Small Wars Journal

A Tale of Two Design Efforts (and why they both failed in Afghanistan)

Thu, 07/07/2011 - 5:24pm
A Tale of Two Design Efforts (and why they both failed in Afghanistan)

by Grant Martin

Download the Full Article: A Tale of Two Design Efforts

Trying to be a "good neighbor" to the Afghans

One Friday morning not too long ago I sat facing a row of ISAF officers assigned to one of their many information offices. Maybe Strategic Communications (STRATCOM), I wondered. No, I thought, the new director of STRATCOM had changed their name, but to what I could not remember. Maybe they were from the Public Affairs office. On my side of the table a jumbled mix of staff officers from other sections of ISAF talked in low voices waiting for the lead planner to begin the meeting. A brand-new School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) graduate walked in and sat down confidently, his assistant clicking on the ubiquitous power point title slide that begins every gathering in the U.S. Armed Forces today from Washington, D.C. to Kabul, Afghanistan.

"Okay, everybody, we've got a directive from the Chief of Staff to come up with ideas on how to meet the commander's comment on being a better neighbor in Afghanistan," he began. "We will use a Design-like framework to first look at our environment, state the problem, and then come up with some solutions," he continued, describing SAMS's process of conducting "Design", the U.S. Army's doctrinal take on dealing with complexity.

We then spent the next hour wrestling with what the commander had really meant when he had reportedly said during a meeting that the Coalition needed to be 'better neighbors'. The Public Affairs-types started off dominating the discussion through their higher-ranking representative, a colonel, and her greater number of section representatives. She insisted that the commander had meant that we needed to stop bombing and doing night raids. Although this was something President Karzai seemed to never stop saying, the position seemed a little outdated. Any more efforts along those lines, I thought, would have meant sending all our weapons home in boxes and canceling all air support.

Instead, the alternative (voiced by everyone else in the room) was that the statement had been made in the context of how not to be an "Ugly American". Bombarding ministers' offices with multiple and uncoordinated visits from different NATO commands, driving with our electronic jammers on where there was no associated threat, and wearing body armor at all times and driving in fast-moving convoys of up-armored vehicles were all examples given that had been brought up multiple times recently by various Afghan leaders as being problems.

In the end trying to avoid the "Ugly American" won out. The Public Affairs colonel and most of her staff did not return after the first day and the group ran smoothly through the SAMS-approved process of environment-problem-solution identification to arrive at several recommendations for the Chief of Staff: mandate that visitors to Afghan ministries from NATO coordinate through one appointed office and require all units to empower subordinates to use their own judgment as to the Force Protection measures needed in their daily activities. This meant that we could end the requirement that everyone wear body armor or even uniforms at all times (especially when the Afghans weren't), do away with the requirement for large convoys of up-armored vehicles in areas where the threat from IEDs were not high, and require that jammers only be used in areas that had an associated threat (jammers interfere with cell phone usage). We concluded by also recommending that leaders stop micromanaging their soldiers' activities: that it shouldn't take the Chief of Staff of a three or four-star command to approve colonels (or others) going to dinner with their Afghan counterparts. Although many of these subjects seemed to only apply to Kabul, this was what many felt the commander's comments were aimed at: ministerial interaction and travel within relatively safe areas like Kabul.

The result of our work was a memorandum to the NATO commands signed by the Chief of Staff recommending all of our "solutions". What that meant was that it effectively changed nothing. Memos signed by the Chief of Staff were usually not even read much less acted upon. And, since they were only "recommendations", there were no repercussions for those leaders or units who ignored them, which everyone did.

I should have been frustrated and discouraged, but at that point in time I just smiled to myself. By then I had started my tenth month in Afghanistan and had recently gotten involved with a colonel and a lieutenant who were also very frustrated with the bureaucracy within the Coalition they had found in their attempts to carry out COMISAF's direct orders. Was it just the natural barriers to change that every established organization finds itself in? How could the Army's new "Design" efforts possibly overcome these obstacles, if they even could? Ten months prior I had been energized to give Design a try. The following anecdotes are my attempt to capture my experiences with respect to Design implementation in Afghanistan in 2010 and offer a few recommendations on how to change how we teach and practice Design.

I will attempt to do this by first describing the main two Design efforts I participated in while in Afghanistan: one at the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) and the other at the NATO Training Mission- Afghanistan (NTM-A). Along the way I'll offer some insights into why I think our efforts ultimately failed. In addition I hope to inform the wider Armed Forces community as well as those studying and teaching Design in our Armed Forces colleges about a few of the early efforts to apply Design in theater. Lastly, I would like to share some thoughts on possible ways to improve upon what we did as well as the concept itself. My intention is not to denigrate commands or commanders, and therefore I will be as general as possible in order to focus on the most important takeaways.

Download the Full Article: A Tale of Two Design Efforts

Major Grant Martin is a U.S. Army Special Forces officer. He recently returned from Afghanistan where he worked as a planner in the CJ5 at NTM-A/CSTC-A. He is currently assigned to the U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School (Airborne). The comments in this article are the author's own and do not constitute the position of NTM-A/CSTC-A, ISAF, the U.S. Army, DoD, or USAJFKSWCS(A).

About the Author(s)


Vitesse et Puissance

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 2:14pm

I doubt very much if I am competent - or even have the time - to deal with the relationship between philosophical positivism (which has many intellectual nooks and crannies) and military science. Lowering our sights a little, perhaps it would be worthwhile to review the problem of making generally valid theoretical statements in doctrine, and how one derives those statements.

I have a dear friend with whom I used to work, who is just as much a book nerd as myself. This fellow had commanded an infantry company in Vietnam, and was on his way to his second command when he read the English translation of Rommel's "Infantrie Greift An" (English: "Attacks"). And as he related to me, though came to mind, upon reading this book: "OH ! THAT's how to use machine guns."

After commanding a company. In Vietnam.

Perhaps there are those of us who could figure out how to use machine guns from what they found in 1960/1970s era infantry field manuals. Speaking for myself alone, I had the same sort of reaction reading Rommel. About how to use machine guns, that is.

From a pedagogical standpoint, it is obvious that one way to teach principles is to use lots of historical - or perhaps just archtypical examples - that illustrate those principles. From what I understand, this is how law school functions. You learn the theory behind the law by a process of induction from case studies.

Now, the other way around is to use deductive reasoning. This is how most of us learn algebra and geometry. From a given set of rules, one learns by applying those rules to one or more concrete examples.

This is how normal science functions in the classroom. To what extent - I am asking the question rhetorically - is military science a subset of "normal science" Is some of military science exempt from normal science ? Is any of it part of normal science ? Again, the questions are rhetorical, and I am not attempting to answer them here.

Now - all that said - I had previously spoken in praise of Robert Citino. What Citino taught me is that what we call "mission command" is derived from a broader conception - "mission tactics" - that in effect throws out the forms defined in normal tactics, and does provide a rubric for the commander to roll his own doctrine, his own TTPs, perhaps his own training programs - Petraeus and other COINistas have been doing just this for some time now.

