An Army Manual for Civilian Business

By Morelock, Jerry D | Military Review, March/April 1997 | Go to article overview

An Army Manual for Civilian Business


Morelock, Jerry D, Military Review


HOPE IS NOT A METHOD: What Business Leaders Can Learn From America's Army by Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper. 294 pages. Random House, New York. 1996. $25.00.

After the Soviet Union's collapse and the Cold War's end, the US Army faced its greatest challenge since the Vietnam War. Fortunately, the Army chief of staff was the right man at exactly the right time. Earlier, when the Southeast Asian conflict ended, the turmoil induced bv "muddle-headed" politicians and well-meaning, but disastrous, policies within the military nearly destroyed the Army as an institution. It was saved by collaboration among a generation of Army officers who, quite literally, reinvented it.

By 1991, the professional, AllVolunteer Force that made such short work of the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm had about as much in common with Vietnam's draftee units as it did with Pershing's World War I American Expeditionary Forces or with the Civil War's Army of the Potomac. One of the reinventors who came of age during the "bad old days" of the 1970s and then helped lead the Army to a smashing victory in the Gulf War was a visionary, military intellectual who became the 32nd chief of staff in 1991-General Gordon R. Sullivan.

Sullivan inherited an Army poised on the brink of an abyss. With its raison d'etre-the Soviet Union-in shambles, the US Army began standing down for the first time since the end of World War II. The Army drawdown that began in 1946 was rudely interrupted in the summer of 1950 by communist aggression in Korea. Subsequently, nearly half a century of Cold War ensued, and President Harry Truman's plans for disassembling the Army were put on indefinite hold. Seven chief executives later, however, the Army was stranded in the midst of a "new world order," bereft of "evil empires," with a domestic electorate wondering why the only superpower in the world needed an Army nearly as large as the one capable of fighting the Soviets in northern Europe. The obvious answer seemed to be that we really did not need such a force. After one last round of self-congratulatory victory parades in the summer of 1991, the monumental task of dismantling the Cold War Army began in earnest. That was the abyss Sullivan peered into when be became Army chief of staff.

Sullivan's true genius and lasting legacy was his masterful management of what could have been a monumentally disastrous downsizing. During his tenure from 1991 to 1995, the Army contributed to its share of the so-called peace dividend by reducing by an astonishing 40 percent, bringing down the troop count to roughly what we mustered in the pre-Pearl Harbor days of late 1939 to mid-1940. The last time the Army's strength was that low, General George C. Marshall was the chief of staff. Even in the summer of 1950, when Task Force Smith was being overrun in the Korean hills north of Osan, creating the most poignant example of the wages of the sin of unpreparedness, overall Army strength was about 590,000-significantly larger than today. Yet, incredibly, the global operational mission requirements of today's Army have increased by more than 300 percent since Desert Storm.

The complexity of these operations has grown enormously, involving the Army not only in traditional combat missions but also in missions ranging from riot control, refugee support, disaster relief and counterdrug interdiction, to combating terrorism and the full range of peacekeeping duties. For the most part, this drastically increased mission load has been accomplished with tremendous success, despite all the distractions of troop reduction, nuclear and chemical weapons redeployment and base closures and realignments. …

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