News | July 3, 2018

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason Joint Force Quarterly 90

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Senior Airman checks inside of C-17 Globemaster III before beginning preflight inspection March 27, 2013, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (U.S. Air Force/Mikhail Berlin)
Senior Airman checks inside of C-17 Globemaster III before beginning preflight inspection March 27, 2013, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (U.S. Air Force/Mikhail Berlin)
Senior Airman checks inside of C-17 Globemaster III before beginning preflight inspection March 27, 2013, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (U.S. Air Force/Mikhail Berlin)
Senior Airman checks inside of C-17 Globemaster III
Senior Airman checks inside of C-17 Globemaster III before beginning preflight inspection March 27, 2013, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (U.S. Air Force/Mikhail Berlin)
Photo By: Mikhail Berlin
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How well does the U.S. military transform? When are the best time and circumstances to change how the joint force does business? In search of some answers, I came across a short but powerful article written a few years ago by two consultants to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, David Chinn and John Dowdy. They conducted a survey in December 2014 of “almost 1,000 leaders and senior employees in more than 30 U.S. Government agencies and found that only 40 percent believed that their transformation programs succeeded.” Even though these results do not seem heartening to those “change agents” among us, their research suggests how to change one’s military even in a period of budgetary pressure, as was recently experienced in Europe and the United States. In fact, as of this writing, the Budgetary Control Act (or so-called sequestration) is still in force, but the Department of Defense budgetary outlook is fairly bright. So, if we needed to do some thinking when money was tight, should these suggestions not be applied as the situation improves? Let’s take a minute to see if this is the case.

Chinn and Dowdy suggest that real transformation can best be applied at the “sharp end,” or, as we know it, the tactical unit. As an example, “just in time” logistics has already been applied widely, and 3D printing may even further reduce the demands on the supply chain that feeds warfighting units. The authors suggest that “leading through the line,” instead of top-down direction, places line commanders with expanded authorities but holds them accountable. Recently, the Air Force initiated an experiment in one of its combat wings, eliminating an entire leadership layer, the group, by placing squadron commanders directly under the wing commander. No billets were lost, but the chain of command became short, with the idea of empowering those line commanders to run their squadrons with only one boss directly above them at the tactical level. A big change to be sure.

Somewhat conversely, Chinn and Dowdy next suggest militaries should not reorganize but look for quick wins that can build a momentum for change. They also recognize the biggest problem with change in militaries—resistance to move away from the status quo. To achieve a successful transformation, leaders have to set a clear idea for change and reinforce how that move is tied to the mission. Next, leadership has to show personal and lasting commitment to the change. The authors’ last suggestion may be the one needed most for success: invest in building the right capabilities. Some 75 percent of U.S. Government leaders surveyed who achieved limited success in their change efforts blamed not having the right capabilities to make transformation happen. Maybe as new capabilities are introduced into the joint force, these capabilities will induce a round of game-changing experiences. If they do, I hope you will write to us and explain your experience. Until then, we have some useful ideas to get you started thinking about changes that might be needed.

This issue’s Forum brings three diverse but important articles that offer some new ideas about today’s increasingly complex and competitive security environment. With a seemingly constant barrage of concerns about data breaches and the use of big data to potentially solve complicated problems, Cortney Weinbaum and Jack Shanahan offer some interesting insights into the impact of data in the evolving world of intelligence. Former Headquarters Pacific Air Forces commander Terry O’Shaughnessy (now commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Air Defense Command) and his teammates Matthew Strohmeyer and Christopher Forrest have done some excellent thinking about shaping strategy and its potential to expand our deterrence options in great power conflicts. Honored to have one of the leading defense scholars in the pages of JFQ, we welcome back Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution as he considers the environment that planners are likely to face when looking at future combat employment of Navy carriers.

JPME Today returns in this issue with three interesting articles on topics including space, joint exercises, and acquisition reform. The great Canadian “strategist” Joni Mitchell once sang “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Our space capabilities certainly fall into that category, so Chadwick Igl, Candy Smith, Daniel Fowler, and William Angermann suggest the best way to deal with any losses that we might take in that arena is to seriously plan. A constant concern for commanders at every level is the readiness of their units, and exercises have been an effective way to prepare for their missions, with joint exercises being the most prized of experiences. William Buell, Erin Dorrance, and Robert West suggest that even with the continuing demands of combat operations across the world, having a transregional capstone exercise is necessary to be prepared for future crises. With programs that were meant to solve problems faced by the joint force often becoming headlines in the news for their cost overruns, Michael McInerney, Conway Lin, Brandon Smith, and Joseph Lupa offer some useful suggestions for joint acquisition reform.

In Commentary, we offer three articles that should get you thinking about changes and how they might be brought about in the joint force. Joint Special Operations University’s Charles Black, Richard Newton, Mary Ann Nobles, and David Ellis discuss how U.S. Special Operations Command is using a design approach to bring back creativity and innovation. Following our discussion of “by, with, and through” from JFQ 89, Keith Smith believes one of the best ways to succeed in conflict is through security force assistance. Taking a page from television reality shows involving cooking, Mike Jernigan and Jason Cooper believe we can innovate through a more competitive approach.

The Features section provides some interesting explanations to some nagging questions in the defense and security environment. Cole Livieratos has researched U.S. involvement in asymmetric conflicts and explains why the United States prefers kinetic solutions to other options, which he believes might yield less costly results. As we have read in previous issues, China is reforming its military at an unprecedented scale and rate. Shane Smith, Thomas Henderschedt, and Timothy Luedecking help explain how the Chinese are using a version of Goldwater-Nichols as a guide to create a joint force. Lastly, Michael Ferguson’s case study comparison of Demosthenes and Winston Churchill is not only entertaining but also impressive, given the youthfulness of the author.

One of the great advantages of my position in the joint professional military education world is knowing some exceptional scholars who also happen to be great teachers. Our Recall article is written by JFQ alumnus Bryon Greenwald, one of my teaching battle buddies at the Joint Forces Staff College. His article is an excellent look at World War I through the lens of two of today’s most important concepts: combat adaptation and jointness. In Joint Doctrine, along with our joint doctrine update, George Katsos discusses economic security and its relationship to campaign planning and activities. We also include three engaging book reviews for your consideration.

With this issue your JFQ team completes our 90th edition and prepares to celebrate the journal’s 25th anniversary this fall, all thanks to our readers, authors, and the veterans of NDU Press, who have kept this great idea of General Colin Powell moving forward in support of the joint force. Join us in supporting what the general called “the cool yet lively interplay among some of the finest minds committed to the profession of arms.” JFQ

William T. Eliason
Editor in Chief


A JFQ 89 caption misstated the date General Colin Powell met with NDU Press staff. The meeting occurred in January 2018. Also, author David P. Polatty’s name was misspelled in the same issue. NDU Press regrets the errors.