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Thread: Killebrew on US Defense Thinking

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    Default Killebrew on US Defense Thinking

    From Armed Forces Journal - SecDef has signaled a turning point in U.S. defense thinking by Colonel Robert Killebrew (USA Ret.).

    Gates’ speeches to AUSA and his subsequent “soft power” speech at Kansas State University indicate a turning point in U.S. defense thinking since the neo-isolationism of the “pre-emptive warfare” strategies of the early Bush administration. In many ways, the secretary’s call to empower our allies to defend themselves returns to a consistent theme of U.S. foreign policy first employed in the early days of the Cold War, with the Marshall Plan, the Van Fleet advisory mission to Greece and the beginnings of foreign military assistance to U.S. allies.

    For the military services, this should be nothing new. Since 1947, U.S. military assistance and advisers have been deployed to wars in Greece, Korea, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Central America and now Southwest Asia, and in hundreds of almost-wars around the globe. American uniforms have been seen, and still are seen, in mud-hut villages and on river deltas worldwide, where individual soldiers or small teams of sweating GIs work alongside local forces to reinforce shaky new nations. But in fact, for the mainstream military generation raised since the end of the Cold War, this is new, since advising foreign armies, providing military assistance and working in harness with the State Department have been out of style for the top leadership of the services for decades.

    The defining events, of course, have been the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the failure of the U.S. to plan adequately for the rebuilding of Iraqi and Afghan security forces put us at a grievous disadvantage for the first several years of warfare in those two countries, a disadvantage that is only now being made up by the hard work and sacrifices of dedicated men and women in recently created advisory jobs. Much more remains to be done, but the reconstruction of Iraqi and Afghan security forces is finally on firmer ground.
    Iraq and Afghanistan are worst-case examples of “enabling and empowering” allies. The secretary’s real thrust — and the topic of debate in Washington, D.C., today — is how to merge military power with other government agencies to support allies in emerging states before events reach crisis proportions, and to help our friends manage their own affairs without U.S. conventional forces. This is a challenge the U.S. has successfully faced before, yet the Washington policy establishment appears singularly ill-informed about how to go about it. Here are some fundamentals...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    The challenges of changing the paradox.

    I’d like to thank COL (R) Killebrew for providing the means to discuss some real challenges we have to overcome. Just getting something up on the board for people to cogitate on is in itself a real challenge. I’d heard a comment attributed to a senior leader recently who asked the question: “are we changing the paradox, or just massaging it?” That seems a very appropriate question to ask, because I think the potential of real change rests within the answer.

    We often point fingers at the bureaucracy and the institutions – we say they are inflexible, and make adaptation too hard. This is probably true, but it is also worth pointing out that when you build something to be enduring, so that it can resist attacks or is sturdy enough to withstand harsh storms; its also going to be resistant to other types of changes. A useful analogy might be the way a healthy body fights infection – it develops an immune system with white blood cells that challenge most everything, unless you convince it that what you are introducing is beneficial and not a threat.

    That is part of the challenge for people trying to make changes – if you push on the walls from the outside (assuming you are not doing it with a wrecking ball and willing to tear it down) you stand a chance of wearing yourself out – everybody inside the greater institution sees you as a potential threat and the resistance is greater. If you try and push from the inside you first have to overcome all the interior walls. The third option is maybe to convince the other cultures within the walls that change is both inevitable and beneficial – as well as not being the threat is was perceived to be. The last I think stands the best chance of success, but requires a clear articulation of risk, and a strategy to mitigate it that everyone can understand – so you can leverage their strength.

    Killebrew’s article and LTG Caldwell’s SWJ Blog on Organizational Culture are strongly related. Both address the challenges and the need to overcome resistance, and what the stakes are for not doing so. Other posts on SWJ and the SWC have discussed the need to reform OPMS and our HR strategy. I think SWC member Ken White is 100% correct when he says you must start there. Why? Because the regardless of the external reasons we have articulated for change, in our heart and soul, our practices will not allow us to apply our most precious resource – people – where we say they need to be. What I mean is that there is a dichotomy here. We have identified our heart as the combat soldier, combat leaders and combat formations – this is the cultural identity we have developed and hold close. The path to advancement to the very top is tied to it – and as long as the requirement remains identified as being to engage in close combat, and the conditions associated with it, it will probably remain so - and maybe that should be the case. We have further created specific gates through which leaders must pass before they can be considered for positions of greater responsibility – there is also wisdom in this – I’m not sure you want a BCT CDR who has never had to command a company or a BN, nor am I sure you want a Regional COCOM CDR who has never had to command something smaller then a Division or its Joint equivalent – there is an appreciation required for such things – an appreciation for the complications that arise at the tactical level – why the simplest of things can be terribly difficult in the context of fog, friction and chance.

