A New Doctrine Framework for the Land Component Forces

Major Christopher Henry, U.S. Army

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The Army is exploring ways to make doctrine more timely and relevant through its Doctrine 2015 Project. Army doctrine authorities are seeking to develop as many dual-service Army and Marine Corps doctrine publications as possible. Both services project military force on land and approach doctrine within the same general framework. Transferring as many Army and Marine Corps publications as possible into dual-service publications will help save resources, expedite the doctrine production process, and establish a body of doctrinal literature that both services can use to share the best tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Doctrine Development

Approximately 400 Army field manuals (FMs) and Army TTP manuals were on the Army’s official doctrine website in November 2010.1 The Marine Corps had over 270 Marine Corps Doctrinal Publications (MCDPs), Marine Corps Warfighting Publications (MCWPs), Marine Corps Reference Publications (MCRPs), and Marine Corps Interim Publications (MCIPs).2

Many of these books are hundreds of pages long. It commonly takes from 12 to 18 months, and in many cases much longer, to develop an Army manual under the current process. Often, by the time the Army or Marine Corps publishes a manual, it is already time to revise it.

Both services have undertaken efforts to remedy this problem. As of September 2011, the Marine Corps had 304 service publications, 148 of which were multi-service manuals, and 93 were dual-designated with the Army.3 Currently, the Marine Corps shares approximately 30 percent of its doctrine with the Army.

In 2009, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) ordered Army doctrine authorities to explore ways to make Army doctrine more timely and relevant to the force. In response to this order, the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate (CADD) devised a new framework for Army doctrine that—

  • Reduces the number of manuals to provide clarity to the force.
  • Reduces the number of pages in each new manual to no more than 200, with a few unavoidable exceptions.
  • Develops Army TTP (ATTP) manuals to expedite and enhance doctrine.

The Army is exploring new doctrine classification options as well. The old system designated all doctrinal manuals as field manuals, which detracted from the true meaning of what a field manual was supposed to be. The Army decided to implement a classification system similar to that of the Marine Corps. It adopted a two-level system made of up FMs and ATTP manuals. These contain doctrinal principles, along with common tactics, techniques, procedures, terms, and symbols that describe how Army organizations conduct operations and train for those operations. This two-tiered system was a step in the right direction, but Army leaders felt more needed to be done.

The Future

The Army will soon field two new levels of doctrine to better explain fundamental and enduring principles and provide detailed information on these principles. Army doctrine publications (ADPs) explain why the Army conducts operations, intelligence, sustainment, leadership, and training, just to name a few. Each of these manuals will only be 10 pages in length. Army doctrine reference publications (ADRPs) provide further details. Field manuals pertain to the operating force and those parts of the generating force that deploy with, or directly support, the operating force in the conduct of operations. By 31 December 2013, there will be only 50 field manuals, a reduction of approximately 88 percent from 2010. Field manuals contain tactics, procedures, and other important information as determined by the proponent. The FMs’ appendices contain procedures, that is, prescriptive ways of doing things that must be standardized across the Army. There is one FM for each major category of information down to branch and several functional areas, along with several types of operations.4

An ATTP manual is a doctrinal manual that applies primarily to a single branch, functional area, or company/troop/battery and staff sections.

The above definitions of Army publications fall within the same logical framework as the Marine Corps MCDP, MCWP, MCRP, and MCIPs:

MCDP. The Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication— This is the philosophy of the Marine Corps on the subject of warfighting. It is the underlying thought that guides the actions of marines. Every marine is expected to read and understand this doctrine. The MCDP principles are applied in the rest of Marine Corps doctrine. They are signed by the commandant of the Marine Corps and are assessed every eight years.

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By 31 December 2013, there will be only 50 field manuals, a reduction of approximately 88 percent from 2010.

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MCWP. The Marine Corps Warfighting Publication is operational tactics, techniques, and procedures. This level of doctrine is designed to be assessed every four years but can be assessed earlier if decided.

MCRP. The Marine Corps Reference Publications are more detailed TTPs that usually apply to Marine Corps small units and small unit leaders. They are to be assessed every four years but can be assessed earlier if decided.

MCIP. The Marine Corps Interim Publication is how the Marine Corps introduces new and/or emerging doctrine. As a rule, about 70 percent of the information in MCIPs is vetted and agreed-to TTPs. The remaining 30 percent of the information may need further assessment or refinement. The Marine Corps sees this as a way to get new doctrine out to the Marine Corps faster. This level of doctrine is assessed after two years from signature. The Marine Corps can decide at the two-year mark to make it a formal doctrine publication, roll all or part of that information into another doctrine publication, cancel the entire MCIP, or agree to extend the publication as an MCIP for a certain period of time.5

The two services have a shared repository of knowledge in tactics, techniques, and procedures. Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, defines tactics, techniques, and procedures as follows:

  • Tactics.The employment and ordered arrangement of forces in relation to each other.
  • Techniques. Non-prescriptive ways or methods used to perform missions, functions, or tasks.
  • Procedures. Standard, detailed steps that prescribe how to perform specific tasks.

