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Thread: Agility, Adaptability and Innovation: the Art of the Counter-Punch

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Agility, Adaptability and Innovation: the Art of the Counter-Punch

    Agility, Adaptability and Innovation: the Art of the Counter-Punch

    SWC member Terry Terriff and I were had a great discussion Saturday over a pint or two on just what agility, adaptation and innovation are – it’s a subject he’s spent allot of time thinking, interviewing and writing about - its also a subject I like to consider. This is something we’ve talked around on other threads – from the “Great Generals” to “Adaptation” and others. It applies at the tactical through the operational through the strategic, gets into leadership, organizational structure, doctrinal philosophy, etc.

    Terry if the beer got the better of me - and I mis-characterize something please make the correction - as for everyone else - your thoughts on this will only add to the discussion - we just need to figure out a way to create the "pub" atmosphere online

    On pint #2 the discussion was really going Terry described “Innovation” as the steps taken to create and sustain the broader climate or atmosphere in which “Adaptation” takes place – this affords us greater mental “Agility” in identifying changes in the operational environment so that we shorten the adaptation loop, and seize the initiative on a broader scale. This reminded me of something I’d heard DR. Ed Coss who teaches the History piece out at FT Belvoir ILE course describes as the “Art of the Counter-Punch”- the ability to understand what the enemy is trying to accomplish, how he is trying to accomplish it, where he has over-extended himself and is now vulnerable but may not know it until its too late to recover – and you are able to position yourself to exploit that in some fashion that provides you advantage – Again this fits with my reading of Ole dead Carl – or you can pick your military philosopher/theorist.

    So there is the Agility - Adaptation/Counter Punch and combination hook/uppercut/block/strong cross follow up which arguably we can do at the “double time” at the tactical level, “quick time” at the operational level, and maybe “half time/mark time” at the strategic level.

    So what about large scale “Innovative Change” – or to continue with the boxer analogy - the kind that might let you see it or feel it coming before it happens and be there first? The kind that might let you gauge the effect of the emotion of the crowd, the space available within the ring, the history of both the enemy and yourself, the will to win the object in view by both your opponent and yourself (and those who support you), and the host of other external pressures on both you and your opponent. This is something that is often collectively called "the Art of War" because it defies the types of defining and precise calculations that accompany science. Keep in mind that as complex as this situation may seem – our boxer if translated to represent our self is somewhat schizophrenic – being composed of multiple parties with sometimes opposing interests.

    So the questions are why and can we do better? Why - I think has something to do with bureaucracy and the conditions it creates at higher levels – can we do better has something to do with our willingness –often driven by external threats or common interests that allow us at least temporarily work together.

    Don’t restrict this thread to just the subject as it presents itself – this is one of those that might have to be worked around – using an “Indirect Approach” to get to some thoughts on it. I hope Terry will pick this one up – he has a great deal of interesting things to say on this and continues to devote allot of gray matter to it – I just thought it was such an interesting and valuable discussion that I wanted to broaden it to the rest of the SWC that did not have the opportunity to discuss it over beer – which is where most good conversation happens.


    Cited works – the new book which Terry co-edited – which he gave me a free copy yesterday – “Global Insurgency and the Future of Armed Conflict –Debating fourth generation warfare” – available pretty soon I suspect from Routledge books and I suspect darn well worth the read. I’ll also cite the beer and the Sport’s Bar where the pints were consumed and the discussion took place – they all seemed to go together well.


    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 11-04-2007 at 08:00 PM.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Great Idea

    Hi Rob, here are a couple of ideas to start with.

    1-Let Sergeants go to the Army War college.

    2-Let Sergeants experiment with small unit tactics and give them funds to do it with, then let them write the manual.

    3-Let veteran combat Sergeants go directly to OCS and be comissioned as officers without all the college degree bull####.

    4- Instead of just giving troops a booklist to read...buy them the books. Colonel Warden did this when he was in charge of the Air Command and Staff College. BTW he is going to send me the booklist when he finds it and I will publish it. It is over 100 books on a broad range of subjects not just War and they were given to all the students.

