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Thread: The Higher HQs as an Operational and Strategic Enabler

  1. #21
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I know there has been some discussion about reasons why MNF-I for example is not a sub-unified command, and Ken's point about making it harder (even if its only a little harder) changes the nature of the thread a bit.

    The structure of GCCs and Functional Commands has served us pretty well in the past, but are they the right structures given the security environment and the political objectives as they are now? Do they allow for unified action and unity of effort on the scale we say is required? or do they engender bias and diffusion of purpose & action?

    If they do, is that just the nature of things, and the command structure would not matter - such as this is just the best of some bad choices? Or is there a flatter structure that is better suited to the type of grand strategy (all the elements of power employed by the whole of government) that builds multi-lateral approaches and would be more sure footed in its implementation?

    Best, Rob

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    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.
    Wow there are several discussions going on all at once here. A few thoughts:
    *If it's not already old news, "Supreme Command" is one of the must-read treatments for this because today's senior mil-mil relationships are profoundly affected by the civ-mil relationships. The Michael Desch article "Bush and the Generals" from Foreign Affairs suggests the executive branch read one of the book's messages (ask questions) but not another (encourage healthy dissent).

    *From the quote above, we could go down the rabbit hole of thinking personalities are a higher-quarters problem we'd like to eliminate. I think the problem stems from a failure to acknowledge that relationships are the biggest enabler of successful command, something to be cultivated, not eliminated. I further submit that one can find ample instances of command relationships being altered to suit personalities, and personalities being swapped successfully to suit command relationships.

    *Way down there in the posts, one submission posited that aviators should not command ground troops. At the small unit level there's great cause for agreeing with that. The Marine experience in Iraq and elsewhere, however, demonstrates that aviators in tactical/operational command succeeded to the same extent that ground commanders succeeded. Before you say Marines are an exception, you might want to consider Nimitz's campaigning results in WWII, which look to the naked eye to be as good as MacArthur's.

    *The previous post asks whether flatter is better. I submit that flat organizations require more individual discipline because they rely on command more than control. Ironically, I think when the dust settles on Iraq, we'll conclude that the more tiered organizations with most disciplined members (the uniformed services) could tolerate a flat structure better than flat organizations like USAID, USIP, etc., whose members are arguably a more diverse-thinking lot.

    *NSC can only do what the President lets (or forces) it to do. Also, be sure to delineate between the NSC written large (cabinet members) from the NSC staff. If a State policy, staffed in front of the assembled cabinet members, doesn't get promulgated to the four corners of the executive branch, then our Secretaries are to blame. If the NSC staff fails to promulgate something, it's because the various Secretaries deny them access to the various branches, not because they won't try to spread the word. Either way, we come back to the Secretaries.

    Thanks for allowing me to pitch in to your great discussion!

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Interesting take.

    Quote Originally Posted by Germ View Post
    ...suggests the executive branch read one of the book's messages (ask questions) but not another (encourage healthy dissent).
    Always a problem and generally personality dependent -- and an item over which little control is possible.
    *From the quote above, we could go down the rabbit hole of thinking personalities are a higher-quarters problem we'd like to eliminate. I think the problem stems from a failure to acknowledge that relationships are the biggest enabler of successful command, something to be cultivated, not eliminated...
    How can we eliminate personality? No way I can see. Yes, they are to be cultivated; the problem is that some egos get in the way and don't allow that to be done successfully.
    ... I further submit that one can find ample instances of command relationships being altered to suit personalities, and personalities being swapped successfully to suit command relationships.
    Certainly. just not enough of either.
    *Way down there in the posts, one submission posited that aviators should not command ground troops. At the small unit level there's great cause for agreeing with that. The Marine experience in Iraq and elsewhere, however, demonstrates that aviators in tactical/operational command succeeded to the same extent that ground commanders succeeded. Before you say Marines are an exception, you might want to consider Nimitz's campaigning results in WWII, which look to the naked eye to be as good as MacArthur's.
    Marines aren't an exception and I were one. Aviators, like normal humans vary. Generically, they do not have the experience on ground combat to be the intuitive fighters they probably are in the air. They can and do successfully command -- whether they are good or great is the issue and I submit that we should strive for the great (with full acknowledgment that is unlikely to be attained). Re: Nimitz -- that's because he was smart enough to let his commanders do their job; in MacArthur's case, much of his success was due to Krueger.
    *NSC can only do what the President lets (or forces) it to do. Also, be sure to delineate between the NSC written large (cabinet members) from the NSC staff. If a State policy, staffed in front of the assembled cabinet members, doesn't get promulgated to the four corners of the executive branch, then our Secretaries are to blame. If the NSC staff fails to promulgate something, it's because the various Secretaries deny them access to the various branches, not because they won't try to spread the word. Either way, we come back to the Secretaries.
    Yep, personality dependent...
    Thanks for allowing me to pitch in to your great discussion!
    Welcome. Why not go to this LINK and introduce yourself. Scroll up and see what others have done in that vein.

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