It is a guide to action, rather than being hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military. It helps standardize operations, facilitating readiness by establishing common ways of accomplishing military tasks.
Doctrine links theory, history, experimentation, and practice. Its objective is to foster initiative and creative thinking. Doctrine provides the military with an authoritative body of statements on how military forces conduct operations and provides a common lexicon for use by military planners and leaders.
NATO‘s definition of doctrine, used unaltered by many member nations, is:
- “Fundamental principles by which the military forces guide their actions in support of objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgement in application”.
The Canadian Army states:
“Military doctrine is a formal expression of military knowledge and thought, that the army accepts as being relevant at a given time, which covers the nature of conflict, the preparation of the army for conflict, and the method of engaging in conflict to achieve success … it is descriptive rather than prescriptive, requiring judgement in application. It does not establish dogma or provide a checklist of procedures, but is rather an authoritative guide, describing how the army thinks about fighting, not how to fight. As such it attempts to be definitive enough to guide military activity, yet versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of situations.”
A U.S. Air Force Air University staff study in 1948 defined military doctrine functionally as “those concepts, principles, policies, tactics, techniques, practices, and procedures which are essential to efficiency in organizing, training, equipping, and employing its tactical and service units.”
The Soviet Dictionary of Basic Military Terms defined military doctrine as “a state’s officially accepted system of scientifically founded views on the nature of modern wars and the use of the armed forces in them. … Military doctrine has two aspects: social-political and military-technical.” The social-political side “encompasses all questions concerning methodology, economic, and social bases, the political goals of war. It is the defining and the more stable side.” The other side, the military-technical, must accord with the political goals. It includes the “creation of military structure, technical equipping of the armed forces, their training, definition of forms and means of conducting operations and war as a whole.”
See also: Allied Joint Publication (AJP)-01(D) edition(delta)issued-21 December 2010. (NATO’s capstone doctrine)