    This creates a limited amount of time for a leader to hit those gates and qualify to move up. We have further added certain other gates and requirements – such as those that came out of the GN Act – e.g. we decided Joint certification was of such importance as to require it along the path – this seems like a small thing, but it is still another gate, and I believe its an important one.

    So when COL (R) Killebrew writes:

    “Third, within the Defense Department, a system of schools to train and educate officers and NCOs headed for MAAG assignments must be established and maintained to ensure that advisers, though chosen for their military skills, are also schooled in U.S. policy aims and in the language and culture of their hosts. Schooling will probably best be accomplished on two levels — the lowest for service members on an initial tour, who will return to their mainstream specialties after a two- or three-year hitch in the host country. The second level should be for those more senior service members who desire to make MAAG work a career, and who will return to the region for multiple tours, eventually culminating as a MAAG executive officer or commander. Since the Army has experience training and educating advisers and will eventually provide the greatest percentage of adviser personnel, it should be designated the service executive agent for establishing MAAG training and education, and should be funded by the Defense Department.
    Fourth, at the combatant command and service proponent level, commanders and staffs should ensure that channels of communications and support are established to reinforce and back country teams — not just MAAGs — by all legal means. Since MAAGs traditionally have low-overhead administrative capability, service components can and should provide administrative backup for members, maintain channels of support back to the appropriate services and, with the authority of the combatant commander and their own authority, support MAAG and COM requests for MTT and other service expertise. “
    I think we must consider what the other implications, complications and challenges are – if we’re ever going to leverage the strength of everyone inside the institution – and operationalize it in a way that changes us at our heart – not just some good cosmetics to an appendage. There has been some great discussion about what we really want out of our advisors – the traits and qualities that allow us influence in a way that builds partner capacity and helps us meet our policy goals – no matter if we our pursuing a direct strategy or an indirect one, it must be in pursuit of a political goal (i.e. those outlined in the NSS) or you cannot justify the expenditure of resources – both in a material sense and in a political one – you’ll quickly run out of Schlitz.

    We say that advising requires both a technical set of skills on the topic of which they advice is given, skills that make the advice more transferable (language and culture), but also that advising is best suited to those with a level of emotional maturity and natural ability to communicate and influence. While we have said that the “A” type folks who find success at the tactical levels of command may not be well suited for advising, we should also accept that the ones who “excel” at command possess the same attributes we want in our advisors – they are able to influence beyond just being directive, they are able to inspire. They are able to see the big picture and distinguish between the important and the trivial. I believe those folks that “excel” in command would also be those who would probably excel at advising.

    Unfortunately, I think we may be at odds with our-self, and may be designing something that keeps us from the type of changing that really helps us operationalize an indirect strategy. While it may be easier to take a post command CPT in the operations career field (meaning he’s still doing what we consider the heart of our trade) and make him an advisor because he has probably 2 years before he makes MAJ – that only gets us part way. There is a window here – but be it a tour as an advisor or a tour as an instructor at a branch school house or OC (Observer Controller) at a CTC (Combat Training Center), it gets harder the higher up you go – the importance placed on the job by the CPT and by his rater and mentor often coincides with the perception of how well it will prepare that officer to succeed at his next job – that drives choice.

    The MAJ must compete for the various jobs that will distinguish him from his peers – often described as the “King Maker” job – the BCT S3 is both coveted by many who wish to command again, and is a very tough job – lots of hard work and lots of extra hours. From there you might get a couple of years before getting picked up for LTC – but there are some other gates the guy needs to knock out – maybe it’s a Joint job, or maybe he makes LTC early and grabs a BCT XO job. The perception is its better to stay in an operational billet and build experience that will help you in your next operational job. This is a tough bias to overcome because there is some truth in it – and because many folks have succeeded following that formula, it has been perpetuated. There will be a few who willingly look for something different – they just like doing different things, or they are looking at the world in a different light, but they risk something every time they do – if the perception is that whatever they have done can be clearly tied back to being better, or giving them some advantage that helps them become a more competent commander – then the risk is less – and if its clearly accepted as being beneficial by their rater and mentor, then you’ll have guys competing to go and do that job. I’ll be the first one to say that my time as an advisor has benefitted both me as a professional and the jobs the Army might give me to do.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 02-12-2008 at 05:22 PM.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    There is also a requirement for ILE (Intermediate Level Education ) which will take about year no matter if you are an operations guy and go to Leavenworth or an equivalent, or are a functional area guy, and go to something like I did – 4 months at BSAP and 4 months at an ILE Satellite Campus. If we’re investing in a guy with ACS (Advanced Civil Schooling) as a CPT or MAJ, or investing in SAMS (School of Advanced Military Studies) then there is about another year to 18 months he’s unavailable (however – we get a more capable leader as a result)

