WOTR – Strategic Guidance for Countering the Proliferation of Strategic Guidance – 20 July 2017

Image: Senior Airman Amber Carter/U.S. Air Force

By and


“Having spent good portions of our Pentagon careers in the “strategy space,” we’ve been confronted by any number of arguments about the ultimate value of the strategic guidance enterprise. Credible points can be made that the department is too complex to be effectively governed by a single set of strategy documents. Or that the process of developing strategy—the debate, the networking, the analysis-—matters more than the resulting glossy document, which is obsolete from the minute it’s published. Or that, in practical terms, the defense strategy matters little to the men and women in uniform executing tactical missions down range.”

“There are elements of truth in each of these perspectives. We concede that a less cluttered, more coherent approach to strategic guidance is unlikely to magically resolve the many challenges facing the Defense Department. But we believe it’s the place to start. Successful, well-run organizations invariably are good at strategy, and history has proven this is especially true for military organizations.  The value of good strategy in international security often takes decades, or longer, to measure fully. For instance, the seeds of the second offset strategy were planted long before its successful manifestation years on. Equally, the effects of poor strategy are not always obvious until much later, although one could reasonably argue that unsatisfactory outcomes thus far in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria are indicators of shortcomings in strategy sometime in the past. Decisions about the size, structure, capabilities, and kit of the U.S. military are often determined by the thrust of strategic guidance that developed years before – and that is precisely why we must be persistently vigilant about modernizing and organizing the Pentagon’s strategy wardrobe.”