We are privately owned and not affiliated or endorsed by any government agency.

Take the Benefits Quiz


Definition In military operations, a contingency refers to an unforeseen event or situation that requires a planned response. These are usually situations that involve potential threats or emergent crises. Contingency plans are developed and revised on an ongoing basis to effectively respond to these unpredictable events. Key Takeaways Contingency in military operations refers to a […]


In military operations, a contingency refers to an unforeseen event or situation that requires a planned response. These are usually situations that involve potential threats or emergent crises. Contingency plans are developed and revised on an ongoing basis to effectively respond to these unpredictable events.

Key Takeaways

  1. Contingency in military operations refers to a situation or event that might occur but that is not likely or intended; it is a plan prepared to respond to such unforeseeable emergencies or unforeseen conditions.
  2. The purpose of a contingency operation is to allow the military to quickly and effectively respond to unpredictable scenes, be it natural disasters, terrorist activities, or sudden combat scenarios. This preparedness for unexpected situations form an integral part of the strategic planning in the military.
  3. Contingency operations often require careful and thorough planning, significant resources, and potential rapid response or swift action. Often, these operations require high levels of training, adaptability, and readiness from every level of the military chain of command.


Contingency, as a military operations term, is considerably important because it pertains to the formulation and execution of plans that are created for possible, often unexpected, developments or situations that may arise in the future.

It ensures that military operations are equipped and prepared to respond effectively to a wide range of potential events or threats that can impact on national security or cause international conflict.

This not only includes warfare, but natural disasters, humanitarian crises, or political upheavals for which military intervention may be a part of the required response.

The value of contingency planning lies in its ability to enable a rapid, efficient, and comprehensive reaction that minimizes risks, saves resources, and optimizes outcomes, thereby ensuring the robustness of military operations.


In military operations, the term “contingency” is dedicated to addressing potential situations or circumstances that are unpredictable, but for which preparedness and a defined plan of action are critically essential. Contingency operations are designed in a manner to ensure readiness and provide the necessary measures to react swiftly and efficiently to unexpected circumstances, with the ultimate goal being maintaining national security or achieving a mission’s success.

This requires extensive planning and anticipatory strategy, often based on a comprehensive understanding of possible threats, emerging situations on the ground, or the complex geopolitical environment. The purpose of contingency in this context is incredibly multifaceted.

These measures serve as a buffer to mitigate risk, minimize casualties, and ensure the robustness of the overall military strategy, even amidst uncertainty or sudden change. In a broad sense, contingency operations are used for preserving peace, facilitating humanitarian assistance, undertaking evacuation operations, conducting strikes or raids, and in many more responsive and preventative situations.

Whatever the scenario, the objective remains the same — to have a prepared response that can be mobilized quickly to combat unforeseeable challenges efficiently and effectively.

Examples of Contingency

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991): When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US had a contingency plan for this action. Operation Desert Shield involved the buildup of troops and defense in Saudi Arabia, while Operation Desert Storm was the combat phase which forced Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait.

The U.S. South Korea Contingency Plan (OPLAN 5027): In the event of a North Korean invasion or sudden political instability in North Korea, the U.S. military and South Korean forces have a “‘war plan” known as OPLAN

This plans out how forces will protect South Korea, ensure the stability of the region, and protect key infrastructure and civilian populations.

Operation Eagle Claw (1980): This was a US military operation that was planned as a rescue mission for the 52 American hostages in Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis. The plan involved a complex, two-night operation, made up of several discrete missions. Unfortunately, the mission failed and resulted in an aborted mission, but it serves as an example of a military contingency plan responding to unexpected events.

FAQs on Contingency in Military Operations

What is a Contingency Operation?

A contingency operation in the military context refers to a planned mission or operation that is designed to occur if a particular situation arises. It’s a backup plan that the military can employ if things don’t go as anticipated.

Why are Contingency Operations important in the Military?

Contingency operations are vital in the military because they provide a secondary plan in the event the initial one fails. They allow the military to continue with their missions while minimizing potential risks or dangers. Contingencies ensure flexibility and adaptability in all military plans.

What is the difference between a Planned Operation and a Contingency Operation?

A planned operation is an operation that is scheduled and intended to be executed. Meanwhile, a contingency operation is one that has been prepared, but only gets executed if a particular situation arises. Although both are designed in advance, a contingency operation depends on changes in circumstances.

What are the principles of a successful Contingency Operation?

The principles of successful contingency operations include having clear objectives, adopting flexible and adaptable plans, ensuring thorough preparation, and maintaining good communication.

How is a Contingency Operation planned?

Contingency operations are planned by carrying out a detailed risk assessment to identify potential issues that might hinder the primary plan, then developing alternatives that can be executed if these problems occur. The planning process also involves assembling resources necessary for the alternative plans.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Service-Connected Disability Compensation
  • Veterans Pension Benefits
  • Emergency Financial Assistance
  • Veterans Health Care Eligibility
  • Veterans Appeal Process

Sources for More Information

  • The Joint Chiefs of Staff: An official resource providing military doctrine and strategy including contingency operations.
  • U.S. Department of Defense: The DoD site provides information about different types of military operations, including contingency operations.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica: Provides a wealth of information on a wide array of subjects, including military operations such as contingency.
  • Global Security: An independent organization focused on defense and security, and covers topics like military contingency operations.

Benefits.com Advisors

With expertise spanning local, state, and federal benefit programs, our team is dedicated to guiding individuals towards the perfect program tailored to their unique circumstances.

Rise to the top with Peak Benefits!

Join our Peak Benefits Newsletter for the latest news, resources, and offers on all things government benefits.

Related Articles