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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Revisiting DR Kilcullen's piece on New Paradigms and the OSS

    We’ve had allot of discussion about roles and missions and where capabilities should reside. I dug this out of the SWJ Blog archive – Dave Kilcullen discussed New Paradigms for the 21st Century Warfare. One of the things he talked about was “the new Strategic Services” – later on he responded to a query I made and he referenced Tom Barnett’s SyS-Admin concept and USA LTC John Nagl’s case for an Advisory Corps (its one of the responses to the original blog). He also referenced the WWII era Office of Strategic Services as a possible way of thinking of the types of skill sets, personality traits, focus of scope of operations. What he was conceptualizing was different then SOF and different then GPF – and he was quick to point out that he was not putting forward some new radical idea, but adapting a concept that worked for what we needed at the time.

    This was back in June, and six months later I’m still thinking about it. With all our discussion about how we get capabilities for PRTs, how we get the right folks for Advisory missions, how we do Inter-Agency, how we do business, how do we attract and retain the very types of talented folks we need – as such, the discussion that DR Kilcullen started I think is very relevant. SWC member Troufion and a couple of others started raising the issues about new a new service; some like myself thought it sounded like a risky idea because it would require new doctrine, new structure, new monies, and would compete with ground services that with some adaptation might be able to fill the need.

    I’m not so sure anymore. For various reasons it may be a good idea to start a new service along the lines of the OSS – but on a scale proportional to the requirement and the capabilities they’d present. It might do to let such a group develop their own organization and doctrine, and requirements (one reason is that if an existing group develops these things it tends to build requirements and capabilities which reflect its own values as opposed to those which may be needed. We’re not talking about SOF doing DA, and we’re not talking about GPF doing FID, we’re not talking about CIA doing collection and analysis, we’re not talking about DoS doing diplomacy – we are talking about something different.

    Quote from David Killen at the blog: (his own citations are in the end notes of the blog)

    “4. Identify the new "strategic services": A leading role in the war on terrorism has fallen to Special Operations Forces (SOF) because of their direct action capabilities against targets in remote or denied areas. Meanwhile, Max Boot(12) has argued that we again need something like the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II, which included analysis, intelligence, anthropology, special operations, information, psychological operations, and technology capabilities.
    Adjectives matter: Special Forces versus Strategic Services. SOF are special. They are defined by internal comparison to the rest of the military—SOF undertake tasks "beyond the capabilities" of general-purpose forces. By contrast, OSS was strategic. It was defined against an external environment and undertook tasks of strategic importance, rapidly acquiring and divesting capabilities as needed. SOF are almost entirely military; OSS was an interagency body with a sizeable civilian component, and almost all its military personnel were emergency war enlistees (talented civilians with strategically relevant skills, enlisted for the duration of the war).(13) SOF trace their origin to OSS; yet whereas today's SOF are elite military forces with highly specialized capabilities optimized for seven standard missions,(14) OSS was a mixed civil-military organization that took whatever mission the environment demanded, building capabilities as needed.
    Identifying which capabilities are strategic services today would be a key step in prioritizing interagency efforts. Capabilities for dealing with nonelite, grassroots threats include cultural and ethnographic intelligence, social systems analysis, information operations (see below), early-entry or high-threat humanitarian and governance teams, field negotiation and mediation teams, biometric reconnaissance, and a variety of other strategically relevant capabilities. The relevance of these capabilities changes over time—some that are strategically relevant now would cease to be, while others would emerge. The key is the creation of an interagency capability to rapidly acquire and apply techniques and technologies in a fast-changing situation.”
    We have some good models for this – the NCTC (National Counter Terrorism Center) is one, the JIATF (Joint Inter-Agency Task Force) is another. These organizations have unique capabilities and constraints – a center for example is not an agency or bureau, and does not have the types of authorities associated with those types of organizations, JIATFs are durational (although some of the counter drug JTF types are long standing). These organizations draw their personnel from the supporting agencies. Maybe what is needed is something that allows its own recruiting with its own budget to operate along the lines of the OSS.

    I think we continue to have better understanding of how the threat operates within the world as they perceive it, and how they see us.

