Document Summary of ADP 1-01, Doctrine Primer. Summary of major ideas and doctrinal basics found in Army Doctrine Publication 1-01.

Document Summary (DOCSUM) purpose:  This Army doctrine summary is NOT meant to replace literacy in the source document.  This US Army Doctrine Primer and Introduction is meant to provide you with an general understanding, appropriate for when you have just a few minutes or when you only need a broad understanding of this document.

Army Doctrine seems to be one of those fuzzy ideas and terms that is constantly misused and misunderstood.  In order to clarify and create a basic understanding, some core ideas and concepts need to be understood.  It turns out, there’s an publication for that:  ADP 1-01, “Doctrine Primer.”  I’ve attempted to capture the essence of ADP 1-01 for the benefit of future conversation.

NOTE:  Recently, Army doctrine grew to over 500 field manuals, up from fewer than 40 field service regulations (FSRs) in the early 1900s.  In order to inject some clarity and priority into this tangled web, the Army overhauled the structure of doctrine in an effort known as “Doctrine 2015.”  In the end, many publications merged, shifted or were reclassified to simplify and streamline the Army library of doctrine.  Many field manuals (FMs) transitioned to training circulars (TCs), Army doctrine reference publications (ADRPs) were converted or incorporated into Army doctrine publications (ADPs), and Army tactics and techniques publications (ATTPs) made the jump to Army techniques publications (ATPs), all in the interest of bringing clarity to doctrine and it’s structure.

Logic Chart for Doctrine
Logic Chart for Doctrine, ADP 1-01 Doctrine Primer


Doctrine is the body of professional knowledge that guides how Soldiers perform tasks related to the Army’ s role: The employment of landpower in a disctincly American context.  Doctrine establishes the language and institutional knowledge of our profession.

The larger body of Army institutional knowledge consists of:

  • Army regulations & pamphlets (administration of the Army)
  • Doctrine (conduct of operations)
  • Training publications (training tasks and procedures)
  • Technical manuals (equipment-related topics)

Doctrine Defined:  Fundamental principles, with supporting tactics, techniques, procedures, and terms and symbols, used for the conduct of operations and as a guide for actions of operating forces, and elements of the institutional force that directly support operations in support of national objectives.

Doctrine provides a time-tested and coherent body of knowledge.  It is grounded in enduring principles, it’s flexible, it’s adaptable, and it’s changing:  above all, it is a validated set of known good best practices.

Army “Concepts,” on the other hand, are ideas for a significant change to the way the Army conducts itself, based on proposed new approaches to the way the Army conducts of operation or the way the Army employs and integrates technology.

Over time, the Army discards some concepts and keeps other ideas that work well.  Concepts are merely proposals for inclusion in the future, usually 5-15 years hence.

Doctrine isn’t a catalogue of answers to specific problems.

On the other hand, doctrine is a collection of fundamentals, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for thinking about and solving military problems.

Doctrine is not WHAT to think or HOW to solve specific problems; it merely outlines HOW to THINK about solving situations.



Doctrine contributes a coherent vision of warfare:

Doctrine profoundly impacts almost all facets of how an army conducts operations.

Doctrine is based on an accurate understanding of the nature of war (chaotic, fluid, dynamic).

Doctrine provides for understanding that chaos exists and it accounts for friction, and assists in making decisions.

Doctrine provides enhanced operational effectiveness:

Doctrine captures best practices.

Doctrine cannot account for every circumstance, but its a good place to start.

Doctrine provides a common frame of reference and cultural perspective:

Doctrine enables flexibility.

Doctrine supports rapid action and reaction to emerging opportunities and threats.

Doctrine facilitates swift adaptation during changing circumstances.

Doctrine allows commanders to assume that subordinate staffs and commanders will take action based on a common approach to operations.

Doctrine provides a common professional language:

Commanders needn’t specify every detail that tasks entail.

Commanders can issue clearer, shorter orders, with much greater precision in operations, and greater flexibility and speed of operations.

Doctrine allows for unified action:

Doctrine provides a systematic body of thought describing how Army forces intend to operate as a member of a joint, multinational, or interagency force.

Doctrine fosters desirable traits in Soldiers and leaders:

Doctrine develops initiative, creativity, adaptability, and ethical action.



Elements of information.

Types of doctrine.

Types of doctrine and their hierarchy.




Principles are comprehensive and fundamental rules, or an assumption of central importance, that guides how an organization or function approaches and thinks about the conduct of operations.


Tactics are descriptive, NOT prescriptive (mandatory)

“Tactics” is defined as “the employment and ordered arrangement of forces in relation to each other”

The application of tactics usually entails acting under time constraints and with incomplete information.

