Driving Change through a Campaign of Learning

By Dempsey, Martin E. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Driving Change through a Campaign of Learning


Dempsey, Martin E., Army


We continue to learn important lessons from our ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every once in a while, however, an incident outside the Army can help us understand the challenges we will continue to face in the future. In that spirit, I'll briefly use the recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico to illustrate how we're working in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to prepare for the future.

The once unimaginable scenes of oil streaming from the broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico are still real to us. For months, the powerful images of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform and the oilcovered wildlife were part of our everyday life. It will likely take many years to calculate the full costs of this tragedy. One marine science professor noted, "It could take years, possibly decades, for the system to recover from an infusion of this quantity of oil and gas. . . . We've never seen anything like this before - It's impossible to fathom the impact." Yet these seemingly unimaginable events do occur, whether they're generated by Mother Nature or human nature. In TRADOC, we are working to avoid a "failure of imagination."

Of course, we have always lived with uncertainty and the specter of the unimaginable. We believe, however, the character of uncertainty is fundamentally different today. Today's uncertainty is the result of persistent conflict with hybrid threats, enabled by technology, that decentralize, network and syndicate. We live in a far more competitive security environment than we did just 10 years ago. In such an environment, we should expect to be surprised more frequently and with potentially greater impact. Our profession, therefore, demands leaders with greater imagination and increased awareness of the "weak signals" of impending change. We see it as our responsibility to think differently about institutional adaptation - shifting from a reactive to a proactive stance to recognize and influence change before "strong signals" force us to adapt on others' terms.

A Campaign of Learning

Here at TRADOC we are reaching out across the Army and to others outside of our profession to discuss how we might address the challenges of the 21st-century security environment. We are characterizing this effort within TRADOC as a campaign of learning, and as part of this effort, I think it's important to describe some of the initiatives under way to support this campaign. This article is by no means a complete catalogue of the many adaptations we are undergoing within TRADOC. We hope to set the conditions for a continuum of learning across our Army mat will result in a paradigm shift in our approach to institutional adaptation.

The competitive security environment demands that we prevail in the competitive learning environment. We've suggested that combat power in the 21st century will be less about throw weight and numbers of combat systems - though they will be important - and more about our ability to adapt. We've said that we must think about the future differently and transform systems, processes and concepts more frequently. All of this is achievable if - and only if - we make a campaign of learning our centerpiece for institutional adaptation. It must be more than a bumper sticker.

Within TRADOC, the campaign oí learning is a set of initiatives built on the expectation of persistent conflict, grounded in the lessons learned from nine years of war and balanced against the emerging trends of the future operational environment The campaign expects change, whether changes in training resulting from the proliferation of increasingly high-tech military capabilities falling into the hands of decentralized nonstate actors, or changes in basic combat training (BCT) resulting from the different skills and attributes of young men and women entering our Army today. The campaign of teaming includes adapting to our doctrine, to our tiaining, to how we develop our leaders and to how we build versatility for full spectrum capability in our organizational structures and equipment. …

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