    5-Send me to the Army War College...second thought better scratch this one.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Innovation and winning

    In the law enforcement (LE) arena innovation does happen at all levels, but bureaucracy intervenes to slow the process down and the gains made. Here the need to have an audit trail for all actions taken, even the background i.e. intelligence processes, acts as a barrier.

    Innovation in LE is invariably IT related, all too often with great promise and very mixed results. The old adage "round up the usual suspects" takes on a new life and can mean limited vision.

    The best innovations are those not communicated upwards quickly and allowing for any real successes to be too valuable to discard.

    Bureaucracy -v- Innovation a thread in it's own right.

    I'd reverse Slapout's theme and put senior commanders back on the ground floor, maybe not the frontline. Evene a few days should suffice.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi Rob, here are a couple of ideas to start with.

    1-Let Sergeants go to the Army War college.

    2-Let Sergeants experiment with small unit tactics and give them funds to do it with, then let them write the manual.

    3-Let veteran combat Sergeants go directly to OCS and be comissioned as officers without all the college degree bull####.

    4- Instead of just giving troops a booklist to read...buy them the books. Colonel Warden did this when he was in charge of the Air Command and Staff College. BTW he is going to send me the booklist when he finds it and I will publish it. It is over 100 books on a broad range of subjects not just War and they were given to all the students.
    I agree with most of this. I have been thinking along the same lines for a while. I do have a few responses though:

    1) I am not familiar engouth with the Army War College to pass any judgement on this issue.

    2) Good idea!

    3) I think this is a good idea but the actual details I think are a little complex. The degree traditionally has been required in order to ensure that the officer has the basic skills and knowledge (writing, grammar, vocabluary, history, etc.) Unfortunately, today most university degrees in no way give even a reasonable assurance of this. Too many universities allow students to take such BS courses (women's studies, post-wwii lesbian nazi literature, etc. LOL!) ( I feel that these are narrow specialty areas better suited to a master's or more likely a PhD) as well as allowing them to take a very narrow area of study (this is especially true of BA students.) This more than ever supports loosening degree requirements. The only question is what would the requirements to gain admitance for this type of program.

    4) I think this is a good idea. I have some ideas on this, but I'll post about that at a later time.

    Adam

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    On pint #2 the discussion was really going Terry described “Innovation” as the steps taken to create and sustain the broader climate or atmosphere in which “Adaptation” takes place – this affords us greater mental “Agility” in identifying changes in the operational environment so that we shorten the adaptation loop, and seize the initiative on a broader scale.
    I believe my 2nd beer did indeed say something along the lines you say. Let’s see what my coffee says.

    There is, or should be, a distinction between adaption and agility. Adaption – minor change - can be seen as an entire range of small changes that you undertake to increase effectiveness and/or efficiency, from substituting one piece of equipment for another (or using bailing wire and bubblegum to fix something) through to adjusting tactical and even operational methods. It is the later which is of prime interest with respect to agility, this being a mindset (or intellectual outlook) that allows, as Rob says, to better and more quickly identify changes in the environment and exploit the opportunities that occur as a result or at least adjust to minimize the adverse consequences. An example that Rob and I discussed was the mental agility to recognize and seize appropriately the opportunity afforded by some Sunni insurgent groups turning against al Qaeda in Iraq (Cavguy – I think it was he - and Kilcullen have both discussed this on SWB) and then adaptation was to be able to transfer the basic model to other areas while adjusting the model appropriately to fit the local situation and circumstances (and yes, recognizing different circumstances and adjusting the model falls under agility as well). So, another, and perhaps better, way to think about the difference between adaptability and agility is that adaptation is the ability to react to obvious change and/or problem, while agility is the capacity to discern change and, more important, its implications, so that you are able to anticipate and act in an anticipatory manner (preferably appropriately). Rob’s boxer analogy captures this.

