Small Wars Journal

Reflections on Clausewitz and Jomini: A Discussion on Theory, MDMP, and Design in the Post OIF Army

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 9:00am
Reflections on Clausewitz and Jomini: A Discussion on Theory, MDMP, and Design in the Post OIF Army

by Christopher Otero

Download the Full Article:Reflections on Clausewitz and Jomini: A Discussion on Theory, MDMP, and Design in the Post OIF Army

One of the most intellectually challenging moments in the United States Command and General Staff College is when after 10 years of serving in an Army at War you are finally introduced to the two major theorists of modern warfare, Antoine-Henri Jomini and Carl Von Clausewitz. Both are considered to be the most prominent theorists of the western way of warfare and the question that often gets framed by our instructors is which of these two best inform your understanding of modern war? Do you consider yourself Jominian or Clausewitzian in your outlook?

Imagine the surprise when I answered 'Both'. In this document, I will attempt to explain why the answer NEEDS to be both and why picking one has led the United States Army to a rather peculiar fault of breeding the best tacticians in the world, but generally creating very poor strategists. I will propose a unitary framework that blends the two theorists and endeavors to bridge the gap as well as begin a dialogue about the relationship between the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) and the Design methodology. It is my intention to eventually propose an update to the MDMP process in an effort to 'modernize' it IAW lessons learned.

Download the Full Article:Reflections on Clausewitz and Jomini: A Discussion on Theory, MDMP, and Design in the Post OIF Army

MAJ Christopher Otero, USA, is an active duty military intelligence officer who has served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Battalion, Brigade Combat Team, and Division level. MAJ Otero is currently attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the position of the United States Army or the Department of Defense.

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Fri, 05/27/2011 - 12:42am

Outlaw7...can't argue with your comments. My experiences have varied a bit and honestly, while deployed I saw even less attention paid to the training and manning when it came to ISR, CM, and so forth than what you report. Data, for lack of a better term, was everywhere. It was there to drive our operations. But, there were distractions like fancy catch phrases and other OER SF bullets.
I chalked it up to apathy as I found out those in the positions generally seemed to be on their game. It was the command elements that weren't pushing for the process to work or be executed. experience. All of ours are different, I'm sure.

Your comments about the soon to be MAJs are salient. Perhaps it highlights another reason to stop promoting so quickly. I believe a double-BZ selection is pinning at the 7-8 year mark. I'd like to say that is enough, but perhaps it's not.

As for Clausewitz, Design, and so forth....Looking at what Clausewitz, Jomini, and others have had to say about the making of a good fighting force, and how empirical data has shaped those comments into what we practice - perhaps we should throttle back on large issues such as MDMP v. Design, until more empirical evidence becomes available to help us steer our appraisals and the writing of future doctrine. Just a thought. I enjoy the reading and broadening, but I'm not sure we have the data to reconcile all of these competing thoughts.

Outlaw 7 (not verified)

Thu, 05/26/2011 - 10:40pm

Charles---just a side comment to your comments.

I did not allude to all BCTs being as I described BUT one is seeing a strong trend in all BCTs to what I was alluding to. The 10 year Captains group is telling as they are the coming S3s, Company Cmdrs, and future BN/BCT Cmdrs and if they are not getting it now and practicing it religiously how will they guide future battle staffs?

IMO as the BCTs shifted in 2003 from FSO to the COIN fight late in 2004/2005 those staffs practiced MDMP, and MDMP was their battle drills---now because it is no longer a practiced battle drill the BCT staffs are really "winging it" under the concept of adaptive mission command and thus the really long rampup of speed when they deploy---currently guessing that on an average Afghan rotation the incoming BCT needs 2-3 months to really spin up on the staff side before it hits stride---willing to bet that prior to 2000 most battle staffs would have be spun up in less than a month.

Example---we take the most junior officer in a BCT just prior to rotation and make him/her the BCT Collection Manager and with luck they get the Ft. H CM course-if they have no luck they learn on the job---there is no training what so ever at home station because how can one drive CM in home station. Now CM is really tied to targeting so the provacative question if the CM does not know and has MDMP driven into his thinking does he/she know what inputs and outputs must be synched with what other processes that are continiously circling in the background---operations, intell, targeting, MDMP.

