Review (Guest): Breaking the Phalanx

5 Star, Change & Innovation, Force Structure (Military), Priorities, Public Administration
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Douglas Macgregor

5.0 out of 5 stars Real Transformation, November 26, 2010

In 1997, Colonel Douglas Macgregor provided a well thought out blueprint for affecting a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) within the U.S. Army, and to a lesser extent the entire U.S. Armed Forces. The blueprint, as detailed in this book, apparently served as an inspiration for the restructuring of the U.S. Army from an organization based on stand alone divisions to its current brigade structure. Yet apparently neither the Defense Department (DOD) nor the Army fully accepted Macgregor’s remarkably prescient thinking. His goal in this book was to demonstrate the Army’s strategic relevance in the 21st Century as force to counter the bewildering multiplication of threats to U.S. National Security that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Macgregor noted that “military strategy” really refers to the use of military power to achieve strategic goals, but how effective that military power would be is a function of force structure, tactical and operational doctrine, and training. He also persuavely argues that RMA is not a matter of mere technological innovation, but rather concerns the willingness of the armed forces to “devise new ways to incorporate new technology by changing their organization, their tactics, and sometimes their whole concept of war.”

Rather interestingly Macgregor adopted two of the then prevalent concepts of `Network Centric Warfare” (although he never uses this term) as the basis for his proposal to restructure the army. He argued that the newly conceived command system known as C4I [SR] (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence [Surveillance, Reconnaissance] ) offered the means to build a new ground force structure based on smaller more flexible units which he calls “Combat Groups.” He also argued that the Army should adopt a `networked type’ of organizational structure based on a C4I system that would have a much flatter command structure than the traditional army hierarchical structure. His argument was centered on historical examples that demonstrated that when command authority was dispersed to smaller units, warfare by maneuver and adaptable tactics leading to battlefield success became possible. This latter was probably one reason why the Army only adopted his force structure concept and not his C4I proposal.

Macgregor also argued that the perennially out of control DOD budget could be brought under control by the sensible method of tying force structure and weapons procurement to actual strategic needs based on a rational analysis of real and potential threats to national security. Although DOD would claim that it always does just this, the evidence suggests otherwise as demonstrated most recently F35 strike fighter.

A remarkable book that is as relevant today as when it was written and is for the shelf of anyone seriously interested in military reform.

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