Implementing military doctrine

The dissertation project is about how militaries prepare for war through the use of formal military doctrines, specifically why and under what conditions they are implemented at varying degrees.

Formal military doctrines are authoritative and prescriptive documents containing warfighting concepts that are to be applied with judgement. They are in essence formalized theories of victory, which have been sanctioned by the military organization, given authority and are expected to shape the ways in which militaries organize, train and ultimately behave on the battlefield. Yet, while authoritative, armed forces do not always implement the concepts from their formal doctrines, creating a gap between what is prescribed and what is practiced. Despite both operational and societal consequences of armed forces rejecting their doctrines, there is a dearth of research on why and under what conditions armed forces implement their doctrines to varying degrees. This doctoral project consists of four original research articles that approach doctrinal implementation from different angles.

The first article is a literature review. It identifies the research gap and generates a proto-theory on why doctrinal implementation ought to vary based on anecdotal evidence from previous research. Read the article (available through open access): Implementing military doctrine: A theoretical model

The second article is a comparative case study between the failed implementation of the US Army’s 1976 Active Defense doctrine and successful implementation of the 1982 AirLand Battle doctrine. It tests and develops the theory from the previous article. Read the article (available through open access): Conceptualizing doctrinal rejection: a comparison between Active Defense and Airland Battle

The third article studies vertical implementation of military doctrine in the Swedish Armed Forces, exploring why the principles presented in high-level doctrine are implemented to varying degrees within subordinate publications. It further develops theory on doctrinal implementation.

The fourth article is a synthesis that studies how and why doctrine contributed to the significant practice changes that the Royal Norwegian Air Force underwent between its participation in the 1999 Operation Allied Force and 2011 Operation Unified Protector.

Define and measure doctrinal implementation

The dissertation project makes three contributions. The first is conceptual, with suggestions for how to define and measure doctrinal implementation along both horizontal and vertical axes. The second is empirical, with novel data on how and why doctrines are implemented. The third and most important contribution is theoretical, by providing explanations for why doctrinal implementation varies.

Responsible Department

Department of War Studies



The Swedish Defence University



Published 2023-05-30 Updated 2023-09-05