Reconnaissance & Surveillance Planning Redefined


0. Why the fuss? You can count on soldiers agreeing on two things:

1) Reconnaissance & Surveillance Planning and Execution is essential to mission success;

2) The US Army doesn't do it well.

Why we don't do it well -and- what needs to be done to fix it are topics best discussed over a beer with no loaded weapons at hand... because there is little agreement. So unload that six-gun and grab a Guinness Double Stout. Here is a methodology to fix the problem!


1. Introduction.

At one time the Decision Support Template (DST) was considered an S2 Template, and even called the "Intel Estimate In Graphic Form" in the 1989 IPB Manual. This was primarily because it was developed by the Intelligence community, and first explained it in Intelligence publications. In reality, the DST was a graphic portrayal of the OPORD. In 1992 it became a STAFF product, and embedded within the Military Decision Making Process. Reconnaissance & Surveillance (R&S) planning is going through a similar evolution.

a. In 1989 we wrote FM 34-2-1, Reconnaissance and Surveillance and Intelligence Support to Counterreconnaissance, which has become the authority for R&S Planning.

b. A lot of Collection Management procedures and language crept into the process. Some good, some not.

c. R&S planning was -and continues to be- seen as an S2 job, not a Staff Job.

d. Few units do R&S Planning and execution well. Everybody agrees that the entire process needs fixed, but few can seem to agree on HOW.

e. Further confusion has been caused by:

1) "R&S" was previously defined as "Recon and Security", and this still exists. "Security" in this context includes Screen, Guard and Cover missions (Classic Cavalry stuff), not clearances and arms rooms! Here, R&S will always refer to "Reconnaissance And Surveillance".

2) Both "Reconnaissance" and "Surveillance" are very poorly defined in FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms & Graphics. While most agree that the Collector moves in Reconnaissance and is stationary in Surveillance, you cannot easily derive this from the existing legalistic definitions.

R&S Planning controversies seem to center around those circumstances where the tasked unit must execute a combat mission in order to conduct the tasked collection. For instance, reconnaissance patrolling, establishing an Observation Post (OP), or route reconnaissance. The collection planning process and plan works well for dedicated collection assets, but lacks the specificity and synchronization required for combat mission planning. Further, the S2 shop was not designed to plan and control combat operations - no single staff section is! The Staff as a whole needs to be involved in the battle command process, with each staff element making its usual contribution to planning and execution.

Although we've been calling this "R&S Planning" for over a decade, the result is NOT a "Plan"... after the fashion of "Collection Plan". R&S is an Operation, sometimes called "The Battle Before The Battle". It must be planned as an operation, written as an operation using operational terms and graphics, and executed as an operation.

a. It cannot be treated as a separate entity in the planning process. It must fit within the current staff planning model.

b. The R&S Operation should be planned by the same Staff that planned the basic operation. Not a separate staff element.

c. It should be expressed using operational - not Collection Management - terminology. For instance, Zone Reconnaissance.

d. R&S Operations should be delineated in an OPORD. Whether it is an early phase of the basic OPORD, a separate FRAGO sent early, or attached as an Annex to the OPORD depends on timing and command preference.


2. Fundamental transitions.

The difference between R&S planning and normal mission planning is in WHO is prescribing the mission. In the MDMP, Specified Tasks are directed by higher via the Operations Order (OPORD), and the organization develops Implied Tasks in order to accomplish them. A subset of the Specified & Implied Tasks that the staff deems critical to mission accomplishment are designated Essential Tasks.

However, the tasks that drive R&S Planning come from a much different source. During the conduct of the wargame, the staff created a series of Decision Points (DPs) and High Payoff Targets (HPTs) . The S2 creates Priority Intelligence Requirements to drive the creation of Intelligence needed to find High Payoff Targets, and to trigger some of the Decision Points: specifically, those whose triggers are based on an enemy status (see Focusing Intelligence Part 1 for the mechanics).

Therefore the S2's collection plan to solve these PIRs is the source of Tasks for the R&S Plan. Intelligence Requirements (IRs) become the Specified Tasks. Those IRs that attain PIR status (as directed by Commander in order to support a DP or HPT) become the Essential Tasks. Given this, the staff then executes the decision making process to develop the R&S Plan as an inherent part of the operation.

Figure 1

This is done during the wargame itself by using the wargame-derived PIR as the basis for specified tasks to organic maneuver collectors as shown in Figure 1. Like other wargame-derived tasks, they are assessed for viability, synchronized with the operation, and resourced. The results are recorded by the respective staffs involved in the Wargame. The S2 focuses on ensuring that the unit tasked with collection is watching the right NAIs at the right time in order to collect the combat information needed to answer a PIR or SIR. The S3 focuses on crafting the correct Task To Subordinate Unit to ensure mission accomplishment. The FSO focuses on any fire support requirements. Note that this is all done as part of the Wargame!


3. The detailed mechanics.

a. MDMP Mission Analysis extracts Specified Tasks from the higher headquarters' OPORD. The staff derives Implied and Essential Tasks. In planning R&S operations, Specified Tasks are derived from the collection plan.

1) The staff's wargame determines need for DPs and HPTs. A DP which is triggered by an enemy status requires the formulation of a PIR. PIR represent the intelligence needed by the decision maker to execute that DP.

a) DPs based on friendly status require the formulation of a Friendly Force Information Requirement (FFIR).

