A new addition to the FM website team: Don Vandergriff

Donald Vandergriff has joined the team of writers on the FM website.  He’s one of the select few who are incomparably more influential after they retired (but still alive).  This week we’ll run excerpts from some of his works.


In the world of military theory today there are many people on the cutting edge.  Historians like Martin van Creveld, analysts like John Robb and Chet Richards, visionaries like Thomas Barnett, even some crossing across these categories like William Lind.  But there are few developing solutions that can be implemented today.  By solutions, I mean large-scale programs (not incremental improvements) requiring no substantial political or institutional changes.

One of the best known on this short list is Donald E. Vandergriff.  He retired in 2005 at the rank of Major after 24 years of active duty as an enlisted Marine and Army officer.  He now works as a consultant to the Army and corporations.

His work

Vandergriff has identified a powerful point of leverage to change our massive military apparatus:  its personnel system. For example, the army’s individual replacement system affects not just soldiers, down to the newest recruit, but the quality of units — especially cohesion . Even more critical is the process by which a service recruits, trains, and promotes its officers. Change this and the effects ripple outward through the entire organization over time, as the nature and behavior of its leaders evolve. And the Army is making changes in both these areas, responding to the ideas of Vandergriff and others. This success means that Vandergriff is on the cutting edge of America’s 4GW sword.

4GW appears to be the dominant form of war in this century. Our history since the Korean War — especially Vietnam, 9-11, and Iraq — suggest that we have not yet learned 4GW, either defensively or offensively. Doing so might be one of our critical national tasks, perhaps necessary for survival in the 21st century.

His website.

His Publications

  1. Without the Proper Culture: Why Our Army Cannot Practice Maneuver Warfare“, ARMOR, January/February 1998
  2. Culture Wars, a chapter in Digital War: A View from the Frontline, editor R. Bateman (1999)
  3. Careers and Cohesion for Effective 21st Century Leadership, June 1999
  4. Slides to presention of The Revolution in Human Affairs, October 2000
  5. Unit manning will benefit the many, Army Times, 23 July 2003
  6. The Spectre of Taylorism, 2004
  7. Lessons Learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom, 20 Jan 2004
  8. Army Personnel Transformation: Achieving “Parallel Evolution”, 10 March 2004
  9. People, Not Weapons, Are The Key to Transformation, Defensewatch, 10 April 2005
  10. Presentation based on his book Raising the Bar, 17 April 2005
  11. The Future Personel System: Evolution is always plug and play, 3 June 2005 — 3 meg PPT
  12. From Swift to Swiss: Tactical decision games and their place in military education and performance improvement, Performance Improvement, 17 Aug 2006 – subscription or purchase only.
  13. Old Dogs and New Tricks: Setting the Tone For Adaptability, Vandergriff and George Reed (Col, USA, rtd), ARMY, August 2007
  14. Old Dogs Teaching New Tricks: the Adaptive Leaders Course — Part I, ARMY, November 2007
  15. Old Dogs Teaching New Tricks: the Adaptive Leaders Course — Part II, ARMY, December 2007
  16. Is Warfighting Enough?” by Vandergriff and Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired), Marine Corps Gazette, February 2008 — subscription required
  17. “Adaptive Leader Methodology: An Alternative for Better Outcomes”, coauthor Lieutenant Fred Leland, The Homeland Security Review, Fall 2009 — Get the PDF here.
  18. Theirs Is to Reason Why“, Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, February 2010
  19. Today’s Training and Education (Development) Revolution: The Future is Now!“, Institute of Land Warfare, April 2010
  20. When Do We Teach the Basics?“, Joint Force Quarterly, July 2010

Archive of his articles at Military.com, from 2003 – 2005.


Other posts about Vandergriff on the FM website

  1. Recommended reading: transforming the Army, the hard way, 15 January 2008
  2. Recommendation to read: “Is Warfighting Enough” by Richards and Vandergriff, 25 January 2008
  3. 4GW: A solution of the third kind, 24 March 2008

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