The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Driving Transformation

A variety of factors influence transformation. Usually, however, one factor is the initiator. For example and obvious dangerous threat which has defeated a country in the past could be the factor which initiates the transformation process. Once that initiator is successful in “kick-starting” the transformation process the remaining factors interact with each other dynamically to eventually achieve the end result product of transformation. Which of the factors was the most important for starting the transformation process during the interwar years? In some countries and military services transformation did not occur, or failed to transform into a successful form. In the interwar years what factor was the most important to preventing successful transformation? The dynamics that effected transformation in the interwar years continue to effect transformation today. Which is the most important factor effecting transformation in the U.S. military today?

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November 29, 2011 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. I believe that in the interwar period, some countries (such as the US) took advantage of emerging innovations in the technological, logistical, and conceptual fields to produce transformation. The interwar innovations in US aviation is a perfect example. Although the Army Air Corps was hesitant at first to capitalize on the innovations in technology, our strong potential logistics and industrial base, and several innovators which greatly advanced doctrine, the corps eventually transformed into the force that contributed greatly to our success in WWII. Of the three factors in transformation, the conceptual aspect is the most elusive because it requires both bold innovators (some would say genius) and organizations that are eventually willing to transform given new ideas and doctrine. This is why some some nations failed to transform in the interwar period and why the US continues to struggle with transformation.

    Comment by Matthew Wilder, 17D | December 4, 2011

  2. I believe that the most important factor in each nation’s interwar transformation was the conceptual capabilities of each nation’s leaders. While all nations faced resource constraints and political infighting to some degree during the interwar era some nations still successfully transformed their militaries. Each of the nations’ success or failure can be linked to their leaders’ concept of how future wars would be fought.

    For example, the German military was extremely limited by a lack of national resources and the Treaty of Versailles 1919 restrictions during most of the interwar period. Despite their nations’ limitations the German military leaders thought and heavily debated how they would fight future wars. While the Treaty of Versailles 1919 restricted the amount and type of weapon systems the Germans could have for two decades after its signing it could not prevent the German leaders from conducting mental war games or learning from other nations as they developed tanks and aircraft. Thus, when the restrictions were lifted, Germany’s economy became stronger, and the Germans were satisfied they knew how they would fight their next war they were able to pour resources into developing an Army that centered on a communication network that allowed it to easily exploit opportunities on the battlefield. All of this was accomplished through the strength of the German leaders ability to conceptualize how they wanted to fight their next war.

    Yet another example is the British RAF. The British leaders conceived how the RAF could help them “police” the British Empire more easily and less expensively than a large expeditionary army. Therefore, their leaders created a separate air force that was well ahead of the US, as far as command structure and doctrine, going into WWII. Once again, this nation’s leaders looked at the resources on hand and conceptualized how to successfully meet its nation’s strategic goals, protection of the Empire, which resulted in the RAF’s creation.

    For each nation’s success, there were others that failed miserably and I believe that all of the successes and failures during this period were based on conceptual factors.

    Comment by MAJ Chris Moore, 17A | December 4, 2011

  3. POLITICAL Factors are the most critical for today’s military and during the interwar period. Politics, its influence over strategy, and its close relationship w/ national/public sentiment towards the military establishment (civil-military ties) either ignites or extinguishes innovation and transformational change. The political environment establishes strategy, sets priorities, and influences the military culture. Political factors and decisions also effect resourcing for the military. I concur that the conceptual aspect is a strong factor, but without political support and its overarching influence, “bold innovators,” leaders, and their “genius” ideas or concepts would face considerable resistence in implementing transformational change and making their innovations a reality. As noted by an earlier post, the British made bold moves with the RAF. However, as discussed in class and in class readings, the British arguably lost its innovative advantage in armored warfare and in naval aviation. This was a result of political and strategic calculations, prioritizations, and the fostering of a military culture that was quite resistent to learning from recent experience during WWI. Political/Strategic dependence upon the treaty system and the inability to identify future threats and capabilities all played into this inability to further adapt and transform, yet still highlight that influence comes from the top (i.e., POLITICAL FACTORS — Political Leaders, their decisions, and their perceptions/assumptions).

    Comment by MAJ N. HUMMEL, SG17B | December 8, 2011

  4. WW I actually can be attributed to the start of transformation. Militaries at this time began to look at the impact and importance that doctrine and technology assists with conquering and defeating the enemy. Key factors that influence doctrine and technology includes: politics, budget short-fails, and society perceptions. All of which contribute to shaping war and transformation.

