The primary mission of the United States Militia is to preserve, protect
and defend the Constitution by armed force when peaceful means alone
cannot. How the Militia proposes to accomplish this mission is the product
of our understanding of the nature and the theory of war and must be the
guiding force behind our preparation for war.
The challenge is to identify and adopt a concept of warfighting consistent
with our understanding of the nature and theory of war and the realities
of the modern battlefield. What exactly does this require? It requires a
concept of warfighting that will function effectively in an uncertain,
chaotic, and fluid environment--in fact, one that will exploit these
conditions to advantage. It requires a concept that, recognizing the
time-competitive rhythm of war, generates and exploits superior tempo and
velocity. It requires a concept that is consistently effective across the
full spectrum of conflict, because we cannot attempt to change our basic
doctrine from situation to situation and expect to be proficient. It
requires a concept which recognizes and exploits the fleeting
opportunities which naturally occur in war.
It requires a concept which takes into account the moral as well as the
physical forces of war, because we have already concluded that moral
forces form the greater part of war. It requires a concept with which we
can succeed against a physically superior foe. And it requires a concept
with which we can win against a stronger foe on our home soil, with
minimal casualties and limited external support.
The Militia's concept for winning under these conditions is a warfighting
doctrine based on rapid, flexible, and opportunistic maneuver. But in
order to fully appreciate what we mean by maneuver we need to clarify the
term. The traditional understanding of maneuver is a spatial one; that is,
we maneuver in space to gain a positional advantage. However, in order
to maximize the usefulness of maneuver, we must consider maneuver in time
as well; that is, we generate a faster operational tempo than the enemy to
gain a temporal advantage. It is through maneuver in both dimensions that
an inferior force can achieve decisive superiority at the necessary time
Maneuver warfare is a warfighting philosophy that seeks to shatter the
enemy's cohesion through a series of rapid, violent, and unexpected
actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with
which he cannot cope.
From this definition we see that the aim in maneuver warfare is to render
the enemy incapable of resisting by shattering his moral and physical
cohesion--his ability to fight as an effective, coordinated whole--rather
than to destroy him physically through incremental attrition, which is
generally more costly and time-consuming. Ideally, the components of his
physical strength that remain are irrelevant because we have paralyzed his
ability to use them effectively. Even if an outmaneuvered enemy continues
to fight as individuals or small units, we can destroy the remnants with
relative ease because we have eliminated his ability to fight effectively
as a force.
This is not to imply that firepower is unimportant. On the contrary, the
suppressive effects of firepower are essential to our ability to maneuver.
Nor do we means to imply that we will pass up the opportunity to
physically destroy the enemy. We will concentrate fires and forces at
decisive points to destroy enemy elements when the opportunity presents
itself and when it fits our larger purposes. But the aim is not an
unfocused application of firepower for the purpose of incrementally
reducing the enemy's physical strength. Rather, it is the selective
application of firepower in support of maneuver to contribute to the
enemy's shock and moral disruption. The greatest value of firepower is not
physical destruction--the cumulative effects of which are felt only
slowly--but the moral dislocation it causes.
If the aim of maneuver warfare is to shatter the enemy's cohesion, the
immediate object toward that end is to create a situation in which he
cannot function. By our actions, we seek to pose menacing dilemmas in
which events happen unexpectedly and faster than the enemy can keep up
with them. The enemy must be made to see his situation not only as
deteriorating, but deteriorating at an ever-increasing rate. The ultimate
goal is panic and paralysis, an enemy who has lost the ability to resist.
Inherent in maneuver warfare is the need for speed to seize the
initiative, dictate the terms of combat, and keep the enemy off balance,
thereby increasing his friction. Through the use of greater tempo and
velocity, we seek to establish a pace that the enemy cannot maintain so
that with each action his reactions are increasingly late--until
eventually he is overcome by events.