    As DR. Kilcullen closes:

    “The new threats, which invalidate received wisdom on so many issues, may indicate that we are on the brink of a new era of conflict. Finding new, breakthrough ideas to understand and defeat these threats may prove to be the most important challenge we face.”
    I wonder if our current tool set is adaptable and flexible enough to do what is required? I wonder if we should or even if we can create capabilities within existing organizations with strong rational for remaining as they are, and strong culture that resists change – often for good intuitive reasons. Consider that possibly the best way to meet these challenges might be to create something new (in relative terms) to work with our other existing tools in accomplishing our strategic ends. If so, maybe its not as hard as we think it is – maybe a key quality of this organization is that it is people & grey matter focused – other then its human requirements (recruiting & retention), and the $$$ required to travel – its budget should remain small. This is tough, because the more I learn about the Inter Agency, the more I believe budget = power and authority – but maybe that is the point here. The people we would want in such an organization would have to be clever enough to get by on little, they’d need to be natural communicators, intuitive and audacious among other traits. They might not desire to be in some of our traditional agencies and services, but they might “fit” is a different kind of organization – and as such be attracted to it. They don’t need to be able to do the Darby Queen, or even run 2 miles in 18 minutes - however, would need to be willing and able to live without McDonalds and Wal-Mart. They could be men or women, ages 18 to however old they can be and still function at an alert level. They could (and perhaps should) contain a wide array of interests, and experiences (both professional and personal).

    As always this seems the best place to discuss this – the SWC in itself could be a virtual model of such people and such an organization - and potentially a recruiting pool.

    Best, Rob

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    As always this seems the best place to discuss this – the SWC in itself could be a virtual model of such people and such an organization - and potentially a recruiting pool.
    Rob, you would definitely look dashing in sunglasses and a fedora.

    On the serious note, inter-agency is so tough, given the baggage and size of rice bowls that come with it. Even if this new service stood up from scratch, there would have to be administrators, bean counters, and advisors who rolled in at the beginning and formed the nucleus from which all else would grow.

    I don't think they could come in without bias and the "own values" you mentioned that would in fact be detrimental to the mission. Or could they?

    For some bizarre reason, the movie 'The Peacemaker" comes to mind.
    Last edited by jcustis; 11-03-2007 at 01:26 AM.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Well I can confirm that even a hat and sunglasses won't help you pick up chicks - good thing for me I met the wife in bad light

    On the serious note, inter-agency is so tough, given the baggage and size of rice bowls that come with it. Even if this new service stood up from scratch, there would have to be administrators, bean counters, and advisors who rolled in at the beginning and formed the nucleus from which all else would grow.
    I think like many such organizations in the past - it'd have to start with leadership that had a vision, knew the kind of people he/she wanted, and where to get them. I'll bet that skill sets you need to frame an organization can be found out there amongst folks with talent who are currently disgruntled and looking for a place that reflects function over form - what you have to guard against down the road is when organizations take on the mistake upholding core values for group think - a danger to anything novel.

    Bias I think is always going to be there to some degree - it reflects our individualism to some degree - but the trick is acknowledging that you have bias on a topic, realizing how it effects your perspective, then mitigating its negative effects.

    I was thinking something different from the Peacemaker (if we're talking movies - maybe not the best way to describe people but...)- something less kinetic and lethal for sure, less Clooney - more Jimmy Stewart sort or Hitchcock kinda of Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Indiana Jones, - not very flashy by today's standards, but ideally we're talking about low on the tech, more of the grey matter - something where the cause of the solution goes largely un-noticed in the media because it was not spectacular enough to make the FOX/CNN cable media , something more indirect. We have good organizations to do the DA high speed stuff already. These would be people who feel comfortable and are able to think in what for many might be a set of uncomfortable circumstances - they'd need reasonable powers of observation and analysis and be resourceful.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 11-03-2007 at 02:10 AM.

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    Excellent post Rob. My initial gut reaction would be to reorganize the CIA for these sorts of roles, given it was for just such a reason (as well as to centralize and oversea the entire US Intelligence structure) that it was originally created for. In principle, I really do not like the idea of creating yet another Federal service or agency to perform a task, especially when there is at least one other that was originally created to do much the same thing. But as you have explained Rob, the culture of the institution(s) may well prove resitant, even hostile to such a re-roling and reorganization, thus dooming it to probable ignominious failure.

    There is little question though that an OSS-type capability and service is necessary. Given that, I would insist upon the end of whatever Paramilitary role the CIA retains, and annex it to the new service/agency. More broadly speaking, this agency should hand-pick recruits at all times, and especially the cadres when first standing the service up. Preferably with the people who are doing the hand-picking would choose people whom they know personally - not out of cronyism, but because not only are they quite aware of what the personal qualities and abilities of these people are, but can also go some way to vouching for their personal reliability. The recruiting net should be cast wide and in both the usual and unusual places, for both the usual and unusual suspects.