But there is a problem of form, fit and function here. Are the situations that trigger the employment of Auftragstaktik (as I revert to my native German) at all repeatable ? If they are not AT ALL repeatable, then perhaps they were just one-off solutions to one-off problems. But that is not how it usually works. What usually happens, is that the veterans of these perhaps unrepresentative situations will come back, take their assignments in TRADOC, and write revisions of existing doctrine and training publications based on those recent and very vivid memories. This is what Petraeus did when he returned to Leavenworth and oversaw the rewrite of the COIN manual, even as Abrams returned to Fort Knox after his European assignments, to burn the memory of the battle of Singling into the collective memory of the Armor Force.

While few US Army doctrine writers have the luxury of the time and resources necessary to conduct a deep survey of others' experiences - the personnel system simply won't abide a Clausewitzian exile to the schoolhouse for that long - what a "lessons learned" system can and should give ease of access to the record of the past, perhaps in the sense of Matthew 13:52:

"Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."

G Martin

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 7:23pm


I am intrigued by some of Dr. Paparone's and others' comments reference the uselessness of lessons learned- that they are part of an invalid positivist philosophy- a philosophy characterized by:

solutions being thought of as more likely over time as we become "smarter", causality deemed contextually independent, the scientific method seen as the key to figuring out solutions and causality, and empirical evidence demanded of everyone by ORSA-worshipping leaders/institutions.

Therefore, the thinking goes, if these assumptions/characteristics are wrong- lessons learned would be a waste of time.

I've often wondered if we are really good (relatively speaking) due to our adaptability- and not because of our reliance on lessons learned, TTPs, TLPs, and other processes (and that our failures are due to the use- albeit limited- of processes)?

Vitesse et Puissance

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 10:45am

While making a pass through our local Borders yesterday, I came across - and purchased the following book by one Stephen Melton,

"The Clausewitz Delusion: How the American Army Screwed Up the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (A Way Forward)"…

Now, leaving aside the frontal assault this book makes on Clausewitz's influence on US Army doctrine, its exhaltation of loss-exchange ratios as a modeling paradigm, and a somewhat different view of the influence of pragmatism on US military thought (the author simultaneously bewails our lack of historical memory and wishes we were MORE pragramatic in thought and deed) - there appear to be some interesting nuggets in this book. For one thing, as with the good ole' USMC Small Wars Manual, the author dredges up the WWII era FM 27-5, the "United States Army and Navy Manual of Miltary Government and Civil Affairs", dated 22 December 1943, as he lays in his critique of OIF's failures. But it is not just the willful ignorance of old doctrine that the author highlights, but the many historical instances he brings out about what successful commanders did in the ABSENCE of adequate and authoritative doctrine and training systems to support their mission. (The author notes in his book that FDR was opposed to the Army's standing up of the School of Miltary Government in of the numerous historical curiosities one finds here.

So as we take our pick off the shelves of Borders books from the many current histories of Iraq and Afghanistan, I think there a number of threads like this one that need scrutiny. As uncertain as the future may be, it is not that uncertain, and the importance of lessons learned is not something that should be underemphasized - even with the very limited ability of the media of doctrine and training publications to capture the finer grained details...this is what TRADOC gets paid to do.

Anonymous (not verified)

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 8:36am

Vitesse et Puissance--

Interesting comments--many thought the BCTs could not be adaptive nor could the Army as a whole---I would hold up that since 2005 at least in Iraq and now to a degree in Afghanistan-BCTs were highly adaptive as they had really no guidance in what they had to do so they improvished much as you say Americans always do. There is much less of it going on currently in Afghanistan due to an intense risk aversion.

The core probblem on the targeting side regardless of what method being used, D3A, F3EAD, F3EA, F2T2EA--they all require a high degree of doctrinal understanding as targeting is a doctrinal decision making process that touches all aspects of a BCT/Div battle staff-simply put currently synchronization is not working.

And this is the main point---we have not as an institution focused on mantaining the skill set called military decision making and now when the rubber is hitting the road--the doctrinal approach to targeting is failing thus IPOE/Assessments/ISR is failing as the doctrinal staff processes have been allowed to lapse thus now at least at the BCT level there is the reverse process of trying to improvise to get strong upstream and downstream staff processes to work causing strong up and downstream issues.

You correctly indicate something that is really missing---we have this massive org called CALL publishing literally tons of pamphlets/books/White Papers on Lessons Learned/TTPs and I would guess about 10% of the Lessons Learned/TTPs have made their way into training events and thus into the BCT staffs -- it is not for sure making it into any improvements being seen at the CTCs.

Vitesse et Puissance

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 7:17pm

Just a few (I hope) short words. While I've noted the design discussions on this site for quite some time, I have never had any really desire to jump into the muck. Well, today I had to...after deep diving JP 1-02 (this is not for the faint-hearted) and the UTJL for weeks now, I had to come up with a few short words that characterize the Operations Process as it applies to how training exercises are structured. And of course, I got sucked into the FM 5-0 Chapter on Design. After that, I decided to come over here, for what I hoped were critical thoughts on Design. With a deadline approach, I will end up boiling this down to something very brief - but I do see some very broad implications to the very existence of the design concept.
Ultimately, the outcome of what is called "design" has to be decomposed into tactics, techniques and procedures; training programs; organizational structures; eventually - or even sooner - material solutions. Has anyone looked at the impact of "Design" on DOTMLPF (Oh - how I hate whoever made up that acronyhm) ? We should be afraid - very afraid. From a force generation point of view, Design is a show stopper. From a system life cycle point of view, Design leaves you with CBSA's favorite beltwayism, "wasting assets". I have to ask rhetorically - was LIC doctrine so broke that our warriors had to reinvent it all in the field ? Admittedly, like many others, I slept through the 1993 revision of 100-5, but was there nothing at all on which to build a viable system for what is NOW called stabilization operations (and has gone by many names over time).

Someone mentioned Richards Heuer. I've gotten to be a big fan of his...Robert Citino even more so. It was Citino who taught me, in "The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich" what Auftragtaktik really meant, and now it differed from Normaltaktik. Are these concepts just for tankers ? No, they are not ? Can they be transposed into complex operational space ? Yeah, I think they can.

To reiterate the point of my comments - and then I will sit down. What has happened and is happening to our Army is a complete desynchronization of our internal systems. The doctrine space is rotating like a busted flyhandle, unable to move the rest of the institution at anything like its fervid pace. What the FM 5-0 Design chapter does is formalize the US Army's most prominant cultural trait - a will to improvise, always and everywhere, irrespective of educational standards or tradition.

