The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Generals Cushman and DePuy in the 21st Century


Lieutenant General John H. Cushman, Combined Arms Center (CAC)Commander 1973-1976, and General William E. DePuy, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander 1973-1976, had dyametrically opposed views of the purpose and nature of army doctrine.  Ultimately, General Depuy’s view won out, resulting in the ineffective 1976 FM 100-5 focused on the concept of the “Active Defense.”  General Cushman’s opposing view which included a nuanced view of war-fighting; emphasized education over training; and focused on creative thinking over predictable solutions, was the loser.  Depuy’s view is largely credited with setting the conditions for the transformation to the successful “Airland Battle” doctrine of the 1980s.  Did the army make an error following Depuy’s doctrinal view, and how does this debate provide insights into the on-going doctrinal transformation of the 21st Century?  Was Depuy just “Lucky?”


March 2, 2010 - Posted by | H300 | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Just call him “Lucky D”….thats my vote. Of course once you frame the problem and understand Depuy’s possible interests it may get a little more complicated. He saw two major weapons systems (Cheyenne and MBT70) procurement programs fail and realized the significance of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Amongst all the chaos in the Department of the Army he gathered the top leaders to put TRADOC on the map. Knowing that the Navy and Air Force were also maneuvering for fiscal support he drew the best conclusions from the information he had on the Soviet threat to envision a medium intensity conflict of the future. Although his “science” became the subject of extensive criticism it was his timely and logical connections between the threat and doctrine that allowed the Army to finally develop programs worthy of fiscal support. The truth is that I think he wanted to get a product out that would prepare the Army for a war he wanted but not necessarily what they would get. In accomplishing his task he proved the relevance of TRADOC and its ability to excite Army leaders.
    The criticism that could be made about the COIN doctrine and its inability to stimulate associated weapons programs is legitimate however I believe the Army has now evolved to better understand the purpose of TRADOC. Doctrine should be developed against the FUTURE threat in the purest form within the strategic context of the time. This should be done using lessons learned and strategic guidance, but free of pressure from those who are highly invested in programs influenced by the private sector and politics. I know this assumes that the two cannot align however it is very common for major programs to occupy time, effort, and money while new threats and the contemporary operating environment keep changing. If we find a way to speed the process like Depuy, but unlike Depuy, match solid doctrine to relevant programs then we will be the LUCKY ones.

    Comment by Vinny Ciuccoli | March 3, 2009

  2. “D” might not be smart, but he might be the smartest of his periode, because he is the first to thing about “doctrine”. a coherent and thoughtfull doctrine is very good but we must not forget other external factors. one is the income generated by the arms trade. the CRS repport for congress concerning the Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2000-2007 shows that,”in 2007, the United States led in arms transfer agreements worldwide, making agreements valued at over $24.8 billion (41.5% of all such greements), up significantly from $16.7 billion in 2006. Russia ranked second with $10.4 billion in agreements (17.3% of these agreements globally), down from $14.3 billion in 2006.” ( is another weapon race independent from doctrine. to win such race, you must produce new equipements and advovcate for their efficiency and their necessity.

    Comment by ydiop | March 3, 2009

  3. “D” might not be smart, but he might be the smartest of his periode, because he is the first to thing about “doctrine”. a coherent and thoughtfull doctrine is very good but we must not forget other external factors. One is the income generated by the arms trade. the CRS repport for congress concerning the Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2000-2007 shows that,”in 2007, the United States led in arms transfer agreements worldwide, making agreements valued at over $24.8 billion (41.5% of all such greements), up significantly from $16.7 billion in 2006. Russia ranked second with $10.4 billion in agreements (17.3% of these agreements globally), down from $14.3 billion in 2006.” ( This is another weapon race independent from doctrine. To win such race, you must produce new equipements and advovcate for their efficiency and their necessity.

    Comment by ydiop | March 3, 2009

  4. The term “lucky” may be premature. The U.S. Army of 1973 was lacking in several categories following the Vietnam conflict. GEN Depuy was extremely perceptive to identify those critical shortfalls and quickly developed a vision on what TRADOC had to accomplish (within the Command’s sphere of influence) for the Army within a very short period of time if the military was to succeed in the next conflict. The Brady Team Report clearly showed that the U.S. Army was ill-prepared to defend against an aggressive and technologically-superior Soviet threat if the Soviet Union had decided to invade the Fulda Gap at the moment. So even though the concept of the “Active Defense” was seriously flawed (after several attempts in applying it during training), the accomplishments of GEN Depuy should not be quickly overlooked within a short two-year period, especially when one considers all the constraints (time and resources) that he was required to operate under during those precarious years.

