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Published Airpower Journal - Fall 1991

Joint Doctrine

Progress, Prospects, and Problems

Lt Col William F. Furr, USAF

With limited forces, nearly everything that happens nowadays is a joint operation. No one service plays a paramount role.

--Lord Mountbatten

DOCTRINE has been described as the "software of defense."1 This software, as well as its related "hardware" (force structure), has historically been developed along individual service lines. However, as operations Urgent Fury, Just Cause, and Desert Storm have vividly demonstrated, the realities of armed conflict in today's world make the integration of individual service capabilities a matter of success or failure, life or death. The software that binds the services together as an integrated fighting force is joint doctrine. Joint doctrine helps us capitalize on the synergistic effects of interservice coordination and cooperation.

Joint doctrine is not a new phenomenon.2 However, a congressional mandate has given it new emphasis and importance. Prior to 1986, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), while recognizing the need for joint doctrine,3 were not committed to the development of a comprehensive body of doctrine to guide the conduct of joint operation. The responsibilities for developing joint doctrine were unclear; there was no standard joint doctrine development system; the combatant commands4 were not required to participate in the development process; and there was no requirement for consistency in joint, combined, and service doctrine.5 In fact, the JCS had

published no how-to-fight doctrine at all .... Instead, the JCS, in UNAAF [JCS Pub 2, Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF)] and in their interpretation of the statute [Title 10, United States Code], hold the Services responsible for the development of essentially all operational doctrine, with provisions for coordination between the Services and for referring disputes to the JCS for resolutions6

In 1985 a Senate Armed Services Committee staff report on the organization and decision-making procedures of the Department of Defense (DOD) identified "poorly developed joint doctrine" as one of the nine major "symptoms of inadequate unified military advice."7 This report went on to say that "the joint operational effectiveness of military forces is dependent upon the development of joint doctrine and sufficient joint training to be able to effectively employ it."8

Armed with the findings in this staff report, numerous other studies,9 and intensive public hearings, Congress mandated far-reaching changes in DOD organization and responsibilities in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. This landmark legislation significantly expanded the authority and responsibility of the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Included in this expanded authority and responsibility was the requirement for the chairman to develop "doctrine for the joint employment of the armed forces."10

One of the first actions resulting from this mandate was a change to JCS Pub 2. This change incorporated the new authorities and responsibilities and set out procedures for the development of joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques, and procedures (JTTP). These procedures included the requirement for all joint doctrine and JTTP to be approved by the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and for service doctrine to be consistent with joint doctrine.12 DOD Directive 5100.1, Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components, was also changed to require the chairman to "develop and establish doctrine for all aspects of the joint employment of the Armed Forces" and "promulgate Joint Chiefs of Staff publications (JCS Pubs) to provide military guidance for joint activities of the Armed Forces."13

To carry out these responsibilities, the chairman created a new Joint Staff directorate (J-7, Operational Plans and Interoperability) as the "focal point for interoperability with responsibility for joint doctrine, exercises, and operational plans."14 This new directorate included a Joint Doctrine, Education, and Training Division that was specifically responsible for managing the joint doctrine program.15

Joint Pub 1-01, Joint Doctrine and Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Development Program,

sets forth the principles, guidelines, and conceptual framework for initiating, validating, developing, coordinating, evaluating, approving, and maintaining joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques, and procedures (JTTP) approved by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.16

It also describes the Joint Doctrine Publication System shown in figure 1. This publication system includes a Joint Pub 0 series of "Capstone Joint Warfare Doctrine," which retains the Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF), now Joint Pub 0-2, "to provide the basic organization and command and control relationships required for effective joint operations of the forces of two or more Services."17 Following traditional Joint Staff lines of responsibility as much as possible (e.g., the 2 series for intelligence, the 3 series for operations), it also includes a keystone manual as the first publication in each series.18

Factors That Inhibit
the Joint Doctrine Development Process

Joint doctrine is now produced in accordance with a formal doctrine development process (fig. 2) that begins with the submission of a project proposal by one of the services, combatant commands, or Joint Staff directorates. After the proposals is approved, a program directive is developed and staffed for the formal approval of the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.19 The designated lead agent then assigns a primary review authority to research, write, and coordinate an initial and final draft. Comments on the final draft are incorporated as appropriate, unresolved issues are identified, and a revised final draft is submitted to the lead agent who attempts to resolve any remaining issues. After one last coordination with the services and Joint Staff, the Joint Staff/ J-7 publishes the revised final draft as a test publication. Unresolved differences of opinion, if any, are included as an appendix to the test publication.20

The test publication is then subjected to a 12-to-18-month evaluation.21 This evaluation, defined in a formally coordinated evaluation directive, normally includes testing of the concepts and procedures during joint exercises and may include interviews and questionnaires. The evaluation report, which includes recommended refinements to the publication if appropriate, is coordinated with the services, combatant commands, and Joint Staff. Based on this report, the test publication is revised, coordinated, and ultimately approved as formal joint doctrine by the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The process is designed to take 35 to 43 months to complete.

