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Uncertainty: The Forgotten Factor in Joint Planning

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,31 May 2019

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Army School of Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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There is always uncertainty in military planning. Military analysts have to analyze large amounts of data from multiple sources, data that might be unclear, ambiguous, or even contradictory. There is a difference between uncertainty and risk because risk is characterized by having identified outcomes with the probability that those outcomes would occur. This monograph analyzed how the US military 2017 Joint Planning Process 2017 JPP addresses uncertainty. This research examined almost two decades of unclassified US strategic security documents and US military joint doctrine, focusing on the 2017 JPP and how it did or did not approach uncertainty. It was surprising that uncertainty plays a subordinate role or is even nonexistent in the 2017 JPP. The strategic security documents also do not consider uncertainty adequately. Although uncertainty is discussed in the military intelligence domain, the 2017 JPP does not demand that a planner pay due consideration to the topic of uncertainty and therefore provides no tools for the planner to deal with uncertainty. This monograph examined tools to improve the handling of uncertainty. There is an example of a fallacy base rate that illustrates the need for educationtraining for uncertainty. A standardized communication of probability is required. The decision tree model helps to visualize areas where insufficient or no information is available. The concepts of robustness offer an approach of how to improve resilience against surprises. The model robust-decision-making focuses on planning against the worst-case scenario, and the info-gap model emphasizes on defining an outcome that is vital to achieving. The priority is to have a satisfying solution rather than the best solution.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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