    Turning to innovation, methinks my beers’ explanation was only partial. So allow me to elaborate. Innovation, as I as an academic define it, is major change in aims, strategies (ways of warfare), and/or structure. As an example, institutionalizing maneuver warfare is a major change (operational way of warfare), and as such has implications for the other two main aspects noted earlier as well as throughout an organization and for resources. (So, I would guess that davidfpo's obervation about change in LE would in my definition be 'adaptation')

    Where my beer probably mis-explained was in the context of what Rob and I were talking about – institutionalizing IW or Complex IW (or hybrid warfare, if you will – a mix of conventional and unconventional [ie, Hezbollah, summer 2006]) as a core competency of the US military (or specific services, if you prefer). A key element of developing a CIW competency, for the US military (and I concur with this) is agility and adaptability. So, in the context of this, Rob’s observation ‘“Innovation” as the steps taken to create and sustain the broader climate or atmosphere in which “Adaptation” takes place’ is correct, as ‘part’ of institutionalizing CIW. The effort to implement and institutionalize CIW will, in part, involve creating and sustaining a broader climate or atmosphere (or to be academic, organizational culture) through persuasion (narratives), education and training (behavior), in which mental agility can be fostered, and to the degree that it is fostered this will improve adaptability. Fostering improved mental agility and/or agility in and of itself would not constitute major change or innovation, even though it would be organizationally very useful, rather in the context of Rob’s and my conversation it is an important component of implementing CIW which would be a major change or innovation.

    Of course, fostering agility is not easy (agility takes experience, education, training, and so on and so forth), and nor should we expect that every enlisted, NCO and/or officer will be agile, for human nature is such that some people tend to be more mentally agile than others. It seems to me that to develop agility you need to start right in enlisted and officer ‘boot camp’, whereas my limited, ‘book based’, understanding of ‘boot camp’ is that part of the training /socialization process is to inculcate ‘obedience to command’ (among a host of other attributes), which I suspect works to rigidify thinking (but I am guessing on this observation). How one balances a desire for mental agility with the necessity of ‘obedience to command’ is beyond my competence and I leave this to the psychologists and sociologists (and anthropologists? and ?) to mull over.

    So there is the Agility - Adaptation/Counter Punch and combination hook/uppercut/block/strong cross follow up which arguably we can do at the “double time” at the tactical level, “quick time” at the operational level, and maybe “half time/mark time” at the strategic level.
    Agree. At the tactical level you are looking pretty much at individual and/or small unit (up to brigade?) agility; at the operational level pretty much at mid size to large unit and/or organizational agility, and at the strategic level pretty much at organizational and political (civilian government) agility. To return to CIW, an agile organization discerns a pattern of evolving warfare that is moving to a mix of conventional and unconventional (or irregular or asymetrical), a mix of kinetic and non kinetic approaches (again, Hezbollah last summer seemed to reflect this form of warfare) and so it innovates (institutionalizes) a CIW competency to meet this emerging problem.

    And just as fostering agility in individuals is not easy, fostering agility in an organization such as the military with its fairly rigid hierarchical structure and operating procedure (and not just on the ‘battlefield’) will not be easy. Bureaucracy (as davidfpo ably notes) as well as org culture (or self identity) are serious obstacles to innovation

    And just thinking about fosering agility at the civil/political level makes my head start to hurt……

    Cheers, TT

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    1-Let Sergeants go to the Army War college.

    2-Let Sergeants experiment with small unit tactics and give them funds to do it with, then let them write the manual.

    3-Let veteran combat Sergeants go directly to OCS and be comissioned as officers without all the college degree bull####.

    4- Instead of just giving troops a booklist to read...buy them the books.
    Developing agility is a profession long process. So speaking as a non-military person, these are the sorts of ideas (adaptations) that that strike me as possibly contributing to fostering ‘agility’, with the first two relevant to the development of ‘strategic corporals’.

    3) I think this is a good idea but the actual details I think are a little complex.
    In principle, this should be manageable. After all, I believe I am correct in saying that there are ‘mustangs’ currently in the ranks of the US military, and past officers, such as Gen. Alfred Grey, who started their military careers as an enlisted personnel did very well as officers. So I would think it would be case of developing processes for identifying likely candidates and then providing them with the opportunities. Whether this would require them to obtain an undergraduate degree before being commissioned as an officer, however, is an interesting issue. Some form of additional education ‘may’ be required (though this may be dependent on the individual in question and precisely what is looked for in a officer candidate) or perhaps some form of additional training.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TT View Post
    In principle, this should be manageable. After all, I believe I am correct in saying that there are ‘mustangs’ currently in the ranks of the US military, and past officers, such as Gen. Alfred Grey, who started their military careers as an enlisted personnel did very well as officers. So I would think it would be case of developing processes for identifying likely candidates and then providing them with the opportunities. Whether this would require them to obtain an undergraduate degree before being commissioned as an officer, however, is an interesting issue. Some form of additional education ‘may’ be required (though this may be dependent on the individual in question and precisely what is looked for in a officer candidate) or perhaps some form of additional training.
    I should have been more clear in what I mean by difficult and complex. I am more commenting at the politics both in and out of the military. I don't know how a lot of elites would feel about this. I am more worried that we are going to to get a "study group" that comes up with some idiotic selection method. I am always paranoid about this stuff. I have seen first hand how poor management + bad testes = scary results. I am really saying the success of such a change would depend on how it would be instituted.