On the surface, the process just described appears to be a logically constructed, methodical approach. However, a number of factors inhibit the development process. The first of these is a fundamental issue of what doctrine is. The term doctrine was first defined by the JCS in the 1968 edition of JCS Pub 1,22 and that definition has not changed as of the latest edition. The term joint doctrine, on the other hand, was not defined until a 1984 change to JCS Pub 1, and that definition has changed twice, albeit not in substance, since its introduction. In spite of these definitions, some or all of the participants at nearly every meeting concerning joint doctrine find it necessary to discuss and debate what doctrine means in terms of its purpose and degree of specificity before they can proceed with the task at hand. Complicating these debates are various opinions concerning the difference between joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques, and procedures.

To some people, doctrine consists of broad principles that reflect "the way in which the organization and its members think and respond to events."23 To others, doctrine tells them specifically how to fight.24 As a result of these different expectations, doctrine is viewed as either too specific and limits options or too general and says nothing useful. Because of this lack of mutual understanding, the process has produced such vastly different documents, in terms of level of detail and overall thrust, as the Air Force-developed, 38-page final draft of Joint Pub 3-03, Doctrine for Joint Interdiction Operations, and the Navy-developed, 456-page initial draft of Joint Pub 3-02, Joint Doctrine for Amphibious Operations. While the joint Staff/J-7 has attempted to come to grips with this issue, different perspectives persist. This is because the individuals who participate in the process are products of their service, and the services are a diverse lot, "none clearly predominant, each reflecting to its own degree the fact that the United States is at the same time a maritime power, an aerospace power and a continental power."25

The existence of differing service perspectives leads to the second inhibiting factor of who writes joint doctrine. Since one of the major thrusts of the 1986 DOD Reorganization Act was a redressing of the imbalance between service and joint interests, it was clearly the intent of Congress, although not specifically stated as such, for joint doctrine to be written by individuals working in the joint arena. However, of the first 24 new joint doctrinal projects approved by the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 13 were assigned to one of the services for development. Of the 52 publications in the Joint Pub 3 series (operations), 32 were assigned to one of the services.26

With such heavy reliance on the services to produce joint doctrine, there is a need for some method to ensure that the writing process reflects a joint perspective. After all, service perspectives are shaped by service doctrine, which "stems from the particular logic and experience of the thinkers and policy setters of that Service and from their interpretation of the theory and experience of war."27 However, there is no requirement for joint education or experience as a prerequisite for writing joint doctrine. In addition, neither the services nor the combatant commands were provided any additional resources to produce the assigned doctrine. As a result, the assignment of joint doctrine writing responsibilities, which often become an additional duty, is based on personnel availability instead of experience and ability. The poor quality of many of the initial drafts produced so far reflects this situation.

The third inhibiting factor, closely related to the issue of who writes it, is the coordination process. The 1985 Senate Staff Report on DOD Organization cited "Service logrolling" and the "cumbersome staffing process" as resulting in products "that have been 'watered down' to the lowest common level of assent."28 While the current doctrinal development process provides for "Service differences of opinion" and makes the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the final approval authority,29 the emphasis is on the resolution of issues before they reach that level. In addition, not all of the players have an equal voice in each step of the process.

Figure 1. The Joint Publication System

The emphasis on issue resolution occurs at two levels. First, draft publications have to be coordinated and approved for release by the writer's bureaucracy, which may not include anyone with joint experience or perspective. If this bureaucracy is one of the services, coordination and approval are filtered through that service's doctrinal perspectives tempered by a reluctance at each level to admit an inability (failure) to solve unresolved issues. This same reluctance occurs even when a service is not responsible and is reinforced by the process itself, which requires the lead agent to "make every attempt to resolve any remaining outstanding issues."30While the lead agent and the Joint Staff are attempting to resolve issues, not all of the players are given an equal voice. After the revised final draft is released by the lead agent to the Joint Staff/J-7, the subsequent coordination does not include formal combatant command participation. As was the case with Joint Test Pub 3-0, Doctrine for Unified and Joint Operations, this procedure can result in significant changes being made without anyone outside of the Pentagon seeing them until the test publication is received.

The fourth inhibiting factor is the timing of the development process. As would be expected, the first 11 top priority development projects included the five "keystone" publications. Each of the series (except the 0 and 1 series) begins with a keystone publication that constitutes the doctrinal foundation of the series.31 Therefore, the development of supporting publications in a series would ideally wait until the keystone publication is approved, at least as a test publication. However, this has not been the case. Also included in these 11 projects were three Joint Pub 3 series (operations) projects (low-intensity conflict, special operations, and interdiction), which were developed simultaneously with the development of the keystone publication. While the Joint Staff/J-7 has attempted to manage this situation, simultaneous development has presented frustrating challenges to both the writers and the reviewers of these publications.

