Defense and the National Interest


One consistent theme in e-mails and letters from NCOs and junior officers is their opinion that the quality of leadership has declined greatly over the last 10 or so years.  In particular, they complain that senior leaders appear more concerned with furthering their own careers and lining up post-retirement employment than with fighting for the resources their troops need to train and be effective.  Of course, even a quick glance through military history finds that this is a common complaint, especially in peacetime.  Are we in fact seeing an unusual crisis in leadership?  If so, what will happen if it continues, and what are the solutions?

8/06/07 Old Dogs and New Tricks: Setting the Tone For Adaptability, by MAJ Don Vandergriff and COL George Reed, both USA, Ret.  Fingerspitzengefühl (intuition and judgment) and Auftragstaktik (ability to use mission-type orders) are great things to have, but how do you develop them? [739 KB PDF - ignore the white space, from deleted advertisements]

6/20/07 The Future Personnel System (3.1 MB PPT), by Don Vandergriff.  A companion to his "Raising the Bar" briefing and book and the start of his next book ("Path to Victory II").  Be sure to read the notes.

4/30/07 Fire the Generals! by COL Douglas Macgregor, USA, Ret.  The American system gives great power and reward to its most senior officers, without a corresponding increase in accountability.

4/28/07 A Failure in Generalship, by LTC Paul Yingling, USA. Excerpt from the article in the Armed Forces Journal.

6/11/06 Regarding "Leadership for the Fourth Generation: Preparing Leaders to Out-Think Our New Enemy", by Capt Robert Kozloski, USMC, by A. Scott Crawford.

11/14/05 Mentoring: What does (and doesn't) work.  Message thread mostly among US military officers.

7/02/05 Leadership for the Fourth Generation: Preparing Leaders to Out-Think Our New Enemy, Capt Robert Kozloski, USMC (34 KB PDF)

4/17/05 Raising the Bar, by US Army MAJ Don Vandergriff, with a revised Part 1 and new Parts 11, 12, and 13.  Changing not just ROTC or even the officer corps, but reforming the Army for changes in war and strategy.

1/20/04 Lessons Learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom, by MAJ Don Vandergriff. "Highly-trained units, led by innovative and flexible leaders, will defeat a larger enemy!" (136 KB PPT)

10/19/03 Marine General: Leading From Iraqi Battlefield Informed Key Decisions by Elaine Grossman, Inside the Pentagon.  Maneuver warfare works much better if leaders actually lead.

Unit manning will benefit the many, MAJ Donald E. Vandergriff, US Army.  The incoming (as of July 2003) Chief and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army should dust off the 1970 "Study on Military Professionalism" [see below] to remind themselves what can happen when the system "forces its leaders to pick their careers over their soldiers."

Study on Military Professionalism (US Army War College, 1970) In the middle of the Vietnam War, the Army took a hard look at itself. It documented the erosion of traditional values of duty, honor, and country and their replacement by a focus on whatever it took to get the next promotion. (9.3 MB PDF scan of the 219 page original.)

Chief of Staff's Leadership Survey (Also 103 KB Adobe Acrobat .pdf file) Sixteen of the sixty-four surveys of students at the U.S. Army's Command and Staff College. As Tom Ricks wrote in the Washington Post (April 17, 2000):  "'Young officers are getting out because they fell out of touch with leadership,' the Fort Leavenworth study concludes.  'Many believe there needs to be a clean sweep of a senior leadership as hierarchical as the military."

"The Revolution in Human Affairs: Changing the Culture for the 21st Century," by MAJ Donald E. Vandergriff, USA.  Recently, one of the most talked-about presentations in Washington.  If we don't restore the warrior culture, then the other "revolutions" in military affairs are merely ways to spend money.  Why our current culture isn't doing the job, how it got this way, and what it's going to take to fix it.

Grand Strategy, a brief introduction by the editor of Defense and the National Interest.