    Adam

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    I should have been more clear in what I mean by difficult and complex. I am more commenting at the politics both in and out of the military. I don't know how a lot of elites would feel about this. I am more worried that we are going to to get a "study group" that comes up with some idiotic selection method. I am always paranoid about this stuff. I have seen first hand how poor management + bad testes = scary results. I am really saying the success of such a change would depend on how it would be instituted.
    I figured that the problem of the politics of it (mostly in, not outside, of the military) was somewhere there in your concerns, and I certainly agree that it could well be (or maybe even very likely would) a significant issue. And yes, I fully agree that how such selection would be implemented is very important (hence, my use of ‘In principle’).

    I wonder if anyone has ever looked at ‘mustang’ officers and how they fared (obviously some well but others, who knows) once they became officers (ie socially, professionally, etc). I suspect that ‘mustangs’ simply applied for officer school (or maybe left the military, got a degree and then applied), so the relevant issue would be is what were the acceptance criteria and what was required of these potential officer candidates? This would provide a starting point for thinking about this issue, if only to indicate that perhaps the best way may be to simply informing enlisted personnel that they can apply and then having relevant criteria that they need to meet (and all this may already exist for all I know). If this is case, the additive would be what would the military offer extra to help such enlisted candidates prepare to succeed in officer school.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Barkeep, another round...

    Quote Originally Posted by TT View Post
    I believe my 2nd beer did indeed say something along the lines you say. Let’s see what my coffee says.
    Do not trust Coffee...
    Where my beer probably mis-explained was in the context of what Rob and I were talking about – institutionalizing IW or Complex IW (or hybrid warfare, if you will – a mix of conventional and unconventional [ie, Hezbollah, summer 2006]) as a core competency of the US military (or specific services, if you prefer). A key element of developing a CIW competency, for the US military (and I concur with this) is agility and adaptability. So, in the context of this, Rob’s observation ‘“Innovation” as the steps taken to create and sustain the broader climate or atmosphere in which “Adaptation” takes place’ is correct, as ‘part’ of institutionalizing CIW. The effort to implement and institutionalize CIW will, in part, involve creating and sustaining a broader climate or atmosphere (or to be academic, organizational culture) through persuasion (narratives), education and training (behavior), in which mental agility can be fostered, and to the degree that it is fostered this will improve adaptability. Fostering improved mental agility and/or agility in and of itself would not constitute major change or innovation, even though it would be organizationally very useful, rather in the context of Rob’s and my conversation it is an important component of implementing CIW which would be a major change or innovation.
    A few thoughts.

    I'm unsure of the comment that innovation fosters the climate that produces adaption and agility. What I do know is that innovation can encompass or lead to both abilities and can also stand on its own. I also know that none of those things is a tenet of US Army doctrine in the fully stated sense and that, sometimes purposefully and sometimes inadvertantly, the Army stifles all three characteristics all too often. My observation generally has been that the stifling is precipitated by commanders, staff officers and senior NCOs who either lack self confidence or are personally averse to those traits as being risky.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of senior people around who do have self confidence and are not risk averse -- the so-called Thunder runs in Baghdad in 2003 come to mind as an examples of three echelons worth of risk acceptance (without involving a fourth echelon ) -- so all is not lost.

    The desirability of adaption and agility in IW or CIW are mentioned. They are desirable traits -- I'd say necessary -- in all levels of warfare and while we may well have to soon engage in another IW effort; we may just as well not need to do so. We should be careful not to plan for the next war based on the last (we have evidence that this is not wise), we must be full spectrum.