    After MAJ – the combat arms pyramid starts to take hold and guys go into other jobs. There are TDA Commands vs. MTO&E Commands, primaries vs. alternates, etc. This is also a point where 05s start to get close to 20 and are considering their options – retirement, contract jobs etc. These folks might be more amenable to alternate career paths – certainly the chance to command is always attractive be it a MTO&E, a TDA or a potential MAAG. These leaders are by no means duds, it is simply that the competition is intense and the field is full of amazing potential.

    This I think is where the challenge resides. In order to really change the paradigm, the buy in is required by our heart, this means in order to operationalize an indirect strategy on par with our ability to execute a direct one, we have to inculcate it within our core beliefs. If you can’t do that, you run the risk of this being a “lesser” then – one that is filled with “who is available”, or a double tapping of existing personnel and commands outside the core. We have (and I think require) good people in career fields other then operations. Its taken time and pain to build those up with good folks who can support our core – when you have commitments like the U.S. military does, its not as simple as maintaining a self-defense force, and our requirements reflect the policy objectives by our government. If you don’t find away to reflect the importance of “advising” in our core, you are potentially going to perpetuate a system that outside of the core is “see a hole, fill a hole. This is at odds with the importance we say “advising” and “enabling partner capacity” should have in our strategy.

    What is the alternative – it goes back to change from within, and convincing the immunity system that what is being introduced is required, beneficial and not a threat. The Marines have long touted the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) as a centerpiece in their power-projection. They also have a SPMAGTF – Special Purpose. What is the difference – on its face it’d seem that one has a more special purpose. The Army also has a center piece, it’s the BCT – we now call it modular so that it is scalable and can be equipped in a modular sense with additional capabilities to operate across the full spectrum – offense, defense, stability and civil support. Could the SP MAGTF concept be applied to a BCT and to the TAA (Train, Assist & Advise) mission – I think so, and I think it would not only send a message to those on the outside about what is really important, but also to the folks on the inside. This is important to us particularly since we’ve decided to increase our force structure by additional BCTs and probably not invest in a specialized force.

    If a BCT were to be given a geographical specialty that it could focus on (this should not be seen as exclusive to contingencies or other possibilities – just more of a focus then the whole world) would this permit it to leverage local resources like partnerships with the private sector, or a more habitual relationship with a regional COCOM? Could it cultivate a particular language program and through return trips to that area develop long standing ties – and maybe even encourage partnership in a broader sense by facilitating relationships between private enterprise in its home station community with its geographical partners – there is a broader strategic communications aspect associated with this – that goes beyond building physical security capacity – but creates other ties and communicates what we really hold highest in our social ideals, and reinforces stability.

    Time is probably the toughest resource to come by – time to invest in a BCT to take on this mission. Time can probably be more readily procured with the acceptance of risk – which would have to be initially purchased by civilian leadership who told uniformed leadership what their priorities were clearly and in such away that not everything was of equal importance. As long as everything is equally important, and risk is unacceptable anywhere, we will have a hard time establishing what is the priority and determining where to accept risk – we’re just not resourced to be equally the best at everything that we could possibly do – but because of our unequal dialogue with the weight going to the civilian side (a good thing) we cannot simply switch emphasis. What we can do is default to what we’ve always done - and that means we wager our side bets with less then optimal which ultimately means satisficing. While side bets look pretty good in simulation – where the conditions mostly reflect the way we’d prefer them to be, or we’ll change them to reflect it, the truth remains that outside of that - we’ll default to “see a hole, fill a hole” – the best we can do unless we change our heart – that would be real transformation.

    I’m not trying to poke holes at COL(R) Killebrew’s thoughts, much like LTC Nagl’s original thoughts it takes courage and vision just to get something out there – but I do think we have to talk about whom we are, and the challenges of overcoming our organizational culture and overcoming our heart. Do we really want to change the paradigm, or just massage it?

    Best, Rob

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    I like your phrasing: I'm going to start calling myself a "paradigm masseur." Maybe change my name to "Sven."

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    Rob,

    As usual for your postings this one is thought provoking. I would offer just a few thoughts on the idea of massaging versus changing.

