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A laboratory system for studying the design of knowledge-based systems to support a manager in the development and execution of operational plans is described. The system, called ACS.1 for Automated Command Support, operates in the simulated environment of a naval air squadron, but the techniques used are believed applicable to a wide spectrum of environments requiring the planning of operations, the administration and monitoring of approved plans, and the retrospectrive analysis of completed operations. The development of ACS.1 has shown that the concept is feasible and has included the development of programming techniques to support it. The design of ACS.1 is predicated on the importance of system flexibility. This quality is considered essential to permit incremental growth of the system, to facilitate its adaptation to a changing environment or to new requirements, and to enable the manager to intervene in exceptional situations. Much of the design of ACS.1 was chosen to provide flexibility. As viewed from the top level, ACS.1 is highly modular, with coordination being achieved through a process of negotiation carried on via messages. The manager can intervene in this process in a central switching unit called the message handler. He can, for example, direct that certain messages be rerouted to new modules or to the terminal. This is a useful capability, facilitating the orderly incremental growth of the system, as well as permitting alteration of the system's behavior in preplanned ways to meet particular needs.