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End State: The Fallacy of Modern Military Planning

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Technical Report

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Air War College, Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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Joint Operational Planning, the current military planning doctrine prescribed by Joint Publication 5-0, is linear and mechanistic by nature, and grounded in industrial age warfare. The process is predicated upon the pursuit of specific terminal end states, from which planners work backwards to identify a linear sequence of enabling objectives. This method is effective for straightforward military operations and contingency planning, but is wholly inadequate for situations when a terminal end state is not readily apparent. The modern and future geopolitical environment is a complex, changing, and unpredictable web of interactions, which cannot be approached in a linear, mechanistic manner by a universal planning methodology. Theaterglobal campaign plans and theater strategies offer no such end state, for they are naturally complex and unending. However, planning doctrine makes no discrimination between the two very different strategic environments, and instead prescribes a universal linear methodology that pays no mind to strategic complexity. This universal application leads military planners to apply mechanistic planning efforts to complex strategic problems, which can have disastrous consequences. As the geopolitical environment becomes increasingly interconnected, dynamic, adaptive, and complex, senior leaders require and deserve a true range of options to address these complex situations. Military planning doctrine is therefore in need of a revolution in order to be more responsive to the evolving strategic environment.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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