Small Wars Journal

Want to Change Army Doctrine? Do Something!

Wed, 07/01/2009 - 10:26pm
If you've ever read an Army manual and thought you could make it better if only the Army would give you a chance, your moment has arrived."

--Army Times

For the first time, the Army is using wikis to update its doctrine. The pilot program—Army Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (ATTP)—converts the contents of field manuals into a wiki format and posts them online. Anyone with an AKO account can edit the manuals by submitting changes in the wiki system. ATTP is a pilot program with seven manuals:

FMI 3-04.155 Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations

FM 3-07.20 Modular Brigade Augmented for Security Force Assistance

FM 3-21.9 The SBCT Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad

FM 3-09.15 Site Exploitation

FM 3-97.11 Cold Weather Operations

FM 5-19 Composite Risk Management

FM 6.01-1 Knowledge Management Section

The software powering ATTP is the same software Wikipedia employs. Users can submit changes, review changes proposed by others, search documents and view previous versions of the field manuals. By converting manuals into wikis, the Army hopes to make doctrine a living document and reduce the traditional three to five year period it takes to staff and write field manuals. This system will allow lessons learned in the field to become an immediate part of doctrine, with rapid dissemination. More than 200 manuals are slated to be converted into ATTPs.

The ATTP program is a collaborative effort among several Combined Arms Center subordinate organizations: Battle Command Knowledge System, the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate and personnel at Fort Huachuca implemented the program in less than two weeks. During the 90-day trial period, site managers will refine their own TTPs for running this kind of collaborative endeavor.

After receiving comments on the manuals, site managers and subject matter experts will review the comments and adjudicate them with existing content and other suggestions. This manner of continuously updated field manuals will ensure doctrine creation is an all-embracing, grassroots effort that serves the needs of our Soldiers more effectively.

Where does this effort fit within big Army? In an interview last fall, GEN Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, spoke about using technology to communicate more effectively and share information.

We have to find a way to flatten our organizations and pass information faster than we've ever passed it before. Take advantage of these tools. There's a natural tendency not to. There's a natural tendency to go back to our hierarchical nature, our bureaucratic ways."

In other words, by participating and supporting ATTP, you are helping drive institutional change within our Army. By embracing technology, the Army can save money, break down barriers, streamline processes and build a bright future.

To access ATTP click here or sign into AKO, click on the Self Service" tab, select My Doctrine" and find ATTP Pilot" on the left hand side of the page.

Please contribute to our Army's store of knowledge and share your insights through ATTP. This is a great opportunity to flatten traditional Army hierarchy and leverage technology to benefit Soldiers who are deployed or training to deploy.

Frontier 6 is Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV, Commanding General of the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the command that oversees the Command and General Staff College and 17 other schools, centers, and training programs located throughout the United States. The Combined Arms Center is also responsible for: development of the Army's doctrinal manuals, training of the Army's commissioned and noncommissioned officers, oversight of major collective training exercises, integration of battle command systems and concepts, and supervision of the Army's Center for the collection and dissemination of lessons learned.


DBAL (not verified)

Mon, 08/24/2009 - 10:17pm

I think this is a brilliant idea. The key to its success to encourage new creative ideas. Doctrine in itself is inherently a rigid painful process. It takes great initiative and leadership to get doctrine to really challenge the margins. New ways of looking at ideas by as many folks as possible benchmarking history, and critically thinking of inherent complexities will create the best possible product. There is an incredible amount of experience and knowledge now in the military that is yet to be properly harnessed in doctrine. Also, I think the challenge to this new technique is to apply real academic vigor to the doctrine. Oftentimes, my experience has shown that most of doctrine is a product of folks thinking through an idea the best they can without true academic vigor. I hope TRADOC can incorporate this along with the harnessing power of the wiki approach into relevant, broad and wise doctrine that will serve us better than doctrine did prior to OIF and Vietnam.

