Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Doctrine Man speaks: Tom, you magnificent bastard, I read your post!

By "Doctrine Man" Best Defense guest columnist That "F" grade seems a little harsh, but we agree on one critical point: this is a debate we need to have, and it’s long overdue. The Human Dimension White Paper describes what is arguably the most significant institutional challenge we will face in the next generation — ...

via Wikimedia
via Wikimedia


By "Doctrine Man"

Best Defense guest columnist

That "F" grade seems a little harsh, but we agree on one critical point: this is a debate we need to have, and it's long overdue. The Human Dimension White Paper describes what is arguably the most significant institutional challenge we will face in the next generation -- optimizing human performance (or, in layman's terms, getting the most out of what people we have left after the personnel pendulum finishes swinging). Think your job is hard? Try figuring that one out.


By "Doctrine Man"

Best Defense guest columnist

That "F" grade seems a little harsh, but we agree on one critical point: this is a debate we need to have, and it’s long overdue. The Human Dimension White Paper describes what is arguably the most significant institutional challenge we will face in the next generation — optimizing human performance (or, in layman’s terms, getting the most out of what people we have left after the personnel pendulum finishes swinging). Think your job is hard? Try figuring that one out.

Let’s break it down, Barney-style.

The white paper follows several years of concept development, which produced papers in 2008 and 2014. Both were seminal documents in terms of defining what needed to be accomplished in the human dimension, but not how. Sort of like the wiring diagrams that come with a new DVR: you know they’re important, but you can’t do anything with them. The task of defining the how fell on the Human Dimension White Paper.

The what is captured fairly well on the cover of the Human Dimension White Paper, in the "atomic man" diagram. The graphic reflects the broad attributes and characteristics described in the human dimension concepts: increased resiliency, total fitness, and higher cognition, among others. It builds on the foundation of the Army Profession Campaign, focusing on trust, our values, and our professional ethic. Put it all together and you’ve forged the future soldier and leader, physically, mentally, and emotionally equipped to thrive in the chaos that we all know as combat.

The how to all of this sounds like it was lifted straight off the front page of Tom’s Best Defense blog: raise the bar on education (including "the tough stuff — Thucydides, Clausewitz, some of the history listed here"), more realistic and interactive training (imagine preparing for a CTC rotation in a holodeck, or qualifying on a rifle range that required you to discriminate among targets), and focusing in on the constituent elements of human performance. Together, those three components form the core of the human dimension effort.

To get there, we need to adapt our institutional base appropriately. That means bringing together all of the pieces and parts that form the loose confederation of our professional military education system under a university-like umbrella that operates more like a civilian institution (and reaps the benefits of that university-like structure). That also means assembling the wide array of stakeholders in the training arena to set priorities for funding, modernization, etc. Finally, on the human performance side, it means identifying and institutionalizing the "ink spots of excellence" across the force so that everyone gains the advantages of those programs. No pressure. Just fix the Army.

A daunting task, and one that doesn’t deserve a dunce cap. The man behind this effort — Lt. Gen. Bob Brown — has done this same thing on a much smaller scale at other installations, but until now no one has attempted this as an Army-wide program. The greatest challenge to success? Surprisingly enough, it’s not the budget, the naysayers, or the guy who came up with the phrase "rapid curricular responsiveness." It’s time. The tyranny of personnel rotations. Because this is an effort that needs enough momentum to endure beyond the tenure of its proponents. That’s a tall order, to say the least.

In the meantime, we need to spur the debate. The Bridge, which hosted an earlier dialog on the Army Operating Concept, will open its pages to posts on the Human Dimension White Paper. Hemingway be damned, we can do this. It might not be pretty, it might not earn a passing grade from The Beard, but it’s long overdue. 

Doctrine Man is the pseudonym of a career Army officer, strategist, and recovering doctrine writer. A graduate of the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, he logged three combat tours in Iraq while mastering the art of PowerPoint with his online comic stripThe Further Adventures of Doctrine Man!! He recently published the second volume of his annual comic compendium, now available on Amazon.

Tom note: I am told that the Army’s paper on Training and Education Modernization Strategy, which I haven’t yet read, is even worse than the paper I reviewed. One person doing time at Leavenworth called it "the most poorly written and fragmented concept that I’ve read in quite a while." For the love of humanity, can we just make them stop?

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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