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?

February 17, 2012 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. In the interwar years, doctrine was able to precede technology largely because of the pace of technological development. This worked well then, but in today’s military transformation often occurs when the technology is developed and then military applications for the technology force the generation of doctrine. Both are effective and have downsides. If doctrine is developed first, then it can drive and shape technological development but may also limit innovation. If technology is developed first, the doctrine then has to catch up and may attempt to “militarize” technology and make it conform to the needs of the military and result in a military system that is used in a way contrary to design. I believe that doctrine should ideally precede technology for long term acquisitions but the use of emerging technology should not be hindered by the laborious doctrine development process.

    Comment by Matthew Wilder 17D | February 20, 2012

  2. I agree that during the interwar years, doctrine preceded technology due to the pace of development. However in today’s military this not the case. Doctrine, generally should drive and shape technology. Whereas if technology is developed and the military has to adjust this creates in-adaptability and financial burdens. Financial burdens often times prevent and hinder the development of doctrine.

    Comment by MAJ LaShaunda Jackson 17A | February 26, 2012

  3. I do not think that one has to be before the other. I believe that the trinity (Doctrine, Technology, and Resources) are interdependent on each other. Which one should be the starting point? Answer, it depends. I will provide some examples for each:
    Resources was the starting point for the MRAP – the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) was developed based off the IED threat and built because we had the resources to build them. I am not sure it drastically changed any Doctrine, nor was it a great technological leap, but built to minimize the threat based of the resources available.
    Doctrine and the Striker Vehicle – A case can be made where the Army’s need for an expeditionary light highly mobile ground forces was needed during Wide Area Security operations. This doctrinal concept drove the need for additional resources and technology.
    Technology and CYBERCOM – I believe that technology is often going to be the starting point in this field. I am not sure that the Army can develop doctrine for cyber threats that do not yet exist. Global technology changes so rapidly that doctrine and “military counter-technology” will always be chasing it.


    Comment by MAJ Ryan Barnett, SG17D | March 15, 2012

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