Others criticize the common tendency to focus on point scenarios without considering branches, sequels, or the need for rapid adaptation. (6) Still others argue that the military services' cultural preferences of planning for future interstate conventional wars impedes effective planning for the more likely unconventional scenarios that the United States has engaged in much more often, a tendency reinforced by the need to justify high-end conventional military modernization programs. (7)

Beyond the contemporary debate, the utility of deliberate war plans to the past one hundred years of U.S. combat performance is not encouraging. In most of the cases that necessitated U.S. involvement in wars, the deliberate war plans that were available at the time of need were not relevant. For example, following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the U.S. national leadership directed the military to initiate a campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan and other locations. …

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