Tactics require judgment in application and often requires creative thinking.


Techniques are descriptive, NOT prescriptive (mandatory).

Techniques are more specific than tactics,  but less structured than procedures.

Conditions confronting Soldiers affect the actual application of technique.


Procedures are prescriptive (mandatory), not descriptive.

Procedures are a series of steps, in a set order, completed the same way, at all times.  There is no deviation.

For example, a 9-line medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) message is a procedure, never changing in execution.

Terms & Symbols

Terms & symbols are the language and graphics used in operations.

NOTE:  Descriptive vs Prescriptive

Most doctrine is descriptive:  it must be applied with judgment.  It is not dogma to be applied blindly, but rather adjusted to circumstances.

“Descriptive” allows for deviation and adjustment based on circumstance.

“Prescriptive” does not allow for deviation, it must be applied exactly as laid out.

Why are some aspects of doctrine prescriptive?

    • Requirements to adhere to Army Ethics, laws of war, UCMJ, regulations, etc.
    • In order to ensure common understanding.
    • In order to adhere to control measures.
    • In order to ensure information is reported rapidly, accurately and in a commonly understood manner


Joint doctrine

Joint doctrine comprises the fundamental principles that guide the employment of US military forces in coordinated action toward a common objective and may include terms, TTPs.

Multinational doctrine

Multinational doctrine governs the fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces of two or more nations in coordinated action toward a common objective.

Multi-Service doctrine

Multi-service doctrine are the principles, terms, tactics, techniques and procedures used and approved by the forces of two or more Services.

Service doctrine

Doctrinal publications approved by a single Service for use within that Service.



Army Doctrine Publications (ADPs)

The fundamental principles of Army thought and approach to operations are found in ADPs.

Field Manuals (FMs)

FMs describe how the Army conducts and trains for operations.

FMs outline principles, tactics, procedures and other related doctrinal information.

FMs describe how the Army executes operations as described in the ADPs.

Army Techniques Publication (ATPs)

ATPs outline techniques used to accomplish missions, complete functions, and perform specific tasks.

ATPs provide ways or methods to accomplish or complete a mission, task, or function.

Techniques provide for flexibility without prescribing exactly what to do.

The application of doctrine requires creative thinking.  Doctrine is much more about knowing HOW to think about the conduct of operations than it is about WHAT to think.  Applied blindly, doctrine becomes a straightjacket.


The foundations of Army doctrine include a broad understanding of the nature of armed conflict.  These basic truths include:

War is inherently chaotic; it’s complex and full of friction.

This demands an approach to the conduct of operations that does not attempt to impose perfect order on operations, but rather accepts the chaotic and uncertain nature of operations and makes allowances to account for this unpredictability.

Doctrine must not only clearly acknowledge and account for the complexity, chaos, and uncertainty of war, but it must provide a means to use theses characteristics to benefit friendly forces and to exploit them for an asymmetric advantage.

War as a human endeavor; it’s a clash of wills.

All war is about changing human behavior.

Success in operations is often determined by a leader’s ability to outthink an opponent.

War is not just a contest of wills: it is also the province of fear, passion, camaraderie, heroism and grief…the human elements.


War is among people; it takes place in and among populations.

War is about establishing or re-establishing two conditions:

    • Conditions that favor United States’ interests
    • Conditions that enable the population to return to normal peacetime activities, however that culture defines those activities.

Warfare in doctrine; doctrine must account for the constants of war and adapt to prevailing conditions.

Soldiers solve most problems by creatively applying various principles and TTPs in unique combinations that address each problem as a distinct situation whose solution can be informed by experience.

The unpredictable nature of warfare means Soldiers rarely use fixed solutions, instead they more often use the flexible application of combat power, informed by experience and judgment.

Doctrine is a guide to action, not a template for action.

Mission Command

Mission command, as the approach to commanding and controlling Army forces is termed, is grounded in the Army’s core understanding of warfare: it is chaotic.

This idea has been part of every capstone publication since 1905.   The 1905 Field Service Regulation stated: 

“An order…should contain everything which is beyond the independent authority of the subordinate, but nothing more….  It should lay stress upon the object to be attained, and leave open the means to be employed.”

The idea of telling subordinates what to accomplish, not how to do it, and then relying on the initiative of subordinates is fundamental to Army doctrine and has been consistently stated since the 1905 FSR.

Only leaders allowed the latitude to determine how to accomplish missions and empowered to make decisions can react quickly  and effectively to changing circumstances.

Only leaders allowed the latitude to act proactively can take advantage of opportunities and react quickly and effectively to threats to mission accomplishment.



