The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Doctrine versus Technology

In the video above, virtually none of the technology, or even the tactics techniques and procedures used to attack Iwo Jima were available seven years earlier when the Marines issued their 1938 manual on landing operations.

In the interwar years the Germans and the U.S. Marine Corps developed concepts for operations (doctrine) before they developed the enabling technology.  Ultimately, the doctrine would not have been successful without the technologies that were added later.  However, without the initial doctrine the technologies may  not have ever been developed, or may have been utilized in a different way.  Is this the right way to transform?  Should doctrine always precede technology?  Are there situations where technology should precede doctrine?   Which comes first in the U.S. military today?


December 14, 2009 - Posted by | H200 | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. To my mind it matters not a jot which comes first in Transformation: technology or doctrine. The important issue in military evolution is that neither gets in the others way. They should compliment each other as swiftly as possible.

    What do I mean? If a new technology is developed which has a practical use for the military machine then, as swiftly as possible, the doctrine should be developed which harnesses the full potential of that technology. This happens already; we call them TTPs. On the other hand new doctrine may serve as the inspiration for new technology, this too is an equally suitable order for Transformation.

    Flexibility then is the key: we must be flexible enough to swiftly adapt to any opportunities that offer our armed forces an advantage over our enemies be they technological or doctrinal. Don’t forget that the enemy has a vote to, and you can be sure that he’s trying to put one over us!

    Comment by Maj S E A Cates British Army | December 20, 2009

  2. Of course doctrine should proceed technology. The US Marines realized other countrie’s attempts at amphibious warfare and found themselves a niche in warfare, and it suited their mission. The Marines developed the doctrine, and went looking for tchnology. With the outbreak of WWII shortly afterward, resourses became more available and opportunities were available to refine the doctrine that was established. Doctine is developed to provide a capability that dictates a need for technology. If there is no operational need, there is no need for the technology. Most countries do not start battles or wars only because they have the technology, they refine their doctrine as new technology becomes available.

    Comment by MAJ Michael Roe | January 5, 2010

  3. It is easy to say flexbility is the key just as adding “hybrid” to any solutions. However, I believe it is more important to determine how to become flexible: via technology or doctrine. Back in the old days, doctrine was the key to being flexible in a battle. However, thanks to the industrial revolution and technological boom, doctrine has become an afterthought. Technology drives our current transformation. It is difficult to forecast future technology, therefore it is even harder to develop future doctrine. The Army constantly tries but in the end, the technolgy drives changes in doctrine (whether it will be current or future).

    Comment by Lee, 17B | January 12, 2010

  4. Doctrine and technological development I believe should be interrelated. Ideally, we first develop concepts from ideas and theories. Through experience, we validate these concepts. The resulting written, published, authoritative guidance is formal doctrine; we can then derive the technological means for implementing that doctrine. Thus, we start with ideas, develop the concepts, test those concepts in the crucible of experience, produce the doctrine, build the weapon system, and enter the next evolution of the process.

    But what happens when we procure weapon systems based on obsolete doctrine? Worse yet, what happens when we build doctrine around existing resources designed from obsolete ideas?

    If the ongoing doctrine process is supposed to maintain the US military essence and its overall arching mission or national strategy then allowing the proliferation of incompatible systems denies coherence among ideas, doctrine, and practice, and results in dogmatism and pragmatism.

    Comment by Darin E. Huss SG 17C | January 12, 2010

  5. I feel doctrine should be continuously improved, even in the absence of technology. For example, during the inter-war period, the Germans understood the need to learn from the lessons of WWI and trusted the well trained officers of the German Army. One of the trusted officers was General Hans von Seeckt who demonstrated intellectual as well as tactical and operational excellence. Seeckt led a group of German officers in reviewing the events of the war. The group not only reviewed its own tactics and doctrine, but also the tactics and doctrine of the British and French. The review identified weaknesses in their enemy’s tactics and doctrine which emphasized the importance of improving their own. Germany then improved their Panzer, Air and ground forces doctrine which focused on capitalizing on armored warfare and the use of close air support, to armored units, in order to exploit enemy weaknesses. This doctrine was known as the Die Truppenfuhrung (Troop Leadership and Unit Command doctrine). It became the foundation for their combined arms doctrine. This is important to note because they developed this doctrine at a time when Germany didn’t even have any combat power (e.g. tanks, artillery, large army, fighter planes, bombers, etc) under the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles. It demonstrated how German attitude influenced the innovation to rebuild and improve its military doctrine during the inter-war period, even without having the technology on hand.

    Comment by MAJ John Palazzolo | January 25, 2010

  6. I do agree with Sam that it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter whether doctrine drives technology, or vice versa. However, I do feel that both can drive the need for the other and as Sam said, they should not get in each other’s way. I think that when the Marines published their new doctrine in 1938 that included amphibious assault, they did not have any specific current or future technology in mind. However, as MAJ Roe stated, the outbreak of the war provided the resources toward advancements in technology. As we learned from our island hopping lesson though, it would take many battles and lessons learned to continue to adapt both the technology and the doctrine. Doctrine is just theory that can only be solidified through actual combat. Technology can either help in proving and improving the doctrine or lead it in an entirely different direction. I think in today’s military, they complement each other and help each to evolve. In the Air Force we tend to mold technology to meet our doctrine such as the F-22 and F-35. I think the Army is a little quicker to adjust their TTPs based on new technologies, such as the MRAP.

    Comment by Maj Walker | January 26, 2010

  7. I agree that either can happen “chicken or the egg” but both need to be evolving together in order to assure that when the rubber hits the road they are mutually supporting and if technology is lagging it is at least in the pipeline to catch up with doctrine and if the doctrine is lagging behind at least it is in three letter coordination when the technology hits the street. I agree with my British colleague that it doesn’t “matter a jot” As long as the difference between the two isn’t remarkable like trying to fight todays wars with Air, Land Battle doctrine would be.

    Comment by Major Christopher "Kit" Johnson 17-D | February 1, 2010

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