"Armed forces create doctrine (...) to justify their role"

Some readers of this blog may remember that I occasionally call an army, navy or air force or the whole bunch a "military bureaucracy" or "armed bureaucracy". Nic Stuart unknowingly made sure at the ASPI'S The Strategist blog that I am not alone: 
Armed forces create doctrine (or operational ‘concepts’) to justify their role—any genuine analysis of the actual tactical conditions is inevitably forced into second place by equally real, perhaps even more immediate, institutional pressures. The primary driver is justification of organisational structures.

I am actually not sure if he's correct - he may exaggerate to make his point.

His quote is probably true in regard to naval affairs, but probably not so much in regard to ground forces affairs. Naval doctrines - as much as they get published at all - appear to be (even) much more blather than ground forces doctrines, albeit those can be intellectually frustrating as well.
Some modern times ground forces-borne doctrinal developments were not driven by bureaucratic self-justification. The (already dropped) Distributed Operations idea in its early shapes was such an example of a quite honest attempt to move forward. I can't really see any budget, structures or numbers justification motive in the Freie Operationen doctrine pushed in Germany of the mid-90's either.

Germany saw a couple embarrassing giant prestige projects - a railway station, an opera house and the new capital airport - go much over budget and time. The pattern was the same: The cost efficiency was doubtful, the people in power downplayed the costs, a large corporation gets the contract, the project is subjected to requirements creep, a much bigger budget is needed and granted, project not finished when due, even more money needed...

This sounds awfully similar to many military procurement projects.
My personal aversion against the ignoramuses which fall for the sunk costs fallacy (or being outright irresponsible) is also provoked: Some budget increases were bigger than the originally stated expected benefits.

It is refreshing to see someone (else) in the MilBlogosphere pushing for awareness that military forces are clearly subject to the principal-agent problem and behave as do bureaucracies.
Whatever you discuss about military affairs policies (that is, security policies concerning the build-up and maintenance of the own military power): You should keep in mind that military forces are heavily armed bureaucracies: First bureaucracy, "warrior" stuff distant second.

1 comment:

  1. I used to work at a shipyard and another one would underbid us year after year and win the contract for work. But every year they would go over the contract and cost more than us. And every year they would win the contract again and again and I would wounder doesn't the DOD have a memory?