    MAJ Jackson (SG 17A)

    Comment by MAJ LaShaunda Jackson 17A | December 11, 2011

  5. I agree with MAJ Moore that the ability of leaders is the most important factor during the interwar period. The German leaders understood the politics of the day but they could still see beyond the trees. They focused on increasing their knowledge and continued to develop their war machines until the shift in political power. Once restriction were lifted their leaders were ahead of the game and understood exactly what they equipment they needed and what direction they wanted to take the Army. Factors such as politics, budget, and logistics, were tied to a plan because of their exceptional leaders. We can see these same factors today having a major impact on transformation, however we will have to rely on strong agile leaders to lead our continued success in our transformation efforts.

    Comment by MAJ Carl Mason, 17A | December 11, 2011

  6. The most important factor affecting transformation in the US military today is the charismatic innovator, because politicians have the right to be wrong with regards to resourcing and manning the military, the military as an organization must be disciplined to operate within constraints, but the charismatic innovator must use critical and creative thinking to visualize the problem, describe the solution, and influence the politicians and senior members of the military as well as direct subordinates. As we head into budgetary constraints, we must remain apolitical, however, we must prepare for future threats. In our preparation, we can be innovative just as Gudarian was during the Inter-War period so that when the politicians authorize the resources to create the technology our concepts are ready for employment.

    Comment by MAJ Hobbs, 17B | January 12, 2012

  7. I agree with MAJ Moore in that conceptual capacity is the factor most responsible for successful transformation. The evidence seems to suggest that as well. First, most countries suffered from the same lack of funding. War debt and the Great depression affected them pretty much equally. The country’s economic health took priority over defense budgets. Second, Political factors were also similar to most countries post WWI. There was a general apprehension against warfare due to the high number of casualties suffered during the “Great War.” Third, most armies still suffered equally from military infighting due to their ingrained military cultures (though the subject of the fights themselves may have been different).

    Additionally, the new technological developments were available to all so how else do you account for the differences in use and development of these technologies? Some countries successfully incorporated these new changes, others either did not conceive how to do this or simply chose not to – their reluctance based on the thinking that these new technologies would soon become outdated. Either way, conceptual capacity (or lack thereof) seems to account for the lack of successful transformation.

    When you add that transformation is more an art, that deals with managing these diverse factors (political, military, logistics, threat, etc), already dynamic in themselves, it adds validity to the fact that how you conceptualize change will aid you in what is clearly an unpredictable environment.

    Comment by MAJ Efrain Ramos | January 24, 2012

  8. Which of the factors was the most important for starting the transformation process during the interwar years?

    The most important factor for the transformation process during the interwar years was the conceptual factor. Germany conducted numerous AARs and lessons learned from WWI and applied them to their transformation during the interwar years. For example the German military, bound by severe post-war limitations, was practically forced to develop the most efficient tactics, blitzkrieg, which naturally involved using tanks and aircraft for mobile ground warfare. From these conceptual ideas everything else followed, the logistics, the doctrine, etc.

    In the interwar years what factor was the most important to preventing successful transformation?

    For the countries that failed to transform a combination of political factors and available resources were the main factors that prevented them from transformation during the interwar years. For example the British military during the interwar years existed in an antimilitary environment. This environment lacked the willingness to expend finances and resources on transformation due to the high cost of WWI. These two factors, among others, led to Great Britain losing their technological advantage, and never regaining it, on armored vehicles

    Which is the most important factor effecting transformation in the U.S. military today?

    Today the most important factor affecting transformation is the threat. IEDs are a perfect example of this, as the threat of IEDs increased and the loss of life increased we saw a major transformation in armored vehicles, from HMMWVs with “hillbilly armor” to the MRAP. The threat of the loss of human life will result in an increased pressure placed on the political factor, the conceptual factor, and everything to eliminate that threat or to decrease the current threat and to avoid the loss of life.

    Comment by MAJ Karl Beier | January 24, 2012

  9. I do not believe that there is one factor that facilitated, or hindered, transformation during the Interwar period. Each Nation had different key factors for “kick-starting” their transformation, or lack thereof in some countries. With the Germans, it started with their Military Culture and their belief of superiority. They never truly believed that they lost WWI, but that the politicians gave the victory away. Therefore, the Military continued to refine conceptual ideas and capabilities throughout the interwar period. Reversely, Economic restraints kick-started political factors that hindered military transformation in the United States and Great Britain. Although some transformation took place in areas like air power, military capabilities like armor lagged behind. Other countries like France believed that WWI was the last Great War and chose to rely on their current doctrine, which marginalized technological advances and military influence.

    The same holds true in today’s environment. In the United States, Political Factors are driving (some would argue hindering) military transformation. The new Defense Strategy analyzes the threats in the Asia Pacific and allocates resources against it. Keeping 11 aircraft carriers in the fleet is a primary example. This new national strategy will force Army officials to review their current capabilities and force structure. It will drive the technological advancements down to Infantry Squad level. If technology can make an Infantry Squad twice as efficient and lethal, do we need such a large fighting ground force? These are questions that will have to be address during this period of transformation.

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


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