Where to Go from Here? Considerations for the Formal Adoption of Auftragstaktik by the US Army

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John T. Nelsen
132 g
251x192x7 mm

In recent years a plethora of comments have appeared praising the impressive combat effectiveness of the pre-1945 German Army. Many of these comments have attributed a large measure of the Germans'; tactical success to the concept now referred to as Auftragstaktik (roughly and imperfectly translated as "task-oriented or mission-oriented tactics"). The implication often made, implicitly or explicitly, is that the US Army should emulate the German Army by formally adopting a concept akin to that of Auftragstaktik. Whether the US Army should do so is the main issue of this monograph. The effort to address this issue begins with an examination of the nature of Auftragstaktik, as it was practiced by the German Army before 1945. Next, this study seeks to ascertain how applicable Auftragstaktik is to the conditions of the modern battlefield. Then, the paper explores the degree of compatibility between Auftragstaktik and contemporary Army trends and command traditions. This monograph finds that Auftragstaktik is a term largely misunderstood and much too narrowly circumscribed. It is clearly an all-encompassing philosophy of war, holistically embracing elements of what today would be called the theory of the nature of war, character and leadership attributes, tactics, command and control, senior-subordinate relationships, and training and education. An Auftragstaktik-like approach appears profoundly attuned to the needs of modern warfare, and seems sufficiently compatible with Army trends and traditions to take root. This study concludes with the recommendation that the Army formally and doctrinally adopt an Auftragstaktik-like approach in the near future. This would promote a common understanding of what was meant by the term and facilitate a uniform concept of leader training and education. It would also provide the kind of central focus an Auftragstaktik-like approach needs for implementation in a truly holistic and comprehensive way.

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