In other things that I have written, I attribute this to the inherent pragmatism of both our society and most of the Army's educational institutions. From a philosophical point of view, "Design" boils down to an exercise in abduction qua Charles Peirce. Related to abduction is a necessary but unscientific fallacy - argument by the best (known) explanation - it is what we use to make sense out of the world when we don't know any better. And so you end up with normal science and paradigms and paradigm shifts and thinking out of the box - all artifacts of postmodern scientific philosoph. Was the MDMP excessively grounded in the formal scientific method and positivist preconceptions ? Yup. Do we know enough to roll it all from scratch - to improvise as a core competency ? My worry is that you really don't need to teach Americans to do that - but what Americans need to learn is the difference between what they (really) know and what they (really) don't know. In the meantime, it would be a great thing if those who have lived through the last eleven years in uniform leave a legacy for all those who weren't there with them. I do have to get back to work, so thanks for reading.

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 9:19pm

My basic argument is that unless sufficient psychological safety is created, the disconfirming information will be denied or in other ways defended against, no survival anxiety will be felt, and, consequently, no change will take place. The key to effective change management, then, becomes the ability to balance the amount of threat produced by disconfirming data with enough psychological safety to allow the change target to accept the information, feel the survival anxiety, and become motivated to change.

Current system precludes this.

bz (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 4:39pm

'A Thousand Plateaus' is a difficult book; anyone looking for a quick read to explain the inner workings of deep Design concepts need not bother. This book is like running a marathon in wooden shoes with a barbed wire is painful. It takes a certain level of "okay, I read ten other books that relate to this stuff, I think I can follow it"- but do not start with this book because it will turn off all but the most stubborn Design enthusiasts.
Probably not the best book review, huh?

For AAR failures in logic and why we can NEVER QUESTION THE the terms "root metaphor" or "in-house assumption" or "Field Assumption." They are organizational theory terms for why an organization protects interior (known or held cherished information) from reality destroying or changing it. Ever wonder why the Army, Navy, and Air Force are so particular in how they do things? Carl Builder's book 'Masks of War' nails this issue- and it links right back to these organizational theory terms.


Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 3:30pm

BZ---reference "A Thousand Plateaus"---anyone who has written or even coauthored something on Kafka would be in fact difficult to work through---reminds me too much of my former German university days that had Kafka as the "man" to read in one of my classes and that in German---almost as difficult as Brecht---boy was it a killer in German-cannot imagine how the English translations read.

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 3:12pm

BZ---try to do a AAR by pointing out the failure and/or success and then in the same breathe try to offer a solution. First of all that requires currently only input from OC green suiters--former green suiters ie contractors are not allowed input into the AAR briefings-I often have felt OC contractors would bring an independent view of what they are seeing as they are not tied to a particular game in town.

The system cannot tolerant it---if one does it then there is constant nagging towards the individual about what/why are you trying to change things ---you realize it has to go through TRADOC.

Example--in late 2006 a group of probably the best group of civilian contract interrogators came out of Iraq and went to the intel school-on the interogation side. Then once integrated into the schoolhouse training cycle they would point out what was and was not working and openly questioned just where the schoolhouse was-response was we teach to TRADOC standards and training guidelines (meaning training hours).

Basically we were told keep quiet teach what we say not what is working in the field-result was most got fedup after six months and went back to Iraq.

My comments concerning what a BG recently said point to the core problem namely operations experience/expertise is not being asked for on the training side---thus my questioning of the millions in funding invested into Lessons Learned that seem to have no impact.

If an organism fails to learn, fails to adapt, and fails to anticipate-not sure even the greatest MDMP/Design can correct that problem.

Again though if the organism does not know how to even conduct even the simplest of processes---that does not work either.

That I think even Grant would concur with.

Will check out the book you mentioned.

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 2:42pm

BZ---from anon---reaching out to you via AKO/Outlook in five.

Speaking of "principles" of war...and this gets to linearity associated with analytic planning...what if we were to portray "principles" as competing values rather than what we do now (as a list of ... dare I say ... proverbs).

My writing partner and I tried to contemplate this alternative (and we thought our portrayal was compatible with Clausewitz's complex array of statements).


So, we saw this a matter of intepreting old Carl (in our view he was a complexity scientist of sorts who did not have the metaphors/heuristics that we do to conceptualize complexity). We had to "redesign" what old Carl meant.

Ken White (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 2:13pm

BZ to bz! Quote of the week:<blockquote>" my principles of war and specific guidance on how to win every battle. Go forth and fight a war. If you win, it is because you listened to my universal and essentially flawless principles. If you lose, it is because you failed to apply my principles correctly. This is a catch-22 that preserves institutional relevance while rejecting any CRITICAL THINKING about how the organization operates."</blockquote>Amen...

bz (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 1:53pm

I am the only Zweibelson in the Army. AKO search should ping me.

Agreed- failures in logic continue an organization down the path of continued failure. Yet what prevents them from recognizing it is their LOGIC that is causing their failure? Organizational theory offers terms such as 'field assumptions' and 'root metaphors' while post-modernism plays with 'interiority and exteriority'- which folks like Taleeb spin into fun books like "Black Swan". Think about it another way from a military perspective 99% of the folks that served and are on SWJ can identify with:

Has anyone ever been to an AAR where the discussion does not fixate upon the organization conducting the action/exercise? As in- every AAR I have been in, led, or supervised deals only with the unit- did they perform well or need improvement and the measurement of infalibility was always doctrine, procedures, and "how it is supposed to be done" IAW the military's LOGIC. Has an AAR ever featured a comment such as, "the BN S3 shop did a great job here conducting PMESCII-PT analysis of the AO, but we think the doctrine failed them because...and we recommend as an improvement, we ought to write a point paper on this exercise and submit it to TRADOC to help them fix doctrine." - Why don't we do it? Because the military's prefered LOGIC is Clausewitzian and Jominian based; in this example, Uncle Carl remains vague enough to escape my wrath, but Jomini has a bullseye in this regard. Jomini is summarized in the following logic: read my principles of war and specific guidance on how to win every battle. Go forth and fight a war. If you win, it is because you listened to my universal and essentially flawless principles. If you lose, it is because you failed to apply my principles correctly. This is a catch-22 that preserves institutional relevance while rejecting any CRITICAL THINKING about how the organization operates.


G Martin

Sun, 11/25/2012 - 3:22pm

In reply to by Bill M.

I have to agree with what Naveh says about "thinking": "there is no 'Design' thinking- there is only thinking". I think that the implication was that one can be a part of a Design-like approach or not- and that certain types of thinking may or may not assist in any approach.

If you think only about surface observations then your thinking cannot assist in a Design-like approach. If, instead, you attempt to acknowledge yours (and everyone else's) ignorance, approach situations with an open mind, and attempt to come at a subject from a different approach- more fit for the subject- then your thinking might assist in a Design-like approach- one that may be more effective (not perfect, mind you) in the long-run. But- I argue- this would take change on the institutional level.

Educating a few staffers to think this way is useless if the institution crushes their conclusions. MDMP, like Ben says, is a methodology for making a decision. A Design approach- in my mind- is a philosophical shift. As such it wouldn't negate MDMP- but simply relegate it to those instances wherein it would best be utilized. In my opinion, of course... ;)

Bill M.

