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Decision support template (DST)

Definition A Decision Support Template (DST) is a military planning tool used to map potential situations and necessary responses within a given operational environment. It synchronizes various elements like units, weapons, and terrain with specific times and conditions to help commanders make informed decisions. Essentially, a DST provides a visual representation of potential decisions in […]


A Decision Support Template (DST) is a military planning tool used to map potential situations and necessary responses within a given operational environment. It synchronizes various elements like units, weapons, and terrain with specific times and conditions to help commanders make informed decisions. Essentially, a DST provides a visual representation of potential decisions in response to different scenarios during an operation.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Decision Support Template (DST) is a synchronized and up-to-date visual representation of critical information set in a particular geographical and chronological context. It is used within military operations to assist commanders in decision-making procedures.
  2. The DST outlines critical, relevant factors and event timelines tied to the mission or operational variables. This includes key decisions, required assets, potential threats, and other significant considerations that would significantly impact the success or failure of a mission.
  3. Lastly, a DST not only allows for better situational comprehension, predicting probable outcomes, and identifying potential pitfalls or opportunities, it also serves as a crucial communication tool. It helps in sharing a common operational picture among different units or command levels, promoting greater transparency and uniformity of thought within the military operation.


The Decision Support Template (DST) is a crucial military operation term because it serves as a planning tool that aids commanders and staff organizations in visualizing, organizing, and executing their strategy.

It graphically represents the factors that influence the decision-making process, allowing for a more informed and systematic approach to problem-solving.

The DST encapsulates key elements such as critical events, decision points, and potential threats, linking them to time, space and resources.

This fosters harmonization of procedures across different echelons, enhances communication, and reduces ambiguity, thereby leading to increased operational efficiency.

Thus, DST plays an integral role in supporting the mission analysis process and ensuring mission success.


The Decision Support Template (DST) plays a significant role in military operations as a visual aid that assists commanders in understanding potential decision points, areas of interest, and timelines concerning their operational environment. The primary purpose of a DST is to provide an all-encompassing, graphic representation to assist in the identification of potential opportunities and risks.

It serves as a real-time, dynamic tool that helps in the decision-making process by presenting the information in a manner that’s easy to understand and analyze for commanders. In a more detailed sense, the DST is used for planning, synchronizing, and executing military operations.

It consists of imperative events, critical tasks, decision points, and associated timelines. The DST assists in facilitating clarity on the state of the operational environment at any given time along with any foreseeable changes, helping commanders make more informed and strategic decisions.

Consequently, the DST is not just a planning tool, it’s also a monitoring tool to measure an operation’s success and guide adjustments as necessary.

Examples of Decision support template (DST)

Operation Iraqi Freedom: During Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. military commanders used decision support templates to plan and execute complex multi-pronged assaults. DSTs helped them assess the mission’s relative risks and probable outcomes and enabled decision-making with a high degree of certainty. Real-time intelligence about enemy positions, abilities and intentions were factored into the DSTs to anticipate and plan for various contingities.

United States Marine Corps: The United States Marine Corps has used decision support templates in their intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process. DSTs allow them to visualize the battlefield, understand potential enemy courses of action, and make decisions about where to concentrate their forces and resources. This was particularly instrumental during the Afghanistan War, where the terrain and enemy tactics posed unique challenges.

NATO Peacekeeping Missions: NATO forces often utilize DSTs in planning for peacekeeping missions, where multiple factors – such as civilian safety, host nation relations, enemy threat and logistical issues – need to be balanced in the decision-making process. DSTs with up-to-date and accurate information are quintessential in understanding complex situations and making strategic decisions accordingly. For instance, during the Kosovo peacekeeping mission, DSTs were used to plan operations to minimize collateral damage while maximizing mission success.

FAQ for Decision Support Template (DST)

What is a Decision Support Template (DST)?

A Decision Support Template (DST) is a graphic record of a war-gaming session depicting decision points, timelines including troop movement and events, battlefield areas, and other key factors. It is primarily used by the military for planning and implementing operations.

What is the main purpose of a DST?

The main aim of a DST is to assist commanders in making informed decisions during war-gaming and to provide a visual guide to significant events, decision points, and timelines.

How is a DST utilised in the military?

A DST is primarily used during the planning phase of a military operation. It helps to streamline the decision-making process, clearly outline action timelines, and visualize potential outcomes. It’s a valuable tool in enhancing operational planning and increasing the efficiency of decision-making.

Who typically uses a DST?

The decision support template is typically used by military commanders and their planning staff in the course of preparing and executing operations.

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Sources for More Information

  1. The United States Army Publishing Directorate (USAPD): This site offers a range of military literature, including documents related to military operations and decision-making. The homepage can be visited at https://armypubs.army.mil/.
  2. Joint Chiefs of Staff: This is the official site of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where one can find a variety of military doctrine publications. It can be accessed at https://www.jcs.mil/.
  3. NATO Standardization Office (NSO): The NATO Standardization Office publishes standards that guide NATO operations including decision making procedures. Check the website https://nso.nato.int/nso/.
  4. The National Defense University Press: This site promotes the study of national security and strategic military operations. You might find research publications related to DST here. Visit their homepage at https://ndupress.ndu.edu/.

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