Small Wars Journal

disruptive thinkers

Is the Chairman a Disruptive Thinker?

Sun, 08/26/2012 - 8:41pm

An article in the most recent edition of the Naval War College Review takes a critical look at the cost of joint reform and offers some interesting recommendations to maintain the benefits of jointness in a fiscally austere environment:

“Jointness represents an inefficient compromise between two schools of thought: on one hand, complete unification of the military, and the other, maintaining a service-centric structure. Joint organizations and processes, many of which were created during periods of practically unconstrained spending during the Cold War and after September 11, 2001, are layered upon the existing overhead of the services.

Over the past twenty-five years many practitioners, elected officials, and scholars have written extensively on the positive and negative aspects of Goldwater-Nichols legislation and the extent of its implementation throughout the Department of Defense. However, a gap exists in the current literature—an assessment of the total cost of implementing and maintaining the current joint structure. This assessment must include the total cost of military, civilian, and contractor support to joint staff work; facilities; additional work levied across the enterprise to support joint processes; and the cost of developing joint products, exercises, and assessments. That total cost of Goldwater-Nichols implementation should then be compared to the benefits derived from twenty-five years of reform to determine if the congressional mandate has provided good value for the American taxpayer.”

The article also highlights the critical role the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had in stimulating the G-N reform movement 30 years ago:

“In a closed session of the House Armed Service Committee in February 1982, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Jones, U.S. Air Force, told Congress that the system was broken and that despite his best efforts he was not able to reform it— congressional action was needed. This testimony was ultimately the catalyst for bringing about the Goldwater-Nichols reform, though it would take nearly five years to garner enough support in Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House to pass the watershed legislation.”

Considering the numerous acquisition debacles, the broken personnel system, and the conduct of military operations over the past decade, will our current Chairman step forward with bold ideas for reform or will he simply defend the status quo in the face of forthcoming fiscal cuts? Could the current national fiscal problems and the public’s mandate to reduce military spending actually force much needed changes in the US Military?

Disruptive Thinkers: The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation

Tue, 06/19/2012 - 6:27am

Editor's Note:  You can also see BJ Armstrong's presentation at the Naval Warfare Development Command's Junior Leader Symposium here.

In May a discussion was started here at Small Wars Journal about junior leaders and the role that they can play in the innovative solutions needed for our success in the 21st century.  The opening salvo was written by LT Ben Kohlmann with his article “The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers,” and it was followed by SWJ Editor Pete Munson’s response “Disruptive Thinkers: Defining the Problem.”  I wrote about the subject at the USNI Blog with my article “Time to Think…and to Listen” and many more have followed here at Small Wars Journal.

On 6 June, I was invited to speak at Navy Warfare Development Command’s “Junior Leaders Innovation Symposium” in Norfolk, Virginia.  In a day-long event myself, Ben Kohlmann, and LT Rob McFall (a Surface Warfare Officer, author, and member of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Editorial Board) were given a chance to speak along with Flag Officers and academics.  NWDC put on a great event and a lot of good material was presented.  You can visit the website and find the slides that went with the presentations, as well as a lot of reading material like Ben Kohlmann’s article on Disruptive Thinkers from here at Small Wars Journal and Rob McFall’s call for tactical innovation at USNI Blog.

The following links are a series of blog posts based on the remarks that I delivered to a standing room only crowd of 230+ Junior Officers and Junior Enlisted which gathered at NWDC’s headquarters, and the 200+ that joined us online via DCO.  These are based on my prepared remarks, so if NWDC posts the video online you’ll surely find differences (I worked from notes rather than reading directly from the page) as well as some mistakes.  In the first post, “A Junior Officer and a Discovery” I relate the history of Lieutenant William Sowden Sims’ discovery of a new gunnery technique which revolutionized naval warfare, and how he developed the new tactics, techniques, and procedures needed to implement it.  The next post, “The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation,” we look at what Sims did after developing his idea in order to get the Navy to adopt it.  In the final post, “Expertise, Voice, Grit, and Listening…A Look at the Possible.” we look at what Admiral Sims learned about innovation to apply later in his career, and what we can observe from the history.

