Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sec Def vs. Gens...Part 1

It occurred to me that the friction between Secretary Rumsfeld and the Pentagon heavies, is actually pretty understandable. My take, Part One.

I call this the CEO effect.

The Generals, who know their jobs, and their respective services, have been in the business for thirty years plus. Then you get Joe Newguy who, while well respected, has only been dong this job for four years, and is calling for major changes. Of course there is friction. But it is not paralyzing.

Sec. Rumsfeld's four years does not translate to thirty years of direct experience, but there are many companies out there that begin to stagnate even while enjoying success. The common thought from within then is, why change? Well, new CEOs...some good and some bad, bring a fresh perspective, and may bring solid business practices from their previous employers that positively impact the bottom line of the companies they assume control over. A fresh look, and a real "business" approach is not a bad thing for all business entities to take a look at periodically.

Since the services essentially have a two year budgeting cycle, and the QDR is in place as a validation tool, these serious looks at programs are required to ensure that DOD programmmatics keep up with world events. The world can change dramatically in four years, and flexibility is the key to keeping operationally tailored to respond appropriately.

So it can be expected that a new "CEO" might take a very different view of what direction a company (service) should take, based on bringing in a new perspective.

But, four years does not a career make. So, a new CEO is at least as apt to make mistakes, as he is to hit home runs...the natural position held by those who have been in the company for 30+ years. Which in some ways explains the Generals' reluctance to flop over and go blindly along with the SecDef and his calls for change.

The reason we have the JCS, as it exists today, is to provide that steady, calming piece that buffers the changes that will occur with periodic change to the civilian leadership of our services. Without a doubt, the experiences of the Captains and Lieutenants in Vietnam, influenced the positive outcomes of Desert Storm and OIF I and II. The, "we are not going to make the same mistakes," attitude served the services well and set the stage for ROEs that laid the foundation for unpararlleled success. So, this valuable experience cannot be discounted.

But, this tenured experience can also bring with it a reluctance to change...even if new, good ideas are brought forth. In some instances, the weight of this experience can make it impossible to turn the battleship around, so to get it to stop or change, sinking it may be required.

New thinking is called for every day...The best example I can give is one from my own experience. I was the CINCPACFLT representative and requirements officer for all issues dealing with CVX. CVX was essentially a working program to fully develop the next generation of aircraft carrier. I was the only fixed-wing, carrier experienced aviator within the Requirements Branch at CINCPACFLT at the time, so I was the requirements officer for that project.

The basic analysis done at the point that I was first introduced to the project was outstanding...sortie rates, deck turn-around times, mission lengths, a/c reliability rates, ordnance effectiveness, and more, were well calculated and integrated into the "strawmen." It was obvious that, to this point, the homework was being done. All of the data pointed to smaller, conventionally powered, aircraft carriers that carried 40-50 tactical aircraft. A huge decrease from existing carriers. BUT, a/c reliability, munitions lethalities (Pk), and sortie generation, called, even begged, for this reduced size and capacity.

As the CINC's rep at the base theater in NAS Coronado for the first "discussion" with fleet reps...all O-5s and above...and me a lowly Marine Major in the back of the a man, they all called for a larger carrier, faster, with more aircraft than what the USN had in service during Vietnam. This thinking blindly ignores the fact that sortie generation rates are between 4 and 5 times greater per a/c than they were in Vietnam...that target Pk (probability of kill) was about 100 times greater..and that a/c survivability is about 20 times greater. To ignore the fact that a smaller carrier, with 40-50 tactical jets, could be actually more lethal than a Vietnam era carrier, but then to insist on a full size carrier with a full compliment of tactical a/c (70+) showed that virtually every "tactical" thinker in the room was incapable of grasping the "business" end of the "requirements" equation.

I finally had to stand up and tell the audience, who looked down their very long noses at me, that the CINC (ADM Clemens) would not sign off of on an "increase" in capability unless there was operational justification for such an increase. Their reply was simple...we should always buy MORE matter what.

EXCEPT, if you can't afford more capability...which is likely where SecDef is at now...look, you have to make your case...thirty years of experience may prove the key to the argument...but, stubbornness in the face of logic can spell the end of the discussion, and the end of your credibility.

Both parties bring a very positive perspective to the table, but I suspect that thirty years of experience could translate to more stubbornness than this SecDef wants to hear. In the end, the services need to take a hard look at the guidance given to them about re-structuring and give it a serious look. There are viable, alternative force structures and compositions that will make us a better force into the future. Dismissing that possibility out of hand is what forces SecDef to go "looking down the list" for people with open minds.

Next...why Geo-political changes beg for force structure changes. I am ready for the hate mail.


devildog6771 said...

You won't get any hate mail here from me. You are absolutely right. I appreciate your candor and you sense of humor.

I also really like youer blog.

Anonymous said...


I defer to your experience and expertise. I have an impression of Rumsfeld that mirrors yours.

However,it is difficult to
base an argument supporting him from my angle due to my lack of knowledge,as you know the press sees him as a closed mind bully who brooks no opposition.

I saw the appointment of General Schoomaker as awesome myself and the appointment of General Jones over NATO,Rumsfeld wants fighters and modern thinkers,IMO.

If he finds something else,he replaces it.

Papa Ray said...


Yea, your right on the money. I saw it in and out of the Military.

Rummy has two things going for him (well actually more) now. One the confidence of the Prez and the other his reputation as someone who brooks no nonsense,incompetense or stepping out of the ranks.

People have tried it and wound up retired, or worse.

The "transformation" of the Military is not being supported at all in the halls of the Congress, which of course, makes it harder on everyone.

In fact, I don't think much is being supported in Congress and even less is being done.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Alaska Paul said...


I really liked your carrier analysis. One does not like to reinvent the wheel, but on the other hand, systems and their components change, so the tried and true methods may not be correct now because the constants in the equation are **ahem** not constant.

I am a civil engineer, designing utility systems in arctic conditions. I am a firm believer of "form follows function." That is how systems survive in the extreme conditions up here.

Your conclusion of smaller vs. behemoths makes sense. One a/c now can do the work of many then. Smaller carriers are faster to build. We can procure more of them for the same cost of a monster. Also we have more flexibility in options.

Hang in there. Those innovative people in the forefront take a lot of heat.


Alaska Paul
pweisner at hotmail dot com

Old Patriot said...

Right on! I had the unfortunate experience of being in a conference in 1980 where the death of tactical reconnaissance was discussed. I knew that the Air Force would soon begin phasing out its Tac Recce. Five years later, I was the senior NCO in the photo recon section of a tac recce squadron that was being closed. I tried my best to see that all the people in my group were sent to major command technical intelligence units, both for the experience and to keep them from being strung out a second time. The commander found out what I was doing, and one young airman told him I had said Tac Recce was dead. I got my butt chewed royally for that. Now, Tac Recce as it was done then is dead. RIP.

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