While still currently part of the Army’s doctrine hierarchy, ATTP manuals will soon disappear. Army Technique Publications (ATPs) will replace them.6

Field manuals will cover tactics and procedures. ATPs will cover techniques. Since techniques are always changing, ATPs will be rapidly updated by their doctrinal proponents. For example, ATPs dealing exclusively with infantry or armor areas of concern will be handled by the commanding general, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. Soldiers will be able to make contributions through the web which will greatly enhance the proponents’ ability to update these publications in a timely manner.

The Army’s web-based system can expand to accommodate marines as well as soldiers who have a common access card. Marine Corps officers assigned to TRADOC centers of excellence can work with the Marine Corps proponents to help facilitate the rapid development of new doctrinal manuals or the modification of existing manuals.

Having FMs, ATTP manuals (soon to be ATPs), MCWPs, and MCRPs in common will help provide a common language for both services, simplify the lexicon of the ground forces, and facilitate dual service operations.

Many soldiers and marines are familiar with terms such as operations other than war, military operations other than war, stability and support operations, and stability operations, the most recent term found in the 2011 version of ADP 3-0. These terms generally mean the same thing, leaving the user of Army and Marine Corps manuals to wonder why they change so frequently.

Photo of an Army combat engineer

If a soldier or marine compares FM 101-5-1/ MCRP 5-2A, Operational Terms and Graphics, with FM 1-02/MCRP 5-12A, Operational Terms and Graphics, which replaced FM 101-5-1/MCRP 5-2A in September of 2004, he would notice an increase of 304 terms. This represents an average increase of approximately 50 terms per year. By 2009, the terms increased from 1,765 to 2,069 from their 2004 totals. To reduce this amount, the Army and Marine Corps doctrinal authorities have agreed to reduce the number of service-specific terms. To achieve this goal, the services agreed to only create a new term if a common English language dictionary does not provide an acceptable definition for it.7

Resourcing Infrastructure

Reducing the number of manuals will also help relieve the stress on the Army and Marine Corps doctrinal infrastructure. Both Army and Marine Corps doctrine production have suffered from a lack of personnel. This shortage has been primarily due to the concentration of manpower in the operational force since the advent of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Army suffers from the reduced number of uniformed doctrine authors, the problem became so severe in the Marine Corps that it divested itself completely of fulltime doctrine authors. (The Marine Corps now treats doctrine writing as an additional or collateral duty.)

Both the Army and Marine Corps attempted to fill this shortage with contract personnel, but this option is no longer viable. As contract funds become increasingly difficult to obtain with shrinking budgets, it has become untenable. The forecasted lack of personnel can be solved by “re-greening” doctrine-producing institutions. As the operational tempo slows down, officers will be able to return to jobs within TRADOC as doctrine authors.

When officers are able to return to jobs within TRADOC they will bring valuable experiences from the field. To add even more experience, TRADOC envisions creating pools of highly qualified soldiers from different units across the operational force to help write doctrinal products over a brief but intense writing period. This program could include marines nominated from their major operational units.

While figures vary, the typical cost of developing a doctrinal manual from the time of inception until a general officer authenticates the publication is around $150 thousand to $200 thousand.8 More manuals integrated means fewer separate manuals for the two services, and the fewer such manuals, the more the savings. If the two services integrate only 10 manuals, the Army and Marine Corps could theoretically save $1.5 million, which they could reinvest into the doctrine development process to make it even more efficient. They might well hire more editors to review and format manuals. Editing is often the bottleneck in the doctrinal process.

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The forecasted lack of personnel can be solved by “re-greening” doctrine-producing institutions.

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Interfacing during the development of the doctrinal program directive is important for success in doctrine development. The program directive establishes the official need for a doctrine publication as well as its outline, initial timeline, purpose, scope, target audience, major issues, distribution, and stakeholders.M9 If a solid plan is not put in place on the front end of the process, both services will end up implementing a series of stop-gap measures that will slow the development of the doctrinal manuals and could even lead to the project being canceled.

There have been discussions between the Army and Marine Corps to synchronize doctrine production by adhering to the doctrine publication processes, timelines, and format of the service that does most of the work on a given project. While this approach is feasible, I believe it is not the optimal solution. The most ideal proposal is to revise TRADOC Regulation 25-36, The TRADOC Doctrinal Literature Program, and dual-designate it with the Marine Corps. This would lead to one doctrine development process for the land component forces instead of the two-service processes currently in place.

