Field Manual 3-0

Doctrine Addressing Today’s Fight

Lt. Col. Sam Fishburne, U.S. Army
Maj. Joe Dumas, U.S. Army
Maj. Benjamin Stegmann, U.S. Army
Capt. Jim Burds, U.S. Army

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Engineers assigned to the 588th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, employ an M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge 9 July 2015 during a breaching training exercise at the Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait.

It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.

—Carl von Clausewitz

Published in October 2017, Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, emphasizes the Army’s four strategic roles as part of the joint force: shape the security environment, prevent conflict, prevail in large-scale combat operations, and consolidate gains to make temporary success permanent (see figure 1).1 This is a significant departure from previous operational-level doctrine, which tended to focus on the tactical-level operations from the line of departure to a limit of advance with little discussion of linkages between strategic policy goals, operations, and the tactical tasks units conduct to achieve a desired end state across the conflict continuum. The new approach is necessary to account for an operational environment that is very different than those in Afghanistan and Iraq, an operational environment characterized by peer threats able to contest the joint force in all domains.

Because this is a significant emphasis change for Army forces, the Combined Arms Center is using mobile training teams to educate the force about the implications of FM 3-0. To integrate this new doctrine, the Command and General Staff College has placed renewed emphasis on division operations in the context of large-scale ground combat against peer threats to ensure that our field grade officers enter the force prepared for the most demanding environments that their units will face.

FM 3-0 is the large-unit tactical doctrine that we use to fight a peer or near-peer threat today. Mastering it requires significant time and effort. But has this transition in focus been executed deliberately enough? Are we too obsessed with more flashy future concepts and modernization efforts that divert attention away from doctrine, which already incorporates not only multi-domain conceptual thinking but also the priorities of the National Security Strategy?2 This article addresses the sense of urgency and cultural transition required to incorporate FM 3-0 into the U.S. Army and to prepare to meet peer adversaries capable of placing our nation at risk. Our culture is not yet aligned with our latest doctrine, intended to address training and experience gaps resulting from fifteen years of prioritizing counterinsurgency and stability operations.

FM 3-0 candidly states that the Army no longer enjoys superiority across all the warfighting functions. Peer threats, particularly Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, can contest both the Army and the joint force across all domains.3 Depending upon the regional context, we may be at a disadvantage in some warfighting functions and may only have relative parity in others. While this article does not address all of these challenges, it highlights some areas where we may experience overmatch from a threat in order to generate thought. Friendly intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, when faced with the contemporary integrated air defense capabilities of our adversaries, is one such area.

Comparing U.S. and Russian Use of Fires in Relationship to Maneuver


When comparing our ability to find the enemy against a near-peer threat such as Russia (or an increasingly capable China), significant friendly capability disadvantages immediately become apparent and must be offset. FM 3-0 defines reconnaissance as “a mission undertaken to obtain, by visual observation or other detection methods, information about the activities and resources of an enemy or adversary, or to secure data concerning the meteorological, hydrographic, or geographic characteristics of a particular area.”4 By this definition, we must look at every capability, across all domains, to understand the existing disparities in our ability to collect information against current threats.5

Russian integrated air defense systems (IADS) make sustained air superiority questionable, especially at the beginning of operations when geographical proximity to positioned Russian forces enables their deliberate emplacement. With our current systems, we will only be able to create temporary windows of superiority with great effort. The Russians employ IADS at every tactical level, from battalion to division, with a focus on finding and destroying U.S. fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. They are also steadily working toward overmatch in the field of counterfire radar, fielding a variety of systems across the depths of their formations and with varying levels of capability. This might enable the Russian fires complex to “out attrite” our own counterfire capabilities, leaving them with the only systems on the battlefield.6

Nowhere does Russian overmatch become more apparent than in their unmanned aerial vehicles capabilities. Nicole Bier and Patrick Madden’s article in the Red Diamond Threats Newsletter highlights this threat masterfully. The U.S. Army currently fields three unmanned aircraft systems: the Raven, the Shadow, and the Gray Eagle. The Russians, however, are experimenting with over sixteen different unmanned aircraft systems across their formations from the tactical battalion- to division-size elements. Some of the systems fielded at the brigade level can operate between 200 km and 500 km forward of their units. By contrast, the Gray Eagle typically operates at the U.S. division level with an operational range at around 150 km.7 This threat is only magnified and compounded at the battalion level, where every asset currently fielded to Russian battalions outranges the Raven.