    A. First of all for a lot of reasons that while germane to the discussion but not central to is core we are at a strange place in our officer corps and its manning. Ten years ago promotion rates to O6 were considered--rightfully--a measure of what the Army considered important. Typically selection to O6 ran in the 30 percentile. I heard last week that we could soon expect promotion rates to O6 to reach above 95%.

    B. Changing versus massaging means looking at fundamentals and a fundamental in any effort to change is how you reward those making the sought after changes. Given what I said in para a, promotions through O6 are for the present not a tool for change. That is not to say the 95% who will make O6 do not deserve that promotion; it does however eliminate any hope of meaningfully descriminating to select desrired behaviors.

    C. That essentially drives us to the GO ranks to make those distinctions. I would say that if the Army uses the BCT as its central core in those selections we can only hope to massage. All of the career gates you laid out in your posting drive the Army to remain the same--under the helm of our personnel system as Ken wisely points out. True change is going to require something much more fundamental and I would say COL Killibrew is trying to get at it as has John Nagl before him.

    D. Where all of this matters the most is at the Unified Command level. We have for decades used the model where the select move up through the ranks in a progression that produces great tacticians, moderately good operational level performers, and very few strategists. If we really want to change the paradigm, then we have to change it at the Unified Command.

    Ok I am ducking in my bunker for the expected incoming.

    Tom

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    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Rob,


    D. Where all of this matters the most is at the Unified Command level. We have for decades used the model where the select move up through the ranks in a progression that produces great tacticians, moderately good operational level performers, and very few strategists. If we really want to change the paradigm, then we have to change it at the Unified Command.

    Ok I am ducking in my bunker for the expected incoming.

    Tom
    If the challenge is to grow strategic leaders, the question is at what point does the emphasis on strategy enter into PME, organizational culture, and the assignments process? As you pointed out Tom, officers on the command track stay on the command track by performing well as tacticians. Even the way we train divisions and Corps (COIN and FM 3-24 notwithstanding) is as tactical organizations. By the time a guy from the M,F,&E career field is commanding at a strategic level (ie Unified Commands), the bulk of his command experience has been tactical. Even officers who attend ASAP at the War College head right back out to command BCTs, once again focusing on the tactical level of war. Officers such as Rob who opt to make a career as a strategist, or guys such as yourself, working as 48s, gain strategic perspective but become limited in influence because you are no longer commaders. So, how does one emphasize the importance of strategy to a tactically oriented officer corps, that already has enough on its plate as it is?
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CR6 View Post
    If the challenge is to grow strategic leaders, the question is at what point does the emphasis on strategy enter into PME, organizational culture, and the assignments process? As you pointed out Tom, officers on the command track stay on the command track by performing well as tacticians. Even the way we train divisions and Corps (COIN and FM 3-24 notwithstanding) is as tactical organizations. By the time a guy from the M,F,&E career field is commanding at a strategic level (ie Unified Commands), the bulk of his command experience has been tactical. Even officers who attend ASAP at the War College head right back out to command BCTs, once again focusing on the tactical level of war. Officers such as Rob who opt to make a career as a strategist, or guys such as yourself, working as 48s, gain strategic perspective but become limited in influence because you are no longer commaders. So, how does one emphasize the importance of strategy to a tactically oriented officer corps, that already has enough on its plate as it is?

    CR,

    Clearly that is the critical question and I don't have a simple answer. Steve Metz and I go back to Leavenworth in the mid-80s; we both have seen this issue from different angles. He sought to teach strategy to tactically oriented officers. I sought to develop or influence strategy as an operator or analyze a region strategically as an intelligence analyst while conveying that to a tactically oriented general officer audience. Some got it--some most definitely did not.

    As a FAO one of the constant debates in the community dealt with this at its core: to be an effective FAO you had to immerse yourself in your region (regions in my case). But doing so meant that you were no longer competitive in your basic branch. Those who did split careers were at least as far as the Mid East and Africa guys went largely ineffective on their regions. Old Eagle was a European FAO/Infantry guy. His experience was different.

    Maybe the answer is toward Killibrew's ideas and the MAAGs (or John Nagl's on an Advisor Corps). I can say that as long as the primary consideration for resident war college remains successful tactical battalion command, we will never break this paradigm.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Great thoughts both...

    What you're looking at, I think, is a psychologically based multi track system. Some guys make great Staff types (I'm serious -- and staffs are important), some make great commanders, some make great advisors and some do other specialties exceptionally well. We need to break the 'one size fits all' and 'everyone of a given grade and specialty is interchangeable' mold.

