The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Transforming the Chicken

In the transformation case studies examined in H200, though the factors influencing transformation remain the same, the way those factors interact are very different in every case.  In some cases threat drives the transformation process, in other cases an operational vision (doctrine) is the main driver, and in still others the technology is in place before the country/service really understands how to employ it.  What should be the driver of transformation?  Which factor do you think is the most common driver of transformation in the modern US military?  Is that have a positive or negative effect on current transformation efforts?  Of all the factors which we have studied that influence transformation, which do you think most negatively influenced the demise of the army’s Future Combat System?

January 7, 2011 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , ,


  1. From the cartoon above, it appears to me that building the FCS on pontoon paddle boats is probably what killed it.

    Seriously, what killed FCS, and what plagues most acquisition programs in the US military, is technology overreach. The US military creates specs for technology that is either highly experimental, or in some cases, doesn’t even exist yet.

    Much of this stems from the culture of the late 90’s in which technology was seen as the critical factor which would allow domination of the battlefield. FCS was born out of this thinking.

    Thinking back to the transformation model, FCS was driven by an operational concept, but the military culture pushed FCS toward unproven and sometimes theoretical technology, which ultimately made it so expensive that the resources were taken away.

    Comment by MAJ Trent Lythgoe | January 8, 2011

  2. Personally I think that this idea of transformation is something the military does over and over throughout time. The second point is that no one thing should drive this process. I think that all of the influences to change that we’ve learned about in H200 are all valid reasons to change.

    Take for example the changes during the interwar period in both aviation and amphibious landings. Obviously the change to use aviation required the invention of the airplane to make that technology a reality in the military. However, a requirement drove the military to develop the technology required for amphibious landings. The bottom line is no one way is correct or more important than the other.

    Comment by MAJ David Price - SG 17D | January 9, 2011

  3. Regarding the FCS, I believe that the logistic (resources) and political factors “most negatively influenced the demise” of the system.” The reported price tag of $5.9 billion apprently turned out to be prohibitively expensive (price data from ). Additionally, the current political climate is emphasizing reduced spending overall, as evidenced by the proposed cuts in end strength.

    Comment by Rachel Wienke, SG 17D | January 18, 2011

  4. I think that operational vision combined with technology drives transformation.
    While some ideas may seem outrageous at the time, technology often drives transofrmation as organizations realize the potential uses and advantages of technology.

    Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of our beliefs and fail to pursue new technology. In 1997 the Mobile Gun System (MGS)was tested and presented as a new alternative to the 82nd Airborne’s aging Sheridan tank (actually a tracked recon vehicle with a 152mm main gun). The MGS had wheels instead of tracks and resembled a modern day Marine LAV. Alot of debate was made over the effectiveness of a wheeled armored combat vehicle and the decision was made not to field it.

    Back then, the idea of a wheeled combat vehicle was probably seen as outrageous but today, 14 years later, the Stryker (very similar to the MGS)is one of the latest and greatest comabt vehicles in the fleet.

    The technolgy was there in 1997 but the desire or willingness of track vehicle transformation was not there.

    Comment by Eric Morris | January 19, 2011

  5. I think that in the current operating environment technology drives innovation. We have technologies force fed to us in many cases by companies who are trying to justify their existance with new government accounts. This is not to say that we haven’t gotten excellent technology from some of the innovators during OIF/OEF, but I think that, often, I have spent time with a contractor trying to sell us on a “silver bullet” solution in COIN when, we need to get more low tech than we are. This desire to get ahead of the curve technologically gives us the unconscious impression that our current wars can be won with a new gizmo. As a result, our property books are cluttered with “awesome” new toys collecting dust as we move on to the next thing. This is preferable to a culture that does not value innovation, but it does lead to waste.

    Comment by MAJ Nathaniel Miller | February 14, 2011

  6. I think that several factors contributed to the demise of the FCS. The leading factor in my opinion would be the threat. There is no conventional threat in the operating environment today or in the near future (maybe China?) that requires us to spend our resources (dollars) on the FCS.

    Also, the political climate today influences what programs we fund in the defense budget. The FCS program was costly and it would be hard to justify in today’s political climate why we are funding the FCS program.

    Another factor that might of contributed to the FCS’s demise was investing a lot of money in a technology that is sound today but might be obsolete tomorrow. From a practical standpoint, if there is no immediate threat to counter’s the US Military’s capability, investing a large amount of money in a future program that might not prove to be worth its investment is not sound investing.

    Comment by Mark Ripley | February 21, 2011

  7. In the United States, Politics drives our transformation process. The National Security Strategy (NSS) outlines the priorities for each governmental department, to include the Department of Defense. It also outlines the threats and priorities that drive resource allocation. In turn, DoD uses the Security Strategy and resource allocation to develop the National Defense Strategy. These factors can have both a positive and negative impact on military transformation. Limited resources can push the services to find cheaper and more efficient ways of conducting operations. These restraints can force doctrinal changes and drive technological advancements. Although the Army’s Future Combat System was cancelled, the Army has started other initiatives. Advancement in drone and squad level technologies are a couple of new ideas. The Army has developed new training methodologies to find cheaper ways of training the force to save on resources. These are just a few of the areas that are influenced by politically driven transformation.

    Comment by MAJ Ryan Barnett, SG17D | January 25, 2012

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