If you’ve ever worked on a Battalion level staff (or higher echelon) there’s a good chance you participated in the Military Decision Making Process. And if you haven’t served at the Battalion level or higher, you should educate yourself on the topic so you can be prepared. In the paragraphs below, I will give you an overview of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), so you understand the basics.
Things You Should Know About MDMP
Here are some basic things you should know about MDMP:
- Used by Battalion level staffs and higher; smaller sized units use the Troop Leading Procedures.
- It is a single, established and analytical process.
- It is a tool that assists the commander and staff in developing a plan.
- It is used in tactical and garrison environments.
- The MDMP helps the commander and his staff examine a battlefield situation and reach logical decisions.
- The process helps them apply thoroughness, clarity, sound judgment, logic, and professional knowledge to reach a decision.
- It is a continuous process throughout the duration of the operation (before, during and after).
- It is command driven, involves all staff sections and is normally led by the Plans Officer, Chief of Staff, XO or S3.
Commanders initiate the MDMP upon receipt of or in anticipation of a mission. Commanders and staffs often begin planning in the absence of a complete and approved higher headquarters’ operation plan (OPLAN) or operation order (OPORD). In these instances, the headquarters begins a new planning effort based on a WARNORD and other directives, such as a planning order or an alert order from their higher headquarters. This requires active collaboration with the higher headquarters and parallel planning among echelons as the plan or order is developed. ~ The Lightning Press
Advantages of MDMP
Here are a few advantages of the Military Decision Making Process.
- It analyzes and compares multiple friendly and enemy COAs in an attempt to identify the best possible friendly COA.
- It produces the greatest integration, coordination, and synchronization for an operation and minimizes the risk of overlooking a critical aspect of the operation.
- It results in a detailed operation order or operation plan.
Disadvantages of MDMP
Here are several disadvantages of the Military Decision Making Process.
- MDMP is a time-consuming process.
- It’s much EASIER for large, complex staffs to do MDMP than small Battalion level staffs because they have more MANPOWER and personnel.
The Military Decision Making Process: 7 Steps
The seven basic steps in the Military Decision Making Process are:
- Receipt of Mission
- Mission Analysis
- Course of action (COA) Development
- COA Analysis (aka Wargaming)
- COA Comparison
- COA Approval
- Orders Production
Let’s cover each of these seven steps of the Military Decision Making Process in more detail below.
# 1: Receipt of Mission
The mission comes from higher headquarters or is derived from an ongoing mission. On receipt of a new mission, the G3/S3 issues a WARNO to the staff. The staff immediately prepares for mission analysis (SOP preparation). Immediately the commander and staff do a quick initial assessment with emphasis on an initial allocation of available time. The commander issues his initial guidance, and the G3/S3 issues a WARNO to subordinate units. ~ Global Security
# 2: Mission Analysis
Mission Analysis is the means by which the main and alternate plans are created. It includes organizing the team to meet the mission objectives and making sure they have the means to succeed. It must also take into account the execution of critical tasks as well as the supervision of subordinates. An ability to adjust plans, assets and resources as necessary is fundamental to mission success. ~ Task Force Reaper
# 3: Course of Action Development
Course-of-action development is the foundation of the plan. Eliminating or inadequately conducting this step produces inferior estimates which impact on the remainder of the MDMP in the following ways. The commander, recognizing courses of action that do not adhere to his planning guidance or are not feasible, responds by having the staff do the work again, which wastes time. Or, in the absence of adequate planning time, the commander develops a course of action himself.
To develop a complete course of action, the staff must identify what, when, where, how, and why the unit will execute. A technique to quickly develop complete courses of action is for the XO to assemble the staff and follow the five-step method. The staff develops the courses of action together. While the S-3 develops the scheme of maneuver, the remainder of the staff integrates its assets within its functional area of responsibility. ~ RDL.Train.Army.mil
# 4: COA Analysis (Wargaming)
COA analysis enables commanders and staffs to identify difficulties or coordination problems as well as probable consequences of planned actions for each COA being considered.
COA analysis (war-gaming) is a disciplined process. It includes rules and steps that help commanders and staffs visualize the flow of the operation, given the force’s strengths and dispositions, enemy’s capabilities and possible COAs, impact and requirements of civilians in the AO, and other aspects of the situation. War-gaming focuses the staff’s attention on each phase of the operation in a logical sequence. It is an iterative process of action, reaction, and counteraction.
Each critical event within a proposed COA should be war-gamed using the action, reaction, and counteraction methods of friendly and enemy forces interaction. ~ Challenge 2050
# 5: COA Comparison
Course of action comparison is an objective process to evaluate COAs independently of each other and against set evaluation criteria approved by the commander and staff. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of COAs allows for the COA with the highest probability of success to be selected and further developed in an operation plan or operation order. ~ USACAC.army.mil
# 6: COA Approval
In this step the commander either approves the proposed COA or modifies a proposed COA or gives the staff a new COA. If given a new COA the staff must wargame that new COA.
# 7: Orders Production
In the final step of the Military Decision Making Process, the orders are published and sent to subordinate units so they can conduct their own MDMP or Troop Leading Procedures and prepare for the mission.
How Does it Work?
Depending upon the size of the unit, most units have a Plans Team in the G3 section. The Plans Team normally has a representative from each Staff Section (G1, G2, G3, G4, etc.) that work with the Plans Officer and S3. In smaller units, such as battalions, the XO and S3 work with the other staff sections to complete the process (S1, S2, S4, etc.).
Normally, when a unit receives an order from higher headquarters the S3 or XO bring the staff together to inform them of the order. At this point, everyone analyzes their respective section of the Operations Order to conduct mission analysis. They analyze what must get done; they brainstorm potential courses of action and create a WARNORD. They also get guidance from the commander and then analyze potential courses of action. Once they finalize a course of action, and get it approved by the Commander, they prepare an OPORD. That is the entire MDMP Process summarized in a nutshell.
I was fortunate to serve as a G4 Plans Officer for about 9-months. Although I hated the job, I learned a lot from it. I was in this position while preparing for a deployment to Kosovo. The job is difficult, stressful, tedious, demanding, and sometimes frustrating, especially if your only experience is leading small units and having limited staff experience.
However, I’ve come to realize that Plans Officers and Staff Officers play critical roles in developing a solid, thorough plan that must be executed by their subordinate units. For that reason, I think it is a critically important job that should be reserved for the best-of-the-best. It’s also a great job for “future commanders” to serve in before they become higher echelon commanders.
In conclusion, the Military Decision Making Process helps commanders and staffs evaluate problems in an analytical manner, which allows them to make logical decisions on the battlefield. It helps them think through the problems and develop a solid plan to get the job done. Although it can be long and cumbersome, it is an important job.
On a side note, if you have experience with the Military Decision Making Process, I would love to hear from you. Please tell us about your experience, such as what you learned, whether or not you enjoyed it, what job you had, and any advice you would share with our other readers.
If you have any questions about the MDMP that I may be able to answer, you can ask them here too. Thank you for visiting.
If you’d like to learn more about Army Operations, mission planning, and battle staff functions, I highly recommend this handbook on Amazon.