    Besides the development of wide-ranging, regulatory training doctrine to guide leaders and soldiers in meeting mission essential requirements (through a serious of established “Tasks, Conditions, and Standards” as outlined in MTP and ARTEP manuals), one also has to appreciate the political environment that GEN Depuy had to succeed in during a time of fiscal restrictions. Although FM 100-5 had its faults, the clever method of composing an operational manual that was systems-and-weapons-oriented and force-ratio-centric was an ingenious way of promoting the justification for the acquisition of advanced weaponry and military equipment that the U.S. Army still employs today (Apache and Blackhawk Helicopters, Stinger Missile, Bradley Fighting vehicle, etc.), especially when Congress was striving to limit the Defense budget following Vietnam.

    Interestingly enough, our country is currently experiencing another period of economic woes and Defense budget restraints (just like the 1970’s) due to the costs incurred from the ongoing global war on terrorism. Therefore, it would be very disconcerting if FM 3-0 (Operations) suddently shifted from its current principle guideline framework into a doctrinal publication that became Future Combat Systems (FCS)-focused in order to justify the large financial burdens required to fund the propects of advanced weaponry that our Army continues to endorse today.

    Comment by MAJ Lance A. Okamura | March 3, 2009

  5. The Army did not make an error in following Depuy’s doctrinal view geared toward training as opposed to education. The “painful” checklists, ARTEPs, and CTC “how to” lists go a long way in developing junior leaders. At the very least it forces leaders at all levels to ask the question of “what am I forgetting?” when preparing their units for the next fight. Depuy’s approach truly forces leaders to look at all aspects of their units from the weapon system to unit and crew standards to individual tasks.

    Comment by MAJ Mark Libby | March 4, 2009

  6. Regarding the debate between “D” and “C”. I still agree with “D’s” general principle. Doctrine drives everything. It helps to ID the threat that you want to defeat. It helps to determine what time of formation or organization you need to execute the doctrine to defeat the threat. And it helps determine the technology the organization needs to execute the doctrine to defeat the ID’d threat. Doctrine drives everything thing else. If you don’t want to constraint the thinkers then just let the thinkers use their imaginations to develop doctrine then have them past their Doctrine off to CASCOM and let CASCOM figure out how to support the doctrine.

    Changing subjects. I just read the service cultural document. And it seems to me that the real problem is with the USAF. It just seems to me that they don’t seem to get along with any of the other services. They just don’t seem to work and play well with others. Perhaps if they can’t behave we should just take away their little toys!

    Comment by Anthony Gray | March 4, 2009

  7. Tony — Blogging on Joint Operations and Goldwater Nichols will commence tonight 😉

    Comment by dimarcola | March 4, 2009

  8. Is the situation the US Army faced in 1973 comparable with the present one?
    How far is the COIN focused doctrine of the post-Iraqi war from the “D’s” doctrinal architecture?
    Are we forgetting the risk of a conventional conflict between superpowers because we are too concentrated on the small wars?
    Do we need a XXI century Arab-Israeli conflict to realize that there is a conventional superpower that could be a potential enemy?
    What did the Russian aggression against Georgia tell us, in doctrinal terms?

    Comment by fdelfavero | March 5, 2009

  9. Thinking on General DePuy’s efforts to write and publish FM 100-5, and the shortcomings of the Active Defense, it seems that the really important take-away here is the development of a coherent linkage between the Army’s perceived Mission and Purpose, how the Army as an institution will accomplish this, and what equipment/systems are required to support this effort.
    While it would be more than just a nicety to align acquisitions with a feasible doctrinal template, once we have at least made a best SWAG at considering how we intend to fight against those known and identifiable threats and taken steps to procuring the equipment that supports this, the doctrine can be massaged or completely revamped if necessary or proven impracticable/unfeasible. Although doctrinal changes might be limited by the technical capabilities of the equipment on hand or in the development process, this equipment, hopefully, and its employment should have the flexibility and adaptability to be utilized in perhaps previously unconsidered ways. I would hope that we do not develop and acquire our main stream equipment with the intent of utilizing it in a specific and very narrowly defined niche. Consider perhaps the UH-60 Blackhawk, while I don not know the history or planning behind its acquisition, this helicopter has become a multi-role asset: Troop transport (internal & external loads), Air Ambulance; emplace obstacles (Volcano-although not preferred and a mission that is/has fallen to the wayside), C2 platform are some of the better known roles, but have we adapted this equipment to meet a need along the way or were all these uses envisioned when the Army first considered acquiring this aircraft? If we had not had some doctrine to use as a foil to propose developing and acquiring this helicopter would the Army have ever fielded it? Would the UH-1H, Huey, in all its variants have been good enough? For how long?
    The bottomline, on the bottomline, is that even if the Active Defense was poor doctrine, General DePuy at least got some systems into the development queue, even though the manner in which they were employed changed. If they Army did not have these systems, then there is no ensuing discussion or consideration whether the manner that they are employed is right or wrong because you cannot have the same discussion about some thing that does not exist. While I am no expert on General DePuy or his thoughts and philosophies the idea of linking conceptually how the Army sees itself fighting to developing and acquiring new equipment to support this concept seems a very powerful idea and method of looking for funding from DoD and Congress. Maybe this linkage is missing for FCS. While FCS is intended to provide the Army with overmatch capabilities against America’s future threats, the how and the who seem in short supply making it difficult to link this massive developmental project to a current of future need.

