Planning for Tomorrow's Conflicts: A Recipe for Success

By Neal, Richard I. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 1997 | Go to article overview

Planning for Tomorrow's Conflicts: A Recipe for Success


Neal, Richard I., Naval War College Review


RECIPE FOR SUCCESS-CIRCA 1597: Lou Holtz tells a story that may have applicability to our current process of determining what's best for the nation and its armed forces, and could give us some insight into this complex process. There was once a very successful king in his declining years who wanted to record his "recipe for success" to ensure that his subjects could carry on his legacy without having to suffer through the same "learning curve." He felt the best way to accomplish this was to gather together the kingdom's elders and have them convene a council which would document their lessons learned and provide guidance for future generations. After much deliberation, and about one year later, the elders met with the king and presented him with three large volumes of manuscript. After reading the manuscript, the king praised the elders for their efforts, declaring that it truly captured the essence of his reign. However, it was simply too long and involved to be considered a working document. "People just won't take the time to read it!"

The king then selected a special group of senior elders and gave them the task of condensing the work, making it "more user friendly." Six months later, the inner circle returned and handed over a one-volume manuscript. Again the king congratulated the wise men on their dedication and efforts, but he felt it was still too long. Once again, they were sent away to streamline the guidance. Finally, three months later, the elders proudly presented the king with a single piece of parchment. The ruler beamed as he read the page. With great bravado he pronounced that the elders had indeed accomplished their daunting mission. This "one-pager" truly captured the essence of his rule and prescribed a blueprint for many generations to follow so that they might enjoy the same success. On it, in large print, were the words: "There ain't no free lunch!"

The Continuing National Security Debates

As you are aware, the Department of Defense has recently completed the lates -ration in the continuing debate on the security of our great nation. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR),mandated by the Fiscal Year 1997 Defense Authorization Act, was based on a recommendation of the Commission on Roles and Missions. The review will occur at the beginning of each presidential term as a comprehensive examination of the nation's military requirements, to include functional areas such as strategy, force structure, human resources, infrastructure, readiness, intelligence, and modernization.

Following on the heels of the QDR is the National Defense Panel (NDP), tasked with an independent assessment of the QDR process and final recommendations. In addition, the NDP has been chartered to develop an optimal force structure that permits both forward deployment and credible crisis response, and includes considerations such as conventional threats across a spectrum of conflict, non-traditional (asymmetric) warfare, terrorism, information warfare, and weapons of mass destruction. The fundamental purpose of these deliberations is to help the executive branch, legislative branch, and American people decide what our armed forces should be capable of achieving, how they should be structured, and what funding is required. Both groups were tasked with the very difficult and mammoth endeavor of crafting a "recipe for success" for our nation's security

In the same vein as Lou Holtz's story, one can imagine the president and leaders of Congress examining the QDR's long hours of staff work, voluminous studies, comprehensive computer models, and exhaustive final report, and saying: "This is all magnificent; just wonderful; we appreciate everything you've done; but you know, this is quite a bit for busy people to comprehend. We had hoped your principal recommendations would have been made more concisely" Of course, the NDP would learn from this reaction by our nation's leaders, so their report, undoubtedly, would be equally thoughtful yet considerably shorter. …

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