Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

I think I found a job opening at McKinsey for someone who can write English

I mention in another item today how much I liked the McKinsey interview with General McMaster. I was less taken with another article in the same issue, about what defense companies should do to weather the current decline in Pentagon spending.  The article is laden with phrases that apparently carry great meaning for the authors, ...

Wikimedia
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

I mention in another item today how much I liked the McKinsey interview with General McMaster. I was less taken with another article in the same issue, about what defense companies should do to weather the current decline in Pentagon spending

The article is laden with phrases that apparently carry great meaning for the authors, but might not be so evident to the reader. They recommend "reimagining the business portfolio." They want executives to "redesign the talent strategy" -- but they don't say what that means. (I am guessing it means hire different sorts of people, but who knows? And what sort of people?) They also call for "appropriately managing incentives." Why does no one ever call for "inappropriate" steps? Those might be more fun, and certainly more interesting. 

Their bottom line: "History shows that the time to act is in the depth of the downturn." My translation: "Buy low, sell high." In other words, what you need to do is simple: Just be the Warren Buffett of the defense industry. Any stockbroker will tell you this is easy to say, hard to do. 

I mention in another item today how much I liked the McKinsey interview with General McMaster. I was less taken with another article in the same issue, about what defense companies should do to weather the current decline in Pentagon spending

The article is laden with phrases that apparently carry great meaning for the authors, but might not be so evident to the reader. They recommend "reimagining the business portfolio." They want executives to "redesign the talent strategy" — but they don’t say what that means. (I am guessing it means hire different sorts of people, but who knows? And what sort of people?) They also call for "appropriately managing incentives." Why does no one ever call for "inappropriate" steps? Those might be more fun, and certainly more interesting. 

Their bottom line: "History shows that the time to act is in the depth of the downturn." My translation: "Buy low, sell high." In other words, what you need to do is simple: Just be the Warren Buffett of the defense industry. Any stockbroker will tell you this is easy to say, hard to do. 

This court finds the authors guilty of aggravated assault on the English language, and sentences them to remedial readings of Strunk & White, and then George Orwell’s essay on clear thinking and clear writing.

Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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