Field Manual 3-34.331 TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEYING 16 January 2001

TOC Chap1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 AppA AppB AppC AppD Gl Bib


Chapter 2


Survey operations, whether under combat conditions or not, are like any other military operation and must be carefully planned. Enthusiasm, technical proficiency, and dedication do not make up for poor planning. All plans must be dynamic in nature and must be constantly evaluated and updated. This chapter addresses project planning, primarily from a logistics and administrative standpoint. Most of the information contained in this chapter is concerned with prebattle operations. Some technical planning will be addressed, but only as it impacts on logistics and administrative support. Project planning can be divided into three phases: evaluation and scheduling, information-gathering trips, and project execution.


2-1. Evaluation and scheduling includes the initial project evaluation, determination of the project requirements, assessment of the unit's ability to accomplish the project, determination of a preliminary plan and milestones, and coordination of the necessary administrative and logistical support. After receipt of a project directive, project planning begins. This preliminary planning involves evaluating the directive, assessing the unit's capability, and determining a preliminary schedule of events. It is important that all estimates, including time and funds, be labeled as preliminary for all reports or briefings. Many survey missions are in areas where government lodging and meals are unavailable or impracticable. The customer must be made aware of the scope and pace of survey operations and what the impact may be if operations are restricted to a set schedule. This must be done to provide the customer, supported units, or higher HQ with an accurate picture of the extent and cost of a project.


2-2. The first step in project planning involves evaluating the requirements as stated in the project directive. In many instances, requests will come from offices or units that have no real knowledge of survey requirements. The support request must be carefully evaluated to ensure that what the customer has ordered is, in fact, what the customer needs. This evaluation is usually done by the survey noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC). Generally, the project directive can be classified in one of the following three cases of requirement versus need:

  • The customer has requested work that is more accurate than is needed.
  • The customer has requested work that is less accurate than is needed.
  • The customer has requested work that matches the need.

2-3. In the first case, the customer is typically not survey-oriented and only sees the orders and classes of accuracy as words and numbers on a page. The customer does not understand the differences and the cost implications of each. Generally, a telephonic explanation of the differences in the orders of accuracy will resolve most potential conflicts. In those cases where the customer cannot be swayed from an erroneous perception of the orders of accuracy, an explanation of the cost differences will generally change the customer's mind. If the customer remains adamant about the request, start planning to accomplish the original request.

2-4. In the second case, the customer must be contacted and the differences in the orders of accuracy explained. Since funding costs usually go up or down in direct proportion to the order or class of accuracy, it may be difficult to change the customer's attitude about the request. If the customer cannot be swayed, start planning to accomplish the original request.

NOTE: Careful documentation of all contacts and conversations with the customer should be kept, especially in the first two instances. At some future date, the customer may realize that the survey unit gave good advice and may wish to change the initial request. If the recommendations for change are not documented accurately, the unit may be liable to correct a project without additional funding.

2-5. In the third case, planning can begin immediately. This is usually the case when dealing with other military units that are routine survey users.


2-6. Assessing the unit's ability to conduct any type of survey is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks. Fortunately, many mechanisms exist to assist in this evaluation. The single best indicators are the commander's and the survey-section leader's personal familiarity with the soldiers. Since this is not always accurate, a number of systems have been established to help in this evaluation. Two of these systems are as follows:

  • Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP). ARTEPs contain mission training plans (MTPs), battle drills, and evaluation guides for assessing a unit's ability to conduct various team tasks.
  • Unit files. These files contain information on a unit's past performance on similar projects. They contain the names of personnel who conducted the project and the duration time. Any previous problems are listed and explained in great detail.

2-7. This information can prove to be very valuable, not only for assessing the unit's ability to conduct the project, but also in planning the project as a whole. A listing of the unit's training deficiencies can be generated. The survey-section leader can develop a training program to address any shortcomings. This program has to be designed around the project milestones. The tendency to assign the most qualified personnel should be avoided. Usually, a mix of highly qualified and entry-level soldiers should be assigned to any project to ensure that new people get the experience they need.


2-8. The Federal Geodetic Control Committee (FGCC) established the Standards and Specifications for Geodetic Control Networks (SSGCN). These standards define the orders of accuracy for geodetic work conducted in the US. These SSGCN are used to ensure uniformity of all work conducted to support and extend the US National Control Network. The Army, through the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is a member of the FGCC and has agreed to comply with the SSGCN. All Army survey activities conducted within the US should be in compliance with these standards.

