Small Wars Journal

Addendum to “On ‘Building Better Generals’”

Addendum to “On ‘Building Better Generals’” by Donald Vandergriff, The Bridge.

In a response to Rich Ganske’s recent blog on CNAS’ newest report, military historian and author Donald Vandergriff puts forth his views on “Building Better Generals” based on his book, The Path to Victory: America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs

Like so many studies done within the establishment and not wanting to offend anyone, the study “Building Better Generals” wants to add more to an already out of date career ladder system with “Opportunities Presented by Extended Career Lengths.”…

Read on.


Scott Kinner

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 3:55pm

Details and opinion aside, this piece is about the struggle of how to create a military capable of executing operations in the near and mid-term future.

The reality of that future is far more nuanced than many would like to believe. There are those that seize on the bevy of potential near peer competitors a multipolar world offers to argue that the military must be capable of countering them. There are those who declare the nation-state dead and advocate for a military that is fundamentally a group of heavily armed anthropologists and social scientists.

Somewhere in the middle is reality.

What is arguably true is that our military will be a smaller, general purpose force, that must be able to react reasonably swiftly to the threats actually presented, not just hypothesized. When times become lean, organizations are best served by investing in human capital - which will allow them to exploit opportunities as they come - or in the case of the military, competently respond to threats and challenges.

What is also true is that while technology appears to offer the chimera of truly effective centralized control and certainty, it is instead, taking us back to a time where a commodore was appointed, given a few ships, and told to stop piracy in the Mediterranean. He was given some guidance, some mission-type orders, and told to go make good things happen.

I speak specifically to the requirement to react immediately and quickly in terms of locality. This requires military leadership that is capable of understanding their actions in a larger context, but resourced and empowered to act in the immediacy of their situation.

Only a change in the way we manage our personnel system will produce this type of leader - cultivating talent, rewarding performance, letting people do what they do best regardless of how long they sit at a rank...these are what allow companies to be competitive in the immediacy of the too with the military.