    Those parameters are acceptable, even desirable, in a mass based Army; for a small professional Army, I strongly question their merit. We are a good professional Army nowadays. We can be a highly professional Army -- but not on the present course. Selecting the best person for a given job should be the rule and DOPMA needs major revision (so does Goldwater-Nichols but that's another thread).

    We do need better strategic thinkers. My contention is that we do not have them due to two factors. The primary problem is the 'generalist,' everyone can do anything myth. While that is broadly true, the problem is using that process breeds mediocrity whereas specializing in any one of the many important fields would reap a quantum improvement -- so why opt for mediocrity?

    The second problem is that our insistence in having GOs into everything makes them spend a lot of time putting out fires -- mostly small fires they shouldn't even be aware of. The old saw about Alligators applies...

    To revert to the basic thread, Killebrew has some excellent points. So does the RAND study (even if Gompert did field his tired pet rocks -- again). I'll also cite Steve Metz -- we can advise and assist, we can break things better than most anyone but we do not do long term things well; we're too impatient.

    Inserting US forces in a COIN operation in any other nation should be strongly resisted; it just is not our bag. Strategy (flawed, IMO) can put us in a COIN effort and we will work out the TTP, we can cobble things together better than most anyone. However, essentially, COIN is a long term defensive operational level effort.

    Consider that most of the battles celebrated by the British are defenses; most of ours are offensives...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Hey all, I'm not really advocating either type of COA - just hoping to elicit the type of discussion that gets to the challenges of going down either road. Both roads have their pros and cons, both have risks, both have warts. I do think before we propose organizational fixes, we have to understand both who we are and what the consequences of cranking on the various DOTLMPF gears are - the teeth are all pretty well mashed - so turning one turns them all to some degree - the key I think is anticipating at least some of how they might affect each other.

    As Tom mentions - there are no easy or penalty free moves on this (or other complicated issues). Could an Advisor Corps or the MAAG concept work today or tomorrow? Yes, I think it could either could be made to work - as could making the TAA mission part of a BCT's METL. This is when you start getting into the how well it might work, and at what costs - that is something that has to start with us being honest with ourselves about who we are, the civilian leaders thinking more about what they want us to do, us informing them better about what we can do and what the risk is for doing one thing better then another, etc.

    Tom, "D" brings up some interesting points - seems like we here at SWC were making a coparrison not to long ago between Navy types and Ground types - funny how everything is so inter-related - certainly room for that one here as well - particularly if we move into the "Unified Action" realm - You often hear someone from DoD talking about the Inter-Agency like it did not include them - again, you gotta know yourself

    CR6 asked:

    So, how does one emphasize the importance of strategy to a tactically oriented officer corps, that already has enough on its plate as it is?
    I don't know - Cavguy had a good point the other day -
    the plate is only so big - you can pile it higher, but there is always something at the bottom
    - Niel if I misquoted you let me know

    My biggest concern is that we go in "eyes wide open", at least as much as they can be. If we can identify most of the risks (at least the big ones) and make good decisions about where to accept them, then even if we can't prevent a SNAFU, or have to accept risk in a big way - at least we can mitigate it some.

    Where possible I like to follow the example of the old bull vs. the young one - I might not get 'em all, but maybe I can get more than one. We have to have some tension to tease some of these risks out - and potentially identify some alternate COAs that may be more feasible given who we are, and are likely to remain.

    Steve, would you pronounce that "Para-Diggum Massooor"?

    Best, Rob

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    I once had to walk back the way we grow our senior leadership. As Tom points out, war college is based primarily on completed bn command. ( I would say "successful" bn cmd, but frankly it was selection to bn cmd, not performance in that job, that defined success.) Every good combat arms job at the O-5 level and above is based on the same criterion of success.

    Now here's the kicker -- the single greatest factor in selection for battalion command was performance in company command. By the transitive property of stuff, that means that we select our future senior leadership by their performance at the O-3 level (I am not making this up).

    Then we wonder how we end up with tactical thinkers at the senior level.

    Of course, all that doesn't address the other issues, but it is representative of the 20 cents (pair o' dimes) that needs to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    I once had to walk back the way we grow our senior leadership. As Tom points out, war college is based primarily on completed bn command. ( I would say "successful" bn cmd, but frankly it was selection to bn cmd, not performance in that job, that defined success.) Every good combat arms job at the O-5 level and above is based on the same criterion of success.

    Now here's the kicker -- the single greatest factor in selection for battalion command was performance in company command. By the transitive property of stuff, that means that we select our future senior leadership by their performance at the O-3 level (I am not making this up).

    Then we wonder how we end up with tactical thinkers at the senior level.

