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March 31, 2021

Flawed Jointness in the War Against the So-Called Islamic State: How a Different Planning Approach Might Have Worked Better

Not long after the first round of anemic air strikes against the so-called Islamic State (IS) on August 8, 2014, it became clear to most that the initial effort ordered by President Barack Obama and undertaken by U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) lacked an overarching strategy based on a well-founded understanding of the enemy and on a weighing of the full spectrum of available response options. Instead, USCENTCOM’s leaders fell back on their familiar past experiences and assessed IS as simply a resurrection of the recently defeated Iraqi insurgency rather than as the very different and ambitiously aggressive state-in-the-making that it actually was. As a result, they opted to engage the jihadist movement with an inappropriate counterinsurgency (COIN) approach that misprioritized rebuilding the Iraqi army as its predominant concern rather than pursuing a more promising strategy aimed at not only addressing Iraq’s most immediate security needs but also attacking the enemy’s most vulnerable center of gravity in Syria from the first day onward.

March 31, 2021

Conquering the Ethical Temptations of Command: Lessons from the Field Grades

Ethical lapses committed by senior business leaders are reported almost daily. Unfortunately, similar reports about military leaders also frequently appear; browse almost any contemporary military publication, and there is usually an article discussing an ethical failure by a high-ranking Servicemember. Although Department of Defense figures attest that the actual number of these failings is statistically small, they garner disproportionate attention. The critical nature of the U.S. military mission makes it incumbent on leaders to possess not only great technical competency in their jobs but also great character and integrity. Because of this demand, the U.S. military has high formal standards for ethical leadership behavior.

March 31, 2021

Educating Our Leaders in the Art and Science of Stakeholder Management

This article seeks to bridge a perceived knowledge gap with leaders and their executive communication skills by introducing them to a more disciplined, formal approach of identifying, prioritizing, and engaging stakeholders. This article suggests new and creative ways to conduct stakeholder management (identification, prioritization, and engagement)—techniques borrowed from practices employed in the private and commercial sectors.

March 31, 2021

Gray Is the New Black: A Framework to Counter Gray Zone Conflicts

Gray zone conflicts are difficult to address through traditional combat power. In today’s complex and competitive international environment, some states may appear to pursue the status quo, particularly in areas of benefit to them, while also seeking to amend other circumstances in their favor. To deter these aims, joint doctrine must address gray zone conflicts and incorporate strategies for countering these approaches into planning for steady-state activities and all phases of theater campaign planning. To do anything less is to relinquish the advantage.

March 30, 2021

Buy Now, Get Paid with Diversity Later: Insights into Career Progression of Female Servicemembers

The Department of Defense (DOD) recognizes the value that diversity brings to the joint force. The notion that diverse teams provide more creative and innovative solutions to problems is well researched and supported. To reap the full benefits of diversity, DOD must foster intentional inclusivity. There are, however, hurdles yet to clear. DOD must address tangible and intangible program costs to develop an environment of inclusivity. Integrating women into typically male-dominated career fields requires resource investment in equipment, facilities, and processes. Decisionmakers must implement these accommodations now to build tomorrow’s gender-inclusive leadership team.

March 30, 2021

Design Thinking

Iraq, Afghanistan, and, to an extent, Syria are all recent examples of situations where U.S. military involvement “solved” some elements of perceived problems but consequently created other issues. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2006, when the initial assessments seemed wrong and the situation was deteriorating simultaneously in Afghanistan, the Army began investigating alternative approaches to conceptual planning. Design methodology, now validated in joint doctrine, is the result of that inquiry. Using the methodology will not guarantee a successful outcome and is not a panacea for solving pandemics or complex problems. It does, however, provide a general framework, supported by an underlying logic, for discussing problems and developing approaches.

March 30, 2021

Deter in Competition, Deescalate in Crisis, and Defeat in Conflict

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), both located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are two distinct commands, bound together and united in a common purpose—charged with the resolute mission of defending North America. NORAD defends the United States and Canada against threats in the air domain and provides aerospace and maritime warning. Founded in 2002 in the wake of 9/11, USNORTHCOM defends the United States against threats across all domains, conducts cooperative defense activities with our allies and partners in North America, and, when required, supports Federal, state, and local agencies with unique military capabilities to conduct defense support of civil authorities.

March 30, 2021

Executive Summary

In 1993, General Powell encouraged members of the joint force to “Read JFQ. Study it. Mark it up—underline and write in the margins. Get mad. Then contribute your own views.” What do you think? How do you read JFQ? How can we make it better suited to the world you find yourself in? We are soon posting up a way for you to provide us more feedback. Watch this space. In the meantime, read on!

March 19, 2021

PRISM Vol. 9, No. 2 (March 2021)

The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 has catalyzed a re-examination of what national security consists of, and what responsibilities the world’s armed forces must or should assume to meet such non-military challenges. Yet the competition between the United States and its adversaries has intensified, requiring that the national security enterprise retain traditional capabilities while keeping up with the fierce pace of technological innovation. PRISM V.9,N.2 authors address the emerging challenges armed forces must meet, offer perspectives on competitors, and suggest major changes in the innovation ecosystem.

March 19, 2021

Power on the Precipice: The Six Choices America Faces in a Turbulent World

Clearly argued, lucidly written, and well-documented, Andrew Imbrie’s Power on the Precipice deserves a large audience, not just of foreign affairs specialists but also of those concerned about America’s place in the world and how to improve it. Imbrie is ambitious. In 205 printed pages (plus notes), he addresses diplomatic challenges that any Washington administration will face and suggests ways forward. In such a wide-ranging work, area experts will question some of his analysis and conclusions. Nevertheless, Imbrie should be applauded as he seeks to persuade policymakers and voters to think harder about different policy choices and tradeoffs from the optic of the long term rather than the short. Identifying national interests and how to promote them is always a challenge, but especially so in the United States, where the 24-hour news cycle is supreme. Elections every 2 years result in never-ending campaigning, and social media—with all its superficialities—has become a news source of choice for many, if not most.