The timing of the draft publications has also created a significant work load for the reviewers. The Joint Staff/J-7 has attempted to spread out this work load by staggering the completion dates of the initial and final drafts. However, this approach has had limited success. A March 1989 General Accounting Office report found some combatant commands were not able to meet joint doctrine development and coordinating requirements with their existing staffs.32 The far-reaching effects of joint doctrine demand a rigorous, in-depth examination of the concepts and procedures being proposed. Such an examination takes time, and, if the services and combatant commands do not have the time to devote to this critical examination, the result will likely be inappropriate or inadequate joint doctrine.

The final inhibiting factor is the limited distribution of the test publications. Joint test publications are not distributed through the formal joint and service publication distribution systems. Instead, Joint Pub 1-01 states, "Normally, 10 copies will be sent to each combatant command and Service and 15 copies to the evaluation agency."33 Further distribution is determined by the service and combatant command. As a result, the distribution of test publications is at best a haphazard process that does not ensure the widest possible exposure for these documents. For example, copies of all the test publications were not available at Air University Library until October 1990, and an admittedly unscientific sampling of Air University students revealed most had never seen a joint test publication.34 Such limited distribution does not promote the vital discussion and debate necessary to ensure joint doctrine is valid and reflects the best possible wisdom and inspiration needed to prepare for the challenges of the future.

Figure 2. Steps in Developing a New Joint Doctrine

In spite of the inhibiting factors discussed above, the joint doctrine process has taken on a life of its own and continues to spew forth ever-increasing volumes of material on subjects ranging from nuclear operations to religious support. It is unlikely that the process can or will be significantly changed in the near future. However, there are a number of things that can be done to improve the quality of the doctrine being produced.

Probably the most significant positive contribution that can be made is to ensure that Air Force inputs are based on a solid foundation of well thought-out air power doctrine. Yes, the UNAAF does require service doctrine to be consistent with joint doctrine, but this occurs only after the applicable joint doctrine is formally approved by the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. While joint doctrine is being written and while the test publications are being evaluated, the Air Force needs to actively examine and update, if necessary, related air power doctrine. The Air Force should not wait for joint doctrine to point the way. The new Air Force basic, operational, and functional doctrines specified by AFR 1-2, Assignment of Responsibilities for Development of Aerospace Doctrine, are a step in the right direction, but only if the thinking about and development of these doctrines do not wait for the related joint doctrine to be published. The new documented approach to Air Force basic doctrine being developed by the Air University Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education is also a step in the right direction.

Another positive contribution could be made by using the experience and expertise of Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students to evaluate joint doctrine drafts or, if time does not permit, to at least evaluate the test publications. This is not a totally original idea. Air University students have a long history of participating in the development and critiquing of concepts and doctrine.35 The benefits of such an approach are manifold. The development process benefits from the rigorous practical and intellectual critique that can be produced by professional military education (PME) students. The students themselves benefit through the insights and internalizing that occur as a result of producing such a critique. Finally, the PME institutions benefit as a result of enhanced student perceptions regarding the relevance of the curriculum and their contribution to real-world problems.

A final positive contribution could be realized if the writing of joint doctrine were done with more broad-based participation. The organizations responsible for the actual writing should actively seek inputs from and participation by each of the services and combatant commands early in the conceptualization and writing process. This approach has been used by the Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict, which has hosted "outlining conferences" and has actively solicited inputs in developing JTTPs for foreign internal defense and for peacekeeping. If each potential participant devotes the required time and effort, the result can only be a more coherent, comprehensive and useful product.

Joint doctrine is here to stay, and "the filling of the joint doctrinal void will be an iterative process with lots of feedback among strategy, roles, missions, and joint doctrine."36 As more and more joint doctrine is developed, it will touch every aspect of military operations and will have a significant impact on any future restructuring of the armed forces, including the Air Force. With the increasing emphasis on joint operations and the establishment of the joint specialty officer, joint doctrine has become, and will continue to be, an important part of both joint and service PME and will shape the way we think about war.


1. Brigitte Sauerwein, "Military Doctrine: The Software of Defense," International Defense Review 23 (May 1990): 501. This article summarizes the discussions at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Seminar on Military Doctrines, hold in Vienna from 16 January to 5 February 1990.

2. Lt Col William C, Smith, "The United States Needs Joint War-Fighting Doctrine" (Army War College study project, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: 5 April 1988), 4.

3. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Publication 2 (now Joint Pub 0-2), Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF) (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,October 1974), 12.

4. A combat command is defined in JointPub 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1December 1989), 73, as "one of the unified orspecific commands established by the President."

