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Recommended reading: transforming the Army, the hard way

15 January 2008

ARMY magazine has posted part two of Donald Vandergriff’s (Major, US Army, retired) article about the Adaptive Leaders Course.  This describes one path to organizational transformation.  The difficult way, building from the foundation up — building something that outlasts all the hot intellectual fads, and can evolve over generations.  The senior Army leadership’s attention to Vandergriff is important good news.

People, Ideas, and Hardware. “In that order!” the late Col John R. Boyd, USAF, would thunder at his audiences.

What historical transformations resemble that needed to adapt the US military for an age in which 4GW is the dominate form of war?  The early 19th century Prussian Army experience, of course.  Perhaps the re-casting of the US Army into a French mold during WWI.  Or we can look back to the beginning.  The founders of the American army (Washington, Lafayette, Steuben, et al) built almost from scratch.  They drew on two models…

  • frontier militia, fighting against the French and American Indians,
  • conventional European armies, mercenary soldiers with aristocratic officers.

From this they built something quite different.  For a well-written account of this for a general audience, see “Washington & Lafayette” in the September 2007 issue of Smithsonian magazine.  Their experience might hold lessons for us, facing a similar challenge – building an American Army to defend against new enemies, learning new ways to fight in a post-Constitutional era.

For more on these topics

To see Vandergriff’s other works, including links to his many online articles:  The Essential 4GW reading list: Chapter Two, Donald Vandergriff.

To help understand the nature of the Army’s difficulty in retaining its best people, see The Army’s greatest crisis.

For an overview of the various solutions to 4GW, see

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