Sun, 11/25/2012 - 8:32pm

In reply to by bz

Which one is it? Face it you can’t win! :-)

Ben, I’m not putting you in any category. I’m advocating caution to the collective masses who tend to gravitate to the new shinny thing that is guaranteed to solve all our woes (snake-oil). EBO was one of those shinny objects that created more harm than good. The only correlation between design thinking and EBO in my opinion is design thinking is now the new kid on the block promising to solve all of our woes. EBO was based on pseudoscience. On the other hand, design thinking actually embraces the science of complexity and promotes true learning from designing systems to system observation/interpretation, etc. Not X = Y behavior.

Free thinking members of the military had concerns with MDMP for years, especially the way it was enforced in training and subsequently in unit exercises from the tactical to operational levels where the steps were quickly rushed through to reach a preferred course of action. That is necessary to some extent when we’re responding to a crisis, but not every situation is a crisis. MDMP could be improved immensely if it wasn’t practiced so rigidly (not replace design thinking or vice versa). The best decisions come from thinking, not a process that tells one how to think (which almost always limits what one will think about a problem). We would be better off if commanders just directed their staffs to “think” versus mimic, and constantly challenge their ideas to force deeper thinking on a topic. Simply encouraging discourse instead of group think (which is doable) would transform most military strategists and planners from grade C students to grade B students.

I haven’t given up hope, but I can understand the views of the senior ranking folks you spoke with. I think success to incorporate design thinking doctrinally in the military could be of the end of design thinking as you explain it. When it becomes part of bureaucracy it will get bureaucratized, which will limit its utility. Next thing you know someone will want to measure your design to determine if it is effective or not (lol).

I’m equally frustrated with the bureaucracy. I still think it is hard to argue with demonstrated success (some will), and challenge those who are good at design thinking (I’m not there yet, may never get there) to show how design thinking made an impact.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 2:11pm

In reply to by Bill M.


I am confused. Do you see design as something similar to EBO- a shiny object where "there is blind acceptance?" At the same time, you state if I differentiate true design thinkers from those that endorse design as some bastardization of MDMP or FM 5-0, that I am grouped with those trapped in groupthink over design. Which one is it?

Either view seems trapped in its own stereotypes...which is unfortunate based on many of your more thought-provoking posts.

Design, in it's true form, of which I am only a traveler and never profess to know the right routes or boundaries, is boundless. There are no set rules- nor are there any harbormasters of design, where they can attach their names to doctrine and become the "leaders" and "authority" of it. Design is honestly a bit of anarchy mixed in with a holistic, transformational view- it endorses uncertainty...along with those that will try to profit from design.

I have had several discussions with high-ranking folks as of late; and their take on design is concerning. Two of them echoed nearly the same thought- that design would die "because only a few people of special ability can do it, and the rest are going to imitate it poorly." I don't agree with this- but if we cannot get the design discussion beyond the opening argument that design is different than EBO or the next shiny object; perhaps we are all wrong...



Bill M.

Sun, 11/25/2012 - 1:33pm

In reply to by bz


As you well know there are different schools of thought on design thinking, and your comments that "true design thinkers" follow this creed should sound internal warning bells that you have closed your mind to competing views.

To clarify, I wrote that design thinking is at risk of becoming snake oil. The design education I have attended plus the reading I have done on my own is very critical of the current military decision making process, and rightfully so in my view. However, I think the strident advocates have yet found a way to "effectively" integrate design thinking into our "thinking" business.

Perhaps designers should apply design thinking to identify the current and desired states of military thinking, point out the systems of opposition to change, and propose realistic ways design thinking can be integrated without becoming doctrinized?

I'm far from being ant-design, but I beginning to see a repeating pattern here with the newest shinny object (like EBO once was), where there is blind acceptance and little criticism. None of us can afford to be true believers, we all have to be the constant critic, even of our own ideas. I realize design thinking actually promotes that, but it can and will be hijacked by doctrine Nazis if it a better way for integrating this type of thinking is not promoted.

I suggest step 1 is to discard any comments that refer to "true design thinkers," since that closes the door to further learning.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 1:12pm

In reply to by Bill M.

if anything sets "true" design thinkers aside, we accept that we are part of the system; if I land a giant book deal next year, likely in time I also will become part of the problem...but design thinking forces us to recognize this. If we cannot, we are as what Kuhn warns- those that fail to understand the paradigm shift and become part of the shift itself.

If design is snake oil- then I am disappointed, because I compare design to MDMP the way one might compare Ford Broncos to Jupiter; they are on different scales entirely. One does not replace the other; MDMP exists within design theory as a procedure used by the western military to milk institutional relevance over time and reinforce those elements, behaviors, and practices that the institution prefers. Is design different? I hope so.

True design thinkers are akin to Cincinatus- warrior generals that, when offered to become emperors, pass on the option because they see the bigger picture. I hope this, at least. I could be terribly wrong; or I could be up for a book deal.


Bill M.

Sun, 11/25/2012 - 12:42pm

In reply to by JohnBertetto


Insightful comments that apply to wide range of military practices, not just COIN.

Your comment:

"Lessons learned apply to the here-and-now. As time moves on and the environment changes, those lessons learned become less and less directly applicable to a point somewhere in the future where they may not apply at all."

Our COIN doctrine, and some other doctrines, were developed based on the analysis of historical examples. Many believe the findings from the historical analysis was flawed to begin with, but we'll assume there is some accuracy to that analytical process. The issue remains, that conflict was still conducted in a very different context. One aspect of the overall context we don't focus enough on is ourselves. We probably have a better understanding of the so called enemy than we do ourselves and all the forces of opposition within our own system. We develop doctrines and strategies based on an idealized self that are not executable even if they would work in practice.

Design isn't the answer to all our woes, and those who bang the design drum excessively will find themselves over time becoming as indoctrinated as those who blindly embrace MDMP now. When you try to sell it as a cure all it becomes little more than another form of snake oil being hyped by a dishonest vendor. Have we seen this in practice recently? John Nagel wrote a book "Eating Soup with a Knife" that despite it flaws in comparing the conflict in Vietnam to Malaya, still made very solid points on the need for the military to become a learning organization. A few years later he is zealously promoting our so called "new" COIN doctrine, and rejecting any information from current experiences that would facilitate learning/adapting. He and many others have become the nemesis they warned us about. This is a very human tendency that is further engrained in some types of organizations, especially bureaucracies like the military. The best we can do is attempt to be aware of our weaknesses so we can challenge our own assumptions.

I don't think it is possible for us to change substantially for lots of reasons, but I remain hopeful that if the "mission command" concept is accepted at all levels that it will facilitate more adaption at the pointy end of the spear where learning takes place. That is a big "if."


