Book: Officers heavy on Tech, light on strategy


10-Year Member
Jul 9, 2006
Think anyone will take this guy seriously??

Too many technicians and not enough strategists in the officer corps makes the Navy badly suited for operations in the 21st century, according to a book released Dec. 3.
What’s more, its fleet is designed to re-fight World War II, not deal with a new generation of enemies, and unless the Navy makes dramatic changes, it’ll be irrelevant in tomorrow’s world picture, one of the book’s 13 authors concludes.
The book, “America’s Defense Meltdown,” published by the Center for Defense Information, faults the Navy’s culture of elevating officers with technical backgrounds — including aviators and engineers — rather than purpose-trained tactical thinkers. No matter how well engineers perform as commanders in peacetime, argues conservative author William Lind, a wartime Navy requires tactical experts qualified as engineers.
“The technical-engineering way of thinking and the military-tactical-strategic way of thinking are opposites,” Lind wrote. “War is not an engineering problem. ... Most engineers, which is to say most U.S. Navy officers, cannot deal well with challenges they do not expect and that do not lend themselves to quantitative calculation.”
The book is aimed at the incoming Obama administration, with recommendations for rebuilding the U.S. military after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the book also faults Navy shipbuilding, which has been roundly criticized in other reports, its main suggestion for the Navy is to remake the officer culture.
Lind, who wrote the book’s Navy chapter, contrasts the dominance of engineers in the Navy to what he describes as the preference for tacticians elsewhere. All U.S. submarine skippers are nuclear engineers, “in strong contrast to Britain’s Royal Navy, whose submarine commanders have nuclear engineers where they belong, in the engine room,” Lind wrote.
The first step to remaking the Navy’s officer culture is remaking the Naval Academy, Lind says. The curriculum at Annapolis should focus on “war-fighting,” he writes, rather than engineering, and male and female midshipmen should be educated separately. Co-ed classes create a “stultifying air of political correctness,” Lind wrote.
He also recommends sweeping changes to the fleet. The Navy should mothball its Aegis warships, he wrote, because it will never fight an open-ocean war against a peer competitor such as China or Russia. It should use aircraft carriers as cargo ships, carrying supplies or helicopters, if needed, rather than fixed-wing planes.
Lind also recommends the Navy develop its own carrier-launched low-level ground-attack aircraft. The F/A-18 Hornet isn’t built to orbit a battlefield and carry heavy ordnance loads, he wrote, even though that mission will be in ever greater demand.
Isnt the quote "Todays wars are fought with yesterdays tactics"?

But honestly aircraft carriers as cargo ships? thats ridiculous. Many Navy pilots love the hornet to death, I dont understand why this guy is being super critical. How does he know we will never fight Russia. Didn't Russia just test submarine nuclear weapons? Shes flexing her old muscle.....

What is the authors background anyway?
Isnt the quote "Todays wars are fought with yesterdays tactics"?

But honestly aircraft carriers as cargo ships? thats ridiculous. Many Navy pilots love the hornet to death, I dont understand why this guy is being super critical. How does he know we will never fight Russia. Didn't Russia just test submarine nuclear weapons? Shes flexing her old muscle.....

What is the authors background anyway?
Bill Lind is a serious guy and a long time military thinker. He is widely credited with bringing the Marine Corps into the "maneuver warfare" age and was a favorite of Gen Al Gray when he was the commandant. He's not the first guy who has suggested that the Navy and AirForce especially are dominated by a focus on technical questions while ignoring the larger picture of "what are those technical gadgets supposed to accomplish" and how do they relate to the operational and strategic levels of warfare.(Not to worry he used to be exceptionally critical of the Army with its focus on Fires and positional warfare as well). Lind may or may not be completely accurate and without having read the article I can't tell, and although he converted the Marines to adopting Manueuver warfare as their mode of operation, believe that he was not completely accurate in that assessment 20+ years ago-but he is no fool and anyone arguing with him had better be able to argue far more than just the "OODA loop" when talking about fighter planes and aircraft carriers. As far as his critique of the officer corps- A fairly large swath of military thinkers used to argue that the Nuclear Power establishment under Admiral Rickover really deemphasized strategic thought in the Navy and replaced it with a purely technical mind set. Could be: compare the relative status of the Navy War College of today to the Navy War College of the 1930s (The strategy and tactics that won the war in the pacific were largely devised the decade before in Newport and all of the great Naval Commanders of that era were NWC graduates) and compare it as well to how the Army War College is viewed now in the Army as a cradle of independent thought about how wars are fought and will be fought in the future. I believe that his view is that the Navy institutionally appears to downplay serious study of the strategic and operational levels of war in favor of technical expertise.
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Then he has established some ethos, I personally feel that the academy should focus on "war fighting" rather than engineering, but you do need the engineers. Isnt the NWC meant for career officers? So maybe things should just stay the same, its a tough call.
Well the Downside of William Lind is that he is an absolutist in his arguments. His theory on maneuver warfare was overly simplistic I thought at the time- it had elements of truth in it but also ignored some large "what if's" that could have made it disaterous- similar to betting the farm on no resurgent peer military competitor so eliminate much of the Aegis and carrier forces could be a disaster if his crystal ball is cloudy. Similarly- USNA exists to produce Junior Officers- not Flag officers and to be a successful JO you need to be technically competent. Once you 've mastered that then you get to think on a higher level. Perhaps like most things the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Fantastic point bruno. The Academies are indeed meant to train the junior officer core which is why we have the squadron officer schools, war colleges, etc. I hardly think that a general requires the same education and skill sets as a new Lt.
IMO, he takes his theory WAY TOO FAR.

Getting rid of our key capabilities in order to ship helicopters?! If history has taught us anything, it's "have a back-up plan." Moving the Navy to a transportation service does not serve our national interests. You don't eliminate key military capabilities on the HOPE that no one will notice they can win a war against you!

End co-ed education? Yes, political correctness can and does cause problems. However, isolating the sexes in college, then dumping them together to fight a war is idiocy. I have no idea how a rational person cannot understand that (unless he also advocates an entirely male military, which is a whole different can of worms).

I concur with Hornet that you make an excellent point in the fact that our junior officer corps REQUIRE technical competency in the way war is conducted today and in the future. What I find lacking in today's military culture, particularly in the Navy and Air Force, is an emphasis on DEVELOPING leaders as the young officers rise in rank. Focus is purely on the tactical compentency, with PME and development of the operational and strategic leadership skills at the junior officer level nearly non-existent (seven weeks for SOS? The ONLY PME our junior officer corp is required to complete over the first 10+ years of their careers? And it's focus is on how to brief effectively and small team dynamics? Shame on us!)

Do we need the best-of-the-best at these technical jobs? Of course. But we also need our leaders to identify those who will be the next generation of Pattons, Halseys, and Arnolds early in their careers and TEACH them, and more importantly, PROMOTE them! Instead, we promote the ones amongst us most competent at their TECHNICAL job, and hope they don't fall flat on their face when their taken out of that job and put into a leadership position. Sometimes that method succeeds. And sometimes it fails (spectacularly!).

As to the authors emphasis on the current war and pooh-poohing any near peer competitor for future conflicts: well, we will only be able to accurately grade that claim in 20+ years from now. HOPEFULLY, he is correct in his assessment. But if he is wrong???? Is America ready and willing ot take that risk?