Defense and the National Interest


"Readiness" is the ability to operate our forces in the field.  Forces are not "ready" if their equipment lacks spare parts or if too many are in the shop for repairs.  Forces are also not ready if the people do not have the training to perform effectively in the field or if they lack the supplies and ammunition they will need once there.  At times, the Pentagon has tried to preserve funding for new weapons by shortchanging the amounts spent on readiness.  This can result in a "hollow force," which looks good on paper, but cannot operate effectively and which often experiences low morale by the people who must try.

7/13/06 Air Force preparedness at ‘historic low’, HOUSE MEMO: ARMY UNIT READINESS FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN IS LAGGING, by Elaine M. Grossman, Inside The Pentagon

12/19/05 Learning to Adapt to Asymmetric Threats.  If the key to 4GW is the ability of small units to adapt to unexpected situations, how do we train people to do it?  A major study from the Institute for Defense Analysis (524 KB PDF). 

11/22/05 Fall From Grace, by Jason Vest.  One of the Army's top generals was forced out for an affair with a civilian.  But his real legacy may be a much better Army, thanks partly to another "prematurely retired" officer. From, November 1, 2005. Republished with permission.

Preventable Deaths (2MB .pdf) by Victor O'Reilly, November 2003. Our soldiers are great, but to win at 21st Century warfare, we need a smarter Army.  In depth look at Army programs in the light of 21st Century realities.

Introduction to Asymmetric Warfare, Fourth Generation Warfare, and Maneuver Warfare, GySgt Bob Howard, USMC.  Teaching 4GW concepts to the folks who are actually going to have to do it.  (43 chart, 547 KB MS PowerPoint briefing)

"Congressional Aide Finds Spending On 'Core Readiness' In Decline" by Elaine M. Grossman, Inside the Pentagon, June 28, 2001.  Succinct coverage of the "Spartacus Report," detailing how spending on core readiness has declined despite huge increases in defense spending, much of which was justified on the need to improve readiness.

"Information on the Use of Spare Parts Funding is Lacking," GAO 01-472, June 1002 (182 KB .pdf).   For FY 1999, Congress gave the Pentagon an extra $1.1 billion in emergency supplemental funds specifically earmarked for spare parts.  We know that $87 million actually did go into an account for Navy aircraft spares; the rest disappeared into general operations and maintenance accounts and could have been used for most anything.

Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not? by a Senate staffer. 26 September 2000.  Although the 10th MD may officially be "ready" by Pentagon reporting statistics, this trip report to Ft Drum details "multiple, serious shortages of people and material resources, training deficiencies and other impediments to readiness, a large number of them resulting from policies imposed by Washington."  The report also describes the heroic efforts many 10MD personnel are making to ensure that combat effectiveness is maintained as well as possible, despite these policies.

Trip Report: Navy and Air Force Air Combat Training, by a Senate staffer, 30 January 2000.  A primary reason America's fighter pilots rule the skies lies in the training the very best of them receive at the Navy's Topgun and the Air Force's Fighter Weapons School. Unfortunately, misguided policies emanating from inside the Beltway are letting these crown jewels deteriorate.  These disturbing facts are documented in a detailed report by a Congressional staff member with many years experience working defense issues.

Trip Report: Staff Trip to Army Training Facilities, by a Senate staffer, December 1997. The first visit by this veteran member of the Senate staff to advanced training facilities that are supposed to give US units the edge in combat.  Despite the uniformly high dedication and professionalism of the OPFOR units, decisions made at DA, DoD, and Congress are seriously degrading the effectiveness of the training at these facilities and the readiness of combat forces Army-wide.