Also inherent is the need for violence, not so much as a source of
physical attrition but as a source of moral dislocation. Toward this end,
we concentrate strength against critical enemy vulnerabilities, striking
quickly and boldly where, when, and how it will cause the greatest damage
to our enemy's ability to fight. Once gained or found, any advantage must
be pressed relentlessly and unhesitatingly. We must be ruthlessly
opportunistic, actively seeking out signs of weakness, against which we
will direct all available combat power. And when the decisive opportunity
arrives, we must exploit it fully and aggressively, committing every ounce
of combat power we can muster and pushing ourselves to the limits of
The final weapon in our arsenal is surprise, the combat value of which we
have already recognized. By studying our enemy we will attempt to
appreciate his perceptions. Through deception we will try to shape his
expectations. Then we will dislocate them by striking at an unexpected
time and place. In order to appear unpredictable, we must avoid set rules
and patterns, which inhibit imagination and initiative. In order to appear
ambiguous and threatening, we should operate on axes that offer several
courses of action, keeping the enemy unclear as to which we will choose.
Philosophy of Command
It is essential that our philosophy of command support the way we fight.
First and foremost, in order to generate the tempo of operations we desire
and to best cope with the uncertainty, disorder, and fluidity of combat,
command must be decentralized. That is, local commanders must make
decisions on their own initiative, based on their understanding of the
strategic situation, rather than passing information up a chain of command
and waiting for a decision to be passed down. Further, a competent local
commander who is at the point of decision will naturally have a better
appreciation for the true situation than a senior some distance removed.
Individual initiative and responsibility are of paramount importance. The
principal means by which we implement decentralized control is through the
use of mission tactics, which we will discuss in detail later.
Second, since we have concluded that war is a human enterprise and no
amount of technology can reduce the human dimension, our philosophy of
command must be based on human characteristics rather than on equipment or
procedures. Communications equipment and command procedures can enhance
our ability to command, but they must not be used to replace the human
element of command. Our philosophy must not only accommodate but must
exploit human traits such as boldness, initiative, personality, strength
of will, and imagination.
Our philosophy of command must also exploit the human ability to
communicate implicitly. We believe that implicit communication--to
communicate through mutual understanding, using a minimum of key,
well-understood phrases or even anticipating each other's thoughts--is a
faster, more effective way to communicate than through the use of
detailed, explicit instructions. We develop this ability through
familiarity and trust, which are based on a shared philosophy and shared
This concept has several practical implications. First, we should
establish long-term working relationships to develop the necessary
familiarity and trust. Second, key people--"actuals"--should talk directly
to one another when possible, rather than through communicators or
messengers. Third, we should communicate orally when possible, because we
communicate also in how we talk; our inflections and tone of voice. And
fourth, we should communicate in person when possible, because we
communicate also through our gestures and bearing.
A commander should command from well forward. This allows him to see and
sense firsthand the ebb and flow of combat, to gain an intuitive
appreciation for the situation which he cannot obtain from reports. It
allows him to exert his personal influence at decisive points during the
action. It also allows him to locate himself closer to the events that
will influence the situation so that he can observe them directly and
circumvent the delays and inaccuracies that result from passing
information up a chain of command.
Finally, we recognize the importance of personal leadership. Only by his
physical presence--by demonstrating the willingness to share danger and
privation--can the commander fully gain the trust and confidence of his
As part of our philosophy of command we must recognize that war is
inherently disorderly, uncertain, dynamic, and dominated by friction.
Moreover, maneuver warfare, with its emphasis on speed and initiative, is
by nature a particularly disorderly style of war. The conditions ripe for
exploitation are normally also very disorderly. For commanders to try to
gain certainty as a basis for actions, maintain positive control of events
at all times, or shape events to fit their plans is to deny the very
nature of war. We must therefore be prepared to cope--even better, to
thrive--in an environment of chaos, uncertainty, constant change, and
friction. If we can come to terms with those conditions and thereby limit
their debilitating effects, we can use them as a weapon against a foe who
does not cope as well.