    Of course, fostering agility is not easy (agility takes experience, education, training, and so on and so forth), and nor should we expect that every enlisted, NCO and/or officer will be agile, for human nature is such that some people tend to be more mentally agile than others. It seems to me that to develop agility you need to start right in enlisted and officer ‘boot camp’, whereas my limited, ‘book based’, understanding of ‘boot camp’ is that part of the training /socialization process is to inculcate ‘obedience to command’ (among a host of other attributes), which I suspect works to rigidify thinking (but I am guessing on this observation). How one balances a desire for mental agility with the necessity of ‘obedience to command’ is beyond my competence and I leave this to the psychologists and sociologists (and anthropologists? and ?) to mull over.
    Very well said. I suggest that some are indeed more mentally agile than others -- and that agility is subject or object related. Wayne Gretzky famously said "Most players skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going to be." I can think of several people I know who wouldn't know a puck if they tripped over it much less 'where it was going to be' but they could recognize a tactical (and in one case, an operational or strategic) opening very rapidly.

    What's required is realizing that our one size fits all, every person of like rank and specialty can do every job adequately is totally true.

    The question is, without the large forces that provided multiple backstops that archaic system was designed to serve and with todays small professional armed force when lives, resources and national will are at stake -- is 'adequate' acceptable?

    I think not. We need to foster adaptation, agility and innovation and we need to select intuitive commanders and leaders at ALL levels. Unfortunately, we have a large bureaucracy to whom those things are potential harbingers of embarrassment

    And just as fostering agility in individuals is not easy, fostering agility in an organization such as the military with its fairly rigid hierarchical structure and operating procedure (and not just on the ‘battlefield’) will not be easy. Bureaucracy (as davidfpo ably notes) as well as org culture (or self identity) are serious obstacles to innovation.
    Too true. The Institution will curl up to fend off any such effort and will trot out numerous politically and even realistically correct reasons to avoid change. After watching the monster for many years, I'm convinced that attempts to change from the top down will fail.

    A flanking action is probably required.

    And just thinking about fosering agility at the civil/political level makes my head start to hurt……

    Cheers, TT
    Shudderrrr... That. Is scary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam L View Post
    The degree traditionally has been required in order to ensure that the officer has the basic skills and knowledge (writing, grammar, vocabluary, history, etc.) Unfortunately, today most university degrees in no way give even a reasonable assurance of this.
    In my opinion, ROTC should be trying to correct this (perhaps it is already attempting to do so? I hope so). Instead of simply requiring 4 years of military science, a minimum GPA, and the other trivial requirements, there should be some more rigorous safeguards to ensure that our cadets take a legitimate course of study to obtain the benefits of a liberal education.

    Using history courses as an example - if State U allows students to fulfill their history "core requirement" by taking US Women's history, then Cadet Command (or whatever the governing body may be) may want to require cadets to take a comprehensive US history course that includes study of wars, significant political, diplomatic, and economic events, and the impacts of technological change upon society. This would seem to be more beneficial than a semester of learning about why America is bigoted, sexist, and oppressive. If the cadet has a sincere interest in Women's History, then that will remain an option - in addition to the required course - but the requirement for a more relevant study in history should be required to ensure that a course with an extremely narrow scope of questionable legitimacy is not the only course in history taken. Hopefully such measures have already been taken - there were no such standards that I was aware of when I was in ROTC.
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 11-04-2007 at 10:43 PM. Reason: Clarification

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    Ken,


    I'm unsure of the comment that innovation fosters the climate that produces adaption and agility. What I do know is that innovation can encompass or lead to both abilities and can also stand on its own.
    I have to agree with this. What I was trying to say is that in the case of innovating CIW, an element of it is to foster agility and adaptation. Innovation in and of itself does not foster agility and adaptation. As an example, as past of the adoption of maneuver warfare as a warfighting concept, the military should have fostered mental agility and adaptiveness, but I am not aware that it did this, or at least that it did this very well (or withthe persistence throughout a persons professional career that they need to in order to sustain agility in the face of bureaucratic friction and inertia).

    Do not trust Coffee...

    So you are right - coffee did let me down. I will try wine next....