IntelTrooper (not verified)

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:25pm

<i>Mr. Ancker said he remained optimistic, however, in part because soldiers, even in an open-source world, still know how to take an order.

"One of the great advantages we have is that we are a disciplined force," he said. "We are hierarchical. When the boss says 'do this, it tends to get done. Even those who dont like to write will add something."</i>

Is this implying that editing the wiki may become involuntary? Can I start putting the number of wiki edits I make on my NCOER?

Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:14pm


Thanks for the response. I don't think we're on different sheets of music...

Also with no malice nor any intent to be pejorative and hoping you realize I'm not sniping at you or even at Mother TRADOC where I spent seven years (to include some time watching the doctrine sausage mill do its thing), it is not worrisome that TRADOC is supporting war fighters -- that's what they're supposed to do. It is however worrisome that the fine balance of broad doctrine and sensible but not all-encompassing training literature not be skewed to the point that it becomes too detailed and leads to lockstep performance. That potential exists in every field of human endeavor due to normal human proclivities and the Army is not exempt. We've both seen it happen with some we've worked with, I suspect. I know I have.

You should address the CYA aspect, it exists. To deny its potential for damage is to invite problems. People will ask for detailed guidance and instruction because it's easier to follow a checklist than it is to think and work with the proverbial clean sheet of paper. Check the FORSCOM training guidance of a year or so ago -- it is a laundry list of of every regulatory and doctrinal requirement so that someone can say "we told them to do it" -- and so that some can say "We did everything in the Guidance." The FORSCOM guidance I saw was not training guidance, it was a check list.

General Casey's recent Training Guidance letter sensibly dictating a single METL was training guidance, the FORSCOM message was not. Those requesting more 'guidance' for CYA purposes are, as I said, a small number; as also are those who shouldn't be where they are. Neither of those two very small groups of people at all ranks merit great concern but they exist and deserve a jaundiced eye.

The majority of those requesting more detail are simply expressing a need and while some may just want that detail to make life simpler, some are expressing a true need -- doctrinal pubs do not always do the how-to very well. That used to be the norm and it was acceptable as people were more used to independent action and having to work out details locally. As the Nation itself has become more monolithic, so has the Army and we're more centralized now than we used to be. That is not necessarily a good thing...

The good guys -- most of the Army -- are not a problem.

You said:<blockquote>"The Army wants more detail on this new mission. Can it be overdone? Yes. Should we be careful with this and will we? Yes."</blockquote>That's reassuring. Really. So was the article from the <i>New York Times</i> at this <a href=…; LINK</a>. The last few paragraphs are applicable to the Wiki attempt.

That attempt is important and I hope the Army will not chop it off too early -- sometimes it takes a while for the word to get around and for everyone to discover they can do this with no penalties or problems. Because as you also said:<blockquote>"However, doctrine and TTP get better from the feedback of the force, especially when those who have recently returned from deployment send some feedback."</blockquote>That's as it should be and that's why this Wiki has great potential.

As someone far wiser than I once told me as I was getting perhaps too far down in the weeds in writing some doctrine "We don't need to tell 'em how to suck eggs, tell 'em what an egg looks like, tell them what tools are available and they'll figure out the rest." He added "You have to make them do that or they'll stop thinking." He was right. Not about most, just about the few that bear watching and are always present in any collection of human beings.

Thanks again for the response and keep doing right...


Wed, 08/19/2009 - 8:45am


From my perspective, the demand primarily comes from those preparing to deploy and those that train them to deploy; however, there is a constant press to improve both larger doctrine and TTP.

Ken White,

With no malice, why should it be worrisome that TRADOC is trying to support the warfighter? I don't think any manual can make a Soldier an automaton, nor should it, nor is it.

I'm not going to address the notion that this is some form of CYA.