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 9:19am

In reply to by slapout9 (not verified)

Agreed on the above points. Extrapolating further, the direct applicability of lessons learned is most valid from the moment of the lesson learned and decreases as time move forward. Complexity involves the web of relationships that exists in any environment. The more relationships that exist and the more dynamic the environment, the faster the environment 'evolves' or morphs (evolution implies a steady refinement, which we know is not always the case; sometimes the environment moves 'backwards' depending upon the changing physical attributes within the environment [a conventional military being destroyed and the fight continuing as an underground-funded guerrilla fight] or upon leadership changes), necessitating that lessons learned be validated against the environmental context.

So, all that sounds really technical and smartypants. To reduce it to something more tangible: Lessons learned apply to the here-and-now. As time moves on and the environment changes, those lessons learned become less and less directly applicable to a point somewhere in the future where they may not apply at all. Therefore, lessons learned can only serve at best to inform our decision making and must be compared to the environment as it currently exists. The question to be asked is "Here is what we have learned or what has worked before - based on what we know to be true about the environment today, how can these help us make today's decisions?"

slapout9 (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 1:35pm

"Or it may turn out that experimentation, "extreme" mission command, and hyper feedback loops leading to emergent change work best in complex situations (a la evolutionary change mechanisms). " posted by Grant Martin

Now you are talking. Everything I have read about Design misses the Time element. Solutions to problems have an expiration date. Back in the 60's Systems Engineers used to describe what they called a "Wicked Engineering Problem" NOT to be confused with the wicked problem theory. A wicked engineering problem is one where the solution to the current problem will eventually cause another problem. So all solutions had a time element in which they would work before they became obsolete. Time(especially in war)is really the most hostile enemy you have.

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 1:14pm

BZ---just shifting a tad the debate---away from MDNP/Desing.

If one looks at the deep interrelationship between say targeting and ISR and that a failure in one will automatically create a failure in the other and vice versa---we now have failures in both processes and yet the machine marches on with say the FIRES CoE trying to get the attention of the Intel CoE about the correlationship but the Intel CoE continues to appear to be in a dream state about the world around them.

There are some inherently deeper problems than with MDMP/Design.

Will reach you via AKO is your address is somewhere here at SWJ.

bz (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 11:16am

I am in final prep on another Design article that deals with the post-modern concepts of 'interiority' and 'exteriority'- developed by two Frenchies by the names of Deleuze and Guatiari; they wrote (among many other works) a book called "A Thousand Plateaus" which is a tough, tough read- but a brilliant example of why an organization will continue to do something they should recognize as wrong. Like horse carriage companies at the turn of the century that continued to make carriages instead of switching to cars- when everything should have been warning them, most of them ignored the trends and pushed on with what they defined themselves as- a horse carraige company instead of a TRANSPORTATION company. If you have access to AKO you can ping me and I can share a working draft.

Ben Zweibelson


Please send me your SWA email address (or is your old .mil address still good?). I have a proposition.

Thx, Chris

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 8:47am

Gian---reference BZs above info on "deep dives"---why does the system when it knows what BZ is indicating still continue to do it---this goes to the core of the loss of quality at the Command and Staff levels.

Can any current BCT Cmdr and his entire monitor Blue Force tracker, monitor FM traffic, keep one ear peeled to the JTAC freq, monitor the FIRES channel and tell you will a straight face he "understands" his/their OE and has his force in control at all times.

Where are the current officers who can make snap decisions based on info flows and FM traffic--and not based on WGs and PowerPoint concensus making.

Those days are long gone and I am afraid we as an institution are not seeing that or what is worst we see it and do not care.


And on top of that (as Grant pointed out when he was there) -- is there really any efficacy to a large, campaign HQs in the land where every valley and every tribe and village is different? Does "design" work better for the CPT and LT?

The headquarter's job is to integrate -- but integrate what? The population is not integrated, so doesn't the setting call for an upside down view of operations and strategy?

We have an interesting anthropologist on faculty here that questions the idea of violent "groups" which we then place a homogenous label on. In studies of the French underground during WW II -- there was not a unity into a single group. Local people joined together in small
bands...the "French Underground" was not a group, it was a label. Their connectivity was irrelevant.

So would a German General Staff planning effort (back in Berlin or at the field marshall HQ in Paris) ever "solve" the French Underground "problem?" But because these HQs are there and "in charge" (with lots of planning talent), what else would they try and do?

Repeat similar situation with MACV...etc.

So the solution (the HQs planning staff) is a solution looking for problems. The problem SETTING (as you indicate) is somewhat ignored.

BZ (not verified)

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 1:39am

Having just participated in several 'deep dives' at the high-tactical and operational level here- they are neither 'deep' nor 'dives.' Perhaps we need to consider what the word 'deep' really means to our organization. I expected a meeting where group participation and discussion led to deeper understanding of something- a creative and free-flowing synthesis of known information and a collision of that 'known' with the tensions observed in the environment that help indicate where 'unknowns' might be lurking.

Example: suppose we are in the land of the Oompa Loompas before Willy Wonka started exporting confectionary labor from there... the Oompa Loompas are organized in tribal factions and live in a remote and difficult terrain. They use giant candy canes which generally come from over the border to kill other Oompa Loompas with. There are some foriegn Oompa Loompas that have gained a foothold in the land and are attacking the Oompa Loompa recognized government. We arrive with a Coalition of military forces to defeat the terrorist Oompas, and restore security. We go about our merry way, and also implement a Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program with Oompa Loompa illegally armed groups (OLIAGs).

We make the assumption that taking away giant candy canes from OLIAGs and demobilizing them is the right way to restore security. We subsequently do this, and then report to higher with amazing charts, graphs, metrics, and description on how many candy canes we took from Oompa Loompas in the various regions.

Violence does not deminish- in fact it increases. Oompa Loompas that were disarmed are re-arming themselves with more giant candy canes smuggled in from criminal enterprises that are profiting from our unintentional market inflation of giant candy cane prices; and any disarmed Oompa Loompa is never really reintegrated into the target society- but since we took their weapon and enrolled them in our biometrics database, we have lots of metrics on what is essentially a symptom of a larger problem.

We next conduct a 'Deep Dive.' This consists of slides with graphs, charts, data, and metrics that tell a convincing narrative about the 35,857 giant candy canes we took over the past 3 years from OLIAGs- and by region where we disbanded the OLIAGs; maybe even some photos of a pile of candy canes with some host nation Oompas standing menacingly over them. Our 'deep dive' is merely a giant echo chamber where we continue to reinforce our narrative- and we stay bounded to the interiority of our organization's knowledge base. We "know" that taking candy canes away from Oompa Loompas reduces violence and increases security. The more candy canes we seize, the better things will get. Anyone that questions this will be thrown into the chocolate river and run over by that strange steamboat.

A 'deep dive' of any consequence would challenge the very 'root metaphors' and 'in-house assumptions' associated with our organization's interiority of knowledge. What exactly does seizing candy canes from OLIAGs do? Why does violence not reduce? Why are they arming themselves? How does the Oompa Loompa economy relate to disarmed Oompas that want to reintegrate? Why are they unable to reintegrate? Do candy canes really matter- or does something else that is not as readily tangible as a big candy cane in someone's hands? Are we (the coalition) focused on the wrong metrics? Does our logic fail to explain reality because our logic is faulty? Should we consider seizing something other than candy canes, or not seizing anything? Can we say that our OLDDR program is a failure? -these, in my opinion, are DEEP dive questions.