    The desirability of adaption and agility in IW or CIW are mentioned. They are desirable traits -- I'd say necessary -- in all levels of warfare and while we may well have to soon engage in another IW effort; we may just as well not need to do so. We should be careful not to plan for the next war based on the last (we have evidence that this is not wise), we must be full spectrum.
    I agree that agility and adaption are always valuable at all levels of warfare. My reading of 'Complex Irregular Warfare' - as opposed to 'irregular warfare' - is that you need to be able to do conventional and unconventional (your 'full spectrum', I suspect) pretty much simulataneously as well as sequentially (and I have to cringe using the term 'sequentially', as war and warfare is non-linear). As I am not (yet) into the wine, I expect I have not explained this well.....

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default No, the coffee didn't let you down - nor has the wine.

    It's just that as a wise old Gunny once told me; "Pour coffee down a drinker and you'll either ruin a good buzz or have a wide awake drunk, both things to be avoided."

    Agree with your comment on all counts.

    The adoption of maneuver warfare, at least in the US Army has been somewhat inconsistent. There have been sporadic attempts by many smart guys to encourage mental agility and adaptiveness. Some of it, IMO, has taken but it frequently gets beaten down by the system which does not encourage it (if often inadvertently). It's not that most senior folks would not like to see it; just that some and the system are afraid of it. So your point is quite accurate.

    One contributing factor to this is our continued attempt to be fair and equitable and to produce interchangeable leaders and staffers. Schmedlap addresses that HERE (note particularly his 1. and 3.) and HERE.

    It is inimical to the building of trust to place marginally competent people in jobs where one knows one will have to watch them like a hawk. That is one of the reasons the system discourages innovation and agility, lack of trust essentially engendered by a flawed personnel system based on 1920s precepts. In fairness to the mid level commanders who are literally forced to do that, most would change it if they could. They cannot, thus they are forced to live with a system that is prejudicial to their success in order to be judged successful.

    That's not Catch 22 -- that's Catch 44 Magnum.

    "I agree that agility and adaption are always valuable at all levels of warfare. My reading of 'Complex Irregular Warfare' - as opposed to 'irregular warfare' - is that you need to be able to do conventional and unconventional (your 'full spectrum', I suspect) pretty much simulataneously as well as sequentially (and I have to cringe using the term 'sequentially', as war and warfare is non-linear). As I am not (yet) into the wine, I expect I have not explained this well...."
    No, quite clear. Not only simultaneously and sequentially but in rotation and in varying theaters with little reset time, even a direct move from one type in one area to another type in another nation. That and the distinct possibility that one can be confronted with no IW, just pure short sharp conventional combat for months, even years, on end and then suddenly have to pull out the COIN book and vice versa. All sorts of permutations and I'm not sure we're ready for it. We can cope, we generally do but coping is less than adequate...

    We are a professional Army with some really sharp people at all grades. We ought to be able to do that and a few units can. The Army must be able to do it. That takes agility.

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    Not only simultaneously and sequentially but in rotation and in varying theaters with little reset time, even a direct move from one type in one area to another type in another nation. That and the distinct possibility that one can be confronted with no IW, just pure short sharp conventional combat for months, even years, on end and then suddenly have to pull out the COIN book and vice versa. All sorts of permutations and I'm not sure we're ready for it. We can cope, we generally do but coping is less than adequate...
    A great description!

    One contributing factor to this is our continued attempt to be fair and equitable and to produce interchangeable leaders and staffers. Schmedlap addresses that HERE (note particularly his 1. and 3.) and HERE.
    You point directly to a central problem, if not the central problem. That the system itself serves to mitigate against success is a problem that has been articulated to me by others over the course of my research. Schmedlap’s poignant observations identify a particular set of serious issues. Sadly, it would take a substantial change in the culture of the military just to adequately address his (and others) concerns……

    We are a professional Army with some really sharp people at all grades. We ought to be able to do that and a few units can. The Army must be able to do it. That takes agility.
    I agree that ultimately it is the entire service (and this includes all the services, not just the Army) that needs to be agile – and therein lies the rub. Whether it is even possible to transform the current organizations into agile ones is the great question, and I have real doubts about whether it is realistically possible.