    An excellent point you made Rob was the one about the budget, not only being small, but making a virtue out of such a necessity. The new service would lose much of its effectiveness if money and resources were lavished on it; the temptation to throwing money at problems, or finding problems to throw money at, would be great and progressively erode its professional judgement and operational effectiveness (not to mention the administrative efficiency). Professionals would quickly find themselves shouldered out by careerists and bean-counters. Thrift is essential, for both operational success and institutional integrity.

    There should be as little compartmentalism and formal division of labour as possible within the reasonable limits of operational effectiveness and security. There also should be as little of a system of Grades as possible. Someone's position should depend upon talent and their competence in particular tasks. As much as possible, everyone from soldiers to businessmen to academics to tradesmen to bartenders (they can be remarkably effective collectors of information and provisions) etc., should be able to rub shoulders and broaden each other's horizons and work together to build a much more comprehensive picture of things, figure out what has to be done, and to just go ahead do it, than might otherwise be the case in more formal, structured situation.

    There's real potential in such a service. It's a very good thing that you dug this back up Rob, otherwise it would eventually have been forgotten.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 11-03-2007 at 02:27 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Rob, you would definitely look dashing in sunglasses and a fedora.
    Ya know jcustis, I thought there was something funny with that story Rob was telling us about him having to shave off the 'stache so his daughter would recognize him...I think the real reason he did that is starting to come out...

    Just to clarify, I'm referring to him shedding his hitherto flashy persona and adopting a "gray man" profile prior to his setting-up of his super-secret we're-not-quite-sure-what-it-is organization that he seems to be attempting to recruit for from SWC.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-21-2015 at 02:10 PM.

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    Well, we could do this: recreate the OSS using most of the existing CIA as the special intelligence branch and most of the existing SOCOM as the special operations branch. And have it under a civilian director. Leave the services a tactical special operations capability.

    Of course, this is an idea from someone who doesn't have a good understanding of strategic matters. I'm sure someone here can tell me why it's not a good option.
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    Default Oss - Mi6 - Soe

    Rob--

    As usual, a thoughtful and intriguing post. I have a concern about the OSS model in that I beleive that Donovan erred when he combined the capabilities of MI6 and SOE in one organization. This resulted in the operators having a vested interest in the intelligence product. the problem was carried over into CIA and came out "loud and clear" in the Bay of Pigs that President Kennedy reportedly called a "perfect failure."

    I am also concernd that SOF is viewed as primarily direct action when FID, PSYOP, and Civil Affairs may be its most important components.

    If one were to thin seriously about creating a new organization then the first step would be, I think, to address the capabilities one would want to have. The second step would be to ask what kind of organizational structure would be needed to optimize those capabilities. Then, compare those capabilities with those in existing organizations; see if they could be adapted, or if one or more new organizations were needed.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default The way we think about problems matters

    I'm just not sure those ( I guess the OSS model) are the capabilities we're after (I'm not saying their not either) - that was one of the reasons its stuck with me for 6 months - it bothers me - like I'm missing something. I've known a few CIA folks, I always thought highly of them - as an organization it seems to fulfill its role (and probably then some) - I would not tamper with it. SOCOM is an organization that also seems to have come into its own and offered policy makers a suite of capabilities under one roof that we've not really been able to put our fingers before - my gut tells me that SOCOM is a good thing.

    Since I read DR K's piece, I've thought he was alluding to something different. To be sure he had/has allot going on, and may not have had the opportunity to think more about it - but I think its something that would fill a niche that is absent, or one that something else is covering poorly because its a square peg in a round hole. Partly why I decided to put it up - so we could think about it some more - burn up some brain cells.

    If interested, folks might peruse the Barnett Sys-Admin piece (just Google it). Kilcullen mentioned it, and at first I thought he was referencing it as a model - but after looking at it a couple of times - I think he just meant we required something that reflected the challenges we see now and believe are ahead. While I don't think Sys-Admin is what we need - I do think it has attempted to frame the challenges (in this case Barnett's "Gap" theory) and develop a solution. Same with LTC Nagl's Advisory Corps -in this case a way of looking at the problem of future security challenges differently within an existing organization (the Army). I think what is important is the way we think about the problem - using the analysis of the problem and its conditions to shape the solution vs. trying to use existing solutions against a problem for which they were not designed to anticipate. It sounds subtle - but I think its significant, and I think that was the value of the examples - not necessarily that the proposed solution(s) were the ones to go with - just the process in which the solutions were derived should be used here.
    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 11-03-2007 at 01:07 PM.

