Monday, March 2, 2015

The 3 Reforms The US Department of Defense Must Make Now

The US military divides campaign responsibility between the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war.  Its pursuit of success at each level has encountered severe problems since the 9/11 attacks.  The most well-funded military in human history has not achieved satisfactory strategic outcomes in Iraq or Afghanistan.  These problems stem from both policy and cultural weaknesses that cry out for remedy.  The US Department of Defense needs three broad reforms that will make its prosecution of each level of war more effective.

The first DOD reform must adapt strategic level policy development to modern times.  The National Security Act of 1947 governs the interaction of the military and whole-of-government (WOG) actors in the Department of State, the Intelligence Community, and other areas.  Its authors designed it for a post-WWII era that no longer exists.  The US is in dire need of a National Security Act 2.0 for the 21st century.

The Act as originally written subordinated the armed services to a central Cabinet secretary.  It did not anticipate a proliferation of intelligence agencies that compete with the CIA for authority and funding, nor did it prevent the non-defense executive agencies from creating internal offices that encroach on each other's functions.  Piecemeal reforms in the post-Cold War era have not solved problems with interagency coordination.  Act 2.0 must begin by recodifying each executive department's relationship with the President and the National Security Council.  DOD needs Congress to articulate this legal change; it cannot do so on its own.

The second reform will require a new personnel management approach to developing military leaders who can adapt at the operational level of war.  The US military's reliance on formal decision-making processes is adequate for planning major campaigns against nation-states.  It is often inadequate for rapid innovation or adaptation to ambiguous environments.  Changing the mental flexibility of mid-grade and senior officers means introducing them to private sector planning processes earlier in their careers.

The US Army's Training with Industry (TWI) program is a template for transforming the process-oriented thinking of career officers into the results-oriented thinking the private sector uses to stay viable.  The current TWI configuration allows no more than a handful of officers each year (normally 125 people as of 2014) to spend up to twelve months on sabbatical from the Army with a small number of large private corporations.  They return to the force with little incentive to use what they learned because they must re-adapt to the military's official planning processes.  Redesigning the program to allow tens of thousands of officers to spend six to nine weeks interning with private corporations would spread results-oriented thinking much wider within the military.  A 21st century TWI for all of DOD would resemble MBA program internships that prepare seasoned business professionals for management roles.

The third defense reform will change how new officers acclimate to tactical-level operations.  Young officers must prove themselves in the eyes of their enlisted service members to be effective as leaders.  More than anything else, this means offering some commonality of background, interest, or values shared between officer and enlisted ranks.  The strongest and fastest way to establish this bond is to require that all US military officers first serve in the enlisted ranks as a prerequisite for commissioning.

Decades of social science research have proven that social affinity bonds among peers are strongest across peer groups with common social origins.  This finding is a common thread in the study of social group cohesion at any socioeconomic level or within any culture.  In the military, the most common origin is entry-level enlisted indoctrination.  Officers who served successfully in the enlisted ranks, particularly as NCOs, achieve instant rapport with their enlisted followers.  They do this more rapidly and effectively than non-prior enlisted officers.  They also achieve horizontal trust among each other more quickly than "cherry" officers who have never served before.  Horizontal and vertical trust are essential to building effective teams.  Requiring enlisted service as a precursor to applying to officer accession programs ensures that new officers are trustworthy on day one.

Third Eye OSINT will elaborate more on each of these three reforms in subsequent articles.  Alfidi Capital is the only source in the world for this particular strain of original military thinking.