    Of course, all that doesn't address the other issues, but it is representative of the 20 cents (pair o' dimes) that needs to change.
    As someone with nearly 17 years on war college faculties, I agree.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default A few of the other

    questions that I think needs to be asked, are: what is the better way to get these skill sets into the mainstream force (assuming we want them there)? what is a better vehicle for preserving those skills and knowledge (again with the DOTMLPF gears)? and what does it buy us in terms of related skill sets?

    The last one has been bothering me since a planning excercise where a COA was adopted that depended on how much of a FID and how much of an unconventional warfare capacity we could field as part of an Irregular Warfare campaign. I think some of the skills that can be picked up conducting TAA can enhance our capabilities and capacity in like areas by extending them into the GPF/MPF or Full Spectrum Force realms - expanding our being able to move between mindsets (Conventional/Unconventional, Regular/Irregular, Insurgency/Counter-Insurgency) - the agile, adaptive and innovative mantra we pursue. It also helps with understandng how our potential enemies may operate against us by exposing us to people and military forces not so much like ourselves in conditions removed from those we normally associate withourselves.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 02-12-2008 at 09:54 PM.

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    This feels like a very inadequate response to the questions at hand, but perhaps two approaches may be useful.

    First off, there is a cultural issue here, and it is not just the Personnel system, it is a true American military cultural issue, namely that of the relationship between the political and the military. This is perhaps flogging a dead horse until the hide comes off, but there is a real, hard separation of the "political" and the "military" in American political/civic and military culture. Politics, which is the matter that Strategy derives from, is (formally) kept at an exaggerated distance from the military, and vice versa, and one effect of that is to insulate military thought in general and the professional consciousness of the officer corps in particular from political considerations.

    Make no mistake, I am in no way proposing any change to the apolitical status of the military. But if you look at Commonwealth militaries for example, there is quite a different "professional consciousness" at work. The officer (and even the NCO, especially the senior NCO) is acutely aware that he is not only the instrument, but even the direct agent of his Government's policy. He just happens to implement his Government's policies by primarily military or para-military means. An officer in a foreign land is not just a military professional, but even a sort of minor plenipotentiary, with both the duty and the authority to make local deals with local authorities - unless overridden by his own superiors. The implementation of policy, not simply the completion of a mission or the achievement of an objective, is what ultimately matters.

    The US Army has had a good deal of experience doing this, and not just in recent years, but throughout the past as well. But there is at the same time a strong professional aversion to political matters, and likewise a strong professional preference to stick as much as possible to military matters and tasks. In the Commonwealth, no such division between the political and the military is culturally possible; officers are always subordinate to their political masters, but are always aware of the primacy of the political objective, and peform their military tasks with that foremost in their mind. To put things another way, while Commonwealth militaries have a history of difficulty with the Operational level of war, they tend to do rather better at the Tactical and Strategic levels; the US, on the other hand, tend to do rather better at the Operational level, but tends to run into problems at the Strategic level.

    Secondly, and this is something that periodically raises its head from time to time, is discussion of creating and establishing a true General Staff system within the US Army. There have been political objections to such proposals in the past, but perhaps a permanent, specialized General Staff branch (as opposed to the present Staff branch system, which on the surface appears very akin to a General Staff system, but is not quite so) might provide for a solid and institutionalized cadre of strategic, operational, technical, and other specialists that are fully integrated at every level from Battalion on up.

    The General Staff Corps would, in addition to providing the intellectual backbone of the Army, would also act as a sort of Institutional memory bank, so that lessons learned would not only be collected from right across the Army, and then digested and re-disseminated throughout, but also preserve the lessons learned so that they would not be so easily forgotten, and have to be re-learned later.

    A fair bit of change, needless to say, would be required within the Army to make a true General Staff system an effective reality. The service colleges, along with capable faculty, exist, as do capable officers; they need to be released from artifical constraints and be allowed to truly excell in order to reach their potential. Perhaps service colleges might need to be amalgamated in order to provide a more centralized and unified base for the education and maintainenance of a General Officer Corps, and perhaps making a much clearer differentiation in content between Branch Advanced Career Courses and CGSC would be a place to start; right now, they seem to duplicate a little too much of the same content.

  14. #14
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good and perceptive comments.

    When our staff system was devised, the intent was to develop a general staff without having a General Staff. Couldn't copy the Germans, after all. That and our xenophobic 'not invented here' syndrome insured that we succeeded and effectively created a staff system that sort of works but suffers from not having specially trained and dedicated people. Trying to do long term staff work with short term people insures minor chaos and a learning curve that one staff section or another is always going through -- and generally with similar sections at different levels being on different parts of the curve...