The Lewis Report:  "Time to Regenerate: A GenX Response to Dr. Wong's Monograph"   In this response to a recent report by Dr Leonard Wong of the Army's Strategic Studies Institute, former Ranger Officer Mark Lewis gives the views of the Generation Xers themselves: Junior officers are leaving in alarming numbers because they no longer feel they can accomplish what they came into the Army to do.  These "job satisfaction" issues indicate deep cultural problems that cannot be solved by perqs at the margin, like more pay, extra time off, or the right to e-mail superiors.  [See also Mark Lewis's update as part of Comment 426 (631 KB PDF file.)]

DCSPER (LTG Maude) Report, 19 Oct 2000.  Documents retention rate problems, esp. among company grade officers, and the unprecedented numbers of COLs and LTCs declining command billets (a necessary "ticket" for higher rank.)

"Army Professionalism, The Military Ethic, and Officership in the 21st Century," By Professor Don Snider, Major John Nagl, and Major Tony Pfaff of the US Military Academy at West Point.  Occasionally veers into the academic, but don't be put off.  This paper raises pertinent questions about how the political imperative for force protection ("minimize/ eliminate causalities") may erode military professionalism ("accomplish the mission"). Bombing from high altitude may result in fewer planes shot down, but when is that a fair trade-off for higher civilian casualties?

Cohesion, by Dr. Jonathan Shay.  The author of Achilles in Vietnam  explores "cohesion," the role it plays in combat performance, and how it differs from esprit d'corps. With proper training, most any group can be molded into a cohesive unit and good leadership can avoid conflicts between unit cohesion and overall force effectiveness. (389 KB MS Word document on War, Chaos, and Business.)


487 Is US Troop Morale in Iraq Deteriorating???  June 15, 2003
485 The Men Who Would Not Be King, June 3, 2003

The Specter of Taylorism is Haunting the E-Ring ... Or Why Promoting Lieutenants to Captain Quicker is a Dumb Idea, June 11, 2002


Lewis Report: Why Stopping the Exodus of Junior Officers is Important, September 7, 2001


The View From Mount Olympus Seen from the Cheap Seats, June 12, 2001

409 A Critique of Pure Superstition: The Question of What Revolution in Military Affairs, April 6, 2001

Comment #397 Error Correction, December 14, 2000


The Revolution in Recruiting Affairs, December 7, 2000

396 The Lewis Report: "Time to Regenerate: A GenX Response to Dr. Wong's Monograph" November 27, 2000

The Lewis Commentary: Why The Beret May Be a Good Thing,  November 15, 2000


Women in the Military - a 3rd Call for Common Sense, August 10, 2000


Women in the Military - 2 Calls for Common Sense, August 8, 2000


Proliferation of Bronze Stars Raises Question of Martial Values in a 21st Century, June 8, 2000


The All Mercenary Army - Unintended Consequences of Enlistment Bonuses, May 24, 2000


Hooray for the Pentagon!!!  May 16, 2000

353 PowerPoint Dependency in the Post Information Era  and the Question of Why are Captains Leaving the Army?  April 27, 2000
346 Trust, Mistrust and the Crisis in Leadership, February 5, 2000

Why are Junior Officers Leaving the Navy? — The Question of Leadership (Again !!!!) January 31, 2000

344 Why are Captains Leaving the Army? A Question of Leadership, January 29, 2000
337 The Specter Haunting Perfumed Princes of Versailles on the Potomac (II) December 7, 1999

The Specter Haunting Perfumed Princes of Versailles on the Potomac, December 7, 1999


The Question of Values, November 13, 1999


Will an Across-the-Board Pay Raise Stop the Personnel Exodus? (II), October 1, 1999

314 Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (VII) — A Master Sergeant at Ft Sill Sounds Off, August 23, 1999
313 Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (VI) — More Professionalism or Patton's Mob, August 23, 1999

Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (V) — Professionalism or Patton's Mob, August 21, 1999


Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (IV) — CAPT XXXXX & CMDR YYY Respond, August 21, 1999


Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (II) — a Staff Sergeant Responds, August 20, 1999


Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood — The Army Trips Out on Electronic Acid, August 19, 1999


Fragging Soldierly Values (Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Military — A Repost), August 1, 1999


Why Are the Best and Brightest Leaving the Military?, July 31, 1999


Task Force Hawk — Mud Soldier Laments Being Stuck in Albanian Muck, June 2, 1999


Toys vs. Boys Revisited - Pentagon Forgets to Put People in Armed Forces Day Poster for 4th Year in Row!!!!!!  May 14, 1999


Email Uber Alles DoD Authorization Bill Reimburses Troops for Losses of Pre-Paid Travel Expenses, May 14, 1999


Judge Advocate Tells Troops to Foot the Bill for Losses of Pre-Paid Travel Expenses if they are Recalled from Leave Because of Kosovo Emergency, April 7, 1999

251 Versailles-on-the-Potomac Begins the Blame Game as Courtiers Position Themselves for Future Budget Battles in Congress, April 2, 1999

What Makes a Good Soldier Want to Join and Stay In the Military? Cosmetics & Self Interest … or … Leadership & Idealism, February 20, 1999


An NCO's Opinion of the Retention and Leadership, February 17, 1999


Why the Rush to Throw Money at Retention & Recruiting Problems Will Not Fix the Personnel Crisis, February 17, 1999


Be All You Can Be -- The Navy Steps Up to the Army's Challenge, February 8, 1999


EMAIL COMMON SENSE: Launch the Generals but Leash the Coondogs, January 11,1999


Leadership (VII) - A Marine's View of Officer Bloat and its Deleterious Effect on Unit Cohesion, November 6, 1998


Leadership (VI) - A British Officer Helps the Cretans to Understand Themselves, November 6, 1998

210 Leadership (V) - Unit Cohesion and Why Personnel Rotation Policies Hurt the Army's Readiness for Combat, November 5, 1998

Leadership (IV) - A Master Sergeant Sounds Off, November 4, 1998


Leadership (III) -- Is It Simply a Question of Restoring the Warrior Spirit or Are There Deeper Problems?


Leadership (II) -- Is It Simply a Question of Restoring the Warrior Spirit or Are There Deeper Problems?  November 4, 1998

206 Is It Simply a Question of Restoring the Warrior Spirit or Are There Deeper Problems? November 2, 1998

AF Readiness - A Non-Rated Lieutenant's View of the Retention Problem, September 28, 1998


AF Readiness - Plummeting Pilot Retention Sets Stage for Crash-- A Cry From the Field, September 27, 1998


CERTAIN TO WIN: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business, by Chet Richards. Boyd's real OODA loop and ancient strategies working for business today. More...
Advance Reviews;
Amazon and B&N


RAISING THE BAR, by Donald Vandergriff (U.S. Army, ret.) Published by the Center for Defense Information Press. Read the DNI review. Order from Amazon.


SCIENCE, STRATEGY AND WAR, by Col Frans Osinga, RNAF. Read the DNI Review.  Order from Amazon or B&N. New! Now in paperback directly from Routledge, $35.95.


NEITHER SHALL THE SWORD, by Chet Richards.  If you thought A Swift, Elusive Sword was too tame.  Read the Introduction and view the Briefing. Podcast review.  Available now on Amazon


BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Amazon & B&N.


BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION : A Future Worth Creating, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. Read the DNI review. Buy at Amazon and B&N


NOT A GOOD DAY TO DIE: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, by Sean Naylor. Read the DNI Review; Amazon and B&N


THE WASTRELS OF DEFENSE: How Congress Sabotages U. S. Security by Winslow Wheeler.  You'll be disgusted, then just mad.
Read Comment #527.
Amazon and B&N


THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN, by Steven Pressfield.  Read the DNI Review. Amazon and B&N.


The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield
Read the DNI Review.
Amazon and B&N. Now in trade paperback.


The Sling and The Stone by Col T. X. Hammes, USMC
Amazon and B&N


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