The "Mad Major" Jamie Schwandt, U.S. Army Reserve, is a logistics officer and has served as an operations officer, planner and commander. Schwandt is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Red Team Member, and holds a doctorate from Kansas State University. This article represents his own personal views, which are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army.
I started a heated discussion last year about the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) when, after spending a year at the school being graded and evaluated, I decided to grade and evaluate the school myself.
In It's A Big Deal: An Officer Grades The Army Staff College And Its Leadership, I was extremely critical of the school and its top leaders. However, the discussion from the article, which was itself extremely critical, catalyzed a thoughtful discussion among students, faculty, and leadership at the school about Mission Command, grading and evaluation, ethics, and similar topics.
Therefore, I wanted to see what students in the current academic year thought and if my article provided any additional insight into the school.
A Jumpmaster from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division counts paratroopers as they board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster on February 1, 2019 at Fort Bragg's Green Ramp. The paratroopers conducted a combat equipment static line airborne operation onto Fort Bragg's Normandy drop zone to maintain their proficiency and rehearse their roles during follow-on missions. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Taylor Hoganson)
Mission Command philosophy blends the art of command with the science of control. At least in theory. In practice, we do command and control under the guise of Mission Command. But perhaps we should consider an outside-the-box approach: the decentralized management philosophy known as Holacracy.
Carl von Clausewitz is one of the most profound military thinkers of all time. His famous book On War is our bible and he is a god among military strategists. But we should stop teaching Clausewitz in the U.S. military.
Most will view this discussion as blasphemy. How dare I advocate that we stop teaching the divine inspirations of Clausewitz. Sean McFate provides a similar discussion in his new book The New Rules of War: "A hagiography exists around the man, and his book On War is enshrined in Western militaries as a bible. When I teach this text to senior officers at the war college, the room grows silent with reverence. His ideas constitute the DNA of Western strategic thought."
On War was published in 1832 and we continue to look to it for timeless principles of warfare, but why? As Ian T. Brown wrote in A New Conception of War, "We must move beyond the past."
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.
The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.
I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.
Skilled leaders have discovered ways throughout history to take advantage of ambiguity. And it can counter the overdoses of established measures we use in military planning, by which I mean the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP).
Mission Command is essentially Swarm Intelligence. On the surface, this might appear to be a new way to look at Mission Command, but it’s not. We have made the idea of Mission Command so confusing that it’s hard to discern exactly what it is and the vast majority struggle to make a clear distinction between Mission Command and Command and Control.