In practical terms this means that we must not strive for certainty before
we act for in so doing we will surrender the initiative and pass up
opportunities. We must not try to maintain positive control over local
leaders since this will necessarily slow our tempo and inhibit initiative.
We must not attempt to impose precise order to the events of combat since
this leads to a formulistic approach to war. And we must be prepared to
adapt to changing circumstances and exploit opportunities as they arise,
rather than adhering insistently to predetermined plans.
Next, our philosophy requires competent leadership at all levels. A
centralized system theoretically needs only one competent person, the
central commander, since his is the sole authority. But a decentralized
system requires leaders at all levels to demonstrate sound and timely
judgment. As a result, initiative becomes an essential condition of
competence among commanders.
Our philosophy also requires familiarity among comrades because only
through a shared understanding can we develop the implicit communication
necessary for unity of effort. And, perhaps most important, our philosophy
demands confidence among leaders.
Shaping the Battle
Since our goal is not just the cumulative attrition of enemy strength, it
follows that we must have some scheme for how we expect to achieve
victory. That is, before anything else, we must conceive our vision of how
we intend to win.
The first requirement is to establish our intent; what we want to
accomplish and how. Without a clearly identified intent, the necessary
unity of effort is inconceivable. We must identify that critical enemy
vulnerability which we believe will lead most directly to accomplishing
our intent. Having done this, we can then determine the steps necessary to
achieve our intent. That is, we must shape the battle to our advantage in
terms of both time and space. Similarly, we must try to see ourselves
through our enemy's eyes in order to identify our own vulnerabilities
which he may attack and to anticipate how he will try to shape the battle
so we can counteract him. Ideally, when the moment of engagement arrives,
the issue has already been resolved: through our orchestration of the
events leading up to the encounter, we have so shaped the conditions of
war that the result is a matter of course. We have shaped the action
decisively to our advantage.
To shape the battle, we must project our thoughts forward in time and
space. This does not mean that we establish a detailed timetable of
events. We have already concluded that war is inherently disorderly, and
we cannot expect to shape its terms with any sort of precision. We must
not become slaves to a plan. Rather, we attempt to shape the general
conditions of war; we try to achieve a certain measure of ordered
disorder. Examples include canalizing enemy movement in a desired
direction, blocking or delaying enemy reinforcements so that we can fight
a piecemealed enemy rather than a concentrated one, shaping enemy
expectations through deception so that we can exploit those expectations
or attacking a specific enemy capability to allow us to maximize a
capability of our own--such as launching a campaign to destroy his air
defenses so that we can maximize the use of our own aviation. We should
also try to shape events in such a way that allows us several options so
that by the time the moment of encounter arrives we have not restricted
ourselves to only one course of action.
The further ahead we think, the less our actual influence becomes.
Therefore, the further ahead we consider, the less precision we should
attempt to impose. Looking ahead thus becomes less a matter of influence
and more a matter of interest. As events approach and our ability to
influence them grows, we have already developed an appreciation for the
situation and how we want to shape it.
Also, the higher our echelon of command, the greater is our sphere of
influence and the further ahead in time and space we must seek to impose
our will. Central commanders developing and pursuing military strategy
look ahead weeks, months, or more, and their areas of influence and
interest will encompass entire theaters. Local commanders fighting the
battles and engagements at hand are concerned with the coming hours, even
minutes, and the immediate field of battle. But regardless of the spheres
of influence and interest, it is essential to have some vision of the
final result we want and how we intend to shape the action in time and
space to achieve it.
Decision making is essential to the conduct of war since all actions are
the result of decisions--or of nondecisions. If we fail to make a decision
out of lack of will, we have willingly surrendered the initiative to our
foe. If we consciously postpone taking action for some reason, that is a
decision. Thus, as a basic for action, any decision is generally better
than no decision.
