Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Crumpton’s picks (5): To get ahead of the enemy, empower decisions in the field

  By Henry A. Crumpton Best Defense guest columnist 5. Time and Tempo. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram, captures the elegant, brilliant simplicity of John Boyd’s concepts of war. Boyd first studied aircraft dogfights to understand war. He taught that the right observation, orientation, decision, and action ...

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By Henry A. Crumpton

Best Defense guest columnist

 

By Henry A. Crumpton
Best Defense guest columnist

5. Time and Tempo. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram, captures the elegant, brilliant simplicity of John Boyd’s concepts of war. Boyd first studied aircraft dogfights to understand war. He taught that the right observation, orientation, decision, and action (OODA) in a continuous loop, at the right time, enable speed, flexibility, and precision. So, we outmaneuver the enemy and drive the momentum of battle. Get inside the turning radius of the enemy decision-making. Do not dither, do not allow the enemy to set the pace. He revolutionized how we taught fighter pilots and then expanded his teaching to warfare as a whole.

Our Washington bureaucracy cannot achieve the required time and tempo of the OODA loop principle. This requires a deep bias for a brave and empowered field command, often at tactical levels, thereby challenging the ponderous Washington-centric control we now embrace. Note the abject failure of the one-year, $500 million Pentagon program to train and deploy Syrian rebel forces – micromanaged by cautious Washington wonks bound by vested interests, not by independent battlefield warriors.

Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, who led the CIA’s Afghanistan campaign 2001-02,

retired from government service in 2007. He is the author of The Art of Intelligence.

(To be continued)

Photo credit:Carsten Tolkmit/Flickr (cropped)

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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