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Thread: The Higher HQs as an Operational and Strategic Enabler

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default The Higher HQs as an Operational and Strategic Enabler

    With the resignation of ADM Fallon as the CENTCOM CDR, and the MSM's discussion about friction between ADM Fallon and GEN Petraeus, I began to think about the historical parallels and how the roles the personalities involved in leadership matter. Just the activity of waging war provides a level of friction that makes coordinating activities and understanding the situation and conditions to a degree where each higher level of HQs can best support the activities of the one below it a real challenge. If the personalities involved don't understand each other for whatever reasons, then more friction is induced, and overcoming inertia toward the policy objective becomes not only a matter of defeating your enemy, but countering the efforts (be they at cross purposes for whatever reason(s)) of the higher HQs.

    Lots of speculation last week about who would succeed ADM Fallon, and the positions that might have to be filled as a result. There was also some (albeit less) discussion about what skills and attributes they would need with regard to CENTCOM as a whole, given the other challenges in the CENTCOM AOR.

    There has not been a great deal of discussion at all about the skills and attributes of a potential CENTCOM CDR with regard to better supporting the two wars in the CENTCOM AOR. Is there just an assumption that the GCC should focus on everything but Iraq and Afghanistan, given the many other challenges in the AOR? A higher HQs of the scale of a GCC can potentially bring a great deal of support to activities within its AOR, provided there is good lines of communication between HQs, and that there is shared understanding of the importance of the political objective, the agreement all around about what is acceptable in terms of an outcome, and what are the potential consequences for other then agreed upon outcomes with relation to broader regional and international objectives.

    At least a few historical examples come to mind with regard to the challenges of developing common visions at the strategic and operational levels. The relationships between Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, Grant, Meade and Sherman provides some good reading, and I'd offer that relationships between the Allies around 1944 offer some good insights as well. Not all of the examples or instances are positive, they often highlight where because of personality, misunderstanding, or political expediency HQs at different levels created more problems then they solved.

    The recent events in CENTCOM offer a starting place to think about the questions, the fact that the consequences are immediate only adds to the importance of the discussion. However, with operations going on all over the world, and the question of authorities and responsibilities as they relate to capabilities and capacities, or bilateral and multi-lateral the question will probably come up again sooner rather then later.

    How could a higher HQs such as a GCC with 2 theaters of operation in its AOR better support the HQs charged with achieving policy objectives as they relate to those two wars?

    For the large number of historians and history / poli-sci buffs in the SWC, what are the parallels available to talk about?

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 03-15-2008 at 05:03 PM.

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    Default Higher HQ

    Rob--

    Good post. But the issue goes beyond higher to parallel and "=" but "subordinate" as I suggested in the other thread on Fallon. Similar situations existed in Vietnam where MACV was "subordinate" to CINCPAC. Unlike Iraq, COMUSMACV did not control the air or naval wars outside RVN. And the answer to the question of who's in charge was totally unclear.

    In DS/DS borh CINCPAC and CINCEUR supported CINCCENT. But, early on, the Navy commander from PACFLEET attempted to say that he was "in support of" CINCCENT rather than OPCON. CINCPAC replaced him (presumably at Schwartzkopf's request). Schwartzkopf has an interesting quote that he "worked for" Powell where, by law, he worked for SECDEF Cheney. Still, the relationship was successful.

    Perhaps, the most egregious violation of our own doctrinal command relationships came in Somalia during UNOSOM II. There, CINCCENT Gen. Hoar retained OPCON of all US forces sent to Somalia except the Log Spt Cmd. Tom Montgomery, Commander of US Forces - Somalia and Dep UN Force CDR, only had TACON of Bill David's Bde of the 10th Mtn Div which was the UN's QRF - and then only for routine training and bonafide emergencies. Montgomery never had any control over TF Ranger - Forces Command could veto a mission but had no control over it. Tom Daze and I cover this case extensively in my edited book, "The Savage Wars of Peace" Toward a New Paradigm of Peace Operations and I updated the story in my 2006 book (with Max Manwaring) Uncomfortable Wars Revisited.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    John,
    Thanks for posting. I'd done some reading a couple of years ago in a Joint Air-power class that brought into question the relationships between the then CONCPAC with MACV and the operational and strategic problems it engendered. I think there is merit in discussing that one more. What about commands inside MACV that were stood up to C2 or synchronize something that was identified as a shortfall. Do you know if there were events that pushed planners to ID them?
    Ken, it'd be great to get your take on this as well.
    Thanks to both of you, Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I think you're quite correct,

    personalities are the major factor in too many cases. The bad thing is that the major and obvious personalities may be almost peripheral. Staffs tend to be quite loyal to their bosses and can sway things. There is also the impact of inter service relationships. Both those things can have a more than significant effect.

