Changing the army - how?

What's wrong with it? Want of detail, want of accuracy, something else?
The use of the UK as a positive exemplar; a failure to diagnose why - in his words, a “good bloke” feels compelled to act in the way he did as TEA; lack of (self) reflection as to why “seniors” might sometimes need to “reign in” subordinates; plus other stuff.

It just feels like another series of articles that effectively say “big boys make us micro-managers”, whilst abdicating any sense of why.
 

Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
The use of the UK as a positive exemplar; a failure to diagnose why - in his words, a “good bloke” feels compelled to act in the way he did as TEA; lack of (self) reflection as to why “seniors” might sometimes need to “reign in” subordinates; plus other stuff.
I suggest you read the author's memoir...
 

Auld-Yin

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Officer careers have been discussed at length elsewhere on the site (and I can't be bothered looking for it) but I feel if changing the army is the desired outcome it needs to start here


Apologies if posted before.
 

Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
It just feels like another series of articles that effectively say “big boys make us micro-managers”, whilst abdicating any sense of why.
Really - to me it reads like a (necessarily brief and therefore undeveloped) assessment of how and why an army committed in theory to manoeuvre warfare (and therefore mission command, cos there ain't another way to do it) failed to be able to implement it's doctrine, and lost.

We did too, and Nigel A-F is not to everyone's taste, but lets play the ball, not the man. Success in all land warfare comes from getting inside the opponents decision cycle and that is only possible when (1) junior commanders are trained to take initiative and (2) more senior commanders encourage that and support them.

Lest someone thinks that this is the view of an aging Guderian wannabe (guilty) it was clear in NI training. When, as sometimes happened, it all kicked off good units had a culture of supporting the busy contact commander and filling in the gaps for him. Bad ones started firing questions like "Where's the ICP" (incident control point for younger readers) and "Have you segregated anyone who fired their weapon?"

With the greatest possible respect for our excellent Senior Service, life of land commanders in contact is alien to all naval types (except occupants of X turret)
 

Sarastro

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It’s bollocks, frankly.
Eh? It's not the best written piece I've ever seen and it is a bit concerned about being nice rather than as honest as (I suspect) he could be.

But are you actually contesting the central point: the US Army says it does mission command but actually does centralised micromanagement? Dont know many people who've done a tour in or under a US/UK HQ over the past two decades who would disagree with that.
 
Eh? It's not the best written piece I've ever seen and it is a bit concerned about being nice rather than as honest as (I suspect) he could be.

But are you actually contesting the central point: the US Army says it does mission command but actually does centralised micromanagement? Dont know many people who've done a tour in or under a US/UK HQ over the past two decades who would disagree with that.
No - I’m contesting that, yet again, someone says the US/UK/delete as appropriate doesn’t do mission command, after they’ve safely retired. If it meant so much to him, why didn’t he a) just not tell the TEA or b) ignore the TEA’s direction. Instead, he goes with the system and writes an article saying how bad it is two years later.
 

bob231

War Hero
No - I’m contesting that, yet again, someone says the US/UK/delete as appropriate doesn’t do mission command, after they’ve safely retired. If it meant so much to him, why didn’t he a) just not tell the TEA or b) ignore the TEA’s direction. Instead, he goes with the system and writes an article saying how bad it is two years later.
That now makes more sense. The article seemed to say a lot of things already known, but from the outside of the tent rather than taking the responsibility then.

Supposition: we may have bred centralisers, but we've also bred conformists and rule followers as junior officers.

ETA: above is very much informed by my experience of Dartmouth, which seemed to mostly produce frightened conformists.
 

Caecilius

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The use of the UK as a positive exemplar;

In fairness, it uses the UK's history and he's not the only person to come to the same conclusion about our previous ability to apply mission command. Eitan Shamir is also pretty complementary about how we used to do it around the GW1 period; less so about more recent performances.

Also, anyone who's gone near the US Army on ops or in camp would realise that they're far worse than us for micromanagement. We have our problems, but they pale into insignificance when compared to the US. I've posted it a few times before, but the paper 'Lying to Ourselves' is an excellent factual account of this.

lack of (self) reflection as to why “seniors” might sometimes need to “reign in” subordinates;

That's the fatal flaw I think. Anyone moaning about mission command without noting that there are times when subordinates may need to be tightly controlled shouldn't be taken seriously.
 
It also occurred to me in the course of my day, that - as @twentyfirstoffoot observed, this is:
Pretty much a cut and paste of Arrse
It is also illustrative of how slowly opinions change.

When I was new to Arrse, and on the verge of departing HM Armed Forces (18 years, 2 months and 1 day ago - roughly long enough to go from Captain to Maj General) and , the conclusions voiced in the RUSI piece were neither commonplace nor popular in the Army*

They caught a lot of flak/sneering from the (supposedly/would-be) WTE contingent on this site for being the bitter ravings of moderately-competent-but-passed-over old farts.

Lately, there is substantially less of that on ArRSE.

Dare I say it, but those "bitter ravings" seem now to have been legitimised as solidly-founded, and widely accepted, and (as the fashion has changed) the naysayers have either simply STFU and drifted away, or turned coat and reinvented themselves as newly-enlightened true believers in now-fashionable wisdom.

It remains to be seen if this shift in popular(?) military(?) opinion will result in significant and measurably beneficial change, and how long it will take to see any objectively measurable change at all.

