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 inabling or 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?


December 6, 2013 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , ,


  1. With regard to America’s lackluster military transformation during the interwar years, I believe the most culpable factor was geography. The same isolationist sentiments that delayed America’s entry into World War One, also argued for the dismantling of the large, wartime military and exhibited a reluctance to fund anything but a cursory cadre force in peacetime. Furthermore, modernizing that force on large scale was out of the question. Certainly, America was repulsed by the, relatively speaking, small taste of war from World War One. So were all the other nations who participate in the war. The difference in America’s repulsion was that America was not forced to set it aside in order to grow and pay for a large, military force. The prevailing thought, at the time, was that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would provide protection, instead. Indeed, in spite of aggression from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, America’s large-scale military transformation did not begin until the ‘ocean defense’ was breeched, 72 years ago, today.

    Comment by Seth Hall | December 8, 2013

  2. What are the 7 deadly sins again?
    Isn’t pride one of them?
    How many times have we seen someone try to leave their mark on an organization?

    Adapt or die is often the slogan tied to change. Is this always true?

    Could evolution happen too fast without the required conditions to support?

    I propose the environment or the rules of the game evolve and that is what drives transformation.

    Comment by Major Jim Smith, 17B | December 16, 2013

  3. While it is true that innovation and the “kickstart” for it can be focused on any of the legs in the model we have used in H200 (Technological, Logistical, Conceptual) but the easiest point to attack this model to affect a change is the conceptual.

    The interwar years through World War II (and beyond) seems to indicate that the pivot point for innovation and Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Germany identified deficiencies of the WWI era (conceptual realm) and then either invented technology or modified existing technology to solve the problem. This prioritization of the conceptual leg of the model can be seen in everything from tanks/aircraft and combined arms to aircraft carriers, V1 & V2 and even the atomic bomb. While in these cases the base technology was budding, it was greatly modified by the conceptual piece to meet doctrine needs more than doctrine being modified to map technological capabilities. The fact that doctrine writers and theorists include capabilities in doctrine which are not currently available… because they know these ideas are not unachievable and as such, if they write it into doctrine or theory, technology will evolve to achieve the military need.

    When we introduce the innovator, they also reinforce this idea of the importance of attacking the conceptual leg. Billy Mitchell did not just show what his airframes could do, he pushed the envelope, pursued doctrine which was far beyond current capabilities and worked to demonstrated aspects of the concept to influence decision makers. The MANHATTAN Project, advanced submarines, carrier aviation in the Pacific and development of German “buzz bombs” pushed beyond the realm of known/available technology and developed doctrine and theory which technology then had to be developed to enable, all so they cycle could begin again.

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | December 16, 2013

  4. During the Interwar years, I believe it was the military culture that was the most important for starting the transformation process. I believe we had a group of military leaders that were well-connected to the political leadership of our country and, having some experience from WWI and fully believing our nation was on course for a definitive war against Japan, sold our country on the importance of transformation. I also believe it was those lessons we learned in WWI that helped drive our military to adapt to known deficiencies in our technology, doctrine, and equipment. They were able to use the boom of the Industrial Revolution to help drive a transformation that they felt was necessary for the US to remain a formidable military threat. There was no one charismatic innovator during this period and, though there were certainly political factors at play during this period, I would argue that the military culture of our country took the reins on our transformation during the Interwar years to help ensure we were ready to address a growing threat in the Pacific and a potential additional conflict in Europe.

    Today I believe it is political factors that are most important with respect to transformation in the US Military. The current political environment in our country today is focused almost completely on domestic issues (primarily economy) and the US Military, with its record of exponential growth over the past 12 years during our protracted fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, is one of the easiest targets for reductions in funding and development. When you combine the current political factors with a growing technological trend that seems to argue we will soon be capable of doing more with less and military leaders that are eager to agree with our nation’s leadership on troop reductions and cost cutting, it seems apparent that we are destined to be a force faced with increasing challenges regarding our ability to transform in the coming years.

    Comment by Jeff Pickler | February 1, 2014

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