(1) Initiative means setting or changing the terms of battle by action. It implies an offensive
spirit in the conduct of all operations. Applied to the force as a whole, initiative requires a constant
effort to force the enemy to conform to our operational purpose and tempo while retaining our own
freedom of action. Applied to individual soldiers and leaders, it requires a willingness and ability to act
independently within the framework of the higher commander's intent. In both senses, initiative requires
audacity which may involve risk-taking and an atmosphere that supports it.
(2) There are at least two kinds of risk in combat. One is the risk of losing men and
equipment to attain the mission. The other is that a chosen course of action may not be successful, or
even if successful, fails to achieve the desired effect. All leaders must take prudent risks of both types
independently, based on their own judgment.
(3) In the defense, initiative implies quickly turning the tables on the attacker. The defender
must act rapidly to negate the attacker's initial advantage of choice of time and place of attack.
Intelligence operations seek advance warning. Planning anticipates likely enemy courses of action so no
time is lost in shaping the battle, setting the tempo and conditions of enemy operations, and in making
adjustments. Once the attacker is committed to a particular course of action, the defender must frustrate
it, then preempt any adjustments. This will cause the initiative to pass to the defender. Tactical
successes in seizing the initiative are used as leverage to seize the initiative at the operational level.
(4) In the attack, initiative implies never allowing the enemy to recover from the initial shock
of the attack. This requires surprise in selecting the time and place of attack; concentration, speed,
audacity, and violence in execution the seeking of soft spots; flexible shifting of the main effort; and
prompt transition to exploitation. The goal is the creation of a fluid situation in which the enemy
steadily loses track of events, and thus, coherence. The defender is not given the time to identify and-
mass his forces or supporting fires against the attack because of the ambiguity of the situation presented
to him and the rapidity with which it changes. Remaining the initiative over time requires thinking
ahead, planning beyond the initial operation, and anticipating key events on the battlefield hours, days,
and weeks ahead.
(5) In the chaos of battle, it is essential to decentralize decision authority to the lowest
practical level because overcentralization slows action and leads to inertia. At the same time,
decentralization risks some loss of precision in execution. The commander must constantly balance
these competing risks, recognizing that loss of precision is usually preferable to inaction.
Decentralization demands subordinates who are willing and able to take risks, and superiors who nurture
that willingness and ability in their subordinates. If subordinates are to exercise initiative without
endangering the overall success of the force, they must thoroughly understand the commander's intent
and the situational assumptions on which it was based. In turn, the force commander must encourage
subordinates to focus