Military deception (MILDEC or MD) refers to the
|“||[a]ctions executed to deliberately mislead adversary military decision makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly forces mission.||”|
The five categories of military deception are:
- Strategic military deception — Military deception planned and executed by and in support of senior military commanders to result in adversary military policies and actions that support the originator’s strategic military objectives, policies, and operations.
- Operational military deception — Military deception planned and executed by and in support of operational-level commanders to result in adversary actions that are favorable to the originator’s objectives and operations. Operational military deception is planned and conducted in a theater of war to support campaigns and major operations.
- Tactical military deception — Military deception planned and executed by and in support of tactical commanders to result in adversary actions that are favorable to the originator’s objectives and operations. Tactical military deception is planned and conducted to support battles and engagements.
- Service military deception — Military deception planned and executed by the Services that pertain to Service support to joint operations. Service military deception is designed to protect and enhance the combat capabilities of Service forces and systems.
- Military deception in support of operations security (OPSEC) — Military deception planned and executed by and in support of all levels of command to support the prevention of the inadvertent compromise of sensitive or classified activities, capabilities, or intentions. Deceptive OPSEC measures are designed to distract foreign intelligence away from, or provide cover for, military operations and activities.
Military deception, as executed by JFCs, targets adversary decision makers through effects on their intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination systems. This deception requires a thorough knowledge of opponents and their decision making processes. Anticipation is key. During the formulation of the commander’s concept, particular attention is placed on defining how the JFC would like the enemy to act at critical points in the battle. Those desired enemy actions then become the goal of deception operations. Military deception is focused on desired behavior, not simply to mislead thinking. The purpose is to cause adversary commanders to form inaccurate impressions about friendly force capabilities or intentions, misappropriate their intelligence collection assets, or fail to employ combat or support units to their best advantage.
Military deception operations normally are an integral element of joint operations. Planning for military deception operations is top-down, in the sense that subordinate deception plans support the higher level plan.
Commanders at all levels can plan military deception operations. Plans may include the employment of lower-level units, although subordinate commanders may not know of the overall deception effort. It is therefore essential for commanders to coordinate their deception plans with their senior commander to ensure overall unity of effort.
Military deception operations depend on intelligence operations to identify appropriate deception targets, to assist in developing a credible story, to identify and focus on appropriate targets, and to assess the effectiveness of the military deception plan.
Military deception operations are a powerful tool in full-dimensional operations, but are not without cost. Forces and resources must be committed to the deception effort to make it believable, possibly to the short-term detriment of some aspects of the campaign or operation. OPSEC for military deception operations may dictate that only a select group of senior commanders and staff officers in the joint force know which actions are purely deceptive in nature. This situation can cause confusion within the force and must be closely monitored by JFCs and their staffs.
- U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Apr. 2010) (full-text).
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Joint Doctrine for Information Operations" (Joint Pub. 3-13), at II-4 and II-5 (Oct. 9, 1998) (full-text).