The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H209 Doctrine Vs 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 9, 2016 - Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. Militaries should develop both current and future doctrine. Current doctrine is doctrine that is currently in effect and is practiced by the force. It is therefore practical for current doctrine to be limited by existing technology. This is because there needs to be physical equipment for soldiers to train with. However, while there is current doctrine, doctrine envisaged for future wars needs to be developed as well.

    Future doctrine should not be constrained by limitations of existing technology. It should drive innovation by putting forward a demand on technological capabilities that the military requires industry or military R&D to develop. Future doctrine should determine force structures and capability development priorities. However, while future doctrine pushes the technology envelope, it should also be cognizant of what is probable and what is impossible so that research can be focused and resources are prudently utilized.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG 19B | February 10, 2016

  2. The maritime doctrine developed by the Marines during the interwar period was one of the more successful interwar innovations for all the different services. This, in a sense, gives creedence to the methodology of developing the doctrine before the technology supported it. Technological development through the military is always driven by requirements. When the Army, Marines, Navy, or Air Force have a requirement that cannot be filled through internal mechanisms, new technologies are developed to meet those requirements. In this light, and in the contemporary DOTMLPF acquisition process, doctrine (or new proposed doctrine) precedes technology.

    On the other hand, the industrial and technology sectors of the United States often develops technological capabilities unforeseen by military doctrine writers. The glaring contemporary example is cyber capabilities. Not only is the DoD struggling to develop coherent cyber doctrine to keep up the changing pace of cyber challenges, there doesn’t appear to be even a coherent definition of what differentiates a criminal cyber attack versus a cyber attack as an act of war. In this example, the doctrine is clearly following the technology.

    Comment by Kyle Johnston | February 11, 2016

  3. The challenge for military doctrine or military technology is that neither should always precede the other. Instead, military institutions must flexibly employ permissive doctrine and emerging technology to seize the initiative and surprise the enemy. The key for military professionals is affording opportunity for innovation and not padlocking combat power to a specific heuristic or effect. This means innovation must be ingrained into every military professional with opportunity for growth within the military infrastructure. The United States Army masks this behind the DOTMLPF-P construct but ultimately misses the requirement for matching agile soldiers to agile bureaucracies. Encouraging the human dimension requires innovative institutions and the military must improve this aspect of the military complex.

    The foresight employed by the Marines during the interwar period is sorely needed in today’s force structure. Too much reliance is placed on the civilian industries to innovate. Conversely, too much reliance is placed on military bureaucracy to mold innovation. The military must adapt a culture of innovation and flexible response to change. This is how best to replicate prudent actions taken by the Marines during the interwar period.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | February 11, 2016

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