The singular, broad and enduring purpose for which the organization or branch is established.

Core Competencies

Essential and enduring capabilities that a branch or organization provides to Army operations; they drive how the Army organizes, trains, and equips the force.


A practical grouping of tasks and systems united by a common purpose.


A feature or quality that marks an organization or function as distinctive, or is representative of that organization or function


A rule, or assumption of central importance, that guides how an organization or function approaches and thinks about the conduct of operations.



Leadership domains:  

    • Tactical
    • Technical
    • Joint
    • Cultural and geopolitical

Training domains:  

    • Operational
    • Institutional
    • Self -development

Operational domains: 

    • Air
    • Land
    • Maritime
    • Space
    • Cyberspace

Operational Environment

An operationational environment is a composite of the conditions, circumstances and influences the affect the employment of capabilities and bear on the decisions of the commander.

The operational environment aids understanding the totality of factors, specific circumstances, and conditions that affect the conduct of operations.

Operational Variables

A comprehensive set of information categories used to describe an operational environment:

    • Political
    • Military
    • Economic
    • Social
    • Information
    • Infrastructure
    • Physical
    • Time

Mission Variables

Categories of specific information needed to conduct operations:

    • Mission
    • Enemy
    • Terrain and weather
    • Troops and support available
    • Time available
    • Civil considerations
    • “METT-TC”


Operational concept

Fundamental statement that frames how Army forces, operating as part of a joint force, conduct operations.

Decisive Action

A continuous, simultaneous execution of offensive, defensive and stability operations or defense support of civil authorities

Mission command

The Army’s approach to command and control that empowers subordinate decision making and decentralized execution appropriate to the situation.

Warfighting function

A group of tasks and systems united by a common purpose to accomplish missions and training objectives.

Combat power

The total means of destructive, constructive, and information capabilities that a military unit or formation can apply at a given moment:

    • Leadership
    • Information
    • Mission command
    • Movement and maneuver
    • Intelligence
    • Fires
    • Sustainment
    • Protection

Principles of War and Principles of Joint Operations

The time-tested general characteristics of successful operations that serve as guides for the conduct of future operations.

Tenets of Operations

Desirable attributes that should be built into all plans and operations and are directly related to the Army operational concept.

Operational Art

The cognitive approach by commanders and staffs – supported by their skill, knowledge, experience, creativity and judgment – to develop strategies, campaigns and operations to organize and employ military forces by integrating ends, ways, and means.

Operational Approach

The broad description of the mission, operational concepts, tasks and actions required to accomplish the mission.

Operational Framework

A cognitive tool used to assist commanders and staffs in clearly visualizing and describing the application of combat power in time, space, purpose and resources in the concept of operations.

Operations Process

The major mission command and control activities performed during operations: 

    • Planning
    • Preparing
    • Executing
    • Continually assessing.

Mission Order

Mission Orders facilitate mission command by providing subordinates with:

    • The results to be attained, not how they are to be achieved.
    • A clear commander’s intent.
    • Latitude to determine how to accomplish missions
    • The flexibility to exercise disciplined initiative.

“The best operation orders are mission orders.”

The Difference between Operations and Warfighting Functions

An operation consists of the tasks required to accomplish a specific mission.  Warfighting Functions consist of tasks whose purpose is to achieve the same effects, regardless of the situation.

Warfighting functions are the aggregation of a set of capabilities used to produce results.  The specific results which are required to accomplish a mission can vary according the operation.


It is not enough to know terms and definitions.  Army professionals must also understand their relationships – how they fit together – when applied to studying and more importantly to conducting operations.  


Further Reading

Ian Tashima
Ian Tashima spent 8 years in the Marine Corps as an Intelligence Analyst, and a further 11 years in the Army National Guard as an Infantryman and Civil Affairs NCO. During the Global War on Terror, Ian voluntarily deployed to Afghanistan 3 times and once to Iraq. Further assignments & duty positions include Combat Advisor (ETT & SFAT), Tactical Electronic Warfare Specialist, Counter Radio Controlled IED Electronic Warfare NCO, AntiTerrorism Officer, senior small arms trainer, Assistant State Marksmanship Coordinator and Program Manager for the Designated Marksman, Small Arms Firing School, and Unit Marksmanship Trainer Courses. Currently serves as a Senior Weapons Trainer and Lead Instructional Program Developer for G3 Sustainment Training Branch (Marksmanship) and OCS Instructor at the 223rd Regional Training Institute in the CAARNG, Training Director at Alliant Defense and Editor/Author at Lethality Ranch.
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