Example---take targeting and ISR we tend to preach that ISR is the be all end all and it almost has become a standalone process---not part of the intel process which is one process out of four that drives targeting---I personally hate the process driven approach, but even large US corporations ie AT&T had in the IT world the following saying "people, processes, tools"---well the Army has the people, it has tools and where things went left it lost the processes in the COIN fight as they felt it had to be a thinking/adaptive force in order to fight COIN forgetting that really some processes are the same whether in the FSO world or in COIN---because COIN was perceived to be different we the Army must also have a "different decision making concept" not realizing we had one that worked but needed just adjustments to become adaptive.

I would argue that MDMP is in fact for FSO while RDMP is really for the COIN but both come from the same mother as RDMP allows for "adaptive decision making".

Maybe I wrong but I do not think so.

MAJ---your article is well timed.


Wed, 05/25/2011 - 11:55pm

I'd just like to say that I hope what Outlaw7 said is false. It is false where I work and the last place I worked. Little closer to true at the place before that.

If that's the case though...well, those CPTs don't run the staff. The XO does. Cdr has a say as well. Those are the two that need the microscope there.

As for problems in the wake of returning to MCO & FSO approaches: +1 there. It's going to be really ugly.

Regarding personal thought is that we didn't prepare ourselves well for OIF/OEF. Our prior garrison way of doing business with canned scenarios etc did us a disservice. When this lack of preparation became evident, it lead to paralysis by analysis and the basics (like going through MDMP and conducting wargaming within that process) got ignored.

I could be wrong.

At this point, trying to combine the study of Clausewitz, Jomini, and revising how we evaluate our approaches to tactics, strategy and their teaching, as well as the debate surrounding design may be a bridge too far. It is for me - I can't digest that much simultaneously, just don't have the brain power. I suspect the rest of the Army will suffer as well. It's a lot to handle at one time.

G Martin

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 9:05pm


100% awesome post- your last one at 6:35 PM. Thanks!!!

I haven't read your paper yet- although I intend to this weekend- but, as usual, the comments that the articles on SWJ generate are always informative, many entertaining, and sometimes inspirational. I categorize your last post as inspirational.

Design will die IMO- and we will change on the fringes- just as the U.S. Army is changing many things on the fringes. My opinion on all of this is that we can afford to "not change too much" today. We are the "top dog"- and for the most part our way of life is not threatened (from our current population's perspective). Secondly, we (in the military) can get away with spinning our efforts as "wins" instead of "ties" or "defeats". We must be careful, however, of falling into the same trap as Vietnam- where the politicians pulled the rug out from under us by cutting off funding- but as long as that doesn't happen I think we can keep on painting our own narrative and basking in the glow of popular support for "the military" (who knows how long that will last).

What Design SHOULD do for us is to wake us up from our comfort zone of tactical hubris and make us realize that being able to get the right force at the right time at the right place won't be sufficient for us when our politicians insert us into complex environments where our national interests are murky at best, our objectives are fuzzy and changing constantly, and where our people and politicians want us to do something- but they're not quite sure what it is.

We can protest all we want that we should only be used a la Desert Storm or Liberia in 2003- limited objectives and time frames and enough military might to secure those objectives- but inevitably we will- especially as our narratives convince our populace we have been successful- be deployed into situations where no-one is really sure what we are doing, and we're asked to tread water until we figure it out- or, worse, we're asked to transform a situation into something 180 degrees out from where it is now.

In those instances rational decision making processes won't help. RDMPs pre-suppose that you have a Desert Storm or Liberia environment wherein things are relatively short-term and clear-cut. If the opposite is true then you need something else. As the military has figured out already- Design in the doctrinal sense- 'aint it. Design in the doctrinal sense offers up a different RDMP- MDMP with a few more steps thrown in at the beginning.

