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Management and utilisation of Mission Essential Tasks Lists

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Section 3: Tactical level planning


To fit in with overall METLs-based planning and training, the Services need to devise their own mission essential tasks, which must link upwards to support and complement the Joint METLs-based missions and plans of higher level organisations. Service mission essential tasks link tactical employment with strategic intent. As mentioned in Section 1, Service Chiefs were required in the 1999/2000 NZDF Purchase Agreement to develop tactical task lists, complete with conditions and standards, for approved ECs with Response Times of up to 60 days. This section discusses the progress made by the Services in the intervening 11 years.


The Army has taken up the development and implementation of tactical mission essential tasks with the most purpose. In 2003 the Army adopted and adapted the US Army Universal Task List to be its tactical level task list.

We visited the Headquarters 2nd Land Force Group and two of its units. Although the training planning showed a thoughtful approach based on higher level guidance and annually produced METLs, we understand that not all units within the two Land Force Groups are as advanced with METLs-based training as the 1st Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Logistics Regiment.

There is not always consistency in unit level planning or training between like units of the two Land Force Groups. This is inefficient in terms of planning effort and potentially ineffective in preparing forces for deployment. Land Combat, Land Combat Support and Land Combat Service Support Forces could draw on individuals and sub-units from either or both of the Land Force Groups when preparing for some particular contingency. Different unit training and preparation complicates the blending of personnel from different Groups.

Unit training plans revealed that tactical level military essential tasks do not encompass the lowest levels of collective training, which the Army calls battle tasks. Battle tasks are at the training level where the use of unique equipment or unit Standard Operating Procedures means that the training is necessarily different between units. Achievement of Army universal tasks needs units to teach and exercise the correct battle level tasks.

The collective training plans developed by the 2nd Land Force Group draw on command guidance and the documented ECs. As noted in paragraph 2.13 above, command guidance takes a year-on-year approach to emphasising selected ECs.

Units must be ready to contribute to higher level inter-agency contingency tasks such as counter terrorist response or civil defence assistance, in addition to their military tasks. At formation and unit level analysis and selection of appropriate operational level joint mission essential tasks and their inclusion in unit training plans achieves this. However it is apparent that some unit training uses operational level guidance flowed down through the Joint METLs process, while some involves less rigorous ad hoc means.

Air Force

The Air Force has an active project to develop an RNZAF (tactical level) task list. The project has taken a holistic approach by drawing on NZDF Outputs and ECs, as well as aircraft-specific Concepts of Operations and Statements of Operating Intent. The Air Force is referencing the resultant analysis to higher-level NZDF doctrine.

The Air Force is developing tactical tasks by Force Element, and grouping and numbering tasks according to the core competencies of the United States Air Force Air Force Tactical Task List. Tasks are also being linked to the higher-level tasks of the NZDF Universal Joint Task List.

Force Element task development thus far has focussed on getting buy-in from the Force Elements, but the final RNZAF tactical task list will merge like tasks together. Assignment of Force Elements to tasks will occur during mission planning at the operational level.

Traditionally, aircraft type and the need for aircrew to advance through the categorisation system18 and maintain currency on aircraft type have driven flying training. This carries the risk that the capability of the platform rather than the requirement to contribute to joint tasks will take priority. The Air Force should utilise production of the tactical task list as an opportunity to review training against actual operational requirements.


The Navy view is that NZBR 99 - RNZN Instructions for the Generation, Maintenance, and Evaluation of Operational Capability together with MONICAR19 is the system that links naval collective training to METLs at the operational level.

NZBR 99 provides RNZN Force Elements with guidance and instructions on generating and maintaining operational capability.

The MONICAR suite of applications is the Navy's primary method for planning force element training to meet DLOC and OLOC requirements, and for reporting against those states. It measures and reports on the readiness of Force Elements at DLOC and their preparedness to build upon the DLOC state and be deployable on operations. It measures and reports on current missions, future missions (within the next four weeks) and readiness and preparedness against ECs.

It appears that maintaining DLOC for Navy Force Elements is more a matter of achieving the training objectives contained in MONICAR and less of an annually directed focus on possible or probable contingencies as is the case with the Army. It seems training objectives comprise collective activities at a level below tactical tasks, probably more aligned with what the Army describes as battle tasks. This is consonant with a view within the Navy that MONICAR tasks are about training and not about doing the mission. Some question whether there is meaningful linkage between lower level Navy tasks and operational level joint mission essential tasks.

MONICAR is a useful reporting tool, but it is not a naval tactical task list or mission essential task list. Neither on its own nor in combination with NZBR 99 is it a system for linking naval tactical employment with the higher level intent expressed in Military Response Options or Joint METLs. NZBRs 60 - Management of Naval Integrated Capability Assessment Reports and 99 - RNZN Instructions for the Generation, Maintenance, and Evaluation of Operational Capability are silent on the subject of mission essential tasks, METLs, and any linking of training states to joint capability through contingency plans or mission plans utilising Joint METLs.

The Navy may consider that its DLOC training can be aligned or mapped to Joint METLs, but the system lacks transparency and clear linkage to operational planning in the way envisaged in the NZDF's Joint METLs Handbook.

Progress to date

Progress by the Services towards implementing tactical task lists is mixed. None has achieved the1999/2000 Purchase Agreement objective to complete tactical task lists, complete with conditions and standards, for approved ECs with Response Times of up to 60 days. The vague specification in 1999 of what was required contributes to this. The wording of that direction suggests poor understanding at the time of the relation between mission essential tasks and METLs and the operationalising of METLs into performance-oriented mission plans.


It is recommended that the Navy:

  1. develops a tactical-level system to demonstrate that its readiness training is aligned with relevant Joint Mission Essential Task Lists, and that there is no training redundancy.

It is recommended that the Army:

  1. harmonises Mission Essential Task List development and training plans across units that perform the same or similar functions.

It is recommended that the Air Force:

  1. eliminates training redundancy by ensuring that its final Air Force Task List is focused on the operational requirement rather than the capabilities of its aircraft.

  1. Categorisation is the system whereby aircrew and aircrew instructors are qualified to perform various aircrew duties such as co-pilot and pilot or in the case of instructors, the instructional roles they may undertake. Categorisation is specific to an aircraft type.
  2. Management of Naval Integrated Capability Assessment Reports.

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