This overwhelming disparity in information collection at the tactical level has a direct impact on our ability to target the greatest threat on the modern battlefield—artillery. Russian fire capabilities provide an excellent case study in relative disadvantages that U.S. forces must overcome. Whereas the U.S. Army uses fires to enable maneuver, the Russian army depends upon its maneuver forces to enable fires. Additionally, the U.S. Army typically views itself as an offensive force, which offers the implied task that we understand how to deal with a prepared defense. FM 3-0 states, “The enemy typically attempts to slow and disrupt friendly forces with a combination of obstacles, prepared positions, and favorable terrain so that they can be destroyed with massed fires. … Forward positioned enemy forces are heavily focused on providing observed fires for long range systems …”8 With this in mind, the Russian force structure includes fire capabilities at every echelon from the tactical battalion to the corps equivalent level, providing a distinct advantage over U.S. formations. Not only do they have more tubes and rockets, but the Russian systems also outrange U.S. systems using standard munitions. The Russian 2S19M1 and G6 systems have a 34 km and a 30 km range, respectively, using standard artillery rounds, whereas the U.S. M109A6 has an approximately 24 km range with standard rounds. Basically, if U.S. maneuver units seek to destroy Russian artillery forces, they must move through an enormous kill zone while defeating and bypassing maneuver forces seeking to fix them, all while subject to artillery overmatch in both range and number of systems.9

Shaping the Information Environment

Even as we must prepare for lethal threats during large-scale ground combat, we must also prepare for nonlethal threats below the threshold of such conflicts. The majority of operations that U.S. Army forces conduct are in this range of actions. Information warfare is a capability all our adversaries employ routinely during competition. Specifically, China and Russia continuously seek to shape the information environment in ways favorable to their national interests in order to achieve their objectives without starting a war. Take, for example, the simple Russian narrative that accompanied their Ukraine operations in 2014. “There are no Russian forces in Ukraine” was a message that simultaneously confused Western military and political leaders and perplexed the news media, delaying any meaningful decisions at the strategic level.10 Russian information warfare sows confusion and creates ambiguity, and this is accomplished all while maintaining enviable operational security at the strategic level.


Peer adversaries will not limit their information campaigns to the strategic level, however. FM 3-0 states that “information is a weapon against enemy command and control (C2), and it is a means to affect enemy morale.”11 Again, nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Russia’s campaign in the Crimea. During multiple sieges of Ukrainian military installations, the Russian military reputedly targeted family members of Ukrainian soldiers with threatening phone calls and text messages.12 This reportedly forced military members to divert attention from installation defense to the evacuation of their children, though admirably, many of the spouses chose to remain behind with their soldiers. Other examples such as Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally were propaganda campaigns in World War II that attempted to demoralize U.S. troops on the battlefield.13 All of these examples represent threats we must be mentally and morally prepared to face and counteract in the near future. And to do so, we need to be able to fight such narratives with effective messages of our own.

The Transition to AirLand Battle

The mind of the enemy and the will of his leaders is a target of far more importance than the bodies of his troops.

—Mao Tse-tung14

Today’s Army senior leaders began their careers during the AirLand Battle era. They were influenced by those who fought in the Vietnam War and learned hard lessons in combat. These leaders clearly understood that their wartime experience in Southeast Asia was only a portion of a greater threat.