"True" Design, however, theoretically would offer ANYONE (not just military) a different approach to a situation that is complex beyond comprehension. I say theoretically because it is based on theory. As you say- "unless clear superiority of method can be demonstrated and then reinforced in military schooling at the relevant levels". THIS IS KEY!!! We must throw guys in CGSC and SAMS and other schools at complex problems (local ones they can interact with, not scenario-based and far away or pretend ones) and allow them to try any and all approaches- and then see what they come up with. Test Design (the doctrine), MDMP, other RDMPs, Evolutionary-type interactions (, and anything else folks can come up with- test them against real complex environments and problems and see which ones work better! Then, and only then, will we possibly see the need to approach different situations than Liberia/Desert Storms in a different manner than that with which we are comfortable.

Will we suffer disaster if we don't adopt Design? IMO no- at least not the doctrinal Design, which isn't much different than the current RDMPs we use- whether it is MDMP or something else. And I don't think we'll suffer disaster if we don't adopt Design in the philosophical sense either- as a way to adopt quickly and effectively change things in complex environments- because I think we are in a strong enough position to keep living off of the sacrifices and wealth that past generations have given us.

But, if we want to stay ahead of the game- then I'd recommend at least testing the theories that Design- the philosophy, not the doctrine- offers us. Other disciplines are attempting to effect change in complex environments differently- and they are surely learning from their experiences. It would be a tragedy if we sit on the sidelines and have to play catch-up one day, especially if one or more of our near-peer rivals ARE attempting to study the principles behind Design...


I think the debate is somewhat distorted.

Here are some key arguments using a "multiple lenses" approach to design:

Design is NOT a method that competes with MDMP.

Design is a word that METAPHORICALLY attempts to find knowledge through some lens (ontology for philosophers) and links to artful applications (art/aesthetics--humanly pleasing).

The literature on "design" is multidisciplinary; hence, one has to preface the word "design" adjectively for it to make sense in the CONTEXT IT IS BEING USED TO COMMUNICATE ITS WORTH (and this has caused confusion to an institution that is used to seeking context-free knowledge -- that is, "best practices" or "lessons learned").

I'll try and explain my points.

Rational analytic modeling (RAM) of problems (i.e. MDMP or JOPP) IS a form of design. It is the rational-analytic form of design (in the Army tradition of acronyms, let's call it RAM-D) that seeks to (1) break situations down into manageable parts (that can be handled by specialized staff); (2) create tasks to address these broken down parts; and (3) assign them for action to "capabilities" (units). The LOGIC of RAM-D is analogous to engineering science where reductionism works quite well. There is, after all "engineering design" that engineers take in engineering school that has an artistic component to it (and a VERY heavy science component).

There can be other ways to "frame" design. We can have discursive design: where arguments and debates about what is going on, what makes sense, and perhaps how consensus (or continued debate--this could be a lengthy process!) should hopefully seek to form a coalition of actors that agree to some extent (consensus). There are four possible outcomes to discursive design: agreement on ends and means (go to MDMP/JOPP: RAM-D); agreement on ends and disagreement on means (act separately with relatively independent means and see what seems to work); disagreement on ends but agreement on means (don't discuss strategic neds, just do it); and disagreement on both ends and means (continue with the discursive process--kind of like the Israeli-Palestine discourse that has gone on my whole life).

We may look through the lens of complexity science and chaos theory (which creates a really different basis of knowledge--some call "chaoplexic") where the "art" is in creative modeling complexity with such tools as causal-loop diagrams, 4-square patterns (see short article ), and other emergent ways of using the language of the sub-atomic world and metaphors borrowed from quantum physics and so forth. Ben Z has used this as his primary framing in much of his essay content.

One could also use descriptive (or "interpretive") design where we rely on situational immersion and rich description (linguistic interpretations of what we sens and how we are making sense of it). This may take the idea of "reflective practice" (action learning, or reflection-in and on- action) and put that concept to use in designing one's sensemaking and retrospections. The creativity here can be to search for heuristics (or metaphors) that help make sense (such as the use of historic analogies--"this is a lot like our experience in South Vietnam in War Zone D"). Here we may use something creative like "improvisational jazz" to describe our approach to design (making music as we play).

These are just three examples of framing approaches to "design." Of course other fields use their own sense for design (business design; architectural design, domestic policy design; urban development design, and so forth).