In the end, perhaps Willy Wonka is the true COIN expert here. He did not spend lives, treasure, and energy attempting to take every candy cane away from disgruntled Oompa Loompas and expect security to take hold in a faulty logic of linear casuality that seizes upon several related yet ancidotal factors within a much larger and complex system. Wonka employed them in his factory which boosted their economy in a meaningful way. Wonka benefited from keeping his labor costs down making chocolate (as well as everlasting gobstopers and such...) while Oompa Loompas gained employment. Granted, this is just a playful metaphor; but the point I am trying to make is that as an institution, we cannot say we are critical thinkers and label meetings as 'deep dives' if the very logic underpinning such exercises have NOTHING TO DO WITH challenging assumptions, metrics, the very way we see the environment- and the possibility we might have got it totally wrong.
It is not fancy language or difficult concepts that hinders Design in the military- it is the fortress of institutional barriers that actively protects self-interest and core processes within the preferred logic we employ. If we cannot even think about how we think- how can we ever change? Instead, we just keep screaming "this needs more cowbell" and dance to the same beat.



Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:27pm

Manuel Castells' thoughts regarding Network Society may provide some more context regarding the Arab Revolutions/Spring

<I>"The Space of Flows plays a central role in Castells' vision of the network society. It is a network of communications, defined by hubs where these networks crisscross. Élites in cities are not attached to a particular locality but to the space of flows.

Castells puts great importance on the networks and argues that the real power is to be found within the networks rather than confined in global cities. This contrasts with other theorists who rank cities hierarchically."</I>

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 10:14pm

Chris---actually the BG was correct in his statement.

What he was referring to was the large number of organizations that monitor the lessons learned or observations at the CTCs---what is being seen by these organizations is not making it back into the training side of the house.

Lessons learned were really designed to capture information that would help in assisting us to recognize what is failing, what has to be adapted to and what to anticipate---while there are massive efforts in collecting and publishing this type of information it still has made no impact on the problems---if it had made major impacts and was influencing then we would be seeing the same trends over and over at the CTCs.

Actually some might call lessons learned a part of the unending assessment process in a battle staff---only many staffs cannot even do assessments at a level that the Cmdr trusts.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 10:04pm

Grant---would actually say that insurgents do in fact have a particular MDMP internal to themselves--we simply have not taken the time to recognize it.

We are also lacking in the ability to truely understand what the massive information flow is trying to tell us---even the SOICs which were designed by MG Flynn to help in this are being flooded and are not producing what they were envisioned to be producing--namely an effective understanding of the OE.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:59pm

Gian---Just a side comment---current MDMP issues that dog BCTs are a tad different at the Division and Corp levels.

Example-- how many intel analysts at these levels have had to drop everything to conduct a "deep dive".

If the CG says the coke can is purple then 200 analysts will attempt a "deep dive" to provide briefings to the CG indicating the can is in fact the color purple.

Just where in the heck is a "deep dive" doctrinally or Design wise anchored?

How is it that we have gotten so far afield?


Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:30pm

All soldiers, irrespective of rank or specialty, are regularly provided  opportunities these days to quickly size up people and  determine and what 'language' will be required to engage and influence with.  The incentive to get things right is fairly compelling, and the lessons learned do tend to stick.

Marketing Strategy, 3rd Edition, by O.C. Ferrell and Michael D. Hartline is an interesting read, and has even helped engineers - who are not typically seen as socially adroit animals  - catch an insight or two.


Sun, 07/10/2011 - 8:56pm

The reservation is back that way. Couldn't resist. Smiley face.

Chris Paparone (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 5:39pm

Grant, Ben, and others,

Do not know if you have read Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia: The Sociology of Knowledge -- a remarkable book, published first in 1929 and translated to English in 1936.

Mannheim worries that modern "science" lacks values associated with Utopian views and reduces life to rather unexciting "matters of fact." Seems like many counterarguments, ribs or just or disbelief in an alternative philosophy for military science are based in this metanarrative we call Copernican science.

Utopias (minus orgiastic Chiliasm perhaps) at least have a kind of holism (a holistic view); whereas, modern military science has reduced military interventions to individually-pointed problems and seek deductive solutions (i.e. the realist view that is linked to analysis and problem solving).

What seems to be disappearing (Mannheim's argument) is the "struggle for the correct social perspective" and the inherent humanity of struggles among the Utopian views (what he calls "reciprocal conflict" of the Utopias). On the downside (paradoxically), these have been the subject of wars.

He worries (sadly?) that politics will be reduced to the realism of economic problem solving (everything matters of fact arising from cost-benefit criteria for analyses) not struggles among counter-Utopias. (This is not to be confused with Huntington's clash-of-civilizations argument.)

So will war disappear when everyone on earth becomes a realist, embracing the economic rationality of "facts?" This seems to be our overriding logic, to include our way of war.

This book really resonated with me (and disturbed me as well). It's available online for free:

Anybody else read this and can comment?

G Martin

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 3:50pm

After getting an in-depth look at how SWC teaches UW Campaign Planning (MDMP/JOPP with some 5-0 Design thrown in)- I couldn't help but wonder if we tried to teach that process to the Taliban if they would become more effective in their UW (assuming they wouldn't just laugh). It was checklist and procedural nirvana that seemed to promise order out of confusion if we just followed the steps.

In my mind I wondered why we didn't study the Taliban's way of planning for UW (for our UW) instead of our way of planning for MCO. I imagine it was greatly "emergent"- i.e. there was little guidance from above, just some ideas, and the ground level developed their own means- mainly revolving around killing those they didn't like with some "swift justice" thrown in as well (giving the people what they wanted).

Maybe there are reasons we can't do that- and I'm not saying emergent ways would work in every complex situation- but I also think the converse also is true: we can't always apply our top-down processes to be successful either. Some reasons we can't apply an emergent framework are that in the end we are accountable to our political masters- the Taliban foot soldiers rarely have to worry about that. But surely we could take SOME of what they do and apply it to our preparation for UW...?

The challenge, of course, to the Taliban is to tie their means with their ends- and, as many point out, that is very tricky with many types of insurgents: they can create chaos for governments but not much order for the populace afterwards. That we struggle with our operational level as well may be telling.

I just have the feeling that even if we were the sharpest MDMP/JOPP/doctrinal procedural-following strat-planners in the world we still would struggle with tying our tactics into some meaningful operations to reach strategic objectives and political ends in a complex environment. I guess I see three COAs:

1) Demand that our politicians/senior military leaders extremely limit the ends we try to achieve with military force as well as the time given. This will artifically establish obstacles to something being complex- at least in the perceptions of our people/politicians- and maybe that is the best we can hope for.