    Look at my favorite unnecessary battle, Peleliu. Nimitz ignored both Halsey and Spruance who argued it was totally unnecessary to accede to MacArthur who thought otherwise and he did so as much because he and Ernie King had stolen a lot of resources from MacArthur for over two years to build up the Pacific Theater to the detriment of MacArthur's SouWesPac Theater and Nimitz believed he owed MacArthur a bone or two. So the 1 MarDiv went in to make unnecessary history at great cost. So, Ernie King had an impact as did inter service relationships. MacArthur's direct line to DC probably contributed to the decision.

    To re-emphasize John's Somalia example (I'm sure he knows far more than I do so he can correct me if my interpretation of what I've read and been told is off the mark). I'd put the mess down to four major items. First, TF Ranger repeated the same TTP over and over -- they became too predictable. Second, the lack of unity of command that John cites. Third, CentCom, as a result of having had Norm Schwarzkopf as CinC had learned to micromanage and they did that (to no positive effect I can discern). However, I think the most significant problem was Jonathan Howe, Adm, USN (Ret), former Bush 41 NSA and Clinton NSC staffer turned UN lead in Somalia (at the behest of Clinton); that and Bill's rather foolish eruption an order to "get Aidid..." which Howe ordered carried out over the objections of several. Thus, Centcom tried to act IAW the personality of their former Stormin' Commander and there's that direct line to DC again -- and this time wielded by a guy who wasn't nearly as smart as Douglas.

    Turning to Viet Nam, it's no secret that Westmoreland and his staff did not get along at all well with III MAF -- and I'd suggest anyone who couldn't get along with Lew Walt has some problems -- or with FMF Pac. The FMF Pac CG from 62 to 64 was Brute Krulak. He made as lot of trips to VN and talked to Westmoreland on most of them. To little avail. Against the advice of his staff, Westmoreland did let the Marine CAP program continue and later grudgingly admitted it was 'ingenious.' It wasn't as great as some say but it did work and it was vastly better than anything the Army did much before mid-1968.

    There weren't that many commands inside MACV, it was pretty much a book Joint Staff. Momyer, the 7th AF Cdr fought continual turf battles with the Army, Navy and the Marines and the SOF community had its moments of rebellion but by and large, there were no strategic problems in VN. In the SEA area, as John notes, there were big problems due to the disconnects and the fact that MACV would sometimes overflow the boundaries a bit. Laos was a separate story unto itself, of course. Thus, in effect there was no Operational problem, VN was the operational entity for MACV and the strategy had put them there. VN was virtually an annoying sideshow and resource drainer for PaCom (who had little or no Operational play in that theater), much as Afghanistan and Iraq are to CentCom today.

    Westmoreland was not a strong leader but he did have a strong staff * . They fought III MAF to a standstill, talked to McNamara and Johnson's folks constantly, cutting their bosses nominal boss CincPac (Harry Felt until 64 and U.S. Grant Sharp from 64 until 68) out of the loop -- much as MacArthur's folks had done in WW II. So the personalities of Johnson, McNamara, the two Admirals and a far from pushy Westmoreland intertwined to produce a Staff-run war with a direct WH/E-Ring to Saigon interchange. Add to that the facts that PaCom is so big that micromanaging is difficult if not impossible and it had never learned to do that as a result of having Nimitz and a series of Admirals in charge. Admirals do not micromanage the way Army generals do. Still, here again, we have hidden players in the form of Krulak and the MACV Staff plus, yet again -- a direct line to DC.

    To see how little some things change, look at Iraq. Sanchez, wrong man for the job -- but the system said he had to stay. Abizaid, not a micromanager, tolerated that and him for 18 months. Then Casey, wrong plan -- no change. To his credit (IMO) Abizaid tried to get CentCom out of micromanaging the theater and was sort of successful, they're better than they used to be but still interfere with subordinate commanders way too much. Now, they have Petreaus to deal with and that direct line to DC is allegedly again in operation (though I'm not sure I believe that)

    So personalities are a huge part of it -- and all items and people that effect events are frequently (I'd even say usually) not terribly visible. Add in a direct line to DC and the thlot pickens...

