Out With O-O-D-A

by BGen F.P. Henderson, USMC(Ret)

In your April issue, Maj R. Scott Moore, in his deservedly prize-winning essay, refers to the “observation-orientation-decision-action cycle” and attributes it to a retired Air Force officer. LtCoI Anderson in the same issue discusses the O-O-D-A cycle at some length and assigns it a “limited relevance” in maneuver warfare.

I do not know when the O-O-D-A cycle entered the current military vocabulary and thinking but wonder why it has supplanted the Marine Corps originated “sense-evaluate-decide-act (SEDA) operational process” published in the July 1971 Gazelle, “The FMF: An Alternative Future and How To Get There.” I think that the SEDA concept is superior to the O-O-D-A cycle for several reasons:

* In combat it applies to all actions by every occupational specialty at every level, from the rifleman (it is life or death for him) to the highest commander.

* It states things to be done during combat in the active voice rather than the passive voice. The battlefield is an active, not contemplative, place.

* When spoken, SEDA has a martial sound, like something a Marine drill instructor might bark. O-O-D-A is more musical, like the noise coming out of a tuba.

Based on the technology forecasts of that earlier era, the 1971 Gazette article was an attempt to visualize what a Marine air-ground task force could be in the 1980s. The most probable modus operandi of the Fleet Marine Force was considered to be “mobile/open” operations in low- and mid-intensity scenarios. The organizational structure was designed to lower as far as practical the command level at which combined arms/operational art decisions could be made.