Since war is a conflict between opposing wills, we cannot make decisions
in a vacuum. We must make decisions in light of the enemy's anticipated
reactions and counteractions, recognizing that while we are trying to
impose our will on our enemy, he is trying to do the same to us.
Whoever can make and implement his decisions consistently faster gains a
tremendous, often decisive advantage. Decision making thus becomes a
time-competitive process, and timeliness of decisions becomes essential to
generating tempo. Timely decisions demand rapid thinking, with
consideration limited to essential factors. We should spare no effort to
accelerate our decision-making ability.
A military decision is not merely a mathematical computation. Decision
making requires both the intuitive skill to recognize and analyze the
essence of a given problem and the creative ability to devise a practical
solution. This ability is the produce of experience, education,
intelligence, boldness, perception, and character.
We should base our decisions on awareness rather than on mechanical habit.
That is, we act on a keen appreciation for the essential factors that make
each situation unique instead of from conditioned response.
We must have the moral courage to make tough decisions in the face of
uncertainty--and accept full responsibility for those decisions--when the
natural inclination would be to postpone the decision pending more
complete information. To delay action in an emergency because of
incomplete information shows a lack of moral courage. We do not want to
make rash decisions, but we must not squander opportunities while trying
to gain more information.
We must have the moral courage to make bold decisions and accept the
necessary degree of risk when the natural inclination is to choose a less
ambitious tack, for "in audacity and obstinacy will be found safety."
Finally, since all decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty and
since every situation is unique, there is no perfect solution to any
battlefield problem. Therefore, we should not agonize over one. The
essence of the problem is to select a promising course of action with an
acceptable degree of risk, and to do it more quickly than our foe. In this
respect, "a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan
executed next week."
Having described the object and means of maneuver warfare and its
philosophy of command, we will next discuss how we put maneuver warfare
into practice. First is through the use of mission tactics. Mission
tactics are just as the name implies: the tactic of assigning a local
mission without specifying how the mission must be accomplished. We leave
the manner of accomplishing the mission to the local leader, thereby
allowing him the freedom--and establishing the duty--to take whatever
steps he deems necessary based on the situation. The central leader
prescribes the method of execution only to the degree that is essential
for coordination. It is this freedom for initiative that permits the high
tempo of operations that we desire. Uninhibited by restrictions from
above, the subordinate can adapt his actions to the changing situation. He
informs his commander what he has done, but he does not wait for
It is obvious that we cannot allow decentralized initiative without some
means of providing unity, or focus, to the various efforts. To do so would
be to dissipate our strength. We seek unity, not through imposed control,
but through harmonious initiative and lateral coordination.
We achieve this harmonious initiative in large part through the use of the
commander's intent. There are two parts to a mission: the task to be
accomplished and the reason, or intent. The task describes the action to
be taken while the intent describes the desired result of the action. Of
the two, the intent is predominant. While a situation may change, making
the task obsolete, the intent is more permanent and continues to guide our
actions. Understanding our commander's intent allows us to exercise
initiative in harmony with the commander's desires.
In order to maintain our focus on the enemy, we should try to express
intent in terms of the enemy. The intent should answer the question: What
do I want to do to the enemy? This may not be possible in all cases, but
it is true in the vast majority. The intent should convey the commander's
vision. It is not satisfactory for the intent to be "to defeat the enemy."
To win is always our ultimate goal, so an intent like this conveys
From this discussion, it is obvious that a clear explanation and
understanding of intent is absolutely essential to unity of effort. It
should be a part of any mission. The burden of understanding falls on
senior and subordinate alike. The central leader must make perfectly clear
the result he expects, but in such a way that does not inhibit initiative.
Local leaders must have a clear understanding of what their commander is
thinking. Further, they should understand the intent of the commander two
levels up. In other words, a platoon commander should know the intent of
his battalion commander, or a battalion commander the intent of his
Focus of Effort
Another tool for providing unity is through the focus of effort. Of all
the efforts going on within our command, we recognize the focus of effort
as the most critical to success.
