Last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved the first-ever strategy for Joint All-Domain Command and Control, known as JADC2--the effort to connect sensors and shooters across all platforms, across all services.
Details on the strategy are not yet public, though an unclassified summary is expected soon. One element sure to be addressed is the expectation of a contested environment. Any future adversary, especially a near-peer competitor, will likely use cyberattacks or even attacks in space against satellites in an attempt to interrupt connections in American weapons systems.
One way to counter this future threat is with a tried-and-true principle: mission command.
Mission command evolved from the Prussian-era concept of Auftragstaktik (“mission-type tactics”). This approach to military command gave subordinates flexibility to enact their commander’s goals for a mission. As General George S. Patton put it, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingeniuity.”
That ingenuity will be crucial to the next fight. Not only will Soldiers in the field face a communications-degraded environment, they will be facing an adversary that has spent decades studying how the U.S. Army conducts combat operations. Novel approaches will be needed to win.
However, enabling mission command can be difficult for a large, traditionally top-down organization such as the U.S. Army. Fortunately, the AUSA Book Program has several titles that can help shed light on the subject.
Adopting Mission Command: Developing Leaders for a Senior Command Culture by Donald E. Vandergriff is a detailed guide for training a new generation of Army leaders to embrace the concept of Auftragstaktik. Vandergriff provides practical methods for reforming training and education to foster adaptability and innovation among Soldiers.
General Sir Peter John Cosgrove, a retired senior Australian Army officer who served as Governor-General of Australia, noted that “mission command is essentially about professional trust between commanders and subordinates.” Dr. Russell W. Glenn, Director of Plans and Policy at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, builds on that theme with his book Trust and Leadership: The Australian Army Approach to Mission Command.
The U.S. and Australia have been allies and coalition partners from World War II to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia has a similar and more straightforward approach to mission command, and the essays Glenn has collected in the book provide multiple examples of how the concept has been put into action.
Still another look at how a U.S. partner has fought using the concept is Mission Command in the Israel Defense Forces. It provides an especially valuable perspective, as the Israeli military has relied on mission command since the country’s foundation.
In the book, Brig. Gen. (I.D.F. ret.) Gideon Avidor has collected first-hand accounts from fellow commanders detailing their use of mission command in both large-scale conventional wars and counterterrorist operations. Their lessons will be instructive to U.S. Army leaders as they face their own challenges in the years ahead.
To order copies of Adopting Mission Command, Trust and Leadership, or Mission Command in the Israel Defense Forces please visit www.ausa.org/books.