The Tillson Report, October 1999. John Tillson, West Pointer, Vietnam combat vet, and analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis examines the reasons for low retention among the Army's best and brightest.  It's not just, or even primarily, the deployment rate or low pay and benefits (although these do matter).  Warriors and true leaders resent an antiquated personnel system—long ago abandoned by the best corporations—that treats people like interchangeable cogs in a machine and rewards those who master the arts of bureaucracy and careerism. (416K .pdf file)


487 Is US Troop Morale in Iraq Deteriorating??? June 15, 2003
477 An Oil Field Too Far???  March 7, 2003
475 A Strategic Question for the Grand Strategic Dice Rollers ... or ... All You Never Wanted to Know About Operational Level Logistics, February 20, 2003
473 Did Throwing Money at the Pentagon Fix its Readiness Problems?  February 17, 2003
446 Iron Major Issues a Wake Up Call to Leadership, May 3, 2002

Will Digitization Work (II)? An NCO Responds, July 22, 2001


Will Army Digitization Work? - Mud Soldiers Sound Off, July 2, 2001


Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not?  October 3, 2000

384 Know-Nothing Defense: The Forgotten Side of the Readiness Debate, September 1, 2000

Culture & Deteriorating Performance at NTC - a Mud Soldier Sounds Off, March 17, 2000


Why are Captains Leaving the Army? A Question of Leadership, January 29, 2000

342 Roots of Crisis in Army Aviation—An Old Fart Aviator Sounds Off, January 29, 2000


The Question of Values (II) Why Awarding Medals is Like Cog Maintenance in a Fredrick Taylor Production Line, November 15, 1999


Will an Across-the-Board Pay Raise Stop the Personnel Exodus?  September 21, 1999


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


Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (III) - Maj XXX Responds, August 20, 1999


An Active Army Pilots View of Proficiency Training (Correction of Error - #289A), July 3, 1999


Trickle Down Defense - Why Gas Masks in Korea Should Not Be a Metaphor for the American Art of War, April 15, 1999


Two Army NCOs Sound off About Retention in the Army, March 24, 1999


An Outsider Synthesizes a Structural Portrait of Decay ... and Wonders: What is Going On?  March 23, 1999


A Self-Portrait of the Army's Personnel Problems, March 23, 1999


Air Force Combat Command Paints a Grim Portrait, March 23, 1999


Shortage of Protective Masks in Korea while Missile Defense Budget Zooms Upward, March 4, 1999


What Standards Make Good Soldiers? ... A Veteran of Task Force Smith & Vietnam Speaks, February 18, 1999


The Personnel Retention Crisis: What Standards Make Good Soldiers? ... and ... Should We Bring Back the Draft?  February 17, 1999


Email Common Sense (II): TacAir Readiness, Suppressing Email from the Troops, and the Widening Wedge of Mistrust, February 6, 1999


Readiness Trap Sprung--The Real Game Begins, October 10, 1998


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


Ready for What? … Loose Nucs, Scud Missiles, and the Changing Nature of Conflict
September 26, 1998


Hollow Defense Debate Heats Up as Congress Moves to "Save" Readiness by Adding Unneeded Weapons Systems, September 25, 1998

191 Readiness Trap Sprung: Battle of Encirclement Evolves into Budgetary Equivalent of the Ulm Maneuver as Administration Leaves the Field, September 23, 1998

Readiness Trap Sprung - Battle of Encirclement Looms as Budget Pincers Slice into Clinton Administration, September 22, 1998

187 Are We Better Today than 20 Years Ago? -- An Army Master Sergeant's Reality Check, September 15, 1998

The Hollow Defense Debate: Admiral Gehman's Readiness Perception Gap Re-Visited, September 14, 1998

185 Hollow Defense Debate Continues to Depart from Reality, September 12, 1998
180 Notes from the Sausage Factory: Readiness Critics Go Nuclear While Troops Suffer, September 2, 1998
175 Why Emperors Lose their Clothes (II) August 31, 1998

Why Emperors Lose their Clothes, August 30, 1998

165 READINESS TRAP SPRUNG (II)? - Defense Intelligentsia Leads Stampede into Howling Wilderness of the Post-Information Era, August 10, 1998
161 Why are Pilots Leaving the Navy? One Senior Officer's Opinion: They Are Not Training Realistically and are Disgusted with Hypocrisy, August 3, 1998
160 Navy Pilot Retention, August 3, 1998
159 READINESS TRAP SPRUNG? - Senate Passes Amendment as Part of a Plan to Increase Defense Budget by $60 Billion over Next Three Years, August 1, 1998
158 Why are pilots leaving AF?  July 29, 1998
156 Why are pilots leaving AF?  July 28, 1998
155 Why are pilots punching out of AF? July 28, 1998
113 Army -- Report of Senate Staff Member's Trip to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, December 11,1997


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
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