2-9. When possible, surveys in other nations should also comply. Due to military necessity, there will be occasions when compliance is not possible due to mission requirements. Some of these situations may involve the following:

  • Projects conducted in a time of war.
  • Projects conducted as training exercises designed as realistic war-training exercises.
  • Projects not intended for inclusion in the US National Control Network.
  • Projects conducted to support consumer requests that are specifically exempt.

2-10. When feasible, all field activities should conform to the SSGCN. At some later date, it may be determined that any given project should have been included in the US National Control Network. If the fieldwork was in total compliance, only the computations will need to be refined.


2-11. Milestones are developed for estimating project duration and cost and for managing personnel and resources. Milestones generally take the form of a timeline, with the events noted as they should occur. A timeline allows a commander or a customer to see, at a glance, how a project is proceeding. This manual gives general tips on the development of timelines for all types of survey activities. Under combat conditions, it may not be feasible to develop precise timelines. The flow of a battle may dictate dramatic changes to milestones, and most work will have to be accomplished with a very short suspense. In these situations, developing a timeline may be time consuming and counterproductive. Under normal prebattle operations, it is feasible and advisable to develop milestones. Care should be taken to ensure that the resulting timeline is not overly ambitious.

2-12. There are a number of variables associated with any timeline. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Availability and type of equipment.
  • Experience of personnel.
  • Terrain, vegetation, and weather.
  • Extent or area of project.
  • Priority of other projects.
  • Enemy or adversary intervention.

Table 2-1shows typical rates of progress for various types of survey operations. These are only rule-of-thumb estimates. Each unit must develop its own rates-of-progress table based on the equipment and the level of expertise of assigned personnel.

Table 2-1. Typical Rates of Progress for Third-Order Surveys Using One Survey Squad


Survey Method

Average Distance
per Setup

Hours per Setup by

Average Distance

Daily Progress 
(10-Hour Day)




100 km


200 km

50 km


150 km

10 km


40 km


25.0 km



1.0 km



0.1 km





5.0 km


40.0 km

2.0 km


25.0 km

1.0 km


20.0 km

Leveling (differential, 3-wire, loop)

200.0 m

Minutes per setup

6.0 km

150.0 m

4.5 km

100.0 m

3.0 km


1. Times are subject to delay due to the weather, the road conditions, or the tactical situation.

2. The survey squad consists of seven personnel.

3. GPS sessions are using four receivers per session.

4. The daily progress for RTK surveying is dependent on a network of repeater stations to transmit the signal corrections between the base station and the roving receivers.

5. GPS-network coverage areas depend on the network geometry and the availability of suitable terrain for each setup.

2-13. Project schedules can be established using several different approaches. The two most common approaches are to establish the schedule based on a firm start or end date. The procedures are similar in both cases, with the following differences:

  • If the start date has been firmly established, then the project is laid out from beginning to end with each event occurring as it will happen.
  • If the end date has been established, then the project must be planned in reverse. That is, events that occur last must be programmed from the end of the project backward until a start time is established.

2-14. In all cases, schedules must be realistic but not overly ambitious. Delays due to weather, equipment, personnel shortcomings, or any other problems must be built into the schedule. In most cases, it is better to estimate a longer duration time and finish early than to underestimate and miss a scheduled end date.


2-15. Administrative support is normally concerned with documentation, both technical and nontechnical. Technical documentation usually includes typing reports, tabulating and preparing technical data, or preparing briefing materials. The survey team, with limited help from clerical personnel, often accomplish these technical administrative actions. Nontechnical documentation usually involves personnel actions and is performed by specialists in the Personnel and Administration Center (PAC), the Adjutant General (AG) Office, or the finance and accounting office (FAO). This portion covers general guidance about what should be accomplished and when, primarily with peacetime operations conducted elsewhere than at the unit's installation. Wartime requirements are addressed in various SOPs of the unit, parent unit, and major Army commands (MACOMs).


2-16. Before a survey unit deploys to another installation or area, a number of administrative actions should be accomplished. All routine personnel actions for survey-party members should be accomplished to ensure that there will be minimal actions while deployed. All soldiers should make sure that their pay portions, allotments, insurance statements, and other financial requirements are updated. Other actions that may be required are powers of attorney and routine medical checks. If a long duration time is anticipated, all personnel should schedule a records review, to include promotion packets, personnel and finance records, and emergency data cards.