In 1973, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Creighton Abrams directed then Maj. Gen. Donn Starry and Brig. Gen. Bob Baer to travel to Israel to capture lessons the Israel Defense Forces learned from the Yom Kippur War. Abrams believed that Israel’s experience during the Yom Kippur War provided a lens through which to view the character of future battlefields the United States might face. This conflict, executed by Soviet client states, was a clear demonstration of Soviet doctrine and technological advances, especially the employment of antitank guided missiles and IADS. Abrams realized the need to doctrinally, culturally, and technologically transform the U.S. Army if it was to effectively meet the dangers posed by the Soviet threat.

The U.S. Army embarked upon a nearly twenty-year journey focused on winning during large-scale ground combat operations against the Warsaw Pact. Doctrine training and modernization required iterative processes and significant professional discourse and dialogue. Army leaders at all echelons were heavily invested in improving the Army on multiple fronts. Gen. William DePuy, who was then the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) commanding general, was greatly influenced by his own experiences in World War II and Vietnam, and felt that the inadequate doctrine, leadership, and training needed to be corrected.15 “Active Defense” as an original component of the 1976 FM 100-5, Operations, would be revised in a span of ten years, and based on professional exchange and dialogue, the 1986 edition of FM 100-5 would result in the advent of “AirLand Battle.”16

In 1976, Starry, then V Corps commander and one of the architects of FM 100-5, set out to test the doctrinally defined construct, as he was not happy with what had been written (including his own contributions). As V Corps commander, he stimulated evaluation of the doctrine by executing staff rides and terrain walks where his corps’ leadership and subordinate units were expected to defend against the Soviet threat. Starry’s actions were just the beginning of a professional discussion to improve doctrine. Later, as TRADOC commanding general, he directed Brig. Gen. Don Morelli and a small team to expose various audiences to the contents of FM 100-5 in order to provide feedback on the operations doctrine, including those views of dissidence.17

Addressing the Global Operational Environment

History has a way of repeating itself. Lt. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, Combined Arms Center commanding general, directed the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate to execute a similar mission across the Army amongst a variety of audiences to explain the most recent FM 3-0. These efforts have not yet yielded the type of spirited professional discourse about our capstone operations doctrine of the 1970s and 1980s.

The previous FM 3-0 was rescinded in 2011 and is no longer seen as particularly necessary for Army forces in the operational environment of the time. The Army, engrossed with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, has evolved from a threat-based to a capabilities-based force. Assumptions about future conflicts include a low likelihood of large-scale ground combat and U.S. conventional force superiority against potential adversaries. Operations in the Middle East informed Army modernization efforts for almost a decade, and the Army became optimized for limited contingency operations as a result. Like previous generations, we allow warfighting to consume our ability to provide a holistic assessment of the Army’s contributions to the National Security Strategy and the joint force. Doctrine 2015 was heavily informed by recent operational experience but did not adequately address large-scale ground combat operations or the capability limitations resulting from force structure changes (modularization) within the Army.

Changes to the global operating environment were not addressed until the publication of the Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (AOC) in October 2014. The thirty-eighth Army chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno, highlights this in his foreword to the AOC:

Conflicts in the future, like those in the past, will ultimately be resolved on land. Hence the concept recognizes that Army forces will be essential components of joint operations to create sustainable political outcomes while defeating enemies and adversaries who will challenge U.S. advantages in all domains: land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace. To do this, innovation is critical, both for the operational and the institutional Army, and the AOC is a beginning point for the innovation we need to ensure that our Soldiers, leaders, and teams are prepared to win in a complex world.18

The AOC formally begins the process of addressing the conflict continuum and range of military operations that the Army should expect to support as part of the joint force. The AOC informs the realization that Army doctrine needs to change. In 2016, the Army chief of staff directed TRADOC to write a manual that provides the doctrinal basis for success against military adversaries whose capabilities were on par with ours.19 The release of FM 3-0 represents a yearlong effort to provide doctrine for large units that focus on large-scale ground combat operations against peer and near-peer threats (see figure 2).