5. Briefing, JointDoctrine and Allied Interoperability Division, OperationalPlans and Interoperability Directorate (J-7/JDAID), Washington, D.C., subject: Joint Doctrine Development, 1990. (Hereinafter referred to as 1-7/JDAID briefing.)See alsoF. C. Moen and D. T. York, Compendium of Joint Publication Abstracts (NorfolkNaval Air Station, Va.: Joint Doctrine Center, December 1990).

6. John H. Cushman, Command and Control of Theater Forces: Adequacy (Washington, D.C.: AFCEA International Press, 1985, 83.

7. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Defense Organization: The Need for Change, 99th Cong., 1st sess., Committee Print (S. Prt. 99-86), 16 October 1985, 163-65. (Hereinafter Senate, Staff Report.)

8. Ibid., 165.

9. For example, the 1960 Symington Report, the 1970 Blue Ribbon Defense Panel, the 1978 Steadman Report, the 1982 Chairman's Special Study Group, and the 1986 Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management Report. Defense reform has been the subject of much debate and study since1945. For a good overview of the defense reform movement, see Asa Clark, ed., The Defense Reform Debate (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984).

10. Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, Public Law 99-433, 1 October 1986, sec. 201, para. 153 (a) (5).

11. The definition of joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques, and procedures has changed over the past four years. The latest edition of Joint Pub 1-01 defines joint doctrine as follows:

Fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces of two or more Services in coordinated action toward a common objective. It will be promulgated by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It defines joint tactics, techniques, and procedures as

the actions and methods which implement joint doctrine and describe how forces will be employed in joint operations. They will be promulgated by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

12. JCS Pub 2, 1 December 1986, 3-68. Change 2 (1) June 1990) to Joint Pub 1-01, Joint Doctrine and Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Development Program, retitled all JCS Pubs as Joint Pubs.

13. DOD Directives 5100.1, Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components, 3 April 1987, 5 and 7.

14. Don M. Snider, "DOD Reorganization: Part I, New Imperatives," Parameters 17, no. 3 (September 1987): 92.

15. The Joint Doctrine, Education, and Training Division has been renamed the Joint Doctrine and Allied Interoperability Division.

16. Joint Pub 1-01, 1-1.

17. Ibid., V-1.

18. Ibid., IV-1.

19. Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Memorandum of Policy No.9, Policy on Action Processing, 27 February 1990, 1, "provides for two types of implementing documents: those signed by or on behalf of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and staff documents used for staff-to-staff communications."

20. The only two examples of published service differences of opinion to date are Air Force concerns expressed in appendix B to Joint Test Pub 3-03.1, Doctrine for Joint Interdiction of Follow-on Forces, 16 June 1988, and appendix E to Joint Test Pub3-0, Doctrine for Unified and Joint Operations, 1 January 1990.

21. The evaluation of joint doctrine and JTTP is conducted by the Joint Doctrine Center, Norfolk Naval Air Station, Virginia.

22. JCS Pub 1, Department of Defense Dictionary of United States Military Terms and Associated Terms (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1 August 1968), 73, defined doctrine as "fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application."

23. Cushman, 85.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid., 86. See also chapter 3 of Col Thomas A. Cardwell III, Command Structure for Theater Warfare: The Quest for Unity of Command (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1984), for an in-depth discussion of the differences in service doctrine concerning the employment of theater-assigned assets.

26. Joint Pub 1-01, VI-1 to VI-21.

27. Cushman, 90. For an interesting discussion of how differing service perspectives interact in the joint arena, see Thomas A. Cardwell III, "How Interservice Issues Arise," Air University Review 37, no. 4 (May-June 1986): 76-81.

28. Senate, Staff Report, 177.

29. Joint Pub 1-01, II-1 and III-4.

30. Ibid., III-3.

31. Ibid., IV-1.

32. General Accounting Office, "Defense Reorganization, Progress and Concerns at JCS and Combatant Commands," Report B-230535 (Washington, D.C.: United States General Accounting Office, 1 March 1989), 28.

33. Joint Pub 1-01, III-4.

34. Of 25 Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students surveyed on 10 January 1991, two stated they had seen a joint test publication.

35. Robert Frank Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force 1907-1960, vol. 1 (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1989), 365-408.

36. Don M. Snider, "DOD Reorganization: Part II, New Opportunities," Parameters 17, no. 4 (December 1987): 55.


Lt Col William F. Furr (BBA, University of Mississippi; MS, Air Force Institute of Technology) is a military doctrine analyst, Airpower of Research Institute, Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Previous assignments include chief, Support Division, Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict, Langley AFB, Virginia, and faculty instructor at Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Colonel Furr is a graduate of Squadron Officer School and a distinguished graduate of Air Command and Staff College. He is the author of Joint Pub 3-07, Doctrine for Joint Operations in Low Intensity Conflict, October 1990.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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