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Handbook 11-07
December 2010

Appendix M

After-Action Reviews

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3150.25D, Joint Lessons Learned Program, 10 October 2008, provides information for policies, reporting procedures, and responsibilities for members of joint task forces responding to incidents. It defines the after action review (AAR) as "a panel of representatives from major participating units in an operation, exercise, experiment, or event led by a facilitator to review observations recorded for validation." It defines a lesson learned as "results from an evaluation or observation of an implemented corrective action that contributed to improved performance or increased capability. A lesson learned also results from an evaluation or observation of a positive finding that did not necessarily require corrective action other than sustainment."

Commanders and staffs at all echelons are responsible for collecting relevant observations, insights, and lesson learned (OIL) using both formal and informal methods. Army Regulation (AR) 11-33, Army Lessons Learned Program: System Development and Application, 17 October 2006, established the AAR system and lessons learned process. Paragraphs 2-3, 2-4, and 2-5 require commanders of active duty, Guard, and Reserve commands, Army service component commands, direct reporting units, and assigned units (brigade or larger) to submit unit-level AARs and other lessons-learned material to the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) for review, analysis, dissemination, and archiving. This is to be completed no later than 90 days after returning to home station after an incident. AR 11-33 also requires commanders to assist CALL collection and analysis teams when they arrive in their operational area during or following an incident.

The Army will collect relevant OIL, AARs, tactics, techniques, and procedures and other records from Army operations, major collective training exercises, and experiments to identify issues that impact Soldier and unit performance. By analyzing the data, the Army determines how to sustain, enhance, and increase its preparedness for future operations. The process is illustrated in Figure N-1. CALL is responsible for archiving unit AARs and developing products for dissemination to training units so that future training will incorporate best practices.

Army Training Circular 25-20, A Leader's Guide to After-Action Reviews, 30 September 1993, provides thorough guidance on preparing an AAR. The U.S. Army conducts AARs for both training exercises and operations and provides a standardized format to identify:

  • Unit-identified problems with the commander's solution.
  • Better ways of doing business (no changes required to current doctrine, training, organization, material, and leadership).
  • Commander-identified problems that require Headquarters, Department of the Army Training and Doctrine Command action to solve.

Graphic showing diagram of deliberate lessons learned process

Figure M-1. Deliberate lessons learned process

In the National Response Framework there are numerous requirements to conduct AARs.

  • ESF #8 requires the regional, field, and joint field office logistics management structure to participate "in the development of after action reports and remedial action management program inputs to headquarters to correct deficiencies or publicize best practices."
  • ESF #8, on completion of the incident, prepares summary after action and lessons learned reports. These reports identify key problems, indicate how they were solved, and make recommendations for improving response operations. ESF #8 will request input and coordinate the preparation of the after action and lessons learned reports with all supported and supporting agencies.
  • ESF #12 directs the Department of Energy to contribute to AARs.
  • The Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) Annex states that when an incident is complete, "incident-related activities transition back from response to steady state. Concurrently, the after action report is prepared."
  • The demobilization portion of the CIKR Annex further states, "After action reports are developed following an incident to detail operational successes, problems, and key issues affecting management of the incident. After action reports include appropriate feedback from all Federal, State, tribal, local, nongovernmental, and private-sector partners participating in the incident." It also provides Department of Homeland Security procedures for completing an AAR.

The National Incident Management System requires all preparedness organizations to "conduct after action reviews to strengthen future preparedness." It also requires all plans to incorporate AARs, lessons learned, and corrective actions.



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