Summary: The US spends $600 billion on the US military (narrowly defined; almost a trillion broadly), yet repeatedly fails to defeat our poorly trained and equipped foes. In this chapter of our series asking “why”, Don Vandergriff points to ways the Army selects and promotes officers (its problems are usually about people; seldom about hardware). Tomorrow he discusses solutions.
Mandy Smithberger, 19 September 2016
Ten years ago the Center for Defense Information published Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War. Written by Straus Military Reform Project Advisory Board Member Major Donald E. Vandergriff, USA (ret.), the book has been used in numerous courses, including in the Department of Military Instruction at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and remains a pivotal reform text. This spring Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s attempts to modernize the military, an initiative called “Force of the Future,” have been largely rejected. We interviewed Vandergriff for his thoughts on the next steps for military reform.
The following piece was first published in August 2015 by POGO’s Center for Defense Information.
Warfare is first and foremost a human endeavor. Wars are fought by people using their minds; weapons are only tools to implement people’s ideas. It is people, and the ideas they wield, that make the difference between a sharp, decisive victory like Desert Storm and a slow, deadly slog like World War I. Fostering the right ideas requires a culture of Mission Command. But in today’s military, harmful personnel practices preclude such a culture.