    Thus, my answer to your original question:
    "How could a higher HQs such as a GCC with 2 theaters of operation in its AOR better support the HQs charged with achieving policy objectives as they relate to those two wars?"
    would be to leave those tow theaters alone and let them do their job while concentrating on the rest of the AO -- acknowledging that both theaters adversely impact the GGC's ability to do that. That, as they say, is why those guys get the big bucks and a Gulfstream...

    I take that route because indications lead me to believe that the direct line to DC as problem is unlikely to disappear.


    * As an aside, then BG Hank Schweiter, ADCS G3 for Special Ops at DA in 1966 traveled to sunny Saigon to brief on a program DA wanted to institute. He started his briefing to ComUSMACV and the Staff assembled with "General Westmoreland, gentlemen. I'll start by noting that the MACV staff is now larger than the combined staffs of Eisenhower and MacArthur at the end of world War II..." The Pachyderms did not smile -- but some of us did...

    I think there's also a significant message in that vis a vis command relationships, to wit; a proper sized staff is too busy to interfere, a too large staff absolutely will interfere because you have a bunch of smart, tough guys without enough to do.

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    This is a very interesting topic and one worth discussion. It been my observation that we eventually get tactics correct, but dysfunctional HHQ relationships have long term negative consequences.
    Rob posed the question of how the CENTCOM can best support the two subordinate warfighting commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan in accomplishing assigned policy goals. I'd turn the question around--do the two subordinates see themselves as accomplishing policy goals set by the national level and transmitted through CENTCOM? I'd submit that, in reality, each of these three commanders are fighting their own fights and consider the national level as their direct HHQ. I haven't seen CENTCOM given much latitude to provide significant direction to either of the commanders in Iraq or Afghanistan, except on the most routine of administrative and logistics issues.
    This gets sticky because what's best to accomplish the immediate missions in Iraq or Aghanistan (in terms of resources or methods) may not be the best for the region. CENTCOM is the direct commander who should be managing and balancing the two fights--its not a case of micro-managing, but of make resource decsions where there may be a trade-off (BCTs in Iraq vs. BCTs in Afghanistan--also, there's only one JFACC for the theater; neither Petreaus or Neil owns any TACAIR outside of USMC MAGTF fixed wing) and providing left and right limits on issues that affect the whole region (Iran is an issue for Iraq, Afghanistan and the region as a whole).
    The III MAF and MACV issue in Vietnam is an interesting historical note. While the Marines may have had it correct in their pacification approach, the reality is that they chose a strategy for their section of Vietnam that was totally out of sync with the rest of the theater, that had very different time and resource requirements--and they did this via a service chain of command that went from III MAF to FMFPAC to HQMC--with little regard for the joint commander. I'm not arguing right or wrong, but it was a heady bit of institutional insubordination.

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    Default Ken, I agree with

    most of your observations. Corrections: Jonathon Howe was Dep NSA under 41; went, as you say, to SRSG as Bill's condition for US support of UNOSOM II but did not pass go - return to NSC staff; it was Howe that insisted on the SCR that Albright pushed through on a weekend directing Forces Command to go after Aideed and, ultimately, brought forth TF Ranger.

    I think your footnote observation is spot on.

    Phil, it is hard to make the case in pre G-N times that the USMC was institutionally insubordinate when the law did not give either CINCPAC or COMUSMACV command over service forces. OPCOM (predecessor of COCOM) really gave little authority to a CINC or JFC and left the service chain of command as you state.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Phil, nice catch

    From PhilR

    I'd turn the question around--do the two subordinates see themselves as accomplishing policy goals set by the national level and transmitted through CENTCOM? I'd submit that, in reality, each of these three commanders are fighting their own fights and consider the national level as their direct HHQ. I haven't seen CENTCOM given much latitude to provide significant direction to either of the commanders in Iraq or Afghanistan, except on the most routine of administrative and logistics issues.
    I agree, I think you have to consider the question from the other end as well. Ken brought the coordination of the war in the Pacific and the role personalities played in the developing the Lines of Operation, the battles that were fought, the distribution of resources, etc. If you expand the scope to include operations in Burma, and early on operations in China you add additional layers.

