Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lessons "Noted?"

While a massive topic, I have to say that the military (as an institution) does a terrible job at learning from our mistakes (and successes). Moreover, we are completely aware of it! We have been doing it forever. Typically, we call these gems of wisdom "Lessons Learned" when they are more aptly termed "Lessons Noted." Fortunately, I am not referring to the tactical level guys... the division level and below. The guys at the tip of the spear figure it out and are excellent at adapting to an evolving battlespace. Thank God.

The problem lies with the top... all the way from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) down to Corps level. The brass just can't seem to grasp that an increasingly volumetic and bureaucratic staff is the bellybutton of the problem. From what I can see, the Joint Staff (in the Pentagon) is dedicated and hard-working... but so are ants. There is no time for meaningful transformation when it is ticket-punching time. This is the case with most staff functions. Fortunately, there are increasing efforts on many fronts to get this war "more right" than the last.

When the military was unable to keep up with ways to exchange data and lessons, the fighting man found a way to do it himself. Information collaboration websites like this and companycommander.com (now taken down) provide forums for junior leaders to learn from one another. This example illustrates the technological comfort level of our troops. These spontaneous improvements are driven by a number of factors, primarily the prospect of soldiers being wounded or killed. Inevitably, DOD and/or the Services will heartily embrace these innovations and thereby effectively kill them.

The Department has other ongoing efforts that may yet bear fruit. Think tanks are working dilligently on culling together some hard-earned lessons and DOD has numerous internal efforts. Once such effort is the new Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG). I don't know much about it, but found this bit interesting.

But more than anything, [Col. Robert Shaw, commander of the AWG] will be looking for exceptionally bright soldiers who can think on their feet. Candidates will be put through a rigorous 21-week assessment course to determine if they have the skills and intelligence Shaw is looking for.

So far the response has been positive. Shaw said a major even took herself out of the astronaut program to try out for the group.

Another assessment? Sounds like fun! Anyway, I'm open-minded to methods used for progess, but this may be just another good example of good intentions. "Asymmetric" anything is quite a broad brush to paint with. I realize that I sound sceptical (bitter even?) but I have seen so many excellent ideas and initiatives go wrong! Here's to getting it better than before.

*steps off soapbox*