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Motor planning allows us to conceive, plan, and initiate skilled motor behaviors. Motor planning involves activity distributed widely across the cortex. How this activity dynamically comes together to guide movement remains an unsolved problem. We study motor planning in mice performing a tactile decision behavior. Head-fixed mice discriminate object locations with their whiskers and report their choice by directional licking (“lick left”/“lick right”). A short-term memory component separates tactile “sensation” and “action” into distinct epochs. Using loss-of-function experiments, cell-type specific electrophysiology, and cellular imaging, we delineate when and how activity in specific brain areas and cell types drives motor planning in mice. Our results suggest that information flows serially from sensory to motor areas during motor planning. The motor cortex circuit maintains the motor plan during short-term memory and translates the motor plan into motor commands that drive the upcoming directional licking.