The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H201: 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 14, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Transformation is the byproduct of stimulation. During the interwar period, each of the major world players received variable stimuli resulting in differing national transformation. In the United States an amalgamation of economic crisis inherent to the Great Depression as well as innovation associated with the burgeoning air industry yielded a far different result than the European nations. In England, the Great Depression also served as a national stimulus resulting in British efforts toward reinvigorating and securing the global economy. Ultimately the different paths taken by these two countries serve as a microcosm representing the relationship between stimulus and transformation. The stimuli must abide by political factors, threat, and military culture all interacting to reflect the national will. In the United States the national will became more innovative while in England the national will adopted a more conciliatory path.

    National will and character define the framework for transformation. Military leaders must comprehend this framework in order to optimize the innovation potential during times of peace. In the United States, the challenge during today’s interwar period is the problem of crisis definition. Military leaders perceive crises differently from civilian leaders unfortunately resulting in different perceptions of threat, culture, and political factors. This misalignment stretches the desire for the military to establish capability during non-crisis periods while political will may not perceive the immediacy of the threat therein limiting resource allocation.

    This misalignment of perception and resource allocation is the major problem facing today’s military. Politicians and military leaders must coordinate efforts to handle perceived and actual threats in order to optimize transformation and prepare for the wars of the future.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | December 15, 2015

  2. I think that the greatest influence for starting a transformation, for the interwar period and today, is the threat. During the interwar period inventors, politicians, academia, military leaders and the public of each country debated the next threat. Although unwanted, what I’ve read indicates that most people felt the Great War was not finished. Transformation was hindered by these two arguments: who and when. Those countries with a more pessimist view transformed urgently while those lingering in denial were slow to progress. When WWII become obvious, everyone frantically transformed towards what they perceived as the greatest threat to their country. The good news for that U.S. military is that the citizens, politicians and allies supported the war effort 100%.
    Like today, the type and likelihood of threat plays a major role in our ability to transform. Prior to 9/11, we remained focused on a conventional fight for a few decades, choosing to ignore the lessons of Vietnam. Our technology and tactics proved ineffective at fighting an insurgency and nation building. The immediate need for transformation was supported by everyone as our enemy shocked us into anger for a War on Terror like Pearl Harbor for WWII. Unfortunately, the amount of support outside the military has waned significantly this time. Like after WWI, this reluctance to dedicate resources towards military transformation occurred for a variety of reasons. The military continues to push for change in technology and tactics, but without the political/popular support, cannot secure the resources to make some changes.

    Comment by Laura Proffit, 19C | January 4, 2016

  3. The most important factor that impeded transformation during the interwar years was a lack of political support. The apocalyptic nature of World War I led to a widespread revulsion against warfare and the military. The significant devastation made the public realize that the battlefield had become increasingly hostile and lethal. Negative public sentiment had an adverse impact on transformation, especially in democratic countries, where the political system emphasized civilian control of the military. A lack of political support also resulted in limited funding for militaries. Governments were experiencing tight financial situations from post-war debt and competing priorities, but lacked political support to raise taxation. Consequently, only a small proportion of national incomes could be allocated for defense. Without political support and the corresponding allocation of resources, it was challenging for militaries to transform.

    The U.S. military is facing a similar dynamic today. The public is war-wary after an extended period of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military is also facing resource constraints with down-sizing and sequestration. The U.S. military needs to be cognizant of the impact of such an external environment on innovation and take steps to mitigate this impact. Such steps include looking ahead at projections of future wars and prioritizing resources accordingly to enable effective innovation.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG19B | January 20, 2016

  4. One of the concerning similarities between the interwar period and the political environment today is the external constraint of resourcing placed on the military. Although the economic repercussions of the Great Depression dramatically outweighed the Great Recession, the reaction of the Congress and the President to impose indiscriminate budget cuts dramatically undercut the ability of the modern military to innovate. The Budget Control Act that eventually led to sequestration created long-lasting budgetary issues for all the Services, that prevented responsible program cutting or efficiency development to reduce costs. Years of uncertain budget practices and political gamesmanship create uncertainty, and uncertainty prevents the type of long term innovation and risk taking necessary for a military to prepare for the next war.

    Comment by Kyle Johnston | January 25, 2016

  5. The factor that influences the start of transformation is the threat and how it is viewed. If the threat is anticipated to be severe enough to threaten the current environment then it makes sense that innovation would result. Technology or conceptual innovation would arise. Respectively, resources would be made available to incorporate the new technology or concept into doctrine, which would be applied against the threat (current or future). The key is to allow enough flexibility in innovation that if you get it wrong you still have the ability to adjust.

    I would argue that political factors bare the greatest influence on transformation. The authorization of defense spending for a nation is controlled by its governing body, which is influenced by the political, and populace stance of that country. During the interwar years, The British stifled themselves by believing they would not encounter a situation that would require the British to commit the Army to the defense of the continent alone. The British believed if there would be conflict to defend against it would be joined by allies in the commitment of an Army to the continent. This was the premise for the Ten-year rule. The Ten-Year Rule was the result of the governing body’s stance as well as the consensus of the populace. Britain did not want to see another war that resulted in the amount of casualties as was seen during World War I. Coupled with the political stance, economic conditions (the collapse of the market) furthered the lack of innovation.

    The generalship of today must uphold a culture of innovation. Yes, it is true that the US has far fewer forces committed than in recent years of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that cannot be the sole reason to slow research and development. The civilian leadership of this nation needs to look more at the protection of this nation from all enemies and the potential ways they can threaten the unity and security of the nation. It is too easy for congress to move their focus to constituent influences for special needs and committing funding to those needs as opposed to the needs to continue to keep this nation at the forefront of innovation.

    Comment by Neil Hogie, 19B | January 29, 2016

  6. 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?

    The most important factors that drove the transformation process during the interwar years was the threat. Knowing the threat or developing towards a threat greatly enhanced the transformation of militaries during this period. When a country had a viable threat to develop doctrine against then they developed new ways of eliminating the threat. For example, the USMC and the evolution of amphibious warfare. The US identified their next threat and theater of operations as Japan and the Pacific. This drove the USMC to redefine themselves into an amphibious organization and developed the doctrine for amphibious operations.

    Politics and changes in military culture inhibited the transformation process. If the military culture was unwilling to change and politicians will not give the resources necessary to drive the change then transformation did not occur. In the interwar years, the world went through a great recession that impacted funding across most militaries. Many new ideas did not receive the political support needed to help fund the innovations. Without higher military backing, the changes were slow or did not occur.

    These principles are still true today in the US military. As we continue in an era of limited resources, politicians and military leadership continue to drive where we will invest our resources in developing new technologies, which evolve doctrine. Also with an unknown threat, it is often difficult to plan or resource where to expand efforts. Thus impeding innovation and transformation.

    Comment by James Stall | February 10, 2016

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