You don’t have to make them see the light—just make them feel the heat.

—U.S. President Ronald Reagan20

Waiting for large-scale ground combat is not the time to test doctrinal theories, rather we should reflect on lessons learned from previous generations of Army leaders. Kasserine Pass and Anzio are notable historic examples of where the U.S. Army did not perform to its full potential because of doctrinal and training shortcomings.21 Today’s strategic environment is just too dynamic not to be fully engaged in the language of our profession. There is no better time than the present for professionals to read, analyze, and discuss the application of our current doctrine. Knowing our doctrine, discussing and debating it, as well as providing each other with the best practices in its application, is absolutely critical if we want to improve and refine how we fight.

As highlighted in the latest National Security Strategy, “we convinced ourselves that all wars would be fought and won quickly from stand-off distances and with minimal casualties.”22 The last seventeen years of continued limited contingency operations have created a patch-chart approach to deployment readiness. Rotational units have endured periods of sporadic tempo and intermittent lethality. Above all, our forces have not been truly tested in all domains and have generally operated under air and land dominance. Theater Provided Equipment and the Left behind Equipment programs have created an emotional detachment between soldiers and their equipment. Operational readiness assessments and the repetition required to adequately conduct force projection and reception have atrophied, impacting our ability to conduct operations to prevent conflict. Army Sustainment highlights how our expeditionary mindset going into the First Gulf War led to our ability to mass forces and achieve success. Even with this achievement, the Army sought ways for improvement:

Following Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Army began to look for ways to fill gaps identified in its deployment performance. The roughly 150 days required to deploy five divisions and 205 days to deploy the whole force were deemed too long. The Army was charged to look at the end-to-end deployment process, from infrastructure to strategic mobility resources, with the goal of significantly cutting deployment lead time.23

Repetition and honest, continual assessment are essential to winning the force projection race required to achieve operational capability before our enemy. Our deployment readiness and projection abilities create conditions where quick transitions to large-scale combat operations are required. Generating this level of readiness and confidence is critical for future success on the battlefield.

We, as Army professionals, must learn, speak, and exercise doctrine grounded in today’s fight. Doing this can only better serve the Army to answer the changing complexities of warfare. This will no doubt provide the direction for tomorrow’s concepts and the Army beyond 2040. The rapid publication of FM 3-0 illustrates the present need for doctrine to serve as an engine of change for today’s Army to successfully operate. Doctrine will drive the cultural change across our formations, as we stress the need for agility akin to the “fight tonight” mentality. Futures concepts and modernization continue to drive innovation across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities, but we cannot become fixated on such. Concepts and modernization efforts are only components of the Army “vehicle”; however, doctrine is and always will be the driver.


