Small Wars Journal

United States Army

Why Doctrine Matters

Sun, 06/30/2019 - 5:17pm
Critics will argue that furniture instructions are a poor analogy for doctrine. And yes, they are correct. Doctrine is not meant to be a step-by-step guide. It is meant to allow flexibility and adaptability as conditions change. Doctrine, however, should not be shunned. It should not sit idle on a shelf or the Army Publishing Directorate website.

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2011-2012 U.S. Army War College Key Strategic Issues List

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 7:58am
The 2011-2012 U.S. Army War College Key Strategic Issues List (KSIL) was published online on 11 July and can be found at this link. The KSIL is published annually for the purpose of making students and other researchers aware of strategic topics that are, or should be, of special importance to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army. The list is a compilation of input from the faculty at the U.S. Army War College, as well as from civilian and military experts across the field of defense studies.

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.