Small Wars Journal

ARFORGEN: adaptation, communication and culture change

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:28pm
The briefing on the TRADOC Campaign Plan, centering around Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN), has created the most discussion to date. Listening to the questions and comments, I was struck by several observations. One early point that was made was that the principles underlying ARFORGEN were not clearly communicated while the model was. There are, to my mind, several observations that can be drawn both from that process -- communicate the model but not the principles -- and from the questions / comments.

First off, ARFORGEN is a radical change from previous forms of force generation. In many ways, from what I can see of it, it is moving towards, although certainly not reaching, an Information Age style of force generation (e.g. the right person in the right place at the right time), at least in principle. The model, however, appears to have been presented more in the genre and forms of an Industrial Age style of force generation (office based, standardized training). This form and genre is not surprising given the hierarchical organizational form of the US Army. In fact, it is organizationally imperative that that form and genre be used in order to tie it in with the political and economic resources (i.e. sell it in DC).

The second observation is a touch more subtle. Within the management literature dealing with corporate culture change, there are several truisms. First, you need a "champion" - a senior level executive who will act as the focus for the change. Second, you need to explain the change to everyone in the organization so that you get general buy-in rather than opposition (either intentional or unintentional). ARFORGEN has their champion, but has the communications strategy worked in order to achieve a general buy-in? From the tenor of the questions and comments, I would have to say it has not, at least to date.

ARFORGEN establishes a basis to schedule deployments on an Army-wide scale. ARFORGEN also provides the following critical objectives: Reduce uncertainty for Soldiers, Families, and the communities that support installations Improve availability of trained and prepared forces for Combatant Commanders. Generate a continuous level of BCTs, augmented by all required supporting organizations (given appropriate Reserve Component mobilization authority) (source: Addenda E| Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) Process)

While the process as currently constituted might reduce some uncertainty, it is certainly apparent, to me at least, that it is also serving to increase institutional uncertainty.

Uncertainty, in and of itself, can be a "good thing". Indeed, too much certainty led the US Army to produce a vision of "reality" that was closer to a self-delusion that a true prediction (see here). But institutional uncertainty can increase strain, and force people to focus on immediate day-to-day survival objectives rather than allowing them to see the bigger picture.

As I understand it, one of the central strategic goals of ARFORGEN is to increase the adaptive potential of the US Army. But "adaptation" is an emergent process that operates in response to selection pressures that operate in particular points in time and space. If you wish to increase an organizations adaptive potential, you need to have a coherent "map" of the "terrain" that is constructing these selection pressures. But having such a map isn't enough, you also have to teach people how to "read" that map and feel that they have an investment in it, and this is where it circles back to the process of communications.

Categories: United States Army


Chris (not verified)

Sat, 02/20/2010 - 1:20am

Its humorous to see institutional uncertainty explained here because I have no idea what it is but I can tell you from immediate experience that Soldiers are focusing on day to day survival objectives and getting stressed out. It seems almost daily there is a new requirement or card you have to hold onto or new gear you have to keep just to be in the regs so you don't get brow beat by the nearest SGT MAJ. May not seem to important to those observing the whole picture. In short I see a lot of responsibility being taken away from the lower NCO's. I have 4 years active service and am now in the National Guard. There is an issue here though. Thank you.