All other efforts must support it. In effect, we have decided: This is how
I will achieve a decision; everything else is secondary.
We cannot take lightly the decision of where and when to focus our
efforts. Since the focus of effort represents our bid for victory, we must
direct it at that object which will cause the most decisive damage to the
enemy and which holds the best opportunity of success. It involves a
physical and moral commitment, although not an irretrievable one. It
forces us to concentrate decisive combat power just as it forces us to
accept risk. Thus, we focus our effort against critical enemy
vulnerability, exercising strict economy elsewhere.
Normally, we designate the focus of effort by assigning one unit
responsibility for accomplishing that effort. That unit becomes the
representation of the focus of effort. It becomes clear to all other units
in the command that they must support that unit in its efforts. Like the
commander's intent, the focus of effort becomes a harmonizing force. Faced
with a decision, we ask ourselves: "How can I best support the focus of
Each commander should establish a focus of effort for each mission. As the
situation changes, the commander may shift the focus of effort,
redirecting the weight of his combat power in the direction that offers
the greatest success. In this way he exploits success; he does not
Surfaces and Gaps
Put simply, surfaces are hard spots--enemy strengths--and gaps are soft
spots--enemy weaknesses. We avoid enemy strength and focus our efforts
against enemy weakness, since pitting strength against weakness reduces
casualties and is more likely to yield decisive results. Whenever
possible, we exploit existing gaps. Failing that, we create gaps.
Gaps may in fact be physical gaps in the enemy's dispositions, but they
may also be any weakness in time or space: a moment in time when the enemy
is overexposed and vulnerable, a seam in an air defense umbrella, an
infantry unit caught unprepared in open terrain, or a boundary between two
Similarly, a surface may be an actual strongpoint, or it may be any enemy
strength: a moment when the enemy has just replenished and consolidated
his position or an integrated air defense system.
An appreciation for surfaces and gaps requires a certain amount of
judgment. What is a surface in one case may be a gap in another. For
example, a forest which is a surface to an armored unit because it
restricts vehicle movement can be a gap to an infantry unit which can
infiltrate through it. Furthermore, we can expect the enemy to disguise
his dispositions in order to lure us against a surface that appears to be
Due to the fluid nature of war, gaps will rarely be permanent and will
usually be fleeting. To exploit them demands flexibility and speed. We
must actively seek out gaps by continuous and aggressive reconnaissance.
Once we locate them, we must exploit them by funneling our forces through
rapidly. For example, if our focus of effort has struck a surface but
another unit has located a gap, we shift the focus of effort to the second
unit and redirect our combat power in support of it. In this manner we
"pull" combat power through gaps from the front rather than "pushing" it
through from the rear. Commanders must rely on the initiative of
subordinates to locate the gaps and must have the flexibility to respond
quickly to opportunities rather than following predetermined schemes.
We have discussed the aim and characteristics of maneuver warfare. We have
discussed the philosophy of command necessary to support this style of
warfare. And we have discussed some of the tactics of maneuver warfare. By
this time it should be clear that maneuver warfare exists not so much in
the specific methods used--we eschew formulas--but in the mind of the
Militiaman, In this regard, maneuver warfare applies equally to the
central commander and the local leader. It applies regardless of the
nature of the conflict, whether sustained operations in support of
professional armed forces or guerilla attacks against the same.
Maneuver warfare is a way of thinking in and about war that should shape
our every action. It is a state of mind born of a bold will, intellect,
initiative, and ruthless opportunism. It is a state of mind bent on
shattering the enemy morally and physically by paralyzing and confounding
him, by avoiding his strength, by quickly and aggressively exploiting his
vulnerabilities, and by striking him in the way that will hurt him most.
In short, maneuver warfare is a philosophy for generating the greatest
decisive effect against the enemy at the least possible cost to
ourselves--a philosophy for "fighting smart."