    Of course, our political system with major shifts in policy every four or eight years -- many shifts just so the new guys can say they shifted -- sort of negates any real coherence in civilian direction of the military. That is particularly true with the large increase, post 1980, in numbers of political appointees versus civil servants in high places. The increasing number of SES 'Deputies' isn't as helpful as it could be for various reasons (nor, even tho I was one, do I think it a good idea). All that has several adverse impacts.

    You are of course correct on the "we're apolitical" aspect in the mindset of the US Armed Forces and that too has an effect. That is in part engendered by the absolute disdain of most in uniform for most politicians. The Commonwealth Forces had the advantage (or disadvantage, viewpoint dependent) of the senior civilians in government and the forces being members of the same class, and in each Commonwealth nation in the past, a far smaller and less diverse population aided in some mutuality of effort. We've always been too big, fractious and diverse to develop that much coherence. I suspect those factors will not change.

  15. #15
    Council Member Kreker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    Now here's the kicker -- the single greatest factor in selection for battalion command was performance in company command. By the transitive property of stuff, that means that we select our future senior leadership by their performance at the O-3 level (I am not making this up).
    Hi Old Eagle,
    To add to your dialogue, I also feel sucess at the Bn S3/XO level is paramount, since that assignment, in all probability, is at the most 2-3 years removed from the Bn Cmd selection process. That said, if an outstanding officer had a less than top block senior rating on his OER, then no matter how successfully he performed, Bn Cmd was a dream. I've personally witnessed it at the Bn/Bde level, when an outstanding officer is held hostage by the rating of the Bde Cdr, who eventually ends up retiring as an 06. It's just not a fair process IMHO.
    That's why I'm a firm believer in revising the OER system, and until the Army does so, some decent officers will not be selected for Bn Cmd.
    Best,
    Kreker

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    Default Outsider's Perspective

    Gents -

    I have limited familiarity with the Army's way of organizing itself (other than interfacing with various aviation units), so I am mostly absorbing from this thread.

    However, Rob's discussion of BCTs specializing on an AOR did get me thinking... we've always had DOC statements for fighter squadrons to specific AORs/OPLANs, but when the AF went to the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotational concept (originally 10 months train, 2 months AOR specific spin-up (Red Flag etc), 90 days on "on call", couple weeks recovery, wash/rinse/repeat - now 120 day deployments every 20 months) was when it seemed that things really got focused on specific AORs... you knew based on your AEF what AOR you would be tasked for primarily, and could focus on that for an entire cycle and really learn that AOR. Worked very well for our "Steady state" of Operation Northern Watch/Southern Watch (our very own aerial small wars, with ONW having some State/OGA ground components) for 12 years, plus the "surges" for Allied Force and OEF/OIF.... Is this something the Army has done previous to OIF? Just wondering. It definitely helped with predictability and enhanced the realism of training for us.

    My other thought was looking at Norfolk's post. Could a great example of semi-small war success, MacArthur (Phillipines intra-war, arguably Japan post war though that was mostly a peacetime exercise...) be because he was in fact politically oriented? IE, he understood politics at a level not typically seen in the US military and therefore was able to operate more effectively at the strategic level? Then, when he lost touch with the political reality (limited war in Korea) it was his ultimate undoing? Certainly seems that success in Japan was based on understanding culture and their politics at the time, and winning over the population to his side... Seems like a decent case study- apologies if that is missing the mark you had set Norfolk.

    Interesting discussion, looking forward to more!

    Kill MiGs!

    -Cliff

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    Default It's more than the P

    One of the outcomes of the recent JCISFA symposium was that the "[m]ost significant obstacle [to the security force assistance mission] is the existing professional culture". That speaks volumes to the current "P" piece of manning Killebrew's MAAGs.

    BUT -- the P piece is only part of the issue. The rest of DOTLM-PF needs to be addressed, also.

    For instance, right now MAAGs (ODCs, etc, we can't even call them MAAGs) are limited to a maximum of 6 pers. with the exceptions of a handful of specified missions. You can't do what Bob wants until restrictions such as these are lifted.

    Of course there are other non-personnel issues.

    Despite whatever obstacles are out there, we can make progress in this mission. 1. We have done this before, although at a time when the military was bigger and the PERSTEMPO lower and 2. we're doing it now, just on a very reduced scale.

  18. #18
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    One of the outcomes of the recent JCISFA symposium was that the "[m]ost significant obstacle [to the security force assistance mission] is the existing professional culture". That speaks volumes to the current "P" piece of manning Killebrew's MAAGs.