Note - The format for the FFIR should match that of a PIR. It should ask a single question, focused on a specific period of time, linked to a specific DP, and crafted so that the answer to the question gives the commander the information he needs to execute the DP. Since this information is critical to the conduct of the battle, the S3 section should create a Collection Plan to ensure that they will be able answer the questions in time. Because the information is coming from (hopefully!) cooperating friendly forces, the plan itself will be simpler than the S2's Collection Plan. However, FFIR that ask vague questions about potential catastrophes that will interest the Commander are not really FFIR a all, but statements of Exceptional Information. For instance "The loss of a friendly platoon", "Brigade strength falling below 50%" and such might be useful, but are not FFIR unless linked to a DP.

b) The PIR's "Priority" designation indicates it is linked to a DP or HPT. Lacking this association, it is just an IR. (see Focusing Intelligence Part 1 for a more complete explanation).

2) The S2 does collection management. PIR may be broken down into simpler questions when they can't be answered by a single collector looking at a single location. These are called Specific Information Requirements (SIR). Some PIR are simple enough to be SIR, some are not.

3) The S2 uses the Event Template modified by the wargame to determines where and when a collector must look to answer the SIRs. The location is called a Named Area of Interest (NAI) and the time is expressed as an interval. Assigning an SIR to an NAI, time interval, and Collector creates a Specific Order or Request (SOR). It's a Request when it goes to a collector outside the tasking authority of the unit. Examples are higher headquarters, adjacent units, and higher echelon databases. It's an Order when assigned to an organic element. The S2 must have the the skill and automation tools to create and record SORs quickly so as not to slow the wargame! (See Focusing Intelligence Part 2 for the techniques and the software!)

4) SOR assigned to an organic maneuver unit become specified tasks to that unit in the OPORD. Therefore the S3 must approve the assignment and the staff must record the assignment, evaluate the consequences, and synchronize activity associated with the collection. The implications become a part of the wargame (Fig 2)! If that unit's sole purpose is R&S (either by doctrine or just this situation) then they will be Essential Tasks for that unit. The S2

Figure 2


5) Using this technique in most Battalion or Brigade-level wargames it won't require the formal Collection Management process to determine which PIRs will require organic assets, and automation tools can greatly assist in the non-trivial cases. The S2 indicates the nature of what must be collected, and the Staff decides which unit could best do it. The wargame continues, and these identified R&S tasks are folded into the list of ALL the identified tasks that will eventually be considered for the OPORD. Upon completion of the wargame there is NO requirement for an additional R&S planning session!

b. Another aspect of the above method is the expanded role of the FFIR. At present, FFIR are not defined to the detail of PIR, yet they must serve a similar purpose: focus collection of Friendly Unit information in order to execute a Decision Point. For instance, fire FASCAM when the lead Task Force crosses PL Grant. It might be useful to include FFIRs in this process, and treat them like PIRs in sub-dividing them into SIR, assigning them to specific collector, and formally including them in the Staff R&S planning portion of wargaming.


4. Incorporation into the parallel planning process.

Parallel Planning is a systematic way for multiple echelons to share specific planning products at specified times in the MDMP in order to shorten the overall planning time. Each unit does it a bit differently, recording its preferences in its Tactical SOP. Figure 3 illustrates a widely used technique for parallel planning, illustrated across three echelons.

Figure 3

A unit receives WARNORD 1 from its higher headquarters and immediately used their Common Understanding of the Battlefield to identify CCIR that will focus the initial IPB process. They will also start to formulate Specified, Implied, and Essential Tasks. These Tasks plus the CCIR will allow them to assess the need and general nature of immediate R&S Tasks. They will also guide them in formulating their own WARNORD 1 to subordinate units. At any time during this or the following steps, the commander and staff may realize the need to task an organic unit to begin an R&S mission and formulate the FRAGO to implement. When this happens, the S3 must remember to include this in the wargame, and the S2 must remember to factor it into the future need for collection.

Upon receipt of WARNORD 2 the staff fully moves into the planning process. The goal of the S2 is to complete the Intelligence Estimate and all associated products prior to the rest of the staff completing Mission Analysis. WARNORD 2 consists of these products, plus the Restated Mission and enumerated Specified, Implied, and Essential Tasks, plus the Commander's Guidance.

Once the Friendly Courses of Action are formulated, the staff begins the wargame. Each creation of a Decision Point or High Payoff Target prompts the S2 (or her assistant!) to create an appropriate PIR, identify or create appropriate NAIs, identify the time interval, and perhaps break the PIR into two or more SIR. Those that require organic collection are immediately injected into the wargame for approval, resourcing and synchronization. This is not an impossible task! With practice and simple automation, the S2 can usually finish this before the S3 has finished describing the actions that result from the Decision Point.

Upon completion of the wargame and approval of the resulting plan, the S3 section sends out WARNORD 3, containing the rough details of the wargame process, to include R&S Mission tasks. The S2 includes a brief overlay showing how the enemy performed given the selected Friendly Course of Action, and includes the entire collection plan explaining the details of what needs to be collected, locations of NAIs, links between PIRs, SIRs, DPs, HPTs, and so on. Sound impossible? If the S2 had an assistant recording the wargame into a laptop, it really consists of nothing more than clicking the "Print" button on your database software.

Figure 4 maps out the entire process across three echelons.

Figure 4


5. Conclusion.

The major changes wrought by this technique are...

1. Like the DST, R&S Planning must be a Staff Activity, not an S2 Activity.

2. R&S Planning must be done within the existing steps of the MDMP and resolved during the wargame.




Neil A. Garra

Questions or Comments?
Copyright 2003  The S2 Company, all rights reserved

Legal Stuff  | Privacy Policy