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    As we move forward the needs for advancing Intelligence that is tactical rather than strategic is going to require a change in CIA/NSA/DOD efforts. In the past each of the intelligence services has sliced up and duplicated efforts and no amount of substantial political wrangling has changed that. I'm currently reading a few good books that look at information sharing and operational versus intelligence analysis.

    Treverton, G. F. (2001). Reshaping national intelligence for an age of information. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.

    Shulsky, A. N., & Schmitt, G. J. (2002). Silent warfare: Understanding the world of intelligence. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc.

    Clark, R. M. (2004). Intelligence analysis a target-centric approach. Washington D.C: CQ Press.

    The changing role of information in warfare. (1999). Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I think what is important is the way we think about the problem - using the analysis of the problem and its conditions to shape the solution vs. trying to use existing solutions against a problem for which they were not designed to anticipate.
    The danger here is that we presume that there is a broad, possibly new but nonetheless enduring, problem--whether its CT or stability/PKO ops, or COIN.

    I'm not so sure that there is. Not that there aren't new challenges--obviously there are, as 9/11 highlighted--but different parts of the CT (or PKO or whatever) puzzle require very different approaches, approaches that vary over time and space and political context. Quite apart from the dangers of going through major organizational bureaucratic change, there's the risk of designing new structures for problem sets that are themselves constantly evolving and mutating.

    All of which leads me to want to look at this very much from the bottom up: what is being done now, or is needed now, that current doctrine, capabilities, or structures don't address? (Related to that--do we really agree what what's lacking now, against current or foreseeable future challenges?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I wonder if our current tool set is adaptable and flexible enough to do what is required? I wonder if we should or even if we can create capabilities within existing organizations with strong rational for remaining as they are, and strong culture that resists change – often for good intuitive reasons. Consider that possibly the best way to meet these challenges might be to create something new (in relative terms) to work with our other existing tools in accomplishing our strategic ends. If so, maybe its not as hard as we think it is – maybe a key quality of this organization is that it is people & grey matter focused – other then its human requirements (recruiting & retention), and the $$$ required to travel – its budget should remain small. This is tough, because the more I learn about the Inter Agency, the more I believe budget = power and authority – but maybe that is the point here. The people we would want in such an organization would have to be clever enough to get by on little, they’d need to be natural communicators, intuitive and audacious among other traits. They might not desire to be in some of our traditional agencies and services, but they might “fit” is a different kind of organization – and as such be attracted to it. They don’t need to be able to do the Darby Queen, or even run 2 miles in 18 minutes - however, would need to be willing and able to live without McDonalds and Wal-Mart. They could be men or women, ages 18 to however old they can be and still function at an alert level. They could (and perhaps should) contain a wide array of interests, and experiences (both professional and personal).

    The program I support has been wrestling with this very issue for some time now, and I'm actually writing my master's thesis on it. Opinions vary from person to person about how to actually "fix" what's wrong with our government, but ultimately, the common theme I keep hearing is people.

    The best solution given the bureaucratic torpor and intellectual retardation of the Interagency as a whole right now is a people-based solution. Start by training and educating national security officers. Select them from age 18 and shephard their aptitudes toward a range of national security-related career fields, be it in the military, diplomatic corps, the financial sector, economy, law enforcement, or NGO. Ultimately get them to serve in a wide variety of Interagency positions but never long enough to become inculcated into one agency's specific culture. Within a few decades, we'll have a multiple disciplinarian workforce open to the idea of reforming the executive branch to the degree it requires based on evolving threats.

    Who selects these new national security officers? How are they trained? Where is the management function for their pedigree? That's probably the only "new" organization you'd need to create-- something at the executive level, NSC or at least superior to the Interagency itself. It would be more of a mechanism, not an organization per se. Its function is function: It is the fulcrum upon which the levers of reform are pulled. Perhaps it's an institue. Perhaps it's a service. But it is the brand management mechanism for this new pedigree of national security service.