    Epigraph.Carl von Clausewitz, as quoted in Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2017), 1-17.
  1. FM 3-0, Operations, vii.
  2. The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: The White House, December 2017).
  3. FM 3-0, Operations, ix.
  4. Ibid., 5-10. It is critical for Army leaders to understand that they cannot rely on theater and national strategic means to find the enemy. With the space domain contested by both the Russians and Chinese, we cannot be assured that satellites will provide the required intelligence needed for tactical maneuver.
  5. This analysis focuses on the current Russian threat, acknowledging that China, Iran, and North Korea are all specifically mentioned in the latest National Security Strategy as potential adversaries where large-scale ground combat operations are possible.
  6. Assessment based on independent research of the authors, based on information from the Worldwide Equipment Guide (WEG) and assisted by the Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) and Intelligence Support Activity (TRISA).
  7. Nichole Bier and Patrick Madden, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Assessment: Russia,” Red Diamond Threats Newsletter 9, no. 1 (January/February 2018): 8–13. Additional analysis beyond the Red Diamond article is based on independent research of the authors based on information from the WEG and assisted by FMSO and TRISA. Specific systems at the Russian brigade level are the S-100, the Tu-143, the Orlan-30, and the Orlan-50. At the Russian battalion level, they are experimenting with two variants of the Eleron series, two variants of the Zala series, two variants of the Orlan series, and the Granat system. All of these systems outrange the U.S. Raven.
  8. FM 3-0, Operations, 7-2.
  9. Assessment based on independent research of the authors, based on information from the WEG and assisted by FMSO and TRISA and the Fires Center of Excellence. There is a discussion to be had regarding special fires munitions. Does the U.S. Army have enough rocket-assisted projectile and Excalibur rounds to successfully suppress or destroy such an overwhelming number of artillery systems? If not, then leaders must reserve these rounds for high-payoff targets and use the cheaper more prolific standard rounds in the counterfire fight and to support tactical maneuver.
  10. Simon Shuster, “Ukraine Troops in Crimea Face Dilemma: To Defect, Flee or Fight,” Time (website), 9 March 2014, accessed 25 September 2018,
  11. FM 3-0, Operations, 2-23.
  12. William Booth, “Ukraine Soldiers Engage in Test of Wills with Russian Troops,” Washington Post (website), 4 March 2014, accessed 25 September 2018,
  13. Richard Lucas, “Axis Sally: The Americans Behind That Alluring Voice,” HistoryNet, 23 November 2009, accessed 25 September 2018,; Susan Anderson, “Mildred Gillars, 87, of Nazi Radio, Axis Sally to an Allied Audience,” New York Times (website), 2 July 1988, accessed 25 September 2018,
  14. Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication 12-18, Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 5 April 1989), 23.
  15. George F. Hofmann and Donn A. Starry, eds., Camp Colt to Desert Storm: The History of U.S. Armored Forces (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), 550.
  16. FM 100-5, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986 [obsolete]). The first version of AirLand Battle was published in 1982; however, the updated 1986 document was the culmination of multiple iterations of testing and revision.
  17. Hofmann and Starry, Camp Colt to Desert Storm, 551–52.
  18. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, foreword to The U.S. Army Operating Concept, Win in a Complex World 2020–2040 (Fort Eustis, VA: TRADOC, 7 October 2014).
  19. Mike Lundy and Rich Creed, “The Return of U.S. Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations,” Military Review 97, no. 6 (November–December 2017): 14.
  20. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at a Senate Campaign Fundraiser for Representative Ed Zschau in Los Angeles, California” (speech, Los Angeles Ballroom, Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, 7 September 1986), accessed 5 October 2018,
  21. Lucian K. Truscott, Command Missions: A Personal Story (1954; Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1990), 161–62, 286–380.
  22. The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 27.
  23. Paul Hurley and Stacey Lee, “Embracing an Expeditionary Deployment Mindset,” Army Sustainment, March/April 2018, 5–6, accessed 25 September 2018,

Lt. Col. Sam Fishburne, U.S. Army, is a military intelligence officer serving as chief of the Commander’s Initiatives Group, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center. He has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds a BA in history from the Virginia Military Institute and an MA in diplomacy and military studies from Hawai’i Pacific University.

Maj. Joe Dumas, U.S. Army, is an armored cavalryman serving in the Commander’s Initiatives Group, Headquarters, Combined Arms Center. He has served combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds a BA in history from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and an MA in business and organizational security management from Webster University.

Maj. Benjamin Stegmann, U.S. Army, is an information operations officer serving at the Combined Arms Center in the Commander’s Initiatives Group. His operational experience includes deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq. He is pursuing a master’s degree in information strategy and political warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California.

Capt. Jim Burds, U.S. Army, is a logistics officer serving at the Combined Arms Center in the Commander’s Initiatives Group. His operational experience includes deployments to Iraq and Haiti. He holds a BS in public health from New Mexico State University and is currently working on his MS in adult and continuing education at Kansas State University.

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January-February 2019