 A Junior Officer and a Discovery

The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation

Expertise, Voice, Grit, and Listening…A Look at the Possible

If you haven’t already, also consider checking out the podcast of Midrats Episode 127, where Pete Munson discusses “Disruption, Disfunction, and Leadership” for an hour.

Disruptive Thinkers: A Face for Radio

Fri, 06/08/2012 - 6:08am

Amidst a very busy schedule this weekend, I'll be on CDR Phibian Salamander's weekly radio show, Midrats.  It will be on from 5-6 PM Eastern time on Sunday 10 June (that's 1700-1800 for those of you who are brainwashed and not disruptive).  The topic will be disruption, dysfunction, and leadership.  As my son says, if you don't have haters, you're doing something wrong, so all you supporters and haters tune in for what will either be an exposition of the nuance I see in the disruptive thinkers issue, or an exposition that radio is not as easy as it seems as I fumble for words on my first go-round.  The link to more details on the show can be found here.  Go to that link to figure out how to listen.  It is also available on podcast.

Don't Promote Mediocrity

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 9:54pm

Brigardier Mark Arnold, an Army reservist and CEO of a multinational manufacturing firm, argues for reforms to the military's personnel system in an essay at Armed Forces Journal.  There are some familiar refrains here.

Today’s best junior officers, those with high talent and a strong calling to service, should become the admirals and generals who testify before Congress and serve as Joint Chiefs in 20 years. Retaining them is vital; losing them hurts our long-term ability to creatively transform the military as security challenges change. The U.S. military must replace its industrial-age personnel processes and insular culture with contemporary personnel and talent management systems that reward innovation. ...


A short list of overdue changes to the military personnel system includes efforts to:

• Promote top performers only when they are selected for higher responsibilities.

• Eliminate year-group and “time in grade” promotions.

• Find and release the worst performers at all levels.

• Establish a job posting system.

• Give senior leaders responsibility for assessing, hiring and developing talent.

• Allow top talent to choose non-command assignments.

• Establish succession-planning processes.

• Create assignment flexibility between active and reserve components.

• Learn from exit interviews.

Read the rest here.

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:09am

Editor's Note: Doug Macgregor presented this originally as a powerpoint brief to intermediate-level education students.  It is converted from its original format for ease of online reading, though the slide and bullet structure was maintained.

Slide 1

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment


•Don’t fight the problem!

•What are the broad strategic trend lines?

•What will America’s Post-Election Defense Establishment look like?

•What should the Army senior leadership do?

•Truthful, open debate is vital.

•Summary of Key Points


Slide 2

  • “Don't fight the problem, decide it.” George C. Marshall, General of the Army America’s military technological edge and advantages in training, discipline and flexibility have been eroded by the U.S. failure to sustain investment in strategic and operational forces. This condition is the direct consequence of our self-defeating obsession with hegemonic nation building, military occupations and resulting counter-insurgency campaigns in the Middle East and Afghanistan. This period is ending. Now, Army Force Design, Modernization and Thinking about warfare must adjust to radically new strategic conditions.
  • The Central Idea: “Cross-domain synergy. The complementary vice merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each enhances the effectiveness and compensates for the vulnerabilities of the others…”  JOINT OPERATIONAL ACCESS CONCEPT (JOAC) VERSION 1.0 17 January 2012


Slide 3

Trend lines: Russia, NE Asia and India

  • Russia: Down from 14 million in the armed forces to less than a million. Russian forces are hard pressed to modernize, let alone secure Russia, which borders 14 nations. Russia’s focus is on restive Muslim at home and in Central Asia, not on the US and the West.
  • China: Stability‐obsessed leaders are focused on maintaining rapid economic growth to create enough jobs for China’s 1.3 billion people and keep a lid on unrest. China’s Military (PLA) is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever‐greater effort required to impose political control.
  • Japan and the ROK: Japanese and Korean Defense Ministers will soon sign a general security of military information agreement and an acquisition and cross‐servicing agreement. The foundation for a military alliance that will turn the tables on China and change the strategic balance in NE Asia.
  • India: China’s acquisition of Coco Island from Myanmar and build up of Gawadar Naval base in Pakistan have induced India to build up its own naval forces. India’s naval base at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, is critical to India’s strategy for blocking Chinese shipping through the Strait of Malacca.