    I was also thinking about when a senior CDR gets selected he has the same biases etc. that others must overcome. ADM Fallon was widely accepted as a wise choice based off of his performance as a GCC CDR in PACOM. Based off that performance, the characterization that the experiences of the Navy as a service offers broader strategic perspective, and that given the scope of a GCC's responsibilities, CENTCOM did not necessarily require that its CDR be from a ground service - e.g. purple and broader experience was good enough.

    I think coming from a very busy GCC (PACOM) where certainly we have enduring interests, and where there is tension that could lead to military commitment, but also one in which we are not engaged in achieving major political objectives like OIF and OEF by predominantly military means (this includes using military means in some non-military ways) is a larger transition then we may have attributed to it.

    Ken's example,
    Look at my favorite unnecessary battle, Peleliu. Nimitz ignored both Halsey and Spruance who argued it was totally unnecessary to accede to MacArthur who thought otherwise and he did so as much because he and Ernie King had stolen a lot of resources from MacArthur for over two years to build up the Pacific Theater to the detriment of MacArthur's SouWesPac Theater and Nimitz believed he owed MacArthur a bone or two. So the 1 MarDiv went in to make unnecessary history at great cost. So, Ernie King had an impact as did inter service relationships. MacArthur's direct line to DC probably contributed to the decision.
    is a good one to talk about how strategic personalities translate to operational and tactical consequences.

    Mountbatten may offer another alternative to considering how personalities shaped by different experiences. Slim's memoirs would seem to indicate that Mountbatten did an extraordinary job at coordinating and synchronizing the various efforts and personalities that had bearing on operations in the Burma theater. It also offers a different political relationship given the nature of Great Britain's political objectives and priorities in the broader context of WWII. (David, it'd be interesting to hear from you or one of our British SWC members here)

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I was thinking about some of our related threads, specifically the one on Who are the Best Generals, and more recently the one on organizational culture and how they related to this discussion.

    This also gets to some of the threads about adaptation, and about full spectrum forces, and the risks associated with multiple COAs (in regards to structure).

    What is the effect on experiences within an organizational culture toward creating bias that has to be overcome? I don't mean solely the type of bias that occurs in the relationship between two HQs (who may be led by CDR's with different backgrounds and perspectives) of which their composition may be one that reflects the conditions in which they operate which have had a shaping effect on their outlooks, but also shape how they perceive and interact with the environment in which the operations take place? I know that is a complex question, but I think it gets to some of the complexity of the environment.

    On the surface it would be easy to say if you pick folks with "more" like organizational experiences formed over a professional lifetime you stand a better chance of getting it right, but I think it may go deeper then that, because just picking things on their surface doesn't guarantee that it will stand a better chance of creating the type of relationship(s) that favor success. Personalities routinely come into conflict based on their motivations and perspectives. I think what may be of more value is an assessment of how the operational and strategic objectives are nested with the over-arching policy, and a solid understanding of how the ends drive the means and ways. I'm starting to have an appreciation for both what might be possible, but also for the ways in which organizations or personalities can put themselves intentionally and unintentionally at cross purposes without some degree of guidance and authority. It seems striking the right balance is often more luck associated with the right man at the right place at the right time sort of theory then about the opportunities inherent in formal relationships.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 03-16-2008 at 04:50 PM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I agree, Phil, on the dysfunctional HHQs...

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilR View Post
    This is a very interesting topic and one worth discussion. It been my observation that we eventually get tactics correct, but dysfunctional HHQ relationships have long term negative consequences.
    I would also posit that the majority of HHQ are in fact quite dysfunctional and that personalities are a major contributor to that flaw. As I said, an overabundance of strong willed smart people with little to do...
    ... Rob posed the question of how the CENTCOM can best support the two subordinate warfighting commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan in accomplishing assigned policy goals. I'd turn the question around--do the two subordinates see themselves as accomplishing policy goals set by the national level and transmitted through CENTCOM?
    Perhaps the policy goals and the combat goals differ? Been my observation that they generally do and that particularly applies to our IMO flawed GCC structure. The question really is who's in charge? The civilian leadership or the GCC CinC? Go to a given country and it's ironclad -- the Ambassador is in charge; enlarge it to a world region and suddenly the four button is in charge? Makes no sense and creates problems.