2) Work very hard at attempting to get better at "operationalizing" our tactics to mean something better than increased Measures of Performance. Although this is usually the answer offered by those who disagree with Design- I'm not sure it will achieve what we want (i.e the theory might be wrong and the underlying concept is flawed- what Dr. Paparone has argued) and, perhaps more importantly- I'm not sure the Army is working seriously on doing this.

3) Experiment with other ways of dealing with complexity. This would be what I would prefer- don't take Design as a panacea- but TEST it- along with other ways to try to make progress in a complex envrionment. Use our CTCs, colleges, and other PME schools to test different ways of dealing with complexity. The best I'd hope for is to give leaders and units different experiences for how to deal with complex environments as opposed to a doctrinal conclusion that would be institutionalized. We might, however, be able to come up with some broad conclusions about better ways to approach a complex environment.

This would, however, have to take the form of dealing with real and local complexity- not canned scenarios in training environments. The closest thing I could think our CTCs could come up with is to set up a "Coach's hopper"- based on Crossfit's "Coach's" concept of drawing events out of a hopper and testing units on those events so that one would have to be well-rounded in many things and able to adjust rapidly as opposed to doing a few battle drills very well. It would have to be as open-ended and unscripted as possible and possibly have one of them be an actual real local complex situation (local school system or something similar for instance).

It may turn out that procedure beats emergent/post-positivist approaches simply due to human limitations (i.e.- rational decision making processes suck the least of the options we have). Or it may turn out that experimentation, "extreme" mission command, and hyper feedback loops leading to emergent change work best in complex situations (a la evolutionary change mechanisms). Or all of it might be a mirage and the best humans can hope for is to be good tactically and wish for some luck and/or coup d'oeil/genuis leadership for when we really need it (not that those are the only options- just only the ones I could come up with).

slapout9 (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 1:09pm

"My bigger message here is that design is also about exposing ideologies/"isms" that have to be hermeneutically interpreted from such statements. This is why design is confused with another ism (postmodernism). But what it really means is that design is (ideally) ambivalent toward "isms" in general." posted by Chris Paparone

That is a really big point. It is a pure functional systems analysis, then it should go to systems development(Design). But you have to always keep the PURPOSE of the system in mind or it will just turn into layers of complexity. All Governments do the same thing at a Systems Level,it doesn't matter which "ism" you use. So do Guerrilla fighters. They still Shoot,Move and Communicate but they have bette camouflage.


Hermeneutically interpreted (redundant)? Post-modernism? Technical rationality? Economic rationality/behaviorism? Pre-engineering tasks? I read BZ's fine final article and it was not much better at making complexity less complex.

With a grandfather doctor and a Valedictorian/ Magna Cum Lauda medical student daughter...I like to believe some IQ genes lurk in my mind somewhere. But I don't get design as described. I further don't see the harm in breaking complex subjects into smaller chunks to ease understanding ala METT-TC/PMESII-PT/ASCOPE/OAKOC. Wholistic analysis exercises are guaranteed to miss something.

I'm assuming pre-engineering tasks refers to individual, crew, and collective tasks and things like battle drills. I'm assuming (always dangerous) that like BZ, you don't like doctrine because it is too prescriptive and unable to deal with morphing situations.

But frankly, without some shared understanding of doctrine, understanding/implementation of mission command task/purpose and commander's intent would result in pure chaos (or chaoplexity:)). Without control measures and synchronization of lower echelon activities, excessive mission command without basis in commonly understood TTP/SOPs may result in fratricide and total absence of unity of effort.

If a good plan executed now is better than a great plan executed next week...a good battle drill, FRAGO, or RDMP execution/adjustment decision now is superior to a design meeting occurring once a week for the next multiple in MAJ Martin's article.

Perhaps because I teach enlisted Soldiers and I'm a former enlisted man, the realization strikes home that "design" is unnecessary for 2LT, junior Captains, or E-6 and below to understand.

As an aside, my sole experience with my own architectual design (in BZ's article) was designing my own home decades ago. It is an intensely personal activity much like the book Fountainhead. It can lead to unencumbered, more rapid results than a committee effort that likely would incur stiff time-consuming opposition...even if the committee is just you and wife. It remains a group effort because builders, budgeters, and bankers must restore reality to some ideas that failed in design.;)

Military Design may similarly suffer from group-think on one extreme or on the opposite end of the spectrum, an individual (to include the commander/XO/S-3) dominating committee activities. And as Grant Martin mention's, the commander and key staff is too busy to come up with and flesh out detailed great ideas other than COAs and commander's intent.

I can see the linkage between MDMP and Troop-Leading Procedures. Parallel and digital collaborative planning (CPOF, mIRC, e-mail attachments) makes sense given personnel and time constraints in planning.

But design appears to be an overly intellectual time-consuming effort occurring at "echelons above reality" that from Grant Martin's brave unlikely to have extensive value until solutions that rock high-ranking boats are more openly accepted.

The Pap

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 12:47pm

p.s. ambivalent, except toward "pragmatic skeptic-ism." :)

The Pap

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:42am

"we have a massive chasm between operations and training"

What the BG still implies is that these can be better aligned (i.e. training can be made more relevant to the operational tasks at hand).

This is still an industrial-age mentality -- that we can engineer tasks in training to match the product we want in opreations (sociologists have called this belief system "ends-based rationality" which is tied to economic rationality/behaviorism and the theory of evolution/progressivism). Both "isms" are biased and subject to criticism.

The fallacy of his statement is that complex environments morph faster than we can pre-engineer the tasks to cope with them (our whole Army system of training is based on pre-engineering tasks).

What may be a more profound statement is "our training cannot match the operations."

This would lead to a whole new view and require a more novel approach (some have called this a "theory in action" approach vice the "technical rational" approach--the latter is the current mode).

My bigger message here is that design is also about exposing ideologies/"isms" that have to be hermeneutically interpreted from such statements. This is why design is confused with another ism (postmodernism). But what it really means is that design is (ideally) ambivalent toward "isms" in general.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:37am

<i>"Chaoplexity" is a portmanteau (English uses them often). For example, when the military speaks to "capabilities" it is using a portmanteau (capacity + abilities). </i>

I'm sorry, but that's a crock. "Capabilities" is not and never was a contraction of "capacity" and "abilities". It's a simple derivative of "capable", a recognized English word since the 16th century, deriving directly from the late Latin <i>capabilis</i>.

The grotesque and appalling waterboarding of the English language that is "chaoplexity" accomplishes nothing that cannot be expressed in plain language. It's a useless abomination that deserves to be cast back to the linguistic hell whence it emerged.

<i>So, before rendering judgment (your metaphor of cleaning your bowels could be construed as levity but may serve to mask anti-intellectualism), please consider the reference.</i>

Once upon a time respect for the language and the ability to communicate concepts clearly in standard English were expected of the intellectual. Are they now evidence of anti-intellectualism?

