America’s military needs reform, but few can say why

Summary: Everybody talks about military reform. Few talk about what benefits it will bring to America. If military reform is the answer, perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

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“{DoD is} ready for wars past and future, but not present. The current military, an advanced version of the WWII force, is ready should the Imperial Japanese Navy return. It also has phenomenally advanced weaponry in the pipeline to take on a space-age enemy, perhaps from Mars, should one appear. It is only the present for which the US is not prepared.”

— From “A True Son of Tzu” by Fred Reed.

Military reform is in the air. There have been a score of articles published here this year plus countless articles in the major military journals and websites. They are all quite exciting. Few explain why we should bother implementing their proposals, or what benefit we will get from them. Let’s reverse the process. What are the problems for which military reform is the solution?

We need victory in our wars.

Which are the kind of wars waged in foreign lands against insurgents, the major form of war since after the Korean War. With a few exceptions (mostly where the insurgents are not very foreign), foreign armies lose. Just as we lost in Iraq (kicked out of Iraq with no gains). Just as we are losing in Afghanistan. Just as we probably are losing in the wars we intend to join in Africa – Africom is DoD’s future growth. (See this for details about why we lose.)

Will the proposed military reform help us win? Not only do few military reformers claim that their ideas will help us win, few even admit that we are losing. The excuses are many, varied, and often delusional. Problem recognition is the first and usually the most difficult step – and America has not taken it in the Long War.

Perhaps we should ask why we lose before crafting methods to help us win. Perhaps we should ask if copying some of the methods used to defeat us might help us win? Perhaps we are asking ourselves the wrong questions, and so cannot find useful answers.

We need victory in wars with peer nations.

Will these reforms help us defeat the Russians if they stream through the Fulda Gap, across the Rhine River, and into Western Europe? How nice. But the EU has greater military power than Russia by most metrics. NATO’s military power dwarfs Russia’s. How much difference can military reform make?

Perhaps we need help to defeat China in a land war. How nice. But what are the odds of America fighting a land war with China? How high a priority should these preparations be?

Other benefits of military reform!

There are other possible gains from military reform. Perhaps improved recruitment and retention, or improvements to other military functions.

The bottom line.

Most of the proposed reforms to the US military are wonderful. But our troops already carry a heavy load of training. Many officers complain that training in basic military skills – at both the individual and unit levels – is shortchanged in the long list of other training needs. Most military reform proposals require extensive retraining of officers and non-commissioned officers. How much will it help to add more to the list of training objectives?

Most military reforms lack a larger context: what they can accomplish vs. their costs vs. the military’s likely missions in the next generation or so. Perhaps that is why so few are implemented. In the past, amateurs talked about tactics and professionals talked about logistics. Perhaps now they say that amateurs talk about reforms and professionals talk about priorities.

Another perspective.

The Prussians built a better military. They used it with increasing boldness in the Franco-Prussian War, in WWI, and in WWII. If America built a better military, might we become even more aggressive in its use?

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about our generals, about our officer corps, about ways to reform the military, and especially these about our officer corps …

  1. Overhauling The Officer Corps to build a military that can win wars – by David Evans (Lieutenant Colonel, USMC, retired).
  2. Reforming the US Army: can be done, must be done – by Don Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired).
  3. Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military – by G. I. Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired).
  4. How the US Army decayed. Does anyone want to fix it? – by Douglas Macgregor.
  5. About the US Army’s leadership problem – by Don Vandergriff.
  6. Admiral Rickover’s gift to us: showing that we can reform America’s military.
  7. A path to desperately needed reform of the US military.
  8. The Left will reform our military until it breaks.

Essential reading for those who want to win.

See these books by Donald Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired). See his Wikipedia entry. See his posts, all well-worth reading by those who want to better understand our military and our wars.

Adopting Mission Command: Developing Leaders for a Superior Command Culture
Available at Amazon.

His latest: Adopting Mission Command:
Developing Leaders for a Superior Command Culture

From the publisher …

“In September 2010, James G. Pierce, a retired U.S. Army colonel with the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, published a study about the Army’s culture: Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of Its Senior Level Officer Corps? Pierce postulated that ‘the ability of a professional organization to develop future leaders in a manner that perpetuates readiness to cope with future environmental and internal uncertainty depends on organizational culture.’ He found that today’s U.S. Army leadership ‘may be inadequately prepared to lead the profession toward future success.’

“The need to prepare for future success dovetails with the use of the concepts of mission command. This book offers up a set of recommendations, based on those mission command concepts, for adopting a superior command culture through education and training. Donald E. Vandergriff believes by implementing these recommendations across the Army, that other necessary and long-awaited reforms will take place.”


13 thoughts on “America’s military needs reform, but few can say why”

      1. Ron,

        Nope. For the first thirty-four months of his term, Trump followed Obama’s Syria policy with minor changes. Now its over. Assad won. Nothing more to do. Obama would probably do the same.

      1. Ron,

        If you have something to say, say it. Nobody is going to click thru links to figure out what you are attempting to say.

        Also, who cares what Trump says at this point? Much of the time he either lies or is delusional.

      2. Larry,

        I thought this NEWS fit this article. Keep up the good work “Reigniting the spirit of a nation grown cold.”

        Guess not.

      3. Ron,

        It’s not that it fits or doesn’t. But if you’re going to post a comment, explain your point. Just posting a link and declaring Trump right isn’t helpful. Not one in a thousand readers will click thru on something so vague. You have to explain. Or you’re wasting your time.

  1. Our foreign policy needs to be reformed. The Global War on Terror (legitimized 18 years ago by the AUMF, which itself needs to be amended to prevent further abuse) has led us astray, and we have gone abroad in search of monsters to destroy, despite the warning of J. Q. Adams. Our military seems more than capable, but the way it has been used in waging endless wars with no comprehensible victory or lasting peace speaks to the myopia of the current and last two C-in-C’s. That said, if we had only the capacity to do one big thing, I’d argue for reforming the development and procuring of weaponry. The USS Ford and th F-35 debacles are evidence enough of a system gone awry.

    1. Philip,

      “Our military seems more than capable”

      Got to love how our military is consistently unable to manage modern wars, but is seldom given responsibility for their failure. Which is why we keep losing.

      “The USS Ford and th F-35 debacles are evidence enough of a system gone awry.”

      What difference does it make? Do you expect the Ruskies to storm thru the Fulda Gap, or that China will risk nuclear war by attacking across the Taiwan Strait?

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