    Regardless, we are where we are and we are fighting very small wars in two nations in a GCC region. Is the GCC's policy or the combat the most critical issue?
    ...I'd submit that, in reality, each of these three commanders are fighting their own fights and consider the national level as their direct HHQ. I haven't seen CENTCOM given much latitude to provide significant direction to either of the commanders in Iraq or Afghanistan, except on the most routine of administrative and logistics issues.
    True and i obviously agree with that...
    ...This gets sticky because what's best to accomplish the immediate missions in Iraq or Aghanistan (in terms of resources or methods) may not be the best for the region. CENTCOM is the direct commander who should be managing and balancing the two fights--its not a case of micro-managing, but of make resource decsions where there may be a trade-off (BCTs in Iraq vs. BCTs in Afghanistan--also, there's only one JFACC for the theater; neither Petreaus or Neil owns any TACAIR outside of USMC MAGTF fixed wing) and providing left and right limits on issues that affect the whole region (Iran is an issue for Iraq, Afghanistan and the region as a whole).
    It's McNeill and, as a non-fan of over centralized air operations I think he and Petreaus should have control of their own assets -- isn't there something about Unity of Command in the books somewhere? Regardless, its' that JFACC's job to support both. Period.

    I'd point out that Centcom's inept diddling with BCTs here versus there and routinely forcing units who return to theaters to go to a completely different AO is sorta dumb. I'll also state that the coordination issues you cite are political and NOT military...
    ... The III MAF and MACV issue in Vietnam is an interesting historical note. While the Marines may have had it correct in their pacification approach, the reality is that they chose a strategy for their section of Vietnam that was totally out of sync with the rest of the theater, that had very different time and resource requirements--and they did this via a service chain of command that went from III MAF to FMFPAC to HQMC--with little regard for the joint commander. I'm not arguing right or wrong, but it was a heady bit of institutional insubordination.
    I think John accurately responded to this. I'd also suggest the it was not insubordination, simply holding out quite strongly for what one believed and fighting off bureaucratic and parochial intransigence -- I though that's what we were all supposed to do. Nor will I mention that the rest of the theater was totally out of sync with reality...

    Or that such is an example of the inter service difficulty bit. Fallon may or may not have intensely disliked Petreaus but he's unlikley to have talked to him the way some twit alleged he did -- not because four stars don't talk to other four stars that way, they do -- but they don't do it on an interservice basis. Just as Westmoreland tried to persuade Walt to cease the CAP -- but he would not order him to do so -- and Lew was only a three star at the time.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Mountbatten - an example to follow?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    From PhilR

    Mountbatten may offer another alternative to considering how personalities shaped by different experiences. Slim's memoirs would seem to indicate that Mountbatten did an extraordinary job at coordinating and synchronizing the various efforts and personalities that had bearing on operations in the Burma theater. It also offers a different political relationship given the nature of Great Britain's political objectives and priorities in the broader context of WWII. (David, it'd be interesting to hear from you or one of our British SWC members here)

    Best Regards, Rob
    I have read a little on Mountbatten and have in deep storage the official biography - read many years ago. Oddly his command role in South East Asia Command is overshadowed by his time as Viceroy in India. The campaign remains the forgotten war by a forgotten army (dispite Rob's calls to read General Slim's memoirs).

    There are those who have written on him being far too an independent commander, notably over the Dieppe raid (using Canadian troops in 1942) and not having informed higher command. There is a book, title forgotten, on this episode (which no doubt Canadian members will recall).

    In WW2 the British had well connected political representatives in theatre, Mountbatten in uniform had some of this role and Harold MacMillan in North Africa. I am sure there were others, ah yes, a General Wiart in Chunking with the Nationalist Chinese.

    Inserting such political persons may not appear to be needed now, with shrinking time zones and modern communications, but remain vital. The UN regulatly has Special Representatives of the Secretary General (SRSG) deployed with UN missions.

    Just a few quick comments.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The GCC as Tribune...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    ...
    I was also thinking about when a senior CDR gets selected he has the same biases etc. that others must overcome. ADM Fallon was widely accepted as a wise choice based off of his performance as a GCC CDR in PACOM. Based off that performance, the characterization that the experiences of the Navy as a service offers broader strategic perspective, and that given the scope of a GCC's responsibilities, CENTCOM did not necessarily require that its CDR be from a ground service - e.g. purple and broader experience was good enough.
    I wasn't all that happy with Fallon because of my firm belief that Aviators (and their ilk, Fallon was a NFO) should never command ground troops. Many here may recall I've repeatedly said that Bush, Rumsfeld and Myers, Aviators all, had no knowledge of ground combat and thus made some dumb errors -- which those with experience in ground combat did not work hard enough to correct due to our system. I digress...

