Military Adaptability Clashes With Established Doctrine

January 27, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Most analysts recognize the need for the defense community to be able to adapt to changes, but established techniques and procedures often block progress. The two chairmen of a Defense Science Board study on enhancing adaptability offered suggestions on how traditional roadblocks can be overcome. Alfred Grasso, president and chief executive officer, the MITRE Corporation, and Dr. William A. LaPlante, head, Global Engagement Department, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told a roundtable audience at West 2011 about four themes that dominated the study. One theme, preparing for degraded operations, generated some concern in the study. LaPlante related that one common characteristic is that militaries that trained with realistic degraded operations-brutal honesty and realism-did much better than those that didn't. While the realism of degraded operations across the services is good at the command level, the operational level is another story. With two exceptions-cyber and space-the realism is not there at that level. LaPlante called for more realism in operational exercises, and he cited the advantages of red/blue teaming-where technicians and engineers find vulnerabilities and fix them simultaneously. Grasso supported the idea of planned adaptability. "Adaptability often is viewed as a responsive act," he said. "However, adaptability and preparation are inexorably linked."

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