So, in summary design seeks multiple lenses (logics) to "see" the situation differently and approach it differently. Design philosophy (the nexus of knowledge and art) does not compete with MDMP, it sees MDMP as a logic worth pursuing when circumstances seem appropriate (i.e. like planning a force-on-force expulsion of the Republican Guard from Kuwait in 1991). RAM-D (an engineering, reductionist logic) WORKS in these circumstances.

The institutional issue then becomes -- how can we search for these different logics for action? The institution has "overlearned" the singular approach to design using RAM-D and now must seek other logics (such as the discursive, chaoplexic, and interpretive "lenses").

Doctrine reflects a single-lens approach (the usual lens--"RAM-D" as we have labeled it in this posting). Design, for that matter" is the "anti-doctrine." It does not settle for the single seeks many (so the act of writing one down as "doctrine" may stifle the continued search for others).

Hope I have communicated well here! :)

AJK (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 8:50pm

Design is a product of command climate and culture, manifested in a commander that sees virtue in being wrong, is intellectually humble, which results in an environment where inquisitiveness and frankness are rewarded. Thus design is less a process to be incorporated into a positivist-reductionist heuristic such as MDMP, than a characteristic of an organization that sees value in intellectual deviance and innovation.

Vitesse et Puissance

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 8:35pm

The central point to keep in focus is that MDMP is - to the extent that the Army is capable of enunciating how it thinks at all - at least a modified form of the scientific method. It is a rational actor model, applied to a field where both information and resources available to process information are limited. One does not come across a truly great book every day, but I will recommend this little jewel I picked up at the Spy Museum in DC over the weekend. Its title is "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" by Richards J. Heuer, Jr. At 184 pages, it is the most condensed description of cognitive functioning as related to analysis and decision-making I have yet seen. I cut my teeth on Graham Allison's "Essence of Decision", with its "rational actor", "satisficing" and "bureaucratic process" models back in the seventies; Heuer goes one better and points out the roots of Allison's work in Herbert Simon's "Models of Man" (1957). Your CGSC masters can teach you doctrine, but for the most part, they won't teach you the theory - they cannot, because most of them don't know enough theory to teach. To get there, you need to do your own research, and I highly recommend Heuer's book, which takes on the problem as directly as I have ever seen.
Now, with that in mind, let's discuss Jomini and Clausewitz. Jomini's positivist tendencies are self-evident, and his faith in the power of the human mind springs from that world view. Believe it or not, when Donn Starry did his AirLand Battle films, we knew were being sold a bill of goods, but it didn't much matter, because US military thought had gone to an all-time low in Vietnam, and there was nowhere to go but up. William Depuy was another matter altogether - a genuine intellectual who was capable of independent thought, and encouraged the same in others. I do see a bit of that in Martin Dempsey, who undoubtedly watched the same Depuy videos as I. As far as Clausewitz is concerned, he was, is and ever will be an acquired taste among American Army officers. It is not the thick crust of German philosophnical language - Clausewitz may be hard to read, but Hegel is impossible - but the fact that Clausewitz himself has the mind of a skeptic. You can use his work as a proof text, but it does violence to his thinking - much more so than the less complex and more reductionist work of Jomini. (That actually is a compliment to Jomini, whose theory is exactly that. It is clear, concise and falsifiable, as scientific as Sir Karl Popper would wish it to be.) For pragmatic thinkers, and most of us are either pragmatic by nature, or fall into pragmatism because it is so dominant within our culture, the easiest and probably the most reliable access to Clausewitz is through the skeptic's world view. What Talib does in the "Black Swan" can be done in military thought. To close the circle, there is the historic echo of Thayer and the Scottish Common Sense philosophic tradition in the halls of West Point. Not a great basis for generative thought, but certainly adequate to assimilate the work of others.