2-17. After all these actions have been completed, there will theoretically be no need for nontechnical administrative support. In reality, new actions will be required from time to time. Therefore, the party chief should make arrangements for handling any actions that may be required during the project. The local installation PAC or AG should provide this information. Depending on the nature of the required action, the party chief may be able to submit the paperwork through the mail. If these actions cannot be done through the mail or telephonically, a visit to the AG at the project installation or the nearest military facility may be required.


2-18. There will be times when a party chief or an individual is not able to complete a required action. The home installation should provide guidance to the party chief on how to address these problems. If the project is being conducted on a military installation, the party chief should check in with the local AG upon arrival, before any problems are encountered. Contact with the AG at the project installation should be made during the recon phase and a point of contact (POC) established. This will alert the AG that the survey unit is in the area, and the AG will usually give any assistance they can.

2-19. As is often the case, the project may be in an area other than on a military reservation. In the US, there will usually be a military representative who can assist. It may be possible to arrange for limited support from a local office of the Army Recruiting Command, the Army Reserve, or the Army National Guard. Regardless of the source, contact should be established before assistance is needed. Technical administrative support will usually be nonexistent and is the responsibility of the survey team.


2-20. Nontechnical administrative support after project completion is the same as prior to deployment. The local PAC, AG, and FAO will handle these actions. These actions include filing travel vouchers, initiating new personnel actions, and reviewing personnel and finance records. The parent unit will be able to assist with technical administrative support, which normally involves finalizing reports and information.


2-21. This segment gives general guidance on the types of logistics arrangements and planning that should be accomplished. Many of these topics are covered in very general terms. The numerous requirements of the various MACOMs and GS units prohibit this segment from being all-encompassing.


2-22. Moving a unit of any size takes careful and thorough planning. Much of the specific information concerning preparation for moving a survey section or unit will be contained in the unit's or the parent organization's SOP. It is imperative that all equipment and personnel move as cohesively as possible. Movement plans should be developed well in advance of any anticipated moves and should cover all contingencies. They should address moving individual elements and/or the entire unit. Most of the requirements for movement are described in FM 55-10, which is a concise reference manual and should be available when preparing any movement plans. The information in this FM is applicable to most wartime and peacetime situations. In some cases, a MACOM will draft supplemental material.


2-23. One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of any successful operation is communication. During movement (regardless of the mode of transportation), the unit will normally be dispersed in convoys. During field-survey procedures, the field teams will be located throughout the corps area. It is imperative that the elements of the unit have the ability to communicate with the command and control section.

2-24. Planning for communication support requires the same careful attention to detail as any other aspect. Depending on the nature of the operation, a determination must be made of how much and what type of communication equipment will be required. Normally, there will be a mix of landlines, portable radios, and cellular phones. After the number of devices is established, the unit must determine how much of its own equipment is available. If a unit does not have adequate equipment, it should arrange for support from the customer or another organization. This is often a very satisfactory solution if it is possible. Another solution is the local purchase of hand-held radios. This will probably require a check with the local communications center to ensure that there are no frequency conflicts as a result of nonstandard communications equipment. However, the unit will often have to operate within its own equipment limitations. In this case, it will be necessary to reevaluate the planned communications network and eliminate some nice-to-have elements.

2-25. One of the best means of communication is the standard military radio that is available in all units. These devices give instant access to all users. However, there are a number of problems associated with these radios, to include the following major problem areas:

  • Lack of user adherence to approved radio procedures.
  • Potential enemy exploitation of nonsecure communications (such as obtaining intelligence information, deception, radio direction finding, or jamming).
  • Lack of batteries and poor equipment maintenance.
  • tmospheric conditions that render the radios inoperative.
  • Limited range of single receivers without radio-relay equipment.

2-26. The first two problem areas are directly related, and the solutions are similar. All units have a CEOI that provides frequency and call-sign allocations as well as security measures. Strict adherence to these procedures is mandatory. All personnel and radio/telephone operators (RTOs) must be trained in the proper procedures to ensure the denial of intelligence information to the enemy. This will also help prevent other exploitation procedures that any adversary may employ.

2-27. The lack of batteries and equipment-maintenance problems must be addressed before the equipment is used. Proper maintenance on all equipment can eliminate most problems. The entire communications system should be checked occasionally to ensure that it is functioning as designed. Batteries should be stored in an approved fashion and checked and replaced as needed.

