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January 17, 2006

Tossed out for your consideration.

Doug MacGregor (COL, USA, ret) has been beating the drum of reforming the Army since the publication of his book, Breaking the Phalanx. He continues his fight in this presentation to the Air Force Staff College.

You can see the presentation here - I'm sure it was much better in person, with MacGregor illuminating his points (be happy to hear from anyone who was there...)

Download file

Here's my thoughts on the subject:

1. I agree with his assertion Air Force guys are generally clueless when it comes to ground fights and the people who fight them - which wasn't true of the Army Air Force... of course, then the air generals didn't believe the ground generals understood air power...

2. Kicking Colonels out of the command loop is huge cultural challenge, it's actually perceived, I think, as the last level where command is fun - and restricting it to BGs means that what, half the Colonels who command now will not get that chance? That is a honking great cultural hump to overcome.

3. MacGregor consistently ignores the *why* of those intermediate HQ's rise and fall. We try to get rid of them, and they come back under the pressure of operations. I think this is one of MacGregor's biggest blind spots. Not so much that he's wrong - but that he just hand waves it away.

4. He's completely combat-focused, and doesn't really address (perhaps he does, elsewhere) the totality of the 3-block war construct or how these units would operate in the COE. Of course, his audience was the Air Force, and they don't play in this arena, so he may have just glossed that over - but if AF Generals want to have real shots at routinely being JTF Commanders, they are going to have to learn this stuff, too.

5. Sadly for MacGregor, the track record of unifying the Joint Chiefs hasn't worked well elsewhere - but then it hasn't been tried by a big western military yet, either. But the Canadian experience is, I think, instructive. Not that we'd ever want to study them to learn anything, oh no.... (a snark at us, not you plaid-hat wearing, maple syrup-sipping hosers from up north).

6. I concur, pretty much, with his thoughts on procurement.

7. I think this construct is an Expeditionary Army on the model of Brit Colonial-style little wars. I wonder how it would stand up in a fight against India, Russia, or China?

8. He talks about decentralized logistics - but offers no real construct for it. Huge weakness - but again, that may be audience-centric.

8. I say turn him loose. We'll get rich and have work until we retire, studying this.

Just some thoughts to stimulate discussion. Have at it. I'm not condemning his construct, nor endorsing it at this point. This is one briefing, taken in isolation I don't purport that this is the totality of MacGregor's current thinking. But it *is* a window into his current thinking, and deserves a wider audience.

I think it's worthy of discussion - because that's how ideas get improved and refined. To a point. It's also how they get buried, but we're not official here, so that's less a problem or likelihood.

Wonder what the JO's at The Officer's Club have to say on the subject?