MAJ Christophe… (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 7:35pm

In the most important way possible, the transition is the real question here and not which is the superior paradigm, MDMP or Design. Design is in danger of 'fading' because the Army is not doing an effective job of selling it. Here at ILE, we spent 2 hours on Design and WEEKS on MDMP. Officers, some senior, who I hold in very high regard (not bottom feeders) have emailed me and asked me to explain this Design thing. Outside the small population of SAMS grads (none who I have met are capable of explaining it in laymen terms), NOONE knows what it is or how to apply it and unless the situation is rectified, I do honestly believe it will go away...especially given the current 'back to the future' crowd pushing the FSO/MTW line (no disrespect guys, there is alot in your argument I agree with). My intent with fusing it with MDMP is that unless clear superiority of method can be demonstrated and then reinforced in military schooling at the relevant levels or infilitrating it into the collective muscle memory of the force by fusing it with an already accepted paradigm (MDMP), then we simply will not get there. What is needed is for Design to part of the kit-bag of the 'common' staff officer and not a small selected population of a single pay-grade (SAMS-grads) for it to take hold.

bz (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 7:08pm

"If that is the case, I really do believe that some effort must be made to combine the two in order to make it palatable or else Design will fade away..."

1. If 'Design' is a paradigm shift in logic to something better than MDMP regarding complex military environments, then Kuhn's theory of a faulty field evoking a paradigm shift to a new one means that Design will replace detailed planning logic. Design will not fade away any more than Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity faded away because scientists liked using Newtonian physics because they were more familiar with it. Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts means that automobiles replace horse carriages because the superior paradigm evoked out of a problematic previous one renders the predecessor obsolete.

2. Now, a NASA scientist does use Newtonian physics to make sense of driving his car to work (as we all do) because in that environment, it still makes sense...but he applies the Special Theory of Relativity at work when dealing with a reality that Newton's theory is unable to explain. Can the military use MDMP like a NASA scientist driving to work- as in, we use it in the simpler environments where conventional linear logic will work for reductionist and positivist short-term gains through a reverse-engineered logic? And when the military enters a complex environment, can they recognize where detailed planning logic, like Newtonian physics, have no business in the lab where things operate closer to light speed?

3. One more attempt at a metaphor to explain this point that MDMP will fade, not Design (assuming that Design indeed is the superior logic within the paradigm shift)... consider in 1900 how horse carriage companies prefered to employ costly artists to hand-build carriages at a low and expensive rate. When they planned business strategies for the next five years, they expected their factory to continue to make more carriages, hire and train more skilled artisans, and continue to operate in much the same way the past 200 years of their business had done with minor adaptations of proven new technology that subscribed to their organization's set of values (hand built is better, horses are the transportation choice, the national infrastructure supports only horse-bound transportation...)

- But a few companies like the Olds company (soon to be Oldsmobile) took the internal combustion engine and the rich toy known as the horseless carriage, and combined it with the assembly line with unskilled workers doing repetitive tasks; they introduced a paradigm shift not only in transportation modes, but in production- and revolutionized the transportation infrastructure of the nation (gas stations, roadside diners, paved roads, etc). While the majority of horse carriage companies went out of business within the decade, they probably continued their outdated mode of logic until the very end because they refused to join the paradigm shift.

In other words- the Army does not get to choose whether they will subscribe to detailed planning logic like MDMP in the 21st century any more than carriage companies in 1900 could choose to ignore the combustion engine, transportation that was not horse-centric, or unskilled worker assembly production models- it was a Darwinian economics process that rewarded those that adapted and eliminated those that did not. To stretch this metaphor a bit, IF Design is the paradigm shift towards a superior logic for understanding and influencing complex 21st century military environments, the Army will either join the transformation and cast away outdated logic such as MDMP, or it will fail again and again in military conflicts in this new century. Eventually, Design will replace in, the useful elements of MDMP will continue within the overarching and prominent logic of Design while the unnecessary and inefficient elements are tossed into the garbage bin of history.

How we educate our force on this transition will determine whether this is a bumpy or smooth ride...but that is a different topic!


MAJ Christoper Otero (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 6:31pm

BZ, Thanks for your comments and I agree with you on the trying to do too much assessment on the paper. I originally wrote this as a thought piece for myself and some others and just kind of went where the writing took me. If was after completion someone recommended posting it and I think if I were to do it all over again, I would have broken up. (BTW, I liked Taleebs 'Black Swan but found Baulliards work entirely too obtuse).