    Nor am I convinced that the Navy has a broader strategic perspective or that Purple is a necessarily good color for much of anything.
    I think coming from a very busy GCC (PACOM) where certainly we have enduring interests, and where there is tension that could lead to military commitment, but also one in which we are not engaged in achieving major political objectives like OIF and OEF by predominantly military means (this includes using military means in some non-military ways) is a larger transition then we may have attributed to it.
    Astute and I think very accurate observation.
    What is the effect on experiences within an organizational culture toward creating bias that has to be overcome? I don't mean solely the type of bias that occurs in the relationship between two HQs (who may be led by CDR's with different backgrounds and perspectives) of which their composition may be one that reflects the conditions in which they operate which have had a shaping effect on their outlooks, but also shape how they perceive and interact with the environment in which the operations take place? I know that is a complex question, but I think it gets to some of the complexity of the environment.
    Equally astute. I'd add that experience is both a factor in forming biases(s) AND in the formation and development of knowledges and skills (which in turn contribute to more biases...). It is my contention that Generals with an Artillery background should never command maneuver forces. Not a PC position to take but I'm a firm believer having worked for several, peace and war. Round pegs do not fit in square holes -- unless they're too small...

    I've seen former Airborne Infantry Commanders running Mech units; they do the basic command stuff well but tactically and operationally, they tend to be over cautious -- also seen former Mech commanders take over Airborne units -- same comment applies.

    We have a system that says all folks of like grade are essentially interchangeable and that just is not true. Under most circumstances will those triangular pegs fit in the hexagonal holes? Absolutley. Will they do a good job? Probably.

    Is a good job adequate -- or do we need the best job we can get when lives and national interests are at stake...
    On the surface it would be easy to say if you pick folks with "more" like organizational experiences formed over a professional lifetime you stand a better chance of getting it right, but I think it may go deeper then that, because just picking things on their surface doesn't guarantee that it will stand a better chance of creating the type of relationship(s) that favor success. Personalities routinely come into conflict based on their motivations and perspectives. I think what may be of more value is an assessment of how the operational and strategic objectives are nested with the over-arching policy, and a solid understanding of how the ends drive the means and ways. I'm starting to have an appreciation for both what might be possible, but also for the ways in which organizations or personalities can put themselves intentionally and unintentionally at cross purposes without some degree of guidance and authority. It seems striking the right balance is often more luck associated with the right man at the right place at the right time sort of theory then about the opportunities inherent in formal relationships.
    Agreed.

    Is luck good enough? Why not select the right person for the job...

    I'll also suggest that, if I may repeat a portion of what you said:
    "...I think what may be of more value is an assessment of how the operational and strategic objectives are nested with the over-arching policy, and a solid understanding of how the ends drive the means and ways.
    it is imperative to have that over arching policy. The question then arises; Who develops that policy?

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Hey Ken,

    The question then arises; Who develops that policy?
    I'd say there are at least two parts to that: the first might be whose responsibility is it by right?; the second might be whose is it by default, when the first is inadequate, or ambiguous, or simply left undefined? That can get tricky (political) real quick I think, and without commensurate authority that backs up the claim to responsibility the policy is left open to question, rebuke, and interpretation - its implementation can become one of willingness and produce ad hoc and uneven results.

    I want to go back to a previous post for a moment:

    I'd point out that Centcom's inept diddling with BCTs here versus there and routinely forcing units who return to theaters to go to a completely different AO is sorta dumb. I'll also state that the coordination issues you cite are political and NOT military...
    This brings up a host of other organizations from Service Title 10 responsibilities and functions, FORSCOM, HRC etc., to the role of the Joint Staff in supporting GCCs, to the role SOCOM plays in synchronizing GWOT efforts.

    I would also posit that the majority of HHQ are in fact quite dysfunctional and that personalities are a major contributor to that flaw. As I said, an overabundance of strong willed smart people with little to do...
    Is it mostly a matter of creating problems because either those HHQs don't know what they don't know, or is it they do know but don't care? I think its an important point, because if its the latter, then its a different type of friction to overcome.

    Is luck good enough? Why not select the right person for the job...
    - first we have to look more then an inch deep at who we are selecting

    Round pegs do not fit in square holes -- unless they're too small
    That one is keeper, and I will quote it unabashedly
    Best, Rob

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I have read a little on Mountbatten and have in deep storage the official biography - read many years ago. Oddly his command role in South East Asia Command is overshadowed by his time as Viceroy in India. The campaign remains the forgotten war by a forgotten army
    Hi David, I know you are busy, but it'd be great to hear your take on comparing and contrasting the two. Besides the years - what could have changed the man? Or is it just the context of the situation - and perhaps the difference in the roles he played?

