Defining Victory

There is an outstanding article in the WSJ today about how the U.S. Army is rethinking its strategy. The idea of taking down a country by capturing its leaders doesn’t work. Iraq has shown that clearly. What I find amazing about the article is how soon the Army is reconsidering its thinking.

They are changing measurements:

A recent directive, prepared by Mr. Rumsfeld’s office and still in draft form, now yields to that view. It mandates that in the future, units’ readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces. It orders the military’s four-star regional commanders to “develop and maintain” new plans for battle, hoping to prevent the sort of postwar chaos that engulfed Iraq.

They are changing their capital investments:

The Army is discarding or delaying big parts of its longstanding plans. It recently announced it has pushed back introduction of its new lightweight fighting vehicle for several years, to 2014, freeing up $9 billion. Earlier plans had called for all of the service’s combat units to be built around the light, quick, armored vehicle.

The Army now thinks it will need a mix of slower-to-deploy, heavy tanks as well as light fighting vehicles. This will allow commanders to swing quickly between tasks, the Army says, from handing out emergency rations on one block to conducting an all-out battle with insurgents on another. Commanders in Iraq have found that 70-ton tanks, which literally shake the ground as they move, can help ward off guerrilla attacks simply through intimidation.

“The answer to complexity, volatility and uncertainty is always diversity,” says Brig. Gen. David Fastabend, a senior officer in the Army’s Futures Center, which does long-range planning.

The service recently canceled its $12.9 billion program for Comanche helicopters. Instead of spending the money on 121 stealthy Comanches — designed to evade high-tech enemy radar — the Army is spending the money to buy 825 attack and cargo helicopters and planes of the sort being used daily in Iraq.

They are changing their training:

In addition to putting them through months of mock raids, the colonel also gave each officer about a dozen books on Iraqi culture and counter-insurgency operations that he expects them to read in their spare time. The Army doesn’t have a standard reading list for troops to read before deploying to Iraq, so Col. McMaster, who has a doctorate in history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, prepared his own.

The article also talks about how they are bringing experts from city planners to anthropologists to help with wargaming.

Critics will say the Army should have know this for a long time. I want to applaud the speed at which the leadership is adjusting the changing environment.

I think there is also a lesson about for business: Is your competition is same as it use to be? Are you using the same-old tactics and not getting the expected results?

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