The reference to a popular antidiarrheal was intended as levity, but was not without a point, and I don't think the point is anti-intellectual in any way. From a purely personal perspective, having been accused at many times past of intellectual elitism, I choose to take the suggestion of anti-intellectualism as a refreshing bit of symmetry.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:37am

A really sharp BG recently said "we have a massive chasm between operations and training"-nothing more to add to that comment.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:32am

Grant---you inadvertently opened a can of worms with that single comment ---while truely accurate-not so sure the system realizes what has happened.

So IMO Design is doomed as we cannot even get the basics correct. One cannot run if one cannot crawl.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:28am

Jimbo---a good question towards the end.

What has happened since late 2007 is that after the Staffs are finally "getting it" in their deployment- it takes about three months to get their feet under them in country---they then return to home station---where the hard earned insititutional knowledge base is then ripped apart and the personnel shifted among other deploying units that are in their ARFORGEN ramp up cycle.

Thereby effectively killing the home bound BCT of any future knowledge base---only to have it start all over again in 13 months. It literally is like starting over and over and over and that for seven years---and one wonders why now at the end of this long cycle young officers do not understand MDMP.

Over and over you will see that a BCT in a CTC is really never in it's final Staff formation--some officers will go with it, some are leaving the service and some times even the S2 is parachuted in at the last minute--or the CM trains during the CTC rotation but is not the one deploying.

Argument is it is all due to the ops tempo---

This does not only apply to officer but also to the enlisted side--ie current analyst training at Ft. H has been reduced in time in order to reach manning numbers---story to the students--"you will get the missed portion at your new duty station"---guess what it never occurs so level 10s deploy with little to no knowledge base having to learn on the fly in country--and one wonders why MDMP does not work---we use to have a similar process of NCOs---they have not drilled it either in seven years.

Couple both together and you have what we are seeing now in rotation after rotation.

what many do not understand is that really MDMP sets the stage for battle drills --what BCT actively still does battle drills?

In 1999/2000 you could stop a BN in mid tracks-issue a new OPORD and the Staff/Cmdr would go immediately into RDMP and drive on the new mission set---try that now.

We have effectively tried to turn BCTs in pop centric COIN into governing institutions in nation building and I think we are now seeing the results of that shift---trying to get back to CAM will take another 5-7 years or basically a totally new ten year officer generation if trained to standards.

Take the current 1/4 in AFG---it has the responsibily for at least five LOEs that would make them the equal on the governing side to the Mayor of NYC---and we wonder when they struggle at a CTC?


Bob's World

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:25am

The concept of design is smart, long needed in out military culture, and an artform that creative leaders have always done instictively.

The process of design is indeed overly burdened by unnecessary complexity of terms and process. Turning art into "paint by numbers" for the masses tends to do that. Shimon does not help by burying his great thoughts and insights under his complex terminology. The Army does not help with its dogmatic approach in converting such concepts to doctrine. (For a great example look at the evolution of the concept of Center of Gravity in doctrine over the past 10-15 years).

My recommendations are:

1. Focus on the concept and the intent of the design process rather than the dogma. You'll probably get a better product.

2. This isn't something that needs to be added to every MDMP session in a formal way, but at the same time concept of looking beyond the stated problem should be in everyone's mind at all times.

As to Arab Spring, I concur with those who say these are just like revolutions over time. These suppressed insurgencies have been the great source of energy that AQ has tapped into so successfully for years. The venting of that pressure is far more important to achieving US ends of reducing terrorist attacks on America and Americans than anything we have done in Afghanistan or Iraq. But there is still tremendous potential energy among these many diverse populaces wanting greater liberty and also wanting governments they see as more legitimate than the ones they have suffered under so long. This could go very bad if we fail to understand what is going on.

These are not people seeking either "democracy" or a "caliphate". The are simply seeking the dignity of liberty. The US is best served by getting infront of these conlicts in our messages to the people and the governments, and working with governments to encourage them to listen to their people and make reasonable, substantive evolutions of governance that make sense within the context of their respective cultures to vent this pressure short of revolution. We must walk a fine line that is clear that we do not seek to control outcomes, while at the same time seeking to shape the process to avoid the potential disruption to the global economy that could occur. Play this right and we disempower AQ in a major way. Play this wrong and we elevate AQ to a new status.

The governments of this region have long ruled through strong control of the popualace. To conduct a Maoist build up phase is nearly impossible where the state is so able to simply find and crush cells in their infancy. This is why so many nationalist insurgents travel to foreign locations, gathering in sanctuary in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, HOA, and the Maghreb and accepting the support of AQ. The modern info tools that have allowed AQ to conduct a global UW campaign without a state structure are now being leveraged by the people directly to organize revolution on the fly without the prerequisite structures typically needed. This leads to a chaos that is very exploitable if we are not careful. A "surprised" government may overract violently as well. Otherwise, these are age-old dynamics at work.


Ben--concur with your view of 5-0. However, in fairness, the original CACD and the section in 3-24 were not too far off the page...

Yet, like you, I am not a fan of doctrine (or any oligarchic process of knowledge/theory approval) -- it is, by one definition, dogma.

bz (not verified)

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 9:09am

Move Forward-

FM 5-0 is a terrible read for Design because the Army has 'salami-sliced' an entirely different system of logics with the prefered reductionist and linear detailed planning humdrum.
Earlier I wrote the above article in a Design series about how much a disaster Design doctrine became with FM 5-0's Chapter 3. What Grant, Chris P, and others are arguing here cannot and will not be formated into a codified procedure in any military doctrine...without us neutering the purebreed in the process. There- a non-bowl related metaphor for this thread. Then again, it involves neutering which might be even worse than a BM.


Move Forward,

"...back to mission command, if BCT staff cannot handle MDMP at the CTCs, why on earth would we expect design to work at battalion level."

Well, first I would argue that MDMP IS an approach to the design of military interventions. However, its frame includes the assumptions of the "rational-analytic model" that is susceptible to criticism (e.g., in breaking the situation down into component problems according to staff specialities, for example, you may miss the relationship among them -- lose holism).

So design is not a replacement/displacement process for MDMP, it is a bigger (philosophical) view that would include MDMP, only that MDMP would be subject to pragmatic skepticism as any singular (monistic?) approach would -- perhaps inappropriate for a more existential situation that characterize "small wars."


"Chaoplexity" is a portmanteau (English uses them often). For example, when the military speaks to "capabilities" it is using a portmanteau (capacity + abilities).

I believe the context referenced is from Antoine Bousquet's 2009 book, The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity in which he reviews the history how the "science of the day" served as a metaphoric frame for deciphering a science of warfare (e.g., the early machines, like clocks, framed Frederick the Great's approach to organizing his forces). Bousquet makes a good case that the use of complexity science and chaos theories are beginning to frame today's theories of warfare. Bousquet's is a remarkable thesis and he produced a very readable book that should be part of ILE curriculum (yet I am doubtful it will).

So, before rendering judgment (your metaphor of cleaning your bowels could be construed as levity but may serve to mask anti-intellectualism), please consider the reference.