    Comment by Major Paul Hilaski | March 5, 2009

  10. I agree with Tony for a portion of his statement. D is and was the type of leader that understood the need of the Army and most importantly understood the method “salesman” to acquire the tools necessary to keep the Army a relavent military force. I believe that the Army is faced with this same dilemma today (FCS). We need a seniior leader that can invision the realistic future needs on the battlefield, but most imortantly can sell the idea to those that will ideally fund it. The question is does the US Army possess a leader like this?

    Comment by Jerry Gaussoin | March 5, 2009

  11. It would be naive to think our senior military leaders don’t consider the realm of “what’s possible” within the current political realm regarding defense aquisitions and future battlefield technology. Clearly, no senior official wants to sacrifice his service’s reputation and/or funding by putting a lot of power or effort behind something that is too far-fetched to ever take place. To me, the bottom line is that Depuy’s views won out because he was more aptly able to explain his ideas in a way others understood the concepts and he drew conclusions from his assumptions that appeared reasonable to others. Often, and certainly more likely in complex subject matter like military doctrine, the ability to clearly articulate complex ideas in an influential manner is what resonates with those who make the final decisions and those who control the purse strings. I agree that Depuy was right to recognize the need to update doctrine, but the desire for change doesn’t guarantee a change for the better.

    During challenging economic times, leaders at every level of the military must focus on thorough analysis of lessons learned and how those apply to the current and future threat environment. Wasteful spending on unproven or non-applicable systems in an attempt to secure a portion of the defense budget is not the way to ensure we are prepared for the next conflict.

    Comment by Randy | March 6, 2009

  12. I disagree with Mark Libby and believe that the Army should have gone with Cushing’s doctrinal view earlier, since we’re now teaching creative thinking here during ILE. The checklists should not be the focus of the doctrine, but should be integrated into normal day-to-day operations. Depuy’s doctrine gave an operational emphasis to the checklists that should have been pushed down to the tactical level. Cushing’s creative approach to war-fighting would have been a much better doctrine to help units prepare for the next fight, as they would have been freer to think about what weapons systems would be needed and what education would be needed on those systems.

    Comment by Damon LaCour | March 10, 2009

  13. General DePuy’s position as the TRADOC commander had more influence into the success of FM 100-5 than pure luck. He not only was in the position to direct the training implemented in the manual but to fight for the resources it required. He recognized that being able to use doctrine as a means to persuade in the process of weapons acquisition, he further reinforced its use. Ultimately, his combined used of his position, directed training, and acquired equipment established the US Army in its new direct of the “Airland Battle” doctrine.

    Comment by MAJ Christopher Thompson | March 22, 2009

  14. I believe Cushman and DePuy were both very intelligent men with different perspectives on solving the same problem. The luck fell with the Army on the sequence of the events occurring as they did. Without DePuy identifying the equipment needed and gaining the funding to purchase the equipment neither men’s tactics could be proven.

    Comment by Michael Bailey | March 3, 2010

  15. The big problem for DePuy was that Cushman was holding seminars on officer ethics and general officer responsibilities using the Study on Military Professionalism done by the War College. in 1970. Westmoreland refused to allow the study to be disseminated “for the good of the service.” DePuy discarded all lessons learned from Vietnam and rebuilt the army to fight the Russians in Europe. His training and doctrine reforms were great, Cushman wanted to rebuild the army’s ethical code and DePuy shut him down because he had a lot of skeletons in his own closet.

    Comment by Gregory H. Murry MSG, USA (Ret) | March 27, 2016

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