    If this sounds a little spooky, unrealistic, or even - dare I say it - like a subversive organization... that's the point. I quite believe that nothing short of a "scorched earth" scenario could adequately reform the executive branch to the degree required in the short-term. Therefore, I'm willing to live with several more years of failure and mediocrity if I can develop the qualified professional workforce I need to fundamentally change how our national security apparatus works. The bureacracy in place now is designed to preserve the status quo, not encourage innovation. The best way you can enforce reform, is by infiltrating the system and destroying it from within... while making it look like what you're actually doing is transforming it.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I think you're attacking the symptom and not the

    Quote Originally Posted by St. Christopher View Post
    The program I support has been wrestling with this very issue for some time now, and I'm actually writing my master's thesis on it. Opinions vary from person to person about how to actually "fix" what's wrong with our government, but ultimately, the common theme I keep hearing is people.

    The best solution given the bureaucratic torpor and intellectual retardation of the Interagency as a whole right now is a people-based solution. Start by training and educating national security officers. Select them from age 18 and shephard their aptitudes toward a range of national security-related career fields, be it in the military, diplomatic corps, the financial sector, economy, law enforcement, or NGO. Ultimately get them to serve in a wide variety of Interagency positions but never long enough to become inculcated into one agency's specific culture. Within a few decades, we'll have a multiple disciplinarian workforce open to the idea of reforming the executive branch to the degree it requires based on evolving threats.

    Who selects these new national security officers? How are they trained? Where is the management function for their pedigree? That's probably the only "new" organization you'd need to create-- something at the executive level, NSC or at least superior to the Interagency itself. It would be more of a mechanism, not an organization per se. Its function is function: It is the fulcrum upon which the levers of reform are pulled. Perhaps it's an institue. Perhaps it's a service. But it is the brand management mechanism for this new pedigree of national security service.

    If this sounds a little spooky, unrealistic, or even - dare I say it - like a subversive organization... that's the point. I quite believe that nothing short of a "scorched earth" scenario could adequately reform the executive branch to the degree required in the short-term. Therefore, I'm willing to live with several more years of failure and mediocrity if I can develop the qualified professional workforce I need to fundamentally change how our national security apparatus works. The bureacracy in place now is designed to preserve the status quo, not encourage innovation. The best way you can enforce reform, is by infiltrating the system and destroying it from within... while making it look like what you're actually doing is transforming it.
    Illness. First problem is that there's a virtual (so far non combat) civil war in this country to day. Fortunately, it only afflicts about 15% or so of the fringe elements on each side. The political divide is pretty significant for those elements and the leaners. This isn't a political blog and I only mention that to point out that the two poles in Congress would each agree to that scheme only if their agenda were followed. I doubt we can get there.

    Regardless, that's still applying the fix to the symptom.

    Most federal employees want to do a good job. Most of the problems in the Federal service, military and civilian, are caused by the ludicrous budgeting process that pits agencies against each other and the overweening bureaucracy that stifles -- even punishes -- initiative and deters rational decision making. Congress has passed many laws governing federal agency operations and they are as bad as the Tax Code. Congress has insisted the Federal government stick its nose into many areas of State and Local responsibility. We thus have a federal government that is marginally competent because it is forced to try to be everything to everyone.

    If you want to 'fix' the "bureaucratic torpor and intellectual retardation of the Interagency as a whole," You will only be successful if you fix Congress. The suggested approach will be co-opted by Congress as quickly it it appears to be reaching some success.

    Good luck on getting them to give up an iota of power. Until the American voter gets fed up and consistently votes incumbents out of office and those yo-yos realize they finally have lost their sinecure, there's little hope for much improvement. Congress is the ultimate arbiter of the staus quo -- they pay for it and reward it for not rocking the boat.

    To get rid of sclerotic bureaucracy, you have to fix the heart and the arteries, not the hands and feet.

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    Default Max Boot arrives on time, again

    Yesterday's (NYT 11/14/07 OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR; Send the State Department to War) Max Boot article on this topic, also blogged at Tom Barnett around his evolved idea of the national force structure to deal with operations other than war, a Department of Everything Else. A DoEE, which would manage and deploy US elements of SysAdmin, addresses the national system perspective we're looking at here at a departmental or agency level. Contrasted with Doug MacGregor's and other reversionist "island America" proposals, Boot, Barnett et.al. point to an organizational principle along that of DHS, to deal with the universe of OCONUS challenges below the level of conventional warfare and general forces employment. GWOT is only one such challenge. Many comments here seem to be going the same direction. Really enjoy this thread's orientation, as a 60++ former Area Specialist who could probably put the boots back on in a Sysadmin outfit. Also note, regarding earlier comment about "the Phoenix program gone worldwide", that the Human Terrain Team looks like becoming a standard operating element, and do, indeed, resemble many "Phoenix" concepts, stripped of the polemics of the anti-war crowd.

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