    Best, Rob

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Spot on, as always...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I'd say there are at least two parts to that: the first might be whose responsibility is it by right?; the second might be whose is it by default, when the first is inadequate, or ambiguous, or simply left undefined? That can get tricky (political) real quick I think, and without commensurate authority that backs up the claim to responsibility the policy is left open to question, rebuke, and interpretation - its implementation can become one of willingness and produce ad hoc and uneven results.
    Very true-- and the problem is, in many cases, yet again personality driven. If it is for example State's job to propose a policy and the NSC or President's job to announce or promulgate it and the GCCs job to execute it, what can and does happen is that the first two sluff or fail to do their part and the GCC can end up making policy by default, dragging the nation along with them in some cases. The GCC types are not inclined to endure a vacuum for long periods. Slippery slope and all that...
    This brings up a host of other organizations from Service Title 10 responsibilities and functions, FORSCOM, HRC etc., to the role of the Joint Staff in supporting GCCs, to the role SOCOM plays in synchronizing GWOT efforts.
    Quite correct -- and none of those are likely to sit on their hands well, either. My observation has been that all will do something, even if it's wrong.

    I won't even address the Unity of Command problems that over activity at those levels can induce.
    Is it mostly a matter of creating problems because either those HHQs don't know what they don't know, or is it they do know but don't care? I think its an important point, because if its the latter, then its a different type of friction to overcome.
    Again in my observation, some of both -- personality dependent (and by that I mean not only the GCC Cdr but the appropriate Staff folks). It's also circumstance driven -- Centcom is unlikely to get in too much trouble outside Afghanistan and Iraq right now because of the heavy focus on those two theaters. SouthCom is probably really busy with Colombia, Venezuela and the Triangle -- but EuCom and PaCom have little to do. So-o-o-o...

    ForsCom has always been a headquarters looking for a mission. One is confronted with the fact that a number of HHQs exist to justify Flag billets -- and that most FlagOs are not going to be content with doing little or nothing.
    - first we have to look more then an inch deep at who we are selecting
    Yea, verily...

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    During my year at the War College we had a dozen or so flag officers speak to us on various subjects. One viewpoint they all shared was the importance of a coherent, cohesive command structure. They also agreed that once you've screwed it up, it is almost impossible to fix. I suspect this means that they were uniformly concerned that we do a lousy job of setting up command structures.

    I never really understood what they were talking about until I experienced life at first hand in a theater headquarters.

    If you think about what a proper higher headquarters does for its subordinate units, you can then judge whether the current structure in CENTCOM adds value or not.

    1. Provides guidance/orders and ensures the activities of the subordinate headquarters are coordinated and synergistic.
    2. Weights the effort in accordance with national priorities by allocating scarce or centrally controlled resources.
    3. Shifts resources between subordinates (or redefines their area of operations) as the mission dictates.
    4. Ensures subordinates have the resources they need to accomplish their missions, or scales back their missions in light of acknowledged shortages.
    5. Provides top cover so that subordinate commanders have only a single boss to respond to; also prevents subordinates from conducting end runs or direct liaison with NCA.
    6. Trains, disciplines, cajoles, inspirits, and lends a sympathetic ear to subordinate commanders; removes incompetents as necessary.

    I would say that CENTCOM does none of these well, and some not at all. Moreover, if they tried to do some of the above, they would meet strong resistance from subordinate, supporting, and service component commands.

    Two last comments. Some would say that 'classic' unity of command principles don't apply at a certain level; I would dispute that. Finally, I do believe that personalities are much more important when large egos with multiple stars clash - especially when they come from different services. Does anyone think things would be different in CENTCOM if ol' H Stormin' Norman were in charge today?

  16. #16
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Does anyone think things would be different in CENTCOM if ol' H Stormin' Norman were in charge today?
    Yes but not for the better. I say that because in writing Certain Victory on the 90-91 Gulf War we looked very closely at the roles of the UNIFIED Command and the component commands. In particular we struggled with the role of 3rd Army and its commander LTG Yeosock. In the end we saw 3rd Army for what it was: a buffer to keep the CINC off the back of the corps commanders--and General Yeosock said the same thing. This role was critical in the 100 hour ground operation because the difference in view between the CINC's view and what was actually happening on the ground was very large. The CINC was wrong. 3rd Army as a buffer kept him from playing corps commander.