As for Design vs. MDMP, I am new here so I am just now catching up on some of the discussions that you mentioned but I would state that here at CGSC, there is an enormous ambivalence to Design. of the problem that I see is that the Army cant really decide where Design fits so it mentions it in the new FMs and then just kind of leaves it hanging without really expressing 'how and 'when to go about it. Intellectually, I like the idea of using MDMP for tactical level fights and Design for the operational fight and higher but my take is that MOST Army Officers are married to MDMP and advocate using it for all levels of planning and will not budge off of it (a recent GO selectee who I am acquainted with stated in open forum recently that MDMP is prime and was contemptuous of Design). If that is the case, I really do believe that some effort must be made to combine the two in order to make it palatable or else Design will fade away and obviously I think that would be a bad thing.

O7, I absolutely agree with you about the knowledge of MDMP amongst the middle ranks and exactly for the reasons you stated. The Army has gotten into a collective rut in which we have identified a standard 'OIF-OEF battle rhythm/planning structure that varies little from BCT to BCT. I could see it in my own BCT of which I was a BCT S2 one rotation and a BN XO on the next. Even worse is the insidious rise of the 'Working Group where form has taken over from substance and has shackled large numbers of Staff Officers into HQs instead of other pursuits that would be worthwhile.

Where I would disagree with you, Sir, is that while MDMP is suitable for tactical level problem sets, applying it too operational and strategic problems like we do at BCT and higher creates a great deal of problems. It is the argument between tactics and strategy. Tactics is battlefield focused, requires agility and quick thinking and requires a clear order in order to synchronize all the war-fighting functions. It is a case where reductionism is actually a good thing. Strategy, the art of the campaign is something that we dont do particularly well at historically and something that Design is much more suitable. To take the NTC analogy, MDMP and its products would be what I would use to defend the Brown Pass and Division Hill, Design speaks to the entirety of the war-effort and campaign.

Thanks for the input!

Craig (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 6:12pm

You may find this becomes about apples and oranges. Although Clausewitz can, in places, be compared with Jomini, his theory of war is really much more of a "theory" of "war" while Jomini tends to be less of a theory and much more about "warfare". Is Jomini still applicable? Yes, however in areas much different than what Clausewitz offers. I suggest reading Mark Calhoun's essay on the two to enlighten this aspect. Also, Echavarria's book is quite good.

Outlaw 7 (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 5:40pm

Just a side comment on MDMP.

Take a group of CPTs that make up any of the Advance Captains Career Courses (say a group of 60)---then ask the following simple question "How many can name for me the seven steps of MDMP"?---anyone want to take a quess at how many can fully name the seven steps?

Then ask the following question "Who has ever conducted a wargame session or has anyone fully discussed as a staff working group a COA"? Watch the blank stares.

We have now a ten year group of Captains who do not fully understand MDMP and they are the future of the Army from a leadership perspective.

Even when they have compled the required MDMP training in the AC3 courses they walk into units that truly do not practice the MDMP process---so we can now bring in the concept of Design and the current leadership will still swim.

Why is MDMP so critical---without it being practiced correctly not a single BCT is fully successful in the use of ISR or targeting.

Look at what we call working groups---currently a BCT Staff must attend between 3-4 working group meetings on any given day--thus command decisions have become decisions made by consensus. Ask those Staff officers how many working groups actually take into the meetings specific inputs, generate specific outputs and actually make staff decisions---normal is a single officer giving a Powerpoint presentation and everyone just nodding their heads.

Ask staff officers to define per the JP/FM what targeting is or what synchronization means-again blank responses. Why do we use terms that are not even mentioned in the FMs as if they are correct ie ISR scheme of manuever as if it rates higher than a scheme of manuever.

In the area of ISR and targeting---if you do not understand MDMP staff processes it simply is going through the motions and a staff will not be successful in deploying ISR in support to manuever or targeting.

EXAMPLE: In former times a BCT staff could be in different stages of staff officers coming and going and then place the BCT into say the NTC-there might be a small dip in unti pertformance but the staff would rebound and on point within one dfay or so as they knew the processes and would drive using those MDMP processes as it had been ahmmered into them.

Now take a BCT-replace most of the staff just prior to a NTC rotation and you will see a massive performance dip and it takes days for the staff to just get to a steady state as the MDMP process has never been exercised---transport that BCT to Afghanistan and it takes usually 3 months to get their MDMP processes half way functioning.