Slide 4

Trend lines: The Islamic World and Latin America

  • Muslim Societies in North Africa, ME and SWA are in meltdown. Islamism is rising because it is rooted in the societies and their supporting cultures. The growing Islamist majorities will struggle for decades to govern themselves.
  • Turkey and Iran are in direct opposition in Syria; attempts to remove Assad from power in Syria are reinforcing Iran’s perception that it needs a nuclear deterrent to hold the Sunni Peninsular Arabs, Israel, Turkey, and potentially U.S. Forces at risk. Securing Iran and its new Shiite Satellite State, Iraq, and competition for regional dominance will pit Turkey and Iran against each other for decades.
  • Criminality, terrorism and human trafficking from Latin America, especially, Mexico, presents an immediate and growing threat to the internal stability and national security of the United States. Mexico is in the midst of a drug war, with rival cartels fighting for control of a $30 billion market for illegal drugs inside the United States.
  • The future key terrain of the world will be oil, minerals, water and the infrastructure that supports these resources. Al Faw in the Persian Gulf pumps out roughly $17,000 a second in crude oil. 42% of Nigeria's oil already goes to the United States… The West with Japanese participation is dividing up the World’s resources on the Yalta model. The Chinese are not invited …


Slide 5

Trend lines: Debt Matters!

  • When interest rates on the U.S. Treasury’s securities rise – and they will – the U.S. Government’s cost of servicing the nation’s ballooning debt will soar confronting Americans with a new fiscal crisis;
  • In Senator Tom Coburn’s words, “the specter of default.”
  • International Financial Outlook is grim.  EUROZONE will implode followed by UK;
  • NE Asia: Chinese economic downturn already underway. Japan and Korea will follow.
  • Near Term: Probability of ‘Great power’ war low, but a Korean‐Style Emergency that demands ready, deployable Army combat forces capable of decisive, Joint offensive operations remains a strong possibility. Until borders are secure, Americans at home are at risk.
  • Long‐term: The prerequisite for any fight with U.S. Forces is to neutralize U.S. space-based assets. This fight involves kinetic and non‐kinetic (cyber) capabilities and will only intensify.


Slide 6

What do the trend leans mean for America's post election defense establishment?

  • Critical Task for incoming Defense Team in January 2013: Optimize today’s forces within the trend lines to guide strategic investment over time.
  • Industrial Age paradigm inefficiencies and duplications reduce operational impact and perpetuate unsustainable “cost exchange ratios” with our adversaries (Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan).
  • Optimizing “capability at cost” in new paradigm dramatically increases operational impact of each dollar spent – maintaining/enhancing security at reduced spending levels.


Slide 7

Implications for Army Ground Forces:

  • The U.S. will no longer sustain open‐ended military interventions in failing or failed states with the object of imposing cultural and political change with general purpose ground forces.
  • The Army can learn more about the future character of warfighting operations from the Falkland Islands Campaign than from its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Lines of Communications will be the life or death of force projection over vast distances. In the Pacific, Australia is key. (See Key State Strategy outlined in Breaking the Phalanx, Praeger January 1997)
  • The Army must offer a modular continuum of response that is flexible and inherently joint in design and assert a leadership role in Joint operations and concepts.
  • Without a new force design in place, the Army will not get a new strike vehicle or C4ISR package is the start point for change. Standardization of sensors, networks, C2 data, and intelligence is vital.


Slide 8

What should the Army’s senior leaders do?

