- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Limited resources tend to drive innovative,” argues retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward, an expert in defense acquisition.
He explains: “small teams with short schedules, tight budgets, and deep commitments to simplicity — in other words, teams with a constraint mindset — are not only more creative, but also more effective. Small teams consistently outperform large, unconstrained teams who pursue complexity and adopt a “take your time, spare no expense” mentality.
He also offers four specific rules:
1. Constraints foster creativity.
2. Constraints foster focus.
3. Long timelines increase exposure to change.
4. Delays foster delays.
Bottom line: “we tend to do the most when we have the least.”
Tom again: I am of course sympathetic to this view. I think that over the last 15 years, Pentagoners grew accustomed to blank check budgets. Lots of money got wasted erecting unnecessary buildings, I suspect. We now have a generation of younger officers who have never really had to think about cutting the defense budget.
Money is no substitute for thinking. Example: Imagine how many billions of dollars — let alone lives — we might have saved had we pursued an intelligent strategy in Afghanistan.
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