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Oct. 1, 2017

Are There Too Many General Officers for Today’s Military?

There are approximately 900 Active-duty general/flag officers (GO/FOs) today of 1.3 million troops. This is a ratio of 1 GO/FO for every 1,400 troops. During World War II, an admittedly different era, there were more than 2,000 GO/FOs for a little more than 12 million Active troops (1:6,000). This development represents “rank creep” that does not enhance mission success but clutters the chain of command, adds bureaucratic layers to decisions, and costs taxpayers additional money from funding higher paygrades to fill positions. As end-strength fluctuates, force structure and strength projections for the next decade show the uniformed Services maintaining substantial excess capacity at senior ranks. Although historical numbers are inexact guides and future threats could radically change circumstances, the case for reduction is strong. The Department of Defense (DOD) should reduce the numbers, billets, and percent of GO/FOs in each Service to increase efficiency, streamline decisionmaking, achieve modest cost savings, and enhance accountability of decisionmaking.

Oct. 1, 2017

Exploring a New System of Command and Control: The Case for U.S. Africa Command

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) proposed several changes to improve the organization of the combatant commands (CCMDs) in its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. The first provision seeks to focus the CCMDs on their primary warfighting mission supporting the National Defense Strategy, limiting CCMD participation in other important, but nonessential, mission sets. A second proposal would “require the Secretary of Defense to conduct a pilot program on an alternative organizational structure at one combatant command . . . replacing the Service component commands with joint task forces [JTFs] focused on operational military missions. The Committee believes that this could provide lessons for improving the integration of operational efforts across the command, streamlining unnecessary layers of management, and reducing the number of staff.”1 Converting the command and control (C2) structure of a geographic CCMD from a group of Service component commands to a set of JTFs is achievable, despite congressionally mandated reductions in headquarters staff personnel and lack of a major combat operation in theater. While the final version of the NDAA removed this requirement, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) would have been the ideal CCMD to test and evaluate this new C2 structure.

Oct. 1, 2017

The Role of Space Norms in Protection and Defense

Over the past decade, the United States has participated in a variety of activities intended to shape international norms for outer space activities. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a norm as “That which is a model or a pattern; a type, a standard.” In the outer space context, norms have come to mean both “top down” high-level principles intended to inform the development of new international legal regimes and “bottom up” best practice guidelines intended to inform day-to-day operations.1 Both types of space norms have their value, but the latter have received the most attention in recent years because of their potential to enhance space safety and sustainability as the number of space actors grows and the nature of space activities changes. Much as roadway traffic rules prevent accidents and reduce congestion, safety-focused “space traffic management” norms, such as limiting debris, avoiding collisions, and sharing space surveillance information, can reduce the likelihood of accidents and protect valuable orbital regimes from the deleterious effects of long-lived space debris. All who operate in space will benefit from a more safe, predictable, and efficient operating environment.

Oct. 1, 2017

Time in War

Time has always been considered a key element in war. Speed, by definition, derives from time: “distance traveled divided by the time of travel” is the usual definition. Over two millennia ago, Sun Tzu remarked on its importance, noting that “speed is the essence of war” and “divine swiftness” is to be “esteemed.”1 Carl von Clausewitz believed similarly, commenting that time had a major psychological effect that would help provide secrecy as well as speed.2 Not just theorists, but also practitioners (such as Napoleon as quoted in this article’s epigraph) have recognized the importance of time and timing in war. But what is time?

Oct. 1, 2017

G.S. Isserson and the War of the Future: Key Writings of a Soviet Military Theorist

On December 8, 1594, William Louis of Nassau, one of the commanders of the Dutch army, sent a letter to his cousin, Maurice of Nassau, in which he suggested a new way to deploy musketeers on the battlefield that significantly increased their rate of fire. He argued that six rotating ranks of musketeers could produce a continuous hail of fire, keeping the enemy at bay. This “volley” technique (known as the “European Countermarch” today) soon became the standard way of force deployment in European armies. It was part of the emerging military revolution that changed not only the ways to conduct wars but also the geopolitical balance in Europe and the general course of history.1 In 1532, 62 years before this pivotal work of the Counts of Nassau, another work of military significance was published—The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. While this book did not deal with military deployment per se, its significance as one of the fundamental works on political-military relations has been widely acknowledged through the centuries.

Oct. 1, 2017

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon

The reader of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon will cheer, groan, and have core beliefs reinforced and challenged—everything a good book should do. Rosa Brooks argues that warfare is changing, the military is taking on way too much, and U.S. national security is in peril as a result. The book is especially timely given calls for increased military spending while simultaneously drastically cutting State Department and foreign aid funding.

Oct. 1, 2017

Winners of the 2017 Essay Competition

NDU Press Congratulates the Winners of the 2017 Essay Competitions.

Oct. 1, 2017

The Risk of Delay: The Need for a New Authorization for Use of Military Force

In September 2014, President Barack Obama announced a four-part plan to systematically destroy the so-called Islamic State (IS), a plan that included sustained military operations in Iraq, into Syria, and “wherever [the terrorists] are.” While President Obama welcomed congressional support for the effort in order to show the world that America was united in confronting this new danger, he claimed the executive branch had the authority to unilaterally approve such use of military force against IS. The President’s justification rested on two congressional resolutions passed into law over a dozen years earlier: the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs). Despite specifically authorizing the use of military force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the terrorist threat posed in Iraq, respectively, the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs have remained the primary basis for our nation’s counterterrorism efforts abroad for over 15 years. Yet during this period, the world has witnessed the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, death of Osama bin Laden, proliferation of new terrorist groups across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa, and the international expansion of IS.

Oct. 1, 2017

Butter Bar to Four Star: Deficiencies in Leader Development

This article carefully unpacks the ideas that rigid cultural norms, faulty officer management practices, and significant flaws in professional military education (PME) generate damaging gaps in the development of commissioned Army officers in the Active component.

Oct. 1, 2017

Robotic Swarms in Offensive Maneuver

For many years, military scientists have contemplated the advent of swarming tactics as an evolution within maneuver warfare, and futurists have contemplated the execution of the tactics by cooperative teams of semi-autonomous drones.1 These projections expound on strengths demonstrated by hive-minded organisms such as bees or ants, which work cooperatively to defeat larger invaders through non-hierarchal communications. Other swarm theorists reference the deadly effectiveness of the ephemeral, loose formations of horse archers of the Asian steppe against less flexible foes.2 Whatever the source of inspiration, few authors move beyond the abstract employment of robotic swarms. To fully explore swarm utility in fire and maneuver, swarms should be inserted into the tactical concepts of today—chiefly, the five forms of offensive maneuver recognized under Army doctrine.