The reason that joint doctrine and Army doctrine have to mention the use of judgment, etc. is to prevent people from trying to treat doctrine as the final word. It is a way to preserve freedom of action while have a framework from which to learn and adapt. Doctrine is authoritative, not prescriptive.

TTP are the detailed subset of doctrine. Thus, ATTP will likely be very descriptive. I hope to see them to be a bit like the old MTPs and FKSMs--something that provides a lot of detail for traning purposes. And they should be expressly couched as a point to learn and adapt from. I agree that with you in that we don't want some lockstep foolishness. The primary example that comes to mind is SFA, specifically the modular brigade conducting SFA. The Army wants more detail on this new mission. Can it be overdone? Yes. Should we be careful with this and will we? Yes.

I don't expect someone in combat to scribble a Form 2028. As you mentioned, I would think they are a bit distracted. When I was in Anbar, I certainly wasn't thinking about improving doctrine. However, doctrine and TTP get better from the feedback of the force, especially when those who have recently returned from deployment send some feedback. For example, when the brigades currently conducting SFA in Iraq return, it would be great to get their direct feedback. The first edition of the SFA FM was done quickly and needs much addition and refinement. However, there must be balance with respect to feedback. What goes into doctrine has to be broadly applicable, not theater specific.



Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 12:25am

I'm with Intel Trooper. The idea that the 'field' (whoever and where ever they are) wants "<i>...more detail on TTP.</i>" does not surprise me in the least. It is, however, very worrisome that TRADOC is trying to scratch that itch. They should not fall into that trap. Overcodify the TTP and you will create automatons that do not know how to react when confronted by something not in the book.

The 'field' wants more detail in the TTP arena in part to play the CYA game (a few), in part to get more 'guidance' so they don't have to think (a few more) or because they have no business being in the job they're in (still a few others) and are pretty clueless without detailed instructions. All those people combined amount to a minority of the Officers, NCOs and troops in the field.

I suspect the vast majority of those in the field are pretty competent and would like less guidance from many places.

Most do this;<blockquote>"If someone finds something in a manual that doesn't make sense, they should use their judgment (JP 1, Appendix A, or FM 3-0, Appendix D, support this)."</blockquote> Common sense and a desire to survive also support it -- it's noteworthy that we have to write a book that tells people it's okay to apply judgment to what's in that and other books. Should we have to do that?<blockquote>"Doctrine is written to describe "how to think," not "what to think.""</blockquote>I agree that should be the goal but does not providing more 'guidance' to the troops in the form of more detailed manuals and their request that you do so seem to be a contradiction? Aren't they asking you to tell them what to do -- which equates to what to think...<blockquote>"However, it would be nice if they put this in the Wiki or send in an electronic or hardcopy DA Form 2028, especially if they are not in the field. I've dealt with every 2028 that has crossed my desk for FM 3-24/MCWP 3-44.5, which isn't many."</blockquote>Can't speak for others but as one who's modified a doctrinal pub or two and is familiar with a 2028, I just never got around to sending any in to the proponent schools while I was in a war and unsociable characters were popping caps in my vicinity.

I'm old, retired and retarded, so what I think is immaterial -- what I suspect though is that there are more than few that share my sentiments who are neither retired or retarded. I've long contended that we do not train at all well and a call for more detailed guidance is a sure indicator that I'm correct...

You folks at CAC and in TRADOC are going to do what you're going to do -- but I suggest to you that doctrinal and TTP guidance should be sparse and broad. If it is not you will be developing what will certainly become dogma.

And the next war may not resemble the current variety in any way...

IntelTrooper (not verified)

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 10:27pm


I might be reading this wrong:
<i>The field is asking for more detail on TTP; it is not some TRADOC desire to micromanage.</i>

By "field," do you mean "soldiers deployed in operational theaters" or "the discipline that creates manuals"?

If the manual creators are asking for input from people with operational experience, that makes sense. If deployed soldiers are asking for TTPs in the form of manuals, that seems problematic.