    In contrast, there was no buffer between the CINC and the ATO in the air operation. We had very good information about the CINC's penchant for restructuring the 72 hour ATO at the final briefing just to put his thumb print on it. He did and he screwed it up by changing targets at the last possible moment.

    Good book on 3rd Army is COL Rick Swain's Lucky War. COL Swain was the Director of CSI when he was sent to theater as the historian for 3rd Army.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Two good and pertinent posts in a row...

    I agree with Eden and with Tom. Chuck Horner would also agree with Tom...

    With respect to Tom's comment, I'd add that as Yeosock was ill, he was backed up by DA who pulled Cal Waller out of I Corps Command and rapidly sent him over to be Yeosock's Deputy commander and reinforce the buffer zone -- pure personality based decision (by Powell through Vuono, I'm sure) and a good one. They got someone who could deflect Norm.

    All of which suggests to me that there's a happy balance somewhere between the Abizaid (and possibly Fallon) hands off approach and the Storming approach...

    On the command relationships issue, I agreed with John that Goldwater-Nichols had done more good than harm -- but part of the harm that was done happens to be in that area as Eden says. G-N, again, makes the mistake of believing and inadvertently saying that all human pegs are interchangeable. Not a fatal flaw but a significant one.

  18. #18
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    With respect to Tom's comment, I'd add that as Yeosock was ill, he was backed up by DA who pulled Cal Waller out of I Corps Command and rapidly sent him over to be Yeosock's Deputy commander and reinforce the buffer zone -- pure personality based decision (by Powell through Vuono, I'm sure) and a good one. They got someone who could deflect Norm.
    thanks Ken! yes now that you mention that I remember Waller's name coming up in that buffer role...

    Tom

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    Default Personalities, organization & G-N

    Let me go back to a point I made smewhere - that G-N does not address a JFC that is really NOT subordinate to a regional unified command but, is, in effect, a theater in itself. Both Iraq and Afghanistan fit this as did MACV in the distant pre G-N past. It would help if the commands in both Iraq and Afghanistan were separated from CENTCOM but it would not fix the problem. Indeed, it is a social science law (I believe) that organizational change simply cannot fix anything. It can only make the job easier or harder.

    Just because the chain of command in Iraq is not unified - who is in charge, Petraeus or Crocker? - doesn't mean it can't work. It appears that there is mutual respect between the two and they coordinate their actions effectively. Of course, I could be wrong about that having no direct access to either but the appearance is good. If so, then they have made a situation that lacks unity of command work. Would it be easier if oneof them were designated as "in charge." Probably. But it would still depend on the personalities as to how well it worked.

    Final note: I agree with Tom about Rick Swain's Lucky War. Rick was also the embedded historian with Third Army/ARCENT.

  20. #20
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Lack of clarity on my part. Sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    ... It would help if the commands in both Iraq and Afghanistan were separated from CENTCOM but it would not fix the problem. Indeed, it is a social science law (I believe) that organizational change simply cannot fix anything. It can only make the job easier or harder.
    Agree but I submit that it is in effect making the job harder; only very slightly, to be sure, however, why not make it easier instead of harder. Or at least let it be neutral...
    Just because the chain of command in Iraq is not unified - who is in charge, Petraeus or Crocker? - doesn't mean it can't work. It appears that there is mutual respect between the two and they coordinate their actions effectively. Of course, I could be wrong about that having no direct access to either but the appearance is good. If so, then they have made a situation that lacks unity of command work. Would it be easier if oneof them were designated as "in charge." Probably. But it would still depend on the personalities as to how well it worked.
    Not the issue I was addressing; my issues were CentCom force structure tampering, general intrusion, the JFACC -- and I'll add the not mentioned USSOCOM effort -- in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The remark above applies; it is in effect making the job harder; only very slightly, to be sure, however, why make it harder...

    I certainly acknowledge that the SOCOM interface is not a significant problem at this time but my point is simply that it can be. This thread and you point out why. Personalities on either side of that divide...

    Crocker vs. Petreaus at this point seems to me to be irrelevant -- though that does not diminish my generic if poorly stated concern about the Tribune like powers of the GCC Cdrs; sooner or later, one of them is going to be out in a bad position through that little design flaw (See MacArthur, D.).

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