Last week, Small Wars Journal published an essay by one of the authors of this blog. It set off a firestorm of debate within the military and elsewhere. We've privately received many messages of support and offers to contribute to this blog. Robert Kozloski, the author of the below contribution, is one of them.
Mr. Kozloski is an Efficiency Analyst with the Department of the Navy. He argues for the creation of a new Board of Innovative Officers to tackle our most challenging national security problems.
If you are interested in contributing to this discussion, please do so.
Given the fiscal realities facing the US military services and the rise of a new near-peer competitor, a great deal of attention has been given recently to reviving the culture of naval innovation. LT Ben Kohlmann has added a new aspect to the discourse by creating a fervor within the military blogging community with his writings on the need for disruptive thinkers in the military.
The naval services have a rich history of innovative thinking. In the interwar period of 1920-1940 the General Board was formed to find innovative solutions to the problem of the day: given the restrictions placed on the US navy by international treaties, how could the navy best prepare for conflict with Japan? The General Board was successful and developed both innovative thinkers and effective solutions to operational problems.
Similarly, the Marine Corps faced new operational problems at the end of the Korean War. Primarily, this challenge was in operating effectively on the new “atomic battlefield”. To identify solutions to these emerging problems, the Marine Corps created Marine Corps Test Unit-1. MCTU-1 successfully created many new operational concepts that were widely used in the Vietnam War and many are still in use today throughout the special operations community.
|Not a Bad Start...|
LT Kohlmann raises the issue of supplementing standard professional military education with the nation’s best graduate education programs, particularly MBA programs. While the US education system is often criticized and even considered a national security concern, our secondary schools remain the best in the world and the military must fully leverage this national asset.
While the US military may not be willing to effectively use this critical asset, others are not so hesitant. In the year 2000, the Chinese People's Liberation Army had more students in America's graduate schools than the U.S. military.
Given the growing problems with maintaining our current naval capacity and the emerging threats facing the military for the foreseeable future, the US Navy should reinstate the General Board and consider the following:
The new General Board should be attached to the Naval Warfare Development Command in Norfolk, VA. NWDC is ideally suited because of its mission to develop new concepts for the navy and its proximity to the full spectrum of naval assets in the Hampton Roads area including: surface, subsurface, aviation, special warfare, cyber, intelligence and expeditionary operations. This would put the group in close contact with the operational forces and would facilitate testing and experimenting. The General Board could also leverage support from US Fleet Forces Command, joint organizations and academic facilities in Hampton Roads.
To staff the new Board, a diverse set of 20-40 Officers at the 0-4/5 level should be selected to participate in this program as part of the normal PME process. However, rather than using an ineffective bureaucratic process for selection, the NWDC Commander should be given the opportunity to select the officers for the Board as well as the academic programs students attend.
The top civilian institutions as well as the Naval War College and Naval Post Graduate School should be included in the educational mix. The selection criteria should be based on what operational problems the group will be attempting to solve during their tour on the Board. Selectees should meet with the NWDC Commander prior to attending school to help shape academic activities while attending school to best prepare them for their follow-on work.
While this new concept may seem somewhat duplicative of other efforts currently in place, such as the CNO’s Strategic Study Group (SSG) at the Naval War College, the new General Board would focus on more near term issues. Ideally, the efforts of the SSG, as well as inputs from other existing advisory panels, would feed into the problem set of the General Board.
The members of the General Board should be given full latitude and support to interact with other components of the naval research community as well as the operational forces. To the maximum extent possible, it should leverage various crowd sourcing and idea generation tools to harness the “wisdom of crowds” in the problem solving process.
Many senior leaders have recently said that the military has lost its ability to think because it has outsourced that responsibility to contracting firms and consultants. While the effectiveness of this approach is questionable at best, it is certainly expensive - as are most solutions to the problems they solve. Given the fiscal realities facing the nation, the military will need to rely more on its internal thinking capacity. Reestablishing the General Board concept would not only develop and harness the great minds in uniform, it also offers a more affordable solution to the current expensive ways of doing business.