* Stonkernote: Exactly the same could be said of negative opinions about the collective integrity and moral courage of the VSO community.
 
Eitan Shamir is also pretty complementary about how we used to do it around the GW1 period; less so about more recent performances.
1. Mission Command during GW1?
My arrse - they were using 1(BR) Corps SOPs *​
2. Eitan Shamir's book?
It has been gathering dust by my bedside since I read it shortly after it was published. His 'primary sources' for UK performance of Mission Command are largely Brit Army official publications/pronouncements accepted at face value, uncritically, and with no objective evidence to back them up.​
3. The word is complimentary.

4. You're welcome
- - - - - -
* ETA - Stonkernote: And using these antediluvian methods, the Op GRANBY Div HQ massively out-performed its nominally 'Mission Command', digitised, bloated, sclerotic successor of a decade later, in terms of getting concise orders to subordinate fmns and BGs in a timely manner. Shamir (IIRC) did not take the trouble to consider this in his writing.
 
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bob231

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Cynical

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1. Mission Command during GW1?
My arrse - they were using 1(BR) Corps SOPs
Oddly enough, mission command became fomalised shortly after GW1, and with little notice. I was teaching at RMAS at the time and vividly remember some Colonel from Netheravon (hitherto the home of inf sp weaponry) turning up and giving all DS a presentation in the world's largest sleeping bag (aka The Churchill Hall). Those who had been in BAOR were underwhelmed (as in, that's what we do anyway). Those more pedestrian simply didn't get it and worried about their model kits.

As it happened the intake that I was teaching had got to that stage in the syllabus where the orders process was taught. I got dicked with preparing the pink, which I did in an afternoon of literally cutting and pasting (using scissors and Pritt for younger readers) for the lecture the next week. TAM updates followed shortly.

The point being that post Bagnel 1 Br Corps was doing mission command, as it is the only way to do aggressive armoured warfare.

I suspect that much of the British Army's challenge in grasping mission command arises from the Options for Change axe falling heaviest on the heavy metal bit, i.e. 1 Br Corps. The only bit of the army that got mission command and the last bit of the Army that won a war.

Deal with it.
 
The point being that post Bagnel 1 Br Corps was doing mission command, as it is the only way to do aggressive armoured warfare.
The Post Bagnall 1(BR) Corps was doing not very much different than the pre-Bagnall 1(BR) Corps, in truth.

I lived through it, while you were still at skule. Mission Command entered my Battalion's vocab in 1979, in a Div commanded by Maj Gen Dalziel Payne (aka Diesel Train) the port smuggler, and basically got a stiff ignoring.

Some-when, about a decade later, in BAR, Kiszely - long-term Bagnall Auftragstaktik acolyte (later Maj Gen Kiszely, later still national president of The Royal British Legion - stepped down after peddling his position for connections to power, IIRC) opined that adventure training was the optimum way to instill the mission command mindset.

The Mission Command doctrine (I larf at this) was formally enshrined in Brit Army Doctrine in 1989 - when I was at Camberley, and Kiszely was DS.

It was not well taught, and there was no subsequent systematic army-wide effort to transform the way that command was exercised at any level.

Emperor's new clothes, all of it - and a cumbersome over-staffed GW2 Div HQ is more proof than anyone needs of that argument.
 

Caecilius

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Shamir (IIRC) did not take the trouble to consider this in his writing.

If you can't stop yourself being rude, at least please try to stop yourself being wrong. Shamir did consider this explicitly. In fact, the regression from the performance on Op GRANBY to the performance on Op TELIC constitutes over half the section on 'The British Application of Mission Command' (Part 2 of Chapter 9). This would be hard to miss for anyone who's more than skim-read the book.

His 'primary sources' for UK performance of Mission Command are largely Brit Army official publications/pronouncements accepted at face value with no objective evidence to back them up.

This is also false. He uses a number of sources including interviews and academic texts. Where he does use British army reports, it's almost exclusively to provide weight to the section where he criticises the British army for their poor command performance on Op TELIC. He cites zero official reports as sources in the section where he praises the command performance on Op GRANBY.


Mission Command during GW1?
My arrse - they were using 1(BR) Corps SOPs

I'm afraid it's hard to take this position seriously given the evidence against it. On the one hand we have a respected academic who wrote a well-received book on the subject (with decent footnotes) and no personal interest at stake; on the other we have a single source who has a significant grievance, and is expressing an opinion without the benefit of research or even first-hand knowledge.

Shamir's view on this particular point: "Although the existence of a sixty-five-page SOP could have hindered British efforts, in effect it merely created a common understanding and a basis for the short orders issued in practice" Source: another academic, whose opinion is based on seeing actual orders issued by Rupert Smith that were only two paragraphs long. It's hard to find a source more primary than that.


Perhaps we should leave it there? As ever, I am happy to continue by PM rather than derailing the thread.
 

Caecilius

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as it is the only way to do aggressive armoured warfare.

Bang on. It's not actually that special an idea - issuing relatively light orders and letting people get on with it is a pretty natural way to do high-tempo armoured warfare except in some limited circumstances. The cavalry has been working off pithy orders more-or-less forever (albeit sometimes with disastrous results: "Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left") because that's the only sensible way to command fast manoeuvre units.

It just takes more discipline and practice to do it in the era of computers, high capacity data links, and FMV.
 

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