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Posted on Mar 24, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 014. Decision-Making and the Power of CCIR

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

"The ability to make prompt decisions and to execute them vigorously is best bred in men, through confidence in their troops and in their superiors, has persuaded themselves that they are unbeatable." General Matthew Ridgway

In this month’s article, we will focus on decision-making and in particular how we can make more timely and relevant decisions on the battlefield. As you might expect the key to achieving this is acquiring the necessary information you need. This is certainly easier said than done, as we all have experienced!

In order to assist you in making better decisions, we will break this article into three parts. First, we will discuss decision-making in general and then get into more detail in the concept of Commanders Critical Information Requirements. Second, we will provide you a technique to utilize during planning and execution which will assist you in making timely and relevant decisions. Finally, we will give you an opportunity to practice what you’ve learned with a tactical scenario.



Decision-making is truly an art. We can all come up with numerous instances in history where one commander’s decision reversed certain defeat into glorious victory. On the other hand, there are just as many instances where the lack of a decision or a decision made too late reversed certain victory into a dismal defeat. In each case they reinforce the fact that decisions must be timely and relevant. Decisions must be both if they are to allow you to gain and maintain the initiative. Before we talk about how to get there from here, we must define what a timely and relevant decision is.

A timely decision allows combat, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) units to overcome the problem of battlefield physics. Units are given sufficient time to posture in relation to the terrain, the enemy, and each other, to achieve the desired effect. Combat support is allowed to deliver the required allocation of assets to compliment maneuver. CSS can position itself to provide critical support at the right place and right time.

It seems simple and obvious, but timely decisions are less common than they ought to be. Many times, decisions are rendered too late for units to get into place or for fires to be initiated. The commander or staff figures out what to do, when it is too late to do it. This could be due to poor planning, weak battle tracking, or compartmentalized thinking. Timidity as a leader and lack of trust in subordinates also causes belated decisions. It is probably true that the 70% solution delivered in the nick of time is infinitely better than the 100% solution that is sent 1 minute too late.

To this end, the commander must know when to make a decision and should anticipate what his potential decisions are. Consider the alternatives; the commander who is constantly on the radio issuing orders regarding every aspect of the operation only adds to the confusion and friction of the battlefield. He kills subordinate initiative and makes numerous irrelevant decisions that could have been generated at a lower level more efficiently.

On the other hand; the commander who sits around wringing his hands in indecision leaves his unit floundering without purpose and direction, hesitantly lurching across the battlefield in a methodical and predictable manner. Neither commander really knows what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, or what events on the battlefield should precipitate a decision by him. He rides out the situation. He is an observer, irritant, or participant, rather than a commander.

A decision delivered in time is only useful if it is relevant. So, what is a relevant decision? It is a critical decision that will dramatically impact the battlefield. It is one that requires the commander to make it and fits into the realm of gaining and maintaining the initiative. It cannot or should not be relegated to a subordinate. It imposes the commander’s will on the enemy. Some typical, relevant, decisions that are generally made are; when to employ time sensitive assets such as CAS or FASCAM, when to execute a contingency plan (branch) or transition to the follow on mission (sequel), or when to commit the reserve to the fight. Any of these decisions, when left to a subordinate, could de-synchronize the entire mission, cause useless waste of resources, and cause premature commitment of key forces.


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