Tue, 08/18/2009 - 9:33pm


With no malice, I would disagree with the notion that the institutional Army is preoccupied with having to control and codify every action that a soldier or command performs. The field is asking for more detail on TTP; it is not some TRADOC desire to micromanage. Doctrine is written to describe "how to think," not "what to think." If someone finds something in a manual that doesn't make sense, they should use their judgment (JP 1, Appendix A, or FM 3-0, Appendix D, support this). However, it would be nice if they put this in the Wiki or send in an electronic or hardcopy DA Form 2028, especially if they are not in the field. I've dealt with every 2028 that has crossed my desk for FM 3-24/MCWP 3-44.5, which isn't many.

IntelTrooper (not verified)

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 8:03pm

<i>"If youve ever read an Army manual and thought you could make it better if only the Army would give you a chance, your moment has arrived."</i>

I generally only read Army manuals if forced. The only Army manual I can recall reading in its entirety and giving any thought to was the COIN manual.

Is making manuals more fluid a desire or an issue for most soldiers, or at least a significant number of soldiers who deal regularly with these specific topics? Additionally, have soldiers in these job fields even been notified that their manual is up for revision? In my experience, if someone finds something particularly objectionable in a manual, they just disregard it and do or teach what actually works.

This shows a more fundamental flaw in the institutional Army, and that is a preoccupation with having to control and codify (in this case, in the form of manuals) every action that a soldier or command performs.

The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith once said of his flock, "We teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." Somehow the LDS Church isn't falling apart and it fields a massive expeditionary force of 50,000 missionaries at any given time. What if the Army took such an approach?

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 7:12pm

Steve Birdsall:

Only been about six weeks -- I wouldn't anticipate very much input until about that many months. See my post above -- the Troops will wait to see if this is on the up and up (as they see it and regardless of what is written or told them).

It's a good idea and the Army should stick with it.

They should also try allowing one or two of the wikis anonymous input -- I know that will make more work for the Action Officers but it will probably give more and better input as well as some flaky enough to be immediately trashed.

Joe -- and his NCOs -- tend to be cagey about hanging their hats on things not directly job related...


Tue, 08/18/2009 - 6:00pm

Well, our ATTP manual (ATTP 3-90.15) on Site Exploitation was hung on the wiki site with great anticipation. To date, there have been roughly 5 individuals who added their wisdom into the wiki. We anticipated significant feedback and a thriving document on the wiki but to date the input from the field has been minimal.

Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 3:17pm

Heh. I think he just believes that if the CG of Place A says do this then everyone in the Army will <i>want</i> to do that because everyone knows that any senior's wish is actually a command. Little does he know that the reality is the the CG of Place B will say "Pay no attention to A, you people are in C!" Or that a lowly minion in Place B says "I used to work for A, he'll twist what you say so be careful." Then the guys in D are really too busy to input and those in E generically oppose everything from A on principle...

In short, people are people and they won't make it mandatory but those who believe will try to influence all to input, those who do not will not try to influence and those who hate the idea will try to discourage input -- causing the people that work for them to input just to be rebellious.

Bottom line is that it's a good idea if they'll just give it enough time to get the kinks out -- six weeks is a long time for the impatient; six months or even six years to get something right is not a bad timeline.

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 11:30pm


Have to agree with Brandon Friedman. You will inhibit a lot of really smart people from commenting initially because of the identification requirement.

They will watch the wikis -- probably more carefully than you suspect -- and they <i>may</i> comment if after a few months they see that the system (not you) is true to its word and there is no evaluation of the "worth of edits based on anyones profile."

If they sense rightly or wrongly that entries from their rank(s) is / are being disproportionally rejected, you will lose a lot of potentially valuable input. Not to mention credibility for the process.

Is that more work for the wiki editors and moderators, certainly, much more -- but it will also improve the quality of the product.

That ruling should really be reconsidered.