2-28. Atmospheric conditions are a major problem and there are only limited solutions. It may be necessary to establish landline communications. If this is the best solution, a series of communications checkpoints should be developed along travel routes and throughout the AO. This system is often cumbersome, particularly if a move is over great distances or through undeveloped areas. The establishment of radio relays will sometimes overcome these difficulties. In a combat environment, it may be possible to contact the communications officer in the corps and arrange for radio-repeater access.

2-29. After resolving all problems, the only aspect remaining is the use of the equipment that has been selected. Following proper radio procedures (as specified in the CEOI) and communications-security procedures are very important.


2-30. Specific details on how to procure required materials or material support is generally found in unit SOPs. The intention of this manual is to emphasize the importance of making advance arrangements for these resources. As part of the planning process, an estimate of the time and materials required must be developed. This estimate is based on past experience with similar projects and the known requirements of the present project. These requirements should be developed without regard to the cost or the difficulty of procurement. Determine what is needed and then figure out how to get it. Normally, most of the material support is the responsibility of the customer. However, this is not always true. Inability of the customer to provide material support should be clearly documented in the reports from information-gathering trips. In particular, the initial site-visitation trip (ISVT) and the administrative-recon trip should result in a specific POC for acquiring necessary materials. The unit should acquire technical supplies through normal supply channels.


2-31. Information-gathering trips are used to gather information on the conduct of the project and for progress evaluation. The information gathered will be logistical, administrative, or technical and is used to refine project plans and milestones. The following paragraphs describe information-gathering trips as they apply to normal prebattle operations. In some instances, these trips can be consolidated or eliminated. The overall need for the various described trips will depend on a number of variables, including 

  • The unit's familiarity with the area concerned.
  • The amount of information already available concerning the project or the supported unit.
  • The anticipated duration of the project.
  • The amount of problems encountered by the unit.


2-32. The ISVT is basically a fact-finding mission that is normally conducted by the survey-section leader and the project party chief. The primary function of this trip is to gather information that will be used to plan the project and to establish POCs for the various support functions.

2-33. All project directives will identify an overall POC. This individual or office is normally concerned with the results of the project and may not be able to provide specific types of assistance that will be required. Often, the overall POC will be able to assist in establishing a POC for administrative and logistics requirements.

2-34. The types of support that must be arranged before any field activity include equipment maintenance; medical and dental care; personnel actions; supply, lodging, mess, and mail services; and personnel. These arrangements must be geared to meet the specific needs of the recon party and to support the general needs of the project-execution party.

2-35. For successful completion of the recon phase, all arrangements with respect to care of personnel and equipment must be made during the ISVT. Careful records should be maintained and memorandums of agreement (MOAs) should be drafted as required. Chapter 11 identifies the documentation required as a result of the ISVT.


2-36. The purpose of the administrative-recon trip is to finalize arrangements for the project and to plan the specifics of the fieldwork. Chapter 3 discusses how to conduct a survey recon. During the recon, it is imperative that all arrangements made during the ISVT be checked to ensure that they are correct and viable. There may be a delay between the recon and the project execution that causes some previously established POC to change. If this occurs, a replacement POC must be established. Any unanticipated event that occurs should be carefully documented. Chapter 11 identifies the documentation required as a result of the recon trip.


2-37. The survey-section leader or a command representative will generally conduct the project-visitation trip, which has a twofold purpose. The first is to check on the progress of the project, which is the responsibility of the survey-section leader. Any recurring technical problems will be discussed at length and resolved in such a manner as to preclude recurrences. If problems have been occurring before a visitation trip, contact with the parent unit should have been made previously. Technical difficulties that need resolution should not be left unresolved until a scheduled project-visitation trip. The second function is to check on the health, the welfare, and the morale of the troops. It is imperative that the commander knows how the troops are doing with respect to the job and as individuals. If numerous technical problems have been occurring, it is possible that some personal problems are being overlooked. The project visitation can often resolve these problems before they become major limiting factors on the project execution. A trip report should be completed and included in the final project folder for historical purposes.


2-38. Project execution is the actual conduct of the project and putting the project plans into effect. Unexpected or unusual circumstances may require plan modifications. If all planning has been done correctly, the survey team should arrive and be able to go straight to work without delays. As problems occur, the POC should be contacted and the problems resolved as expeditiously as possible. Specific details on project execution are covered in the following chapters concerning each survey activity. Chapter 3 identifies the documentation required for all phases of project planning and execution.