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    Default Thanks, TT. I think the key is to try to implement

    ".... Whether it is even possible to transform the current organizations into agile ones is the great question, and I have real doubts about whether it is realistically possible."
    the old saw about better to have tried and failed than to not have tried.

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    Hey Slap !

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi Rob, here are a couple of ideas to start with.

    1-Let Sergeants go to the Army War college.

    2-Let Sergeants experiment with small unit tactics and give them funds to do it with, then let them write the manual.

    3-Let veteran combat Sergeants go directly to OCS and be comissioned as officers without all the college degree bull####.

    4- Instead of just giving troops a booklist to read...buy them the books. Colonel Warden did this when he was in charge of the Air Command and Staff College. BTW he is going to send me the booklist when he finds it and I will publish it. It is over 100 books on a broad range of subjects not just War and they were given to all the students.
    You're not too far off the mark here. When I retired most SNCOs already had at least a Bachelor's degree and could (academically speaking) attend the AWC. I've sent foreign officers to Army NCO basic courses because the officer advanced courses would have been too much on top of being in English. On the other hand, I've sent Estonian NCOs to Engineer and EOD courses designed for senior Captains and junior Majors. Most of these NCOs accelerate quickly and are eventually promoted to 3rd LT. (If you thought a butter bar was useless, well).

    OCS attendance is already very possible for Army NCOs, but not without a degree. Some fair much better having had 5 to 8 years of real service time.

    We do need to get involved more in 'writing' the manuals though, and the SNCO should not be left out of the equation.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    5-Send me to the Army War College...second thought better scratch this one.
    You got my vote

  16. #16
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    In my opinion, ROTC should be trying to correct this (perhaps it is already attempting to do so? I hope so). Instead of simply requiring 4 years of military science, a minimum GPA, and the other trivial requirements, there should be some more rigorous safeguards to ensure that our cadets take a legitimate course of study to obtain the benefits of a liberal education.

    Using history courses as an example - if State U allows students to fulfill their history "core requirement" by taking US Women's history, then Cadet Command (or whatever the governing body may be) may want to require cadets to take a comprehensive US history course that includes study of wars, significant political, diplomatic, and economic events, and the impacts of technological change upon society. This would seem to be more beneficial than a semester of learning about why America is bigoted, sexist, and oppressive. If the cadet has a sincere interest in Women's History, then that will remain an option - in addition to the required course - but the requirement for a more relevant study in history should be required to ensure that a course with an extremely narrow scope of questionable legitimacy is not the only course in history taken. Hopefully such measures have already been taken - there were no such standards that I was aware of when I was in ROTC.
    ROTC isn't really touching this...at least not here. There is a military history course, but not much in the way of independent thinking or even wargaming. I'm trying to change some of that where I am (Air Force ROTC), and it's been successful on a local level. Still trying to get the Army to play (so we can have free playing ground forces and some joint experience), but have had little luck.

    Another thing you run into is the offerings (or lack thereof) of the State U's history department. You'll see the block of generic world/US history, and then the rest really depends on the available faculty. Sometimes you get lucky, but with the trend toward "environmental history", women's studies, deconstructionalism and post-modern obsessions you tend to see some stuff that could best be described as "fluff."

    Note for Rob: Still working on the CW/IW adaptability article idea...got a good list of officers (half volunteer, half West Point) and going from there. One of my factors for assessing adaptability is the officer's ability to "grow" skilled subordinates, so that's being taken into account.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Ken,

    the old saw about better to have tried and failed than to not have tried.
    Definitely. In trying you would make some progress at least, which would improve the agility of some individuals and units if not the organization as a whole.

    One of the keys is that you need continuity and persistance of any major innovation to change. By this I mean the implementation process takes more than one Chief of Staff to articulate and drive the implementation process (possibly as many as three sequentially), one probably needs most of the GOs to buy-in and support the innovation, and constant effort to ensure that the innovation, and the many attendent adaptations, are emerging as desired (so contant tinkering if necessary).

    I would also suggest that, particularly with respect to the issue of agility and, more broadly, CIW, that within the junior officers through to combat commanders with substantial recent combat experience there very likely is a a large, natural constituency for a bottom-up driven change. Most will have had the unhappy experience of deploying and finding themselve not nearly as well prepared for the more unconventional aspects of the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq (and elsewhere?). With continuity and persistance of top down support and persistant bottom up support (organizational insurgency), signficant progress could made over time.

