Best Defense

A strategic question for you all: What should the U.S. military stop doing?

One of the themes of this blog is that strategy is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do.

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One of the themes of this blog is that strategy is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do.

A sign of bad strategy is that it has no priorities. If everything is important, nothing is truly essential. This thought is provoked by a sentence I read in Jim Collins’ Good to Great, about the characteristics of companies that broke out of the pack. “The good-to-great companies did not focus principally on what to do to become great; they focussed equally on what not to do and what to stop doing.” So, what should the U.S. military stop doing?

Some possibles that come to mind:

— Get out of the anti-drug business? Recommend legalization, to reduce the prison population and to break the criminalization of addiction.

— Get out of the land-based nuclear missile business? We seem to be heading that way.

— Stop building 20th century style aircraft carriers? (Yes.)

— Shut down a big part of its medical establishment? Sure, but how?

And of course, stop using an Industrial Era approach to personnel in the Information Age. Eliminate lots of middle management and staff positions, but have strong people in the staff positions you keep. Monitor decisions more than give orders. Etc.

Photo credit: eyesogreen/Flickr

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. @tomricks1

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