While the goal is to integrate as many manuals as possible, the new process must be flexible enough to allow some service-specific publications. Each service must retain an infrastructure that allows it to produce its own manuals. For example, the Army has no desire or interest in developing doctrinal manuals for amphibious operations when this is the purview of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Photo of Marines during a training exercise

The two services must also determine how many manuals will become dual-service. Many Army and Marine Corps manuals are already dual-service or joint and many more should be. A commission made up of each service’s senior leaders should determine which manuals will become dual service and when.

Dual service doctrine development will build on the existing Army doctrinal infrastructure, which is more robust than that of the Marine Corps. The work to produce most of the doctrine for the land component forces will take place in the centers of excellence and the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Each center of excellence has Marine Corps officers attending captains career courses. Upon graduation, one or two of these officers could transfer to doctrine development centers and serve 18 months developing doctrine. For example, the Maneuver Support Center in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, produces doctrine for the Engineers, Military Police, and the Chemical Corps. A Marine Corps doctrine writer could interface with Army doctrine authors there to help develop manuals.

The benefit of this plan will manifest itself in four ways:

  • Doctrine-producing institutions across the Army and Marine Corps will develop a dual service capability and memory.
  • Captains with recent deployment experience will provide valuable insights for doctrine.
  • The officer corps will develop links across both services as career course (or intermediatelevel education) graduates leverage contacts made while in school.
  • Officers will provide meaningful change while achieving stabilization for their families.

Two Marine Corps majors who are graduates of the Army’s intermediate level education program should be stationed at CADD, home of the Army Proponency Division, a control center for the Army doctrinal infrastructure that tracks the development of manuals and interfaces with other services.

Many institutions already have Marine Corps personnel assigned as trainers. Eighteen Marine Corps officers can fully staff the centers, or work at key institutions around the Army where they can be of most value. The branch institutions where the two services have the most in common are the U.S. Army—

  • Intelligence Center of Excellence.
  • Fires Center of Excellence.
  • Maneuver Center of Excellence.
  • Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.
  • Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate.

One officer could work at each center of excellence with two officers stationed at CADD. This would only require four captains, two majors, and a liaison officer (from either service) to inform senior leaders of ongoing doctrinal projects. CADD envisions assigning a doctrinal liaison officer to do this and forwarding his or her work on to the committee responsible for selecting dual-service manuals.

Since the Marine Corps has no full-time doctrine authors, and CADD is currently staffed at approximately 50 percent of authorized military manning, doctrine authorities across the military must look for new opportunities to maximize limited resources. One way to close this gap is to redistribute some military or civilian billets that came with the closing of Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). This institution had 1,491 military personnel and 1,533 civilian positions when it closed.10 Reallocating approximately 50 Marine Corps and Army slots to doctrine-producing agencies would double the two services’ abilities to produce doctrine. Over the last few years, both the Army and Marine Corps have made significant strides in making doctrine more timely and relevant. The hope is that suggestions enumerated here will aid in this effort.

MAJ Henry expresses his thanks to the following individuals for their contributions to this article: Clinton J. Ancker, III, Director, CADD; James Benn, Deputy Director, CADD; David Turek, Joint Multi-National Division Chief, CADD; Carlos Soto, Army Terminologist, CADD; LTC Jeffrey LaFace, Operational Level Doctrine Division Chief, CADD; LTC Brian Ray, Former Army Proponency Division Chief, CADD; Justin Orabona, Former Fires and Maneuver Integration Division associate, MCCDC; Tim Jackson, G3 Plans, TECOM; Stephen Gardner, Academics Program Manager, MCMWTC; D. Mitchell Aschinger, Master Sergeant, USMC, Retired; and David Vickers, service and multi-service doctrine coordinator


  1. Army Publishing Directorate, http://www.army.mil/usapa/doctrine/Active_ FM.html (10 August 2010).
  2. Marine Corps Doctrine Control Branch, https://www.doctrine.usmc.mil/ (18 August 2010).
  3. Comments from Dave Vickers, service and multi-service doctrine coordinator, USMC Doctrine Control Branch, received 29 September 2011.
  4. Doctrine 2015 Presentation.
  5. Vickers.
  6. JP 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 8 November 2010 (as amended through 15 August 2011).
  7. Comments provided by Army terminologist in July 2010 and October 2011.
  8. Information obtained by interviewing various doctrinal authorities within CADD.
  9. TRADOC Regulation 25-36, The TRADOC Doctrine Literature Program, 1 October 2004. Marine Corps Doctrine Publication Development Flowchart-4 December 2008, https://www.doctrine.usmc.mil/.
  10. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) Economic Impact, http://www.jfcom.mil/ about/economic.htm (18 August 2010).

Major Christopher Henry is a Functional Area 59 strategist and worked as a doctrine author for the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate for two years at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He holds a B.S. from Missouri State University and is pursuing a graduate degree in Security Studies from Kansas State University. He is currently attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.


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