    BUT -- the P piece is only part of the issue. The rest of DOTLM-PF needs to be addressed, also.

    For instance, right now MAAGs (ODCs, etc, we can't even call them MAAGs) are limited to a maximum of 6 pers. with the exceptions of a handful of specified missions. You can't do what Bob wants until restrictions such as these are lifted.

    Of course there are other non-personnel issues.

    Despite whatever obstacles are out there, we can make progress in this mission. 1. We have done this before, although at a time when the military was bigger and the PERSTEMPO lower and 2. we're doing it now, just on a very reduced scale.
    All too true, mate. I think it also bears mentioning what you and I talked about last week at dinner: the idea that a FAO program is somehow a "peacetime luxury" when it is so critical to the overall effort.

    Tom

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    Default Back to the Future

    The main thrust of the thread seems to be that the current way of growing leaders is dysfunctional given the sort of wars we are likely to fight or participate in in the future. In fact, our current system of advancement is rapidly approaching a seniority-based system - keep your nose clean and you'll make colonel when its your turn, no real way for promotion boards to distinguish between mediocre performers and those just below the water-walker level.

    It worked well when we were rapidly expanding or expending the officer corps. Lots of interchangeable bodies with a certain minimum guaranteed level of competence. But, I think we can all agree, the industrial age system is not optimal for the information age.

    But changing a culture is hugely difficult, so I doubt we will get much payoff from fiddling with the OER or creating (yet another) specialty area like a formal advisory corps. The root problem is that we want specialists, but we can't discriminate between round and square pegs, or pull guys off the line for more education, or reward strong performers for excellence outside the command track. To be able to do this, we should look at some techniques used by armies (including our own in the past) with a colonial/LIC/SASO/COIN focus.

    Secondment: Let US officers become unit commanders/staff officers in foreign armies. Higher pay, greater prestige, opportunities denied them in their own Army, a long focus on a particular area or region. We can always recall them at need.

    Patronage: Why not let general officers promote to a certain level? Or select their own commanders? Why not let them reach down and pull up a captain to be their J2, if they think he's the right guy for the job? It is no wonder that generals spend so much time micromanaging when they don't know their subordinates and don't spend enough time (or energy) in place to get to know them. Yeah, I know it has its own problem set, but selecting people via secret boards reliant on OERs of questionable worth doesn't seem to be working very well in the present context.

    Brevet rank: We are promoting people to major and lieutenant colonel at a 95%+ rate because the manual says we need majors and lieutenant colonels to do certain jobs. The manual also prevents perfectly qualified people from doing certain jobs because they haven't been in the Army long enough. My experience with PRT commanders showed me the Army was more comfortable putting a mediocre O-5 in a job when there were plenty of outstanding young captains available who would have done better. So why not assign temporary rank and get around all those OPMS roadblocks?

    Examination boards: Tell people they must pass a board to get promoted and they will acquire the knowledge on their own. Tell people they must have a working knowledge of Pashto before assuming command of 1-23 battalion, and they will acquire it. You might not have to send people to formal schools as much. It might also focus the minds of those who consider schooling as a great chance to sharpen their golf game.

    You can already sense the Army, at least, is unmooring itself from some of the more dysfunctional personnel strictures. I think we should help it accelerate toward 19th century personnel systems.

  20. #20
    Council Member Kreker's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    Examination boards: Tell people they must pass a board to get promoted and they will acquire the knowledge on their own. Tell people they must have a working knowledge of Pashto before assuming command of 1-23 battalion, and they will acquire it. You might not have to send people to formal schools as much. It might also focus the minds of those who consider schooling as a great chance to sharpen their golf game.
    Hi Eden,

    Your post has some valuable points. I've been working Army training for the past 13 years and have met some great trainers/educators during that time. Twelve years ago, I had a long conservation with Dr. Rick Brown, LTG, Ret, a truly great trainer that was ahead of his time when it came to training individuals and units (probably learned most from Gorman.) The thrust of the discussion was this. Prior to assignement out of CGSC, have that major go to a CTC for a week observing a unit rotation, and getting a true sense and feel for the XO/S3 responsibilities. Upon return that major will need to pass an examination to see if he/she qualifies to be posted as a XO/S3. Thoughout the CGSC time period that major has been assigned a mentor whose ultimate goal is to shape that major into a XO/S3 and ensure he/she passes the examination. This has never materialized probably because of cost in both manpower and dollars, but the idea was passed up the CoC. Examination of the officer corps is probably why the old Officer Foundation Standards STPs went by the wayside.

    Best,
    Kreker

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