Military Operations Planning and Methodology : Thoughts on military problem-solving

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: This thesis focuses on parts of NATO’s two planning documents, called Allied Joint Doctrine for Operational-Level Planning (AJP 5) and the Comprehensive Operations Planning Directive (COPD), which both describe military operations planning.The thesis defends the following claim: parts of the AJP 5 and the COPD are methodologically inconsistent, implied by epistemic and practical implications of methodology. This implies that a revision, of parts of these documents, is required in order to improve the methodological description of the approaches to Operational Art and planning heuristics within NATO’s Operational-Level Planning Process (OLPP).This thesis discusses three topics in order to defend the claim: approaches to Operational Art, planning heuristics and implications of methodology. The thesis explains and discusses how the three topics intertwine operations planning, methodology and military problem-solving.The thesis consists of three parts, namely two published papers and this introduction. The introduction is divide into four sections and the first section describes the research problem and question. To further stress the content of the two papers, the second section discusses the three mentioned topics and their relation to operations planning and methodology. The third section summaries the two papers and their conclusions. The fourth, and final, section offers some thoughts on the future development of military thinking and possible future papers within this research project.The first paper focuses on one of NATO’s doctrines, namely the AJP 5, and discusses the distinction between two, out of three suggested, approaches to Operational Art denoted the ‘Design’ and the ‘Systemic’ approach. Paper I argues that the methodological distinction between these two approaches is vague and states one epistemic and one practical implication of methodology. Briefly, conducting military operations planning with a Design approach implies applying Value-focused thinking and hence requires explicit statements of military and non-military stakeholders’ values (e.g. goals/objectives).   Paper II discusses NATO’s planning framework, the COPD, and focuses on two specific planning heuristics. The first heuristic relates to the Systemic approach and the other heuristic relates to the third approach, denoted the ‘Causalist’ approach, within Operational Art. Paper II argues a methodological contradiction between the two analysed planning heuristics and states one epistemic and three practical implications of methodology. Briefly, simultaneously applying planning heuristics based on contradicting methodological properties (e.g. emergence and invariance), which characterises the Systemic and the Causalist approach, entails a methodological contradiction within the COPD.This thesis implies that military operations planning based on the discussion and review of parts of the AJP 5 and the COPD suffers from methodological inconsistency, i.e. a contradiction. Hence, this constitutes an argument for revising parts of the description of the OLPP, and its planning heuristics, within these two NATO planning documents.The revision should focus on the planning heuristics contributing to the methodological contradiction and NATO should consider the following suggestion. NATO should develop a “handbook of methodology” to better explain and describe the methodological challenge of conducting military operations planning and hence further describe important parts of the “how to” of military problem-solving as well as the decision-making process.

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