Mission Command: Elasticity, Equilibrium, Culture, and Intent


  1. Stewart, K.G.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN)
Mission command is based upon the exercise of local initiative within the framework of command intent. It is enabled by decentralisation of authority and responsibility that allows subordinate commanders the latitude to plan and conduct operations based upon their understanding of the local situation. This paper argues that forces that have the capability to be decentralised can harness network technology to step down to centralization with a view to managing risk. Shifting along a continuum of command approaches represents a form of short-term organisational adaptability that has been dubbed ‘elasticity’ in this paper. It is argued that the roots of this elasticity lie in the concept of command intent, specifically implicit intent. The ability to operate in a decentralised fashion requires that forces create a deep, broad, reservoir of implicit intent. A force that is optimised for centralised operation, for example because of its training, its organisation structure, its organisational culture, and its equipment, will not have the same degree of ‘elasticity’ because it will not have a comparable reserve of implicit intent. All military organisations have a point of equilibrium on the command approach continuum and will experience stress during the period that they move away from this point. These two aspects of a military force – elasticity and equilibrium – provide an indication of its capacity for flexibility of command approach. In theory, elasticity increase

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mission command, command approach, elasticity, equilibrium, command culture, cen
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-TR-2006-254 — Technical Report
Date of publication
20 Nov 2006
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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