  18. #18
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Having some experience with trying to implement

    a top down approach within the Army, my guess is that will not happen. I could be wrong, certainly have been before and I really, really hope I am.

    However, a combination of "Nothing wrong, the system worked for me," plain old inertia, the massive bureaucracy and Congress will make such an approach problematical at best. It will also, if it occurs, be spotty in its effect because various nooks and crannies will go into pet rock protective mode and the cascade of directives will miss some who will emerge stronger than ever and plunk for a return to 'normalcy.'

    I agree that the potential for a bottom up approach at this time is as good as its likely to get. That would have the advantage of a "back wash" effect on those nooks and crannies. If the LTs and CPTs push hard, it could happen. The junior field grades are likely to be passive for the most part but the Colonels will probably flock to the barricades. No insult to anyone intended; all will be going with their perception of what's right and best but the system is designed to be change resistant and the Colonels are the gate keepers.

    Nobody wants to go to untried models that may be detrimental rather than improvements and surprisingly large numbers fail to realize the impact of Congress on the personnel and training systems...

  19. #19
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You two are on the right track

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Hey Slap !

    You're not too far off the mark here. When I retired most SNCOs already had at least a Bachelor's degree and could (academically speaking) attend the AWC. I've sent foreign officers to Army NCO basic courses because the officer advanced courses would have been too much on top of being in English. On the other hand, I've sent Estonian NCOs to Engineer and EOD courses designed for senior Captains and junior Majors. Most of these NCOs accelerate quickly and are eventually promoted to 3rd LT. (If you thought a butter bar was useless, well).

    OCS attendance is already very possible for Army NCOs, but not without a degree. Some fair much better having had 5 to 8 years of real service time.

    We do need to get involved more in 'writing' the manuals though, and the SNCO should not be left out of the equation. ...
    The AWC shouldn't be a step too far but it probably is -- that doesn't mean NCOES couldn't stand a whole lot of tweaking and strengthening. We almost deliberately tend to create under performers.

    OCS should be tweaked to allow non-degreed attendance. Give those graduates two or three years service as a LT then send the promising ones to get a degree. Those who don't rate a degree can go back to their prior rank or depart. Tough? Maybe -- it's a tough job...

    During war time we directly commission sharp senior NCOs; we almost never do in peace time. The Brits do. They promote selected senior NCO for two or three years before their forced retirement date, they serve in one suitable job (Log types as S4s, Per wienies as Per wienies+, Line types as Co 2ic/XO) for one full tour and then retire.

    Plenty of ways to make up the shortfall in Officers some see impending due to the societal changes in the world and the US. We also need to think of ways to employ all the SSGs that the reenlistment hump is going to produce against the drawdown in enlistments that is occurring and is likely to worsen.

    Or, we could reduce the number of officers. The way we do it now, designed to provide a mobilization pool by by overstaffing Officer jobs is really sort of inefficient and, in its own way, is as tough on Officers as throwing out underperformers.

    Most staffs are too big. Admittedly, everyone is busy, perhaps too busy -- but on what...

    Being a Platoon leader is good training (and an Armored Cavalry Platoon Leader is the best combined arms training one can get) but NCOs can lead platoons quite effectively. The French (who have their strengths) traditionally have two of their four platoons per company led by NCOs (or used to, not sure what they're doing since they stopped conscription). The rather successful German Army in WW II had NCO PL.

    Maybe what we've always done needs a look.

    Now that would be Agility...
    .

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    Default Minimum Wage Warriors

    you ain't gonna' get such flex and growth with ####ty pay and until you take nurturance/maternalism out of the warrior mold during the first 6 months of military training and indoctrination, you are stuck with half soldiers/half civilians for the duration. Who stays in camp unless they are broke or there is some kind of crisis pending and orders have been issued putting everyone on a leash? Army strong my a** - out of uniform, sucking on sugar, grease and alcohol running around in cars with they can ill afford in the civilian world. Put the knuckle pushups on gravel mind-set back in action with top pay, then you'll have Army strong.

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