Review: Transformation Under Fire–Revolutionizing How America Fights

4 Star, Budget Process & Politics, Change & Innovation, Military & Pentagon Power

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4.0 out of 5 stars On target & useful–a master speaks,

February 12, 2005
Douglas A. Macgregor
I hold this author to a higher standard, for he is in the top rank of perhaps 10 people who really know what they are talking about with respect to transformation. I believe he is the single most important mind behind the Army's recent transition from 10 divisions to 40+ brigades as the basic form of organization. Where he falls short (and remember, this is a master who in falling short is still light years ahead of the others) is in not going far enough: in not carrying his ideas out to inter-agency collaboration and multi-national inter-agency planning and coalition operations.

He also fails to properly put the failings of the US Navy and the US Air Force in context. The US Navy today is a disgrace, largely incapable of moving anything or getting anywhere at flank speed, and the US Air Force is even worse off–incapable of lifting what needs to be lifted, when it needs to be lifted, in the distances and quantities that need to be lifted. Without a chapter on this joint “sucking chest wound,” the author's otherwise brilliant work loses much of its potential at the SecDef level.

This is a very serious book, not an essay. It is packed with substantive information, it is well-documented, and the footnotes are as useful as the main text.

The underlying theme in this book is that the Chief of Staff of the Army will not succeed until he breaks the back of the cultural mafia that persists–like the horse cavalry of old–in focusing on big units and expensive platforms. While the author is among the foremost and earliest proponents of small, fast, and many, it is clear to me that he does not consider the current Army to be moving in the right direction–a direction that he makes clear could lead to our achieving a sufficiency within months rather than years.

Perhaps the most revolutionary underlying theme in this book is that of how to deal with information. The author may well be the most intelligent helpful commentator I have read in this respect. On page 102 he focuses on the fact that “Command centers where information is collected and transmitted should not be information monopolies,” and he focuses throughout on the urgent need to use “commander's intent” (a concept of operations pioneered by Marine Corps Commandant Al Gray) and fluid lateral information sharing to increase situational awareness and agility at the tactical level.

Published in 2004 and not doubt polished in 2003, this book gives the US Army a failing grade for the future while noting that it could–with application and innovation, get back to the Honor Roll within months, rather than years.

I am a Marine and I discount the “hate and discontent” from disgruntled Marines writing reviews against this book. There is a big difference between Marines from the sea carrying out largely amphibious missions, and soldiers (and increasingly in today's army, contractors at a ratio of 1:1) in for the long haul. We need a 450 ship Navy, a 2 Berlin Airlift Air Force, a 45+ brigade Army, a 3 MEF USMC, a doubled Coast Guard, a tripled State Department, and a whole new focus on inter-agency and multinational armies and related peacekeeping cadres. It is not enough to fix Army–we need a grand strategy for using all of the instruments of national power over a 100 year timeframe. In this context, the book gets an A for giving Army the slap in the face it needs right now, and a C+ for missing the larger picture within which the Army, no matter how transformed, will fail because everything else in the USG is failing when it comes to coordinated sustainable inter-agency operations. Theater commanders and Army ground forces cannot win the war alone, nor can they make peace on their own.

One final word of praise: the author is an honorable man of great moral courage who speaks his mind in the public interest. Within the book he has harsh things to say about ticket-punching careerist officers, and think tank harlots who give their masters what they want, not what they need to hear. I salute and will follow any man such as this. We need more like him.

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