Second example---as we transition to FSO at the CTCs the BCTs are truly struggling in accomplishing anything in the scenario that requires speed---the results have not be pretty as we have active duty BCTs who have never driven on speed and a large number of targets in the FSO realm as they have been in COIN for nearly eight years where just getting by is a mark of success.

Would really like to see a sane and open dfiscussion of this coming pain as we make the transition back to FSO and the failure to maintain our MDMP skill sets.

bz (not verified)

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 5:04pm


My practice when reading Design articles is to go to the end-notes or bibliography first. Based on the few design sources listed, I would recommend that when possible, you check out some design theory sources outside of Army doctrine or anything written for the military (student design text, etc...) There are some great design sources in the General Systems Theory field, organizational theory field, and post-modernism philosophy fields that all help generate various perspectives on what Design is, and why it is a different process of thinking about the world than detailed planning logic. Taleeb's 'Black Swan', Capra's 'Web of Life', Focoute's Berkley lectures (online) on 'Problematization', Bertanfly's General Systems Theory readings, Baudrillard's 'Simulacra', and the works of Hayden White, Peter Novack, Kuhns, Shimon Naveh, and others are just the tip of the ice-berg. Of course, finding time to read is the tough part...

There are some interesting points in this article, but you might make better headway by narrowing your subject a bit. Just the topic of Jominian versus Clausewitzian logic in the US Army is deserving of it's own article. The topics of Mission Command integration into MDMP and Design is yet another great seperate topic; to combine all of them reminds me of the saying, "too big a net catches few fish."

I would like to focus in on one of the points you argue and offer some feedback. "Design, with its emphasis on collaborative and intellectual dissection of a problem, is what Mission Analysis and COA Development should be rather than the current practice of MDMP of breaking up into your respective tribes and generating data and COAs independent of the Commander and of each other."

There have been many discussions here at SWJ and elsewhere on whether Design is "MDMP done right" or if it is something entirely different and not compatible. Perhaps the key point that a majority of folks do agree upon is that MDMP starts with the organization taking the Commander's intent, his proposed mission guidance, and the desired end-state as the boundaries of the organization's planning process. In other words, MDMP does not explore outside the organization's recognized lanes, whether they are physical such as unit boundaries, or conceptual (don't worry about what the DOS or UN does here, that is not your problem...).
MDMP does not question the commander's intent, or attempt to generate alternate intents that accomplish a superior (or different) end-states. Lastly, MDMP reinforces institutional biases (often called 'in-house' or field assumptions of the organization). When a unit gets directed to do an operation, they plan for that unit to solve the problem in a manner most acceptable to how the unit identifies self-relevence and IAW core values and institutional tenets. For instance, if the Navy were tasked to plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Lybia and protect Lybian citizens from its own military and government, the Navy would not conduct mission analysis and recommend that another service take the lead, or that the mission required significant changes, or that the Navy conduct the mission in violation to cherished tenets and core values.

Design applies critical thinking as well as creative thinking to a complex system; design operates in an entirely alien process to detailed planning such as MDMP- and therefore it is hard (if not impossible) to attempt to reduce Design logic down into something that can work within MDMP in a unified effort. These are my opinions, of course- and Army doctrine on design would say otherwise (if the force could understand what design doctrine actually says).

MDMP works in some conditions very well- that form of positivist and reductionist logic put an American flag on the moon...both Clausewitz and Jomini both function within the MDMP logic as they are highly featured in Army detailed planning doctrine and practice. In conditions or ecosystems where MDMP reductionism does not work well, we should not be trying to force MDMP by adding a sprinkling of Design to the pot- or attempt some kind of planning fondue by melting Design and MDMP cheeses together; perhaps by recognizing that they are incompatible and seperate systems of logic, we could apply MDMP where appropriate, and NOT use MDMP in conditions where it does not function well (complex systems). By abandoning MDMP proceduralism and linear reductionism, we unshackle ourselves from that system of logic, and can adapt through Design a variety of different processes of understanding, learning, and adapting where our military actions are better tuned to influencing the transformation of a system to a future state that refects more of what our government desires. It is not about throwing the baby out with the bath water, but knowing when the baby needs a bath, and when it just needs a diaper change...

Just some thoughts on Design-