Brandon Friedman

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 7:37pm


Thanks for commenting on this. But to be clear again, no one here is suggesting there was ever any "intention to evaluate the worth of edits based on anyone's profile." What the other commenters and I are saying is that as long as people are required to use their real names to participate, you will inhibit, I don't know, say, half of your potential qualified contributors from actually using the wiki. Many--if not most--people simply won't use it if their names, ranks, and units are viewable.

I'm also not sure what you mean when you say it's necessary to identify people for "security purposes." What does that mean? What other security is needed besides an AKO account or a CAC? Why do I, as a reader or contributor, need to be able to see the name, rank, and unit of the last editor? As I suggested above, one way to get around this is to simply mask the identifying information from public view--meaning the administrators of the wiki would still have access to it, just not the other readers or contributors.

If the team wants to make this like the "other professional forums," then you should just make it another professional forum. If you want to make it a wiki, then you should allow people to make edits anonymously.

Brian Ray (not verified)

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 5:50pm

First, I want to thank everyone for posting. I was part of the tiger team that developed the wiki prototype for doctrine. It was a team effort of a lot of folks from across TRADOC and the Army that made the doctrine wiki pilot possible.

I went back through my notes and looked at our discussion for developing the rules for the Wiki pilot and we decided that we would adopt similar procedures for identifying users as other professional forums such as the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) uses for security purposes. I can assure everyone there is no intention to evaluate the worth of edits based on anyones profile.

Again, thanks for your input and we are tracking and making note of all concerns from several blogs, emails, discussion from the doctrine Wiki pilot and the Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS) knowledge management forum. These will be reported in our AAR.

Good points by Brandon Friedman. There are some very interesting patterns (or "anti-patterns") in encouraging (or discouraging) wiki adoption at:


Mon, 07/06/2009 - 2:02pm

I agree that this is a good idea, with one caveat. I've referenced the wiki's on the SIPRNet and many of them are horribly outdated, incomplete, and often incorrect. Hopefully these wikis, due to greater access by way of the commercial web and thus greater potential for participation, will fare better. Additionally, I hope that being a moderator for this initiative is a primary duty and not an additional one. Greater participation and assigning some degree of ownership to someone, as a quality control mechanism, could make this invaluable. Also second the earlier comment about the option for anonymous comments. A good idea can stand on its own merit - we should remove any psychological barriers that may deter someone from commenting simply because they are of the wrong rank, MOS, or background.

Capt. Crispin Burke (not verified)

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 4:38am

I think that this is an excellent idea.

To address some of the concerns already mentioned--there are already Wiki-like sites in use in the military that are getting a lot of great attention.

Some units are spurring innovation by setting up an "idea blog"--where Soldiers can submit their best ideas and best practices without fear of retribution from the chain of command. Each week, some units even reward their innovators with passes, coins or awards if they put forth a good idea.

Idea blogs are meant to bypass the stovepipes that may occur by passing information through the chain of command, and allow Soldiers of any rank to engage in debate that is purely reliant on the weight of their intellectual argument. I'm glad to see that this is now an Army-wide practice, and I think we will be better for it.

Anonymous (not verified)

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 9:03pm

I think we are in violent agreement. I will ensure that the inclusion of a method for anonymous posting is discussed during the pilot period and its AAR.

Brandon Friedman

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 8:55pm

That's right, SWJED. To clarify, I think the program is great. But it won't be as good as it <i>could</i> be unless soldiers are given the option of masking their identities on the site.

Even if soldiers are assured there will be no repercussions for any ideas they propose, many will simply choose not to participate if they're only able to contribute by using their real name, rank, and unit.


Fri, 07/03/2009 - 7:59pm

Frankly - I think Brandon's major concern is not with the Army's pilot TTP "wiki-like" program and its sponsors - I believe he is concerned about the closer-to-home ramifications that may occur with the TTP recommendation process.