  • In December 1905, three years after the Boer War ended, Richard Haldane became Secretary of State for War. Obstructed by a nation obsessed with the Royal Navy, and a political culture opposed to conscription, Haldane began preparing the British Army for a future conflict very different from colonial warfare.
  • Haldane set out to determine the form future war was likely to take, then, adopted the organization and weapons to fight it. In other words, software (thinking carefully about things, contemplating likely issues and problems) must come before hardware. What happened?
  • Haldane concentrated on reorganization, modernization and training to maximize capability at cost;
  • In practice, Haldane built a ground force suited to a global Maritime Power, not a regional Continental Power;
  • The result was an elite force of 6 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry division, designed for rapid deployment as a British Expedition Force (BEF), backed by a reserve of 14 Territorial divisions of volunteers;
  • In 1914, the BEF arrived in time to slow, then, cooperate with the French to halt the German advance.


Slide 9

Implications of the Haldane Model for today’s Army:

  • The Haldane approach demands rigorous analysis to link strategy with concept and capabilities; an integrated, joint military command structure with a self‐contained organization for combat. An Army for a global Aerospace‐Maritime Power, not a continental power!
  • New Army Force Design must:
    • Create powerful synergies with the technologies and concepts developed by U.S. Aerospace and Maritime Forces.
    • Punch above its weight, mobilizing fighting power disproportionate to their size;
    • Operate in a non‐linear, nodal and dispersed, mobile warfare environment inside a much more lethal battle space.
    • Possess the capability to close with the enemy, take hits, sustain losses, keep fighting and strike back decisively (employ accurate devastating firepower from tracked armored platforms to ensure survival and victory in close combat).


Slide 10

The Light Reconnaissance Strike Group (LRSG) breaks the WW II/Cold War paradigm!

  • The post‐election Army must be resilient. It must be survivable, effective and act as a Joint enabler across a range of alternative futures.
  • A Light Reconnaissance Strike Group performs critical tasks in the context of Joint operations:
    • Provides a credible land component with the mobility, firepower, protection and organic sustainment to operate autonomously under Joint C2 in dispersed mobile warfare;
    • Signals escalation dominance to the enemy;
    • Bypasses or punches through enemy resistance for operational maneuver to encircle and destroy sub‐national groups or nation‐state forces;
    • Shifts rapidly between close combat and peace enforcement.


Slide 11

Post-Industrial/Information Age Joint, Integrated C2 Warfighting Paradigm

  • Integrated “All Arms” Warfare: Warfighting Operations that integrate functional capabilities – Maneuver, Strike, IISR, Sustainment – across service lines inside an integrated Joint C2 operational framework.
  • “High lethality, low density”: Army Forces that punch above their weight, capable of operational reach in an environment of mobile, dispersed warfare.


Slide 12

In the absence of truthful, open debate nothing changes

  • “The question of whether to invade the Soviet Union is a political decision. My focus is on the military issues important to such an undertaking… It may be the campaign is over in 4‐6 weeks. Perhaps, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards in the first attack.” Lieutenant General Friedrich Paulus, Chief Planner for Operation Barbarossa, 1940
  • “I've never been more encouraged during my entire, almost four years in this country. I think we're making real progress. Everybody is very optimistic that I know of, who is intimately associated with our effort there.” General William Westmoreland, 16 November 1967
  • “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell, 1929
  • No Accountability = No Integrity = No Change


Slide 13

Summary of Key Points:

  • The future of the Army is a constrained future‐‐especially in the budgetary sense. The Haldane model points the way forward.
  • Meanwhile, reorganize Army Forces to expand the nation’s range of strategic options; forces capable of conducting integrated, “all arms” operations in dispersed, mobile warfare against a mix of potential opponents, conventional and unconventional.
  • Like the Navy, Air Force and Marines, the U.S. Army exists to raise, train, and equip modular/mission focused capability packages and C2 elements designed for commitment to the COCOMs and plugged into Joint Force Headquarters which have the authority and the responsibility to fight and win the nation's wars.