While not trying to put words in his mouth - he raises a valid point. Not everyone - up and down any particular chain of command - is savvy to the benefits of near real-time commentary that - without vetting - reaches all echelons of leadership and may reflect favorably or unfavorably on a particular command, commander, TTP or other element of military operations.

How do we ensure our boots on the ground are not somehow penalized for pointing out ground-truth? Hard question - and something the Army - and the Sister Services need to come to terms with - and quickly.

Anonymous (not verified)

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 6:38pm

Good point, Brandon. As someone involved in doctrine, I will ensure your point is noted for the pilot program's AAR. I would like to assure you that meritorious ideas will survive over time, where not so good ideas will not--it will have nothing to do with the rank of the poster. Additionally, we discussed the Wiki format at 1/82 ABN's SFA Symposium earlier this week, and we are collectively looking forward to speeding up the feedback loop.

Brandon Friedman

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:16pm

This is a great idea and I have only one critique. The <i>Army Times</i> piece above notes:

<blockquote>Those who want to participate will be required to establish a profile at the test site, which is scheduled to be launched in the first week of July. <strong>On the site, they will be known by their name, rank and unit.</strong></blockquote>

Sure enough, when I checked out the new Wiki today, I saw that those who edit are clearly identified by their AKO log-in name. When I first read about the Army manual Wiki on Monday, I wrote about this identification policy and why it should be changed in a piece called <a href=""><i>Let's Not Smother the New Army Manual Wiki</i></a>:

<blockquote>This is an important bad idea. It's antithetical to what a wiki even is. The whole idea behind a wiki is that ideas are judged on their merit alone--regardless of who's doing the writing. And to facilitate that, less qualified (or, in this case, lower ranking) people who might have good ideas are encouraged to participate. However, when you force people to identify themselves in a forum where they're being asked to critique--or criticize--most lower-level people will either choose not to participate or they'll be considerably less honest with their feedback.

Imagine an auditorium on post filled with 500 recently-returned soldiers of all ranks. A three-star general stands on stage, eyeing the group, and says he wants honest feedback about what worked down range and what didn't. The only thing he asks is that before the soldier gives his feedback, the soldier should stand up and identify himself with his "name, rank, and unit." At this point, of course, seasoned platoon sergeants lean forward in their seats and look down the line at their soldiers.

Does anyone envision an E-4 standing up--without having his suggestion vetted by his chain of command--and giving advice to the general officer and the rest of the BCT?

Me neither. Even though that E-4 might have a great idea.</blockquote>

In my mind, the solution should be pretty simple, though I might be missing some aspects above my pay grade. Here's the idea: Once soldiers sign in with their AKO or CAC IDs, they should have the option of masking their identities on the site.

<blockquote>This way, commanders can rest assured that no one will participate who shouldn't be, and soldiers of all ranks, with all types of experience, will feel comfortable offering advice.</blockquote>

I think sites like SWJ are a testament to the fact that many smart, experienced people are more comfortable offering their advice and expertise from behind the safety of a pseudonym. Do we want to inhibit those people from contributing to the new Wiki?


Thu, 07/02/2009 - 11:00am

I agree Tim. Such a great, yet simple, idea. Hat tip to CAC, TRADOC for implementing it.

Tim Hsia (not verified)

Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:01am

This is a great move forward as it will ensure the FMs are a living document as opposed to being stale the second they are published-and then just referencing CALL documents.

It's also apparent that some thought was put into this, as all of the subjects are constantly changing, and continually require updating for different theaters.

Hopefully this will get junior leaders energized to share their thoughts, and to understand the logic behind the field manuals as opposed to taking things for granted/rote memorization.


Wed, 08/19/2009 - 4:55pm

<i>[T]hose who believe will try to influence all to input, those who do not will not try to influence and those who hate the idea will try to discourage input -